Still going strong: Shore keeps himself busy and sharp as 100th birthday approaches
Shore was born Feb. 25, 1921 on the property where he still lives today
WORTHINGTON — Bob Shore is set to mark a milestone birthday two weeks from Thursday, but it’s unlikely that the rural Worthington resident will slow down too long to celebrate.
After all, even though he’s on the cusp of becoming a centenarian, Shore isn’t one to sit around and simply be idle. It has just never been his way.
Shore was born Feb. 25, 1921 on the property where he still lives today, though his first home no longer stands. Not long afterward, he moved to a nearby house at the intersection of Oliver Avenue and 280th Street that remains all these years later.
“My mother (Alma) somehow got to be an invalid; at the time we didn’t know what it was,” remembered Shore, whose mental acuity remains sharp at his advanced age. “So I lived up there with my grandma and grandpa. My mom passed away when I was about 6.”
In 1928, Shore’s father, Chester, remarried, and earned a living doing odd jobs on farms around southeast Minnesota. The last town that the family called home before returning in 1934 to the Worthington farm was Chatfield, near Rochester.
Shore graduated eighth grade from the “Middagh School,” a country school located across the road from property owned by the Middagh family. He then began working on the farm that had been originally settled by his grandparents.
“In 1893 Grandpa came here, and two years later they (grandparents) came here again and stayed,” Shore said.
Shore would stay, too, leading a life that included farming with his dad, raising a family, working additional jobs off the farm and picking up multiple hobbies.
In the ’30s, corn, oats and for the horses and cattle were the focus of the Shores’ farm work. They had 300-plus acres back then; another 80 acres were eventually purchased. Shore rents out all of his farmland today.
In 1941, Shore married Vivian Luing, and the couple would go on to raise three sons and one daughter. It was around that time that the farm was able to trade its 32-volt wind charger for a rural electric connection, he recalled.
Not surprisingly, Shore used an array of farm-related equipment over the years. Though he sold some off, he continues to maintain a collection of between 12 and 15 tractors.
“As far as grain, I had a one-row picker, and then all the neighbors got together and threshed,” Shore said of his early farming days. “We had a GP (general purpose) John Deere first and had that a few years — not too many, though I remember plowing with it here during the first King Turkey Days (1939). In 1939, my dad bought a brand-new Minneapolis Moline, and we had that to farm with for many years.”
Shore’s dad, however, became ill — “he got to be crippled up with the same disease that Mom had” — and died in 1956. Shore eventually farmed his land with Lyn Vanderweff, who lived nearby and was married to Vivan’s sister, Dot.
The Shore family, of course, all helped on the farm, Jerry, the oldest son, died in May 2020. Son Jim lives in Sibley, Iowa; son Tom (and his wife, Ruth) live nearby the old farm place; and daughter Alma resides in Omaha, Nebraska.
In addition to farming, Shore worked with LB Smith in Bigelow, with whom he did corn shelling and livestock trucking. He was already employed there when he caught on at Worthington Tractor Salvage (Dyke’s Tractor Supply) and worked there off and on for many years. Shore and his son, Jim, also fabricated tractor cabs for several years while he was still engaged in farming.
It was 1972 — shortly after Jim had come from military service — that Shore built the home in which he still lives today. He and Vivian settled there together until her death in 1998, but Shore married Dot, his wife’s widowed sister, soon afterward.
By then, Shore had slowed down on farming, though he said he still gets on the back hoe every once in a while.
“I headed out this past summer,” he stated matter-of-factly. “When you got tile lines all over, you’ve got to keep after ’em.”
Shore put in a line with son Tom just three years ago, which was about four years after Dot had passed away. He now lives with Etta Schroeder, his so-called “partner in crime” whom he has known since she was 7 years old.
It was during Dot’s final days that Shore picked up a new hobby he has continued to enjoy.
“Dot was in Hospice over here, and I was always there,” he remembered. “They had this one room back in the corner, and I asked if I could paint back there.”
Shore’s watercolor acrylic paintings come from whatever images come to mind. Most are merely products of his imagination, while one of his favorites depicts a campsite in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many of his paintings hang in his home in frames made of walnut gathered from his property.
“Many years we went out west, and I love the west,” Shore said of a common inspiration for his art.
Over the course of many years, Shore has also made several clocks to give to both family and friends. Among the creations he also cited was his rebuilding of a motor home; he’d bought what was left of one in Omaha and then reconstructed it before driving it to Indianapolis, Indiana, he recalled.
Perhaps Shore’s No. 1 hobby, though, is quilting, which he also took up shortly before Dot’s death.
“Dot had some started and she was working on them, and after a few years it got overwhelming for her,” he explained. “I made one, and then my granddaughter came up from Omaha; she found two more paper sacks full of quilt blocks. I figured out … there were about 1,600 little two-inch pieces in each one. I said that was too much work to be any fun, so I started making 'cheater quilts.'”
Shore said he takes prints and then puts them over batting with fabric on the back before sewing all around the prints to give it detail. He said it’s safe to say that he’s probably made 75 or more such quilts, and is proud to engage Etta’s help in showing them off to visitors.
One of the quilts of which he’s most proud is one made with a Native American theme. He said he donated one just like it this past year to St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana. Shore also made a Christmas-themed quilt this past fall that he and Etta both love and vow to keep.
While it’s difficult to know exactly what Shore will be doing on his 100th birthday later this month — COVID-19 will preempt a gathering of extended family — it’s safe he’ll likely be quilting, painting or engaged in some other odd job around his house. If there’s any secret to his longevity, it’s that unwillingness to sit around and do nothing.
“You’ve got to keep active, that’s the main thing,” he said. “And pretty much all my friends are about 20 years younger than I am.
“At a wedding recently, I was introduced as ‘the youngest old man I’ve ever known.’ It’s about keeping busy.”