Oldest American-born man in USA dies at 110 – USA TODAY
DETROIT — Ethan B. Shelton was the oldest American-born man in the United States and the 68th oldest person in the world, but his family says that distinction wasn’t the only thing that made the Michigan resident special in the 1.1 centuries that he was alive.
Shelton, 110, was a man that relished the chance to spend time with his family that spanned 26 grandchildren and more than 120 great, great-great, great-great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He died Wednesday at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Saint Joseph, Mich., following a brief illness.
“My father was a remarkable man,” said Joe Shelton, Ethan’s son. “There’s been quite to do about the fact he lived so long, but the key thing is he not only lived a long time, he lived a full life. He was active until the end. Family was extremely important to him and that was his number one priority in life. He was an eternal optimist and he didn’t dwell on the negative.”
Ethan Shelton was born on July 10, 1903 in Pickens County, Ala., and at the age of 16, he moved to Detroit, and then to Chicago as an optometry student. There, he met Rose Zimmerman and left school to begin a career in barbering.
They moved back to Alabama where he farmed and started a barbershop business. The husband and wife lived there for 18 years before moving back to Chicago due to the illness of their son, Kenneth. While in Chicago they owned a neighborhood grocery store.
In 1947, they moved to Berrien Center, Mich., where he continued to cut hair during the day while developing a fruit farm on the weekends. Eventually he owned and operated Shelton’s Barber Shop at 216 North Front Street in Niles, Mich. and moved his produce retail from a roadside farm to Shelton’s Farm Market on Eleventh Street at Bell Road, which was established in 1959.
That fruit farm remains successful to this day and spans several acres, Joe Shelton said, and has branched off to include Shelton’s Wholesale Co., Shelton’s Garden Center and Shelton’s Farm Market.
“That all stemmed from him,” Shelton said.
Ethan Shelton was a successful businessman, but he also enjoyed playing instruments, golfing, gardening and ballroom dancing — all of which he did with remarkable proficiency at the age of 110, Joe said. Even in his old age, Shelton lived on his own in the home he bought in 1947.
“These are all things that took place after he retired,” Joe Shelton said. “He didn’t start golfing until he was 72.”
Joe Shelton said his father had one attribute that will always remain with him: his unwavering resolve to do anything for his family. In his last days at the hospital, his nearly 2-year-old great-grandson requested that Shelton play the ukulele, while he played the harmonica.
“That was incredible to behold,” Joe Shelton said. “It was an incredible moment for my dad. He was just overjoyed. The most fun was seeing them playing with a 108-year spread between the two. I’ll miss his companionship. He was my dad. He was the leader of the family, but also he was my best friend.”
Ethan Shelton was married to Rose for 69 years before she died in 1995. He was also preceded in death by five children, his parents, Dr. Julius and Ethel Shelton and his step-mother, Hattie Mae (Wharton) Shelton and his 12 siblings. Ethan is survived by his two sons, James and Joe Shelton.
Shelton will be laid to rest Tuesday.