Happy 95th birthday, Verl
by Sharlene Irete
Verl Means had plans Wednesday to bake carrot cake and brownies for his out-of-town relatives who will be coming from Texas, Kansas and Missouri to celebrate his 95th birthday with a party today at the Carson Valley Inn.
Means stays fit gardening and keeps a healthy tan by spending time in his backyard gazebo that he calls his “outdoor living room.” In nice weather, he puts his lawn furniture out, along with a table where he makes waffles for friends on Sunday mornings.
The Gardnerville resident had to renew his driver’s license this week, but didn’t quite pass his driving test.
“I said, ‘Look at my record. No moving violations during the last five years,'” he said. “They gave me a temporary license that will be good for a year, but I have to have someone 18 or older with me and drive in the daytime only. I have neighbors who can help with car trips to the store and doctor appointments.”
Means was born Nov. 8, 1914, in Joplin, Mo. He moved to San Francisco during the Depression in 1932. Meals were hard to come by until 1935 when he was employed as a carpenter’s helper on the construction of the Bay Bridge.
“I like to say I never missed a meal, but I postponed a lot of them,” he said.
After the Bay Bridge was completed, Means married his wife Linda in 1937 and became a machinist.
“They kept me out of the army because I was more valuable working to build engines for the war,” he said.
Being a machinist taught him accuracy, which was useful when he and his wife opened a furniture and interior design store in the Bay area after the war.
“Verl and Linda – Means Interior Decorators” was the name of their store they had for 26 years. He was 58 years old when he retired and left California in 1973,
“I’m too young to retire. I’ve got to earn a living,” he said, so the Means bought a ranch in Yerington and raised alfalfa and cows. Several years later they moved to Carson Valley where they built homes off Foothill Road and then in Mackland.
After his wife Linda died in 1994, Means moved into the Aspen Park Mobile Home Park in Gardnerville.
“It’s a nice place, but considering my age, I think I should move into an apartment. Really. Not too many live to be 100. And when you’re 95, you don’t always expect to wake up in the morning,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Means said the secret to life is to keep happy and to just go do things – and sourdough bread.
“In San Francisco, I started eating sourdough French bread from the Colombo bakery and drank Italian red wine. I still have two to three glasses a week. I was only drunk once in my life and didn’t ever want to do that again,” he said.
He bakes with organic cane sugar instead of white sugar and takes herbal supplements rather than drugs. In his freezer are individual servings of homemade chili and clam chowder and, of course, sourdough bread.
“Your outlook on life has a lot to do with having a long life,” he said. “I’m all by myself but I’m never bored. I love music. I like to sing along to Perry Como and Jim Nabors and listen to 8-tracks, CDs and tapes.
“It’s good to make others feel better and greet them,” he said. “There’s a lady that I wave to in the neighborhood. One day she said to me, ‘I like you because you’re always up.'”