A Lewiston woman who may be the oldest living person in Idaho turned 109 Saturday.
Pearl Dielman, who lives at Royal Plaza and is still in considerably good health, had dinner with her family last weekend at Ernie’s Steakhouse. Her granddaughter, Tasha Carper, said Dielman drank two root beers: “She wolfed those down before the meal got there,” Carper said.
Dielman also had potato prime rib soup that her other granddaughter mushed up so she could eat it.
“She’s on pureed food,” Carper said. “She’s so worried about choking, but she had ice cream — she gobbled that down and she said, ‘That sure was sweet.’ ”
The Lewiston Tribune attempted to verify whether Dielman actually is the oldest person in Idaho by contacting several state and federal agencies. None of them — including the governor’s office, Idaho Commission on Aging, Idaho Labor Department, Social Security Administration, census records or other websites — could provide that information.
When Dielman was interviewed by the Tribune two years ago, she attributed her longevity to “just living right, I guess.”
She was born to Walter and Edna Brown in Stevensville, Mont., in 1912. Dielman was one of 13 children, and she and her twin brother, Earl, were third place in the lineup.
The family lived on a farm, and Dielman attended school through the eighth grade. In 1931, she married Van Bailey.
The couple lived on a wheat farm in Montana, where Dielman cooked for the hired hands. They had one daughter, Vanita, before they divorced. During World War II, Dielman worked as a crane operator in Portland, Ore., and later as a nurse at a veterans home in Stevensville.
In 1949, she married Byron Dielman,, and they spent summers mining for gold in Arizona. After her husband died, in 1982, Dielman moved to Lewiston to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren.
Vanita died at the age of 83 in 2014; one sister, Doris, 93, is living in Anaconda, Mont. Dielman has four grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren.
Her granddaughters describe Dielman as having a feisty temperament and being always full of life. She wore high heels everywhere, even to clean the house, the granddaughters said, and they remembered walking to the A&B grocery store with their grandmother, who wore her heels all the way.
Carper said Dielman “had a hard time giving up her high heels. That was a little bit of a fight. Kind of like when she had to give up her license and she couldn’t drive her Cadillac anymore.”
Carper said Dielman has always enjoyed dressing up and especially loves her jewelry and getting her hair and nails done.
“That’s very important to her,” Carper said. “She likes to look nice.”
For her 109th birthday, the family bought Dielman some new rings and a bracelet, and she was delighted with the gifts, Carper said. An employee at Royal Plaza also likes to buy Dielman barrettes for her hair.
Until COVID-19 shut down the nursing homes and her granddaughters could no longer visit, Dielman was using a walker to get around. After that, however, she was relegated to a wheelchair, Carper said.
When the nursing home reopened for visitors, Carper and her sister went to visit and discovered Dielman was dehydrated. Carper said she called an ambulance to take her to the hospital, where she stayed three days.
Other than that, however, Dielman seems to be in the pink of health. She sometimes forgets things, but Carper said that’s a result of her age, not dementia.
“She’s still pretty quick-witted in some of the stuff she comes up with,” Carper said. “She thanked everybody for being (at the party last weekend), and she’s still very happy and laughs and jokes around.”
When another relative asked Dielman how old she was, she replied she was born in 1912, “and you do the math.”
Carper said her grandmother also shared a couple of stories she hadn’t heard before.
“She said that when she was a nurse there was a guy at the nursing home, and he needed to have his bedpan changed. The nurse there was going to do it, and he said, ‘ “No, I’m waiting for that other nurse.” He was waiting for me (Dielman) to get on shift and change his bedpan.’ ”
Another new anecdote shared came from when Dielman was a crane operator during World War II.
“She was asked why (she was doing that job) and she said, `Apparently they couldn’t get any men to do it,’ ” Carper said.
Carper added that someone at Royal Plaza told her Dielman still yodels on occasion.
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.