It’s not uncommon for children to live longer than the age of their parents, but when a father lives well into his 90s, the bar gets set a bit higher. On Sept. 27, Wendell Stout did just that. His father, Ray Stout, lived from 1885 to 1984, dying just two months short of his 100th birthday. On Sept. 27, Wendell Stout broke his dad’s record and celebrated his centennial. He had a private party with his son, Mark, 59, and friends, at his apartment at Friendship Terrace. The next day, Sept. 28, friends gave him a bigger celebration with cake and balloons at the Homer Senior Center.
“I don’t feel it,” Stout said of turning 100.
He doesn’t look it, either. He might not be trekking Nepal like he did at 73 or hunting mountain goats in Alaska at age 24, but Stout stands steady on his own two feet. Slightly wrinkled and with silver-gray hair just turning to white, he looks at least 10 years younger. As the Baby Boomers might say, 100 is the new 80.
Born 1915 in Portland, Ore., Stout’s grandfather came from Indiana on the Oregon Trail in 1842, homesteading east of Salem. Stout graduated with a degree in marine biology from Oregon State University, Corvallis. He first came to Alaska in 1940 doing fisheries research and enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service on the patrol boat Brant. On that trip he travelled Southeast Alaska. The next summer he came back on the patrol boat Crane and sailed from Seattle to Naknek. An accomplished photographer, Stout’s albums include photos of glaciers, goat hunting, volcanoes and Seldovia, then the biggest burg on lower Cook Inlet.
“I don’t know what you compare it with. It wasn’t very big,” Stout said of first seeing Alaska. He meant the population, not the land. “When I first went up there were little small towns.”
As a young man, Stout climbed many of the classic Cascade Mountain peaks and was part of a group of climbers known as “the Crag Rats.” He helped pioneer a route up the east face of Mount Adams, and climbed Mount Rainier, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens.
When World War II broke out, Stout served as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion building airstrips in the South Pacific. He ran a boat at Midway Island. After the war he moved to Cordova with his wife, Margaret “Mickey,” and sons, Eric and Craig. They lived in Cordova until 1954, when with friends the family bought Dixie, a small mining town in Idaho north of the Salmon River.
After Dixie, the Stouts moved to Bandon, Ore., where Wendell Stout got a job with the Oregon Fish and Game Commission. They moved to Bend, where Mark was born, and then to Klamath Falls. There Stout pioneered a fisheries research method where biologists scuba dived.
“Get down where they live, find out what their real habitat is,” Mark Stout said.
Wendell retired in 1975 and moved to Port Townsend, Wash. After divorcing Mickey in 1993, he married Clara Klug. Stout loved to travel, and with Clara visited Europe, Greece, Mexico, Belize and Africa. One time by chance he ran into Mark while trekking in Nepal. Father and son knew they would both be in the country, but didn’t know exactly where. Wendell and Clara also drove up to Alaska all the way to Coldfoot.
When Clara died in 2010, Wendell moved to Homer to live with Mark. After he had a stroke, he moved into Friendship Terrace, Homer Senior Center’s assisted living home.
His most vivid memory?
“I can’t tell you,” Wendell Stout said. “Maybe that’s why I took a lot of pictures.”
Has he had a good life?
“Oh yes,” Stout said. “There’s no best part. It’s all good.”
Stout said he doesn’t know why he’s lived so long, but does have some advice.
“Live the life you want,” he said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.