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Hesperia resident Richard Wingren celebrates 100 years
During his lifetime, Richard Wingren has lived through major events such as the Great Depression and World War II. But despite relocating a lot in his youth, there was always one constant: wherever Wingren lived, he had a garden.
“Need something, go get it when you need it, instead of going to the store and buying it,” said Wingren, who didn’t always get to reap the garden’s harvest before his family relocated.
Although he wasn’t able to plant a garden last year, Wingren always grew a variety of food, like eggplant, tomatoes, corn, green onions, chick peas and cantaloupe.
Wingren, of Hesperia, will celebrate his centennial birthday on Wednesday.
Richard Wingren was born on Jan. 30, 1913 to Harry and Leta Wingren in Katy, Texas. Sister Dorothy was born in 1917 and currently lives in Eagle Rock, Calif. Brother Ralph was born in 1924 and passed away in 2011.
His youth was spent in Texas and Wyoming. The family moved to Alhambra in 1924 so Leta Wingren could be close to her family while Harry Wingren worked in South America, Richard Wingren said.
Richard Wingren was 16 when the Great Depression began. While attending high school he helped his family by working several jobs like painting houses and picking fruit for 35 cents an hour, he said.
In 1933, a 6.5 magnitude Long Beach earthquake caused damage to Pasadena Junior College where Richard attended. Most buildings were condemned as a result, with classes being held in tents in the parking lot.
He quit college and worked as a tile contractor in 1935 until being drafted by the U.S. Army in 1941 during World War II.
He was in Army Intelligence doing surveillance at a factory processing uranium in Tennessee. In 1945, after the war, he continued working as a tile contractor until he retired in 1985.
In 1963, Richard Wingren married his next-door neighbor, Josephine, in South San Gabriel. They moved to Oak Hills in 1973.
Their property had a barn, a 1,500-square-foot home with turkeys, geese, chickens, pigeons, rabbits, a vegetable garden and fruit trees.
Josephine Wingren died of complications from diabetes in 1976. That same year Richard Wingren met and married Georgia Bucknell.
Georgia Wingren’s children, David Lashay and Nancy Edenhofer, were married and had their own families by that time.
“Eat yourself to death,” Edenhofer said with a laugh, recalling dinners at the ranch that included turkey, goose and a variety of vegetables to choose from, as well as taking home six jars of canned fruit or vegetables.
Korien Patricia “Pat” Jones met Richard Wingren when he married Georgia Wingren, the aunt of Jones’ first husband, Edgar. He died in 1994.
Pat Jones took care of Georgia Wingren, who Richard Wingren said was like a mother to her, when she became sick with dementia.
Georgia Wingren died in 1998.
In 1999, Richard Wingren and Pat Jones started dating. They married soon after.
“Sweetest man who ever walked on the face of the earth,” said Pat Wingren of Richard, who she’s known for 36 years. “Never heard him say one unkind word about anybody.”
Despite his love of greasy foods, Pat Wingren believes his good health is a result of holding a “blue collar job” and being active with his gardening.
“Absolutely amazing — I’m beginning to feel like I’m 100 and he’s 82,” said Pat Wingren, who’s 17 years younger.
Eating “food of the earth” from his garden helped Richard tolerate the greasy foods he eats said friend Cindy Miller.
“I’m the oldest member in my family,” Richard Wingren said as he reflected on the last century.
“Amazing, very generous of God to let us have him that long because he is a great guy,” said Edenhofer.