Everybody in the Heartland Has a Story: Essex, MO's oldest resident

Everybody in the Heartland Has a Story: Essex, MO's oldest resident
Published: May. 4, 2015 at 10:23 PM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2015 at 2:25 AM CDT
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ESSEX, MO (KFVS) - Essex, Missouri is a neat, rural community off of Highway 60 between Sikeston and Dexter.

It's one of those places you pass, but rarely, if ever, venture into.

Its boundaries, its limitations, are clearly visible from Highway 60.

With no flashing signs, no big restaurant, no sign of life, really, why would you stop?

But if you're willing to drive the lonely mile down state Highway FF, you'll see there's more to Essex. There's a city hall, a post office and a little park called Triangle Park, because it is.

Hustle and bustle packed up and left long ago. That's when peace and quiet moved in.

In the shelter of a small, white house on a corner, we met the town's oldest resident who is quietly living out the rest of his life here.

Eldon Stafford insists he feels pretty good for 102 and a half.

He has plans to mow his yard this year and plant some tomatoes in a garden in the back of his yard. It won't be as big as the garden he and his wife Venita used to grow.

"We had potatoes, beans, corn, you name it," recalled Eldon.

Venita succumbed to breast cancer nearly 20 years ago.

The two married in 1940. Two years later they had a daughter named Janet. Two years after that, twin boys, who were stillborn.

"I nearly lost Venita then. She couldn't have any more children," said Eldon.

For many years, it was the three of them in the small, white house on a corner.

Eldon tried his hand a farming more than once to support his family, but it never worked out.

"It seemed every time I tried, something would go wrong and I would lose money," Eldon remembered.

It wasn't until he was hired at the Essex Post Office that Eldon found his calling. He started out as a clerk, but spent his last six years on the job as postmaster.

Eldon is not a complainer. He's not given to whining about the fragility of a body that's been around as long as his and he's not inclined to tell you what hurts, unless you ask.

In fact, the only thing he seems a bit wistful about his the hazard of making it to 102. He's outlived his friends and a chance to love again.

"I had a lady friend a few years ago but she passed away. I haven't had anyone else since," Eldon remarked.

That's why some days, the small, white house on a corner that has sheltered the Stafford family for more than 50 years, can feel like a prison.

"You sit here. You look at these four walls. There's no one to talk to. You get lonely," he said.

It should come as no surprise that the centenarian who lives alone, still has his driver's license and he's not afraid to use it.

Eldon put 12,000 miles on his car in the last year.

Hustle and bustle didn't go far, they're easy for Eldon to find.

When he's done, the road always leads back to Essex, to the small white house on a corner where Eldon lives with his two roommates, peace and quiet.

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