100 and Counting

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, January 16, 2020
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Photo courtesy of Christy Preece/Beartooth Manor

        Arlene Eckstein

Beartooth Manor resident Arlene Eckstein turns 100 years young this Saturday.

Although small in stature, Arlene is approaching the century mark in remarkable health.

She does not wear glasses.

Or hearing aids.

Or use a walker.

She moves slowly. But she moves.  Family and friends will gather together this Saturday to celebrate Arlene’s birthday with her. The public is welcome to stop by as well. With the help of family and Beartooth Manor employee Crissy Shaughnessy and other’s at the Manor, a glimpse of Arlene’s story is told below.

Because anyone who reaches 100 deserves the spotlight. When asked how she feels about reaching such a milestone, Eckstein’s response was simple.

“Well, it’s just another day in paradise!”


Arlene was born Arlene M. Gillispie in Lincoln, Neb., on Jan. 17, 1920. She was raised during the Great Depression, which was hard. She and her family lived on a farm, where there was always plenty to eat. A move to town, however, meant food was scarce.

Arlene recounts how she and her sister used to go on dates in the hopes of being taken out to eat. Times were hard.

She remembers her very first day of school. More precisely, she remembers coming home and telling her mother that she was not going back. When her mother asked why, Arlene said that a little boy had stuck his tongue out at her. And proceeded to show her mother just how the boy had done this.

In the early 1940s, Arlene moved to Montana to join her sister Bertha in Chinook. Bertha was born May 2, 1918. They were close in age and had always been together as children. The sisters also had a brother, Ralph. Arlene is the last surviving sibling. In the mid 1950s, Arlene moved to Shelby, Mont., where she worked as a bartender. She remembers that when she moved to Shelby, her little black hats that she often wore blew out of the truck bed she was using to move her belongings.

In Shelby, she met Virgil Eckstein, who worked for Montana Power. They were married in Chinook on July 15, 1957. After marrying Virgil, Arlene quit being a bartender and stayed home.

The couple did a lot of hunting and fishing together and spent a lot of time up in Glacier Park.

Arlene never had any children. Her stepson was killed in Vietnam in 1967. In 1973, her husband was transferred to Cut Bank, so the couple sold their house in Shelby, and lived in a house at the Montana Power Camp out of Cut Bank. Virgil died of lung cancer on Nov. 11, 1981.

After his death, Arlene bought a house in Cut bank and continued to live there alone until moving to Billings in  March of 2016 to stay with her niece.  She entered the Meadowlark Assisted Living facility in Columbus on April 13, 2016, and later moved to the Beartooth Manor, where she still resides.

Arlene says she wants to go home, but that is not possible as she now has dementia.