LAPWAI — Dorothea Rogers credits her upbringing on a dairy farm as the main reason for her longevity and thriving health.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Rogers said, adding she believes raw unpasteurized milk also helped. “I look back, and I appreciate the background that I have.”
The Lapwai resident turned 100 years last week.
Rogers still ensures her days are full of activity. At her home on Thunder Hill Road, she keeps busy with cross-stitching and quilting. A perfectionist at heart, she often stays up until 2 or 3 in the morning honing her craft.
“I don’t know when to quit,” she said with a laugh.
Rogers still drives, recently having her license renewed for another four years.
About five years ago, she was denied a driver’s license when an employee at the Department of Motor Vehicles told her she had poor eyesight. Rogers went to her eye doctor, who told her she had “perfect vision.” With a note in hand, she marched right back to the DMV and demanded her license.
“The day I can’t (drive), I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said.
Rogers was born in 1919 in California. As one of five children, she grew up in a lumber and agricultural community on the coast of the Golden State.
Her father, who always wanted a sheep ranch, inherited a dairy farm after he left his job at a lumber mill.
It led to long days on the farm for Rogers, who helped milk the cows and tend to the chores after her father’s death. She also helped in the neighbor’s field weeding carrots and beets by the acre, earning 10 to 15 cents for each long row she completed.
During the Great Depression, Rogers said her family didn’t want for anything. Her family was full of hard workers who “already had plenty.” They grew their own food, knew how to economize and repurposed items that were given to them.
“She didn’t do without,” her daughter Taffy Kettenburg said. “They made do with what they had.”
After graduating from high school, Rogers went to cosmetology school on a full-ride scholarship. She fell into the career not knowing what else to pursue and later became a hairdresser. But once World War II began, she felt the need to do more.
“I thought I better do something more useful,” she said.
So, Rogers went to work in a mill where they sorted and piled lumber, filling in the jobs left by men who were sent overseas. She later joined the Women’s Ambulance and Transportation Corps and was also involved in the Civil Air Patrol, earning her Observer Wings.
In 1947, she married then U.S. Army Capt. Cyril E. Dennis. They had three children: Taffy, Richard and Mary.
Her first husband died in 1966 after experiencing a heart attack, but he was the one who introduced her to Lewiston.
A year later, in 1967, Rogers married Buford T. Rogers, who had grown up in Lapwai. They moved to a house on Thunder Hill Road, which prominently features an old barn constructed in 1906.
“I’ve been here ever since,” Rogers said. “This is home.”
Rogers spent her time gardening and farming potatoes. She still dabbles with flowers, but said it’s harder than it once was. She became a good shot as she tried to keep varmints away from her blooms, once shooting a rabbit “right between the eyes,” according to Kettenburg.
“I used to spend so much money on tulips,” Rogers said with a laugh.
Now, she utilizes her time crafting, especially by needlepoint, where her true perfectionist comes out.
“Why do it, if you don’t do it perfectly?” she said.
She also expressed a love for antiques, to which her daughter Kettenburg said, “You are a true antique now,” bringing a large smile to Rogers’ face.
Her daughter-in-law Judith Dennis believes Rogers’ longevity can be attributed to the way she lives her life.
“She has a wonderful sense of curiosity and a great sense of humor. She laughs a lot and has wonderful faith and hope,” Dennis said.
Rogers never smoke or drank, which also helped, Kettenburg said.
Years ago, Rogers set a goal to reach 100 years old. Now, she wants to extend that goal by five more years.
“I’ve been the luckiest person to reach 100,” she said.