Published: Friday, February 29, 2008
99-year-old man has 101 great-grandchildren
[and I'm one of them!]
Descendants outnumber years for man from Edmonds
Rufus Sherwood has at least 100 riveting stories he could tell about his 99-year-long life.
There's no doubt about that.
But stories? Stories don't quite do it. Stories are incapable of packing a punch as shocking as this one: Rufus Sherwood has 101 great-grandchildren.
101. (And counting: 102 and 103 are on the way.)
"I'm just an ugly old goat, but I love life and everyone around me," Sherwood said recently from the kitchen of his Edmonds home.
Sitting in his kitchen, near a fridge so burdened with family photos one half-worries it might topple over, Sherwood tears up just thinking about his family, now spread across North America.
There are entire walls in Sherwood's home -- which, by the way, he built himself -- covered with family photos, and it seems every available surface in the living room has at least two frames filled with snapshots.
"And I wouldn't trade all the horses in China for even one of them," he said.
The former rancher from Alberta, Canada, now has six children, 33 grandchildren, 101 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren. That's 155 living descendents. More great-greats are on their way, too: Numbers 16 through 18 will be born soon.
Sherwood has so many descendents that when he celebrates his 100th birthday next week -- March 7 -- he'll be sharing the birthday with three of them: his daughter Aarla Sutherland, his granddaughter Connie Denton and his grandson Chris Zollinger.
The family is huge, Sutherland said. Many of the family members are descending on Edmonds for Sherwood's 100th birthday party, which will be held at Edmonds' First Latter Day Saints Church.
Edmonds has been home Rufus Sherwood's home for most of his 25-year marriage to Hazel. He was married to his first wife, Ella Tanner, for 50 years. They had eight children, six of whom survive.
Sherwood grew up in Whiskey Gap in Southern Alberta. A rancher, he traded horses -- once netting seven horses for one well-trained pony.
He started driving truck, then moved to Utah, became a home builder, before eventually pursuing that profession in California and Washington state.
Always both strong and strong-willed, the former arm wrestling aficionado kept remodeling homes until age 89, when he finally retired.
Not that retirement really slowed him down, either, his children said.
Just a few years ago, and after a recent quadruple-bypass heart surgery, Sherwood was jumping around on the trampoline in the backyard of his home. Trampolines aren't always safe for 10-year-olds, but they are still dangerous when you are 95.
Sherwood broke his ankle. Almost as soon as a cast was put on, Sherwood cut it off himself with a saw.
"He loves to do anything dangerous," Hazel said.
"He's always been an all-around tough guy," said his son Elden Sherwood, in town from Atlanta for the birthday party.
"But, he has been forbidden from ever going on the trampoline again," said Maralyn Sherwood, Elden's wife.
"They just don't see me get on," Sherwood said.
Family members attribute Sherwood's longevity to a number of factors -- his deep and abiding Mormon faith, his believe in "all things in moderation," his pill regimen which consists of only one baby aspirin -- but Sherwood doesn't think about it much.
But, living at home at an advanced age is clearly attributable to two obvious factors: His wife Hazel, and the adoring efforts of his children. His children take turns visiting Edmonds and helping around the house with groceries and Honey-Do sorts of chores.
Each of the six surviving siblings visits Edmonds twice a year, so that the Sherwood home is busy each month hosting somebody.
It helps to have so many children.
The size of his family isn't something he thinks about, although Hazel says he sometimes will say that's what he gets for living so long.
Sutherland, his youngest daughter, said the size of the family sort of crept up on everybody.
"There were just a few kids. But all of a sudden, it just seemed to go on and on and on," she said. "Everybody kept having kids, and we kept getting bigger and bigger."
And now, of course, the great-great-grandkids are coming. Quickly.
Asked how many great-great-grandchildren he'll live to see, Sherwood begs off the question.
"I'll live as long as the Lord wants me to live," he said. "And then it's 'Goodbye, goodbye.'"