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Colorado Assisted Living resident reflects on her 109 years of life

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By Deborah Swearingen

Mabel Elisabeth Nesmith’s blueprint to living a long life is really quite simple: Dance.

“Just stay active,” she said, smiling, “and dance a lot.”

If there is anyone’s word to take, it’s Nesmith’s. The resident at Colorado Assisted Living in South Jeffco recently turned 109. Nesmith might not dance much anymore, but in her younger years, she loved it. And as a Texan, she preferred the country western variety.

“I lead a very quiet life,” Nesmith said. “But not in my younger years, I went dancing at least twice a week.”

Born in 1909, Nesmith grew up in a time very different than 2018. She can remember watching television at a downtown showroom and delivering milk to houses around town for her father’s dairy business — the first in Harlingen, Texas. Nesmith also can recall the first time she was allowed to wear blue jeans to work.

But perhaps the biggest change for the 109-year-old comes in the form of travel. When her family moved to Harlingen, they traveled in a wagon.

“But that was good because we could jump out and gather flowers and jump back in the wagon,” Nesmith remembered fondly.

She tries to keep a bouquet of flowers in her room at all times and recalls the wagon trips as her earliest moments of appreciation for the greener things in life. The love continued, though. Nesmith always did her own yard work and had a room full of African violets.

Sara Nesmith has always known her mother-in-law had a knack for gardening. However, she can remember one instance that demonstrated her skill particularly well.

“She’s the only person that I’ve ever known who took a Christmas tree — a live Christmas tree — and stuck it in the ground and it grew,” Sara said. “Honest. … I never knew that could happen.

“We always said she had a green thumb, but that was the highlight of the green thumb.”

Nesmith said a little “tender loving care” was all it took to nurture the tree in its new home.

For Sara and her husband, Gary, it’s been special to have Nesmith around so long.

“I’ve had her in my life a long time. She’s been a great mother-in-law,” Sara said. “I always enjoyed watching her play with our daughter and now playing with our daughter’s daughter.”

Throughout the years, Nesmith’s life has been full — full of family, many of whom live in photographs on the walls of her room at Colorado Assisted Living, and full of memories, most of which she recollects with ease.

At the South Jeffco assisted living home, her positivity shines through and touches staff.

“Just her overall spirit and attitude every day is just so happy and so pleasant,” said James Palin, owner at Colorado Assisted Living.