Hayden’s Elinor Hockett celebrates 100th birthday
Lifelong teacher surrounded by family, friends during festivities
November 4, 2010
If you go
What: Get-together for Elinor Hockett’s 100th birthday
When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Doak Walker Care Center, 1100 Central Park Drive
Steamboat Springs — Tyson Sweetser held tightly to his great-grandmother's hand as he spoke clearly into her ear.
He asked her if she was proud of her family.
"They're nice kids," she responded slowly. "And they didn't get into too much trouble, and that's fine."
Elinor Hockett spoke little during her 100th birthday celebration Wednesday at the Doak Walker Care Center, but the family surrounding her said that was the way she's always been.
However, Sweetser said when Hockett was speaking, it was meaningful.
"You were always listening to great-grandma," he said.
Sweetser graduated from college about a year ago, which he attributes to his great-grandmother's legacy of learning stemming from her teaching career.
Many other Hockett family members ascribe their success to that same legacy, the respect for which was apparent by the outpouring of support and smiles at the milestone celebration.
"It's a source of pride," said Hockett's son, Duane, about his mother's 100th birthday, which was Tuesday. "I don't think she ever thought she'd live this long."
She was born Elinor Wilson in New London, Iowa, in 1910. She attended college at the University of Northern Colorado, where she earned a teaching degree in 1933 and was the first of her family to graduate from college.
That's where it began: the passion for education for herself and her love of teaching those around her.
After teaching grades one through eight at small schools across the state, she moved to Hayden, where she met wheat farmer Sumner Hockett. She married him in 1941 and stopped working at the school to raise three children, Darrel, Duane and Carol.
But she never stopped teaching or promoting higher education.
Elinor Hockett was adamant that her children graduate from college. She gave her grandchildren stipends for every year they attended college, and she made sure they always had the funds to pay tuition. The expectation for higher education extended to her great-grandchildren.
Some of her relatives, like granddaughter Rhonda Sweetser, Hayden Elementary School principal, ended up in the education system as teachers or administrators.
Debbie Doolin, another granddaughter, said Hockett always was excited to learn that a descendant of hers was entering the education field.
Hockett also shared stories of her time at UNC, where she worked her way through school, unable to visit her family.
Her kinfolk weren't going to have to go through the same thing.
"She always helped us with school and supported us that way," Doolin said.
When she entered the Doak several years ago, Hockett didn't stop her lifelong quest for her own education.
She took up reading again recently, using large-print books and a magnifying glass.
She loves bingo and balloon volleyball, and she maintains a collection of stuffed animals in her room that she won playing games in the community room. The only other things on display are family photos depicting several grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Carol Rickman, a Doak resident who met the Hockett family in 1964 in Hayden, sat quietly next to her longtime friend throughout the party, watching her family dote on her.
"It's wonderful, and I love her and her family," Rickman said. "And she's been a very good influence on her family. She wanted them to be someone."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org