By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Victorville) – Bud Painter beamed with happiness as people came up to greet him and wish him well as he celebrated his 105thbirthday Saturday at his favorite restaurant – Marie Callendars on Mariposa. Bud and his wife Beverly are regulars at the restaurant, coming in nearly every day for a late lunch or an early dinner. In that time they’ve made a lot of friends.
Annette Attebery, one of the servers at Marie Calendar’s, said, “We all love him, he’s such a sweet person. And the best thing about him is that he always has such a great disposition. When I found out he couldn’t hear and he couldn’t see, yet he’s still happy, it’s awesome!”
Stephanie Meyer, one of the managers at the restaurant, often joins the Painters for breakfast. “He’s a wonderful, wonderful man. And they have an amazing family, and great stock – look at him! He’s 105! An amazing man – a self-schooled, self-taught, engineer. I’m very honored to know them.”
Painter moved to the High Desert after he retired at the beginning of 1969. He built his home in Apple Valley himself. “It was supposed to be a little weekend bungalow and they turned it into their permanent home,” explained Beverly.
Cary Larson-McKay is one of Painter’s grandchildren. She remembers coming up with her family to help her grandfather build the home. “I remember the first time we actually camped out when we had the slab for the house. It was like, ‘This is so elegant! We don’t have to sleep on the ground; we can sleep on the slab of cement!’ It was so cool!”
“He’s always been really active with the grandchildren, my generation. He was always helping us get, catch, find, do…the whole naturalist,” said Larson-McKay. “He was always brining stuff back to us, like scorpions and tarantulas. Once when he found a rattlesnake he brought it back to all of us so we would hear the rattle and know what it sounded like.”
Painter was married to his first wife for almost 62 years. He has two daughters, Leora and Barbara. He has five grandchildren and many great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, and even a new great great great grandchild that was born four weeks ago.
He married Beverly when he was 90 years old. “We’ve known each other for 64 years,” said Beverly. “We both worked for Edison. We happened to run into each after his wife passed on and my husband had passed on. It wasn’t arranged by anybody but upstairs.”
Bud chimed in, “My family was planning a big wedding for us when they found out we were thinking about getting married. So we snuck off to Laughlin and got married and stopped all of that nonsense.”
I asked Painter what the secret was to living to 105. He responded, “Booze and wild women!” After a good laugh, he said, “I didn’t have anything to do with it, it was the guy upstairs. All of a sudden I’m here. I’ve been living an ordinary life.”
Beverly added, “He’s always been very active until he lost his sight. Even after we were married, we put in pipe, we put in sidewalks, and he’s always been very active. If he thinks of something he wants to do, he does it.”
Leora Larson, Painter’s daughter, agreed with that. “He’s been an outdoorsman and he’s hunted always. Growing up our vacations were always in the High Sierras camping. He’s just a great guy; he’s always been a great guy.”
Larson-McKay added, “He loved hunting, that was such a big thing, he hunted with bows, he hunted with guns. Elk, deer, it didn’t matter, he just loved being out in the great outdoors. And I think he got his last deer when he was 95.”
Painter has always been an advocate of education. “He is the educational champion of the family,” said Larson-McKay. “When I was growing up grandpa and his brother Norman during every family party, at some point they would take me off to the side and say, ‘Education is very important. You really need to get your education. You really have to do this.’ So I totally believed it.”
“When I went back to get my doctorate, it was like he was my champion. He was there at graduation, he was really my champion.”
The room at the back of Marie Calendar’s was full of people, young and old alike. Children would run up to Painter and hug him, posing for pictures. And there were lots of pictures – flashes going off everywhere. There was a large birthday cake with what looked like 105 candles on it.
As she watched the cake lighting, Larson-McKay remarked, “I’ve always had this really warped view of age because grandpa was a very young grandpa and busy and active and doing things. I knew 4 of my great grandparents, and I had all of my grandparents, and so I’ve always had this really skewed view of what it takes to get old. It’s nice to have that as your model.”