Family and friends gathered around Esther Draper Sunday to celebrate her 104th birthday at the Vista Mesa home in Cortez.
Draper was born 1910 in Peckham, Colo., a farming community near Greeley. She stayed in Colorado her entire live, becoming a teacher, artist, wife, mother and homemaker in Denver.
“She grew up as a farm girl, and loves the outdoors,” said her daughter Pat Westover, of Dolores.
Draper is fond of her upbringing, recalling the horse-and-buggy days and farm life where tractors were a luxury.
“When dad needed a drink, it was my job go fetch him some water in a bucket,” she recalls. “The boys milked the cows, and the girls fed the chickens.”
It was an outdoor lifestyle that stayed with her.
“As a family we were always playing outside, and going on camping trips all over,” Westover said. “Grand Lake and Red Feather lakes were a popular excursion.”
Draper was a trained teacher as a young adult, but she grew up in an era when women could not get jobs if they were married, Westover said, so that ended her career. Her husband, Edward Draper, was a detective for the Denver Police Department, and they were married almost 50 years.
Esther is alert and upbeat on her birthday. Her clear voice and knowing eyes have the comforting demeanor of a wise elder who as seen and heard it all.
She credits regular exercise and staying active for her longevity.
“We were always walking to places,” Draper says. “It is nice to enjoy the birds, the trees, the fresh air.”
The exercise habit stayed with her into her 90s.
“We would walk to church as a family, and when we moved her to Cortez, she continued that, walking five blocks every Sunday to church service,” Westover said.
Draper was an active volunteer in the Red Cross, was a skilled gardener, rock hound, and seamstress. She was a professional artist in her spare time, designing modeling and landscape ads for newspapers.
“She loves her artwork, and still has a very steady hand when drawing,” says Rayna, her caretaker. “Today, we took a drive to Dolores. She loves the scenery and going places.”
Draper has two daughters, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Ignoring the ruckus around her, she concentrates on eating a hearty-looking meal. She pushes her plate away when finished and starts in on a big piece of birthday cake.
See you next year. “Possibly,” she says with a smile.