Keeper of the Family
Saylor Ennis celebrates his first 100 years
By Oenta Gentry
Sy visits with Eloise Barry and Hasli, a Pet Partner who visits every week. photo by Oenta Gentry
Saylor Ennis, known to everyone as Sy, is celebrating his 100th year on Tuesday, March 2. He has revealed no secrets to living a long life, but his friends and family would be the first to point out his generosity of spirit and his will to carry on.
“A neighbor, a dear friend of his, was ill, and came home to die,” his youngest son, Del, recalled, “Dad was so upset and could not understand why someone would be ready to die. Mother (who died five years ago) didn’t want to fight any more. Even yet, as he approaches 100, he has never expressed a desire to not go on living.”
He’s had some mishaps, almost died of appendicitis, had a heart attack in his ’40s, was a smoker and had chronic bronchitis. He was even told by a doctor (after his heart attack) that he couldn’t work. Ennis replied that that was not an option. He had to keep working. To this day, Del said, Dad has never spent a full day in bed.
Ennis married Luella Puck when he was 19. It was a marriage that was to last 75 years. They had four children, three boys and a girl: Darwin, Janice, Dwayne and Del. Del was the only one born in a hospital. The rest were born at home.
“I have so much admiration for him,” said oldest son, Darwin, soon to be 80. “By the time he was 22 he already had two kids. They were wonderful parents. “He started everything during the Depression. Whether it was the illness of a child or the death of a parent, they handled it so well.”
Darwin recalls what he considers his worst misbehavior. Sy drove blue Pontiacs his whole life and loved his cars. “We didn’t have a garage, so Dad parked the car in the granary,” Darwin said. “There were oats in the driveway. I was six at the time. I filled the radiator with oats and put the cap back on it. I don’t honestly remember what my punishment was, but I think he traded cars after that.”
“All my cars have been light blue Pontiacs,” Ennis said. “I drove them all a long time. My wife Lou learned to drive, too. There weren’t too many women who drove back then. My first one was a 1927 coupe. My last one was a 1964 Pontiac, my first new car, which I drove until I was 94.”
Ennis lived in Iowa the first 50 years of his life and recalled the early years of the Depression:
“The crash came in 1929. Especially on the farm, corn was 10 cents a bushel and it was impossible to pay for anything with those kinds of prices. Roosevelt was elected and put some programs in for us. The corn ceiling was one. Instead of 10 cents a bushel, we got 45 cents.
“A lot of people were out of work, but things turned around and kind of leveled off sometime in the ’30s. We all survived some way.”
There were fun times.
“I bowled, fished, played baseball, played cards,” Ennis said. “We went dancing every week. All the kids went along. Every town had a dance hall.”
Sy had a farm deferment during World War II, but remembers a neighbor taken prisoner by the Germans during the North African campaign:
“He survived, but he only weighed 97 pounds when he got out. He married my sister Nellie when he came back, but he never recovered entirely.”
In those early years on the farm, most people had tractors, but Ennis farmed with horses for his first five years.
“I bought a full line of farm machinery in 1937 and still had the equipment when I quit in 1950.”
His one regret: “I wish I’d bought a farm. Leasing was pretty popular then, but if I’d bought, I’d probably have farmed longer.”
Sy’s wife Lue was born in 1908. They met when the banks started failing and Ennis’ family moved into Bryan County, where Lue lived. There were no roads in winter. All farmers moved in March because they had to get livestock through the snow.
Del recounts that when his mother was eight, she had acute appendicitis. They operated on her in front of a big front window on an ironing board. They used a household strainer for the ether. There was no electricity.
“She was a great wife,” Ennis said of Luella. “We got along good and I sure miss her. I think about her every day.”
After living in Southern California, where they had an Orange Julius business, Sy and Luella moved to Sisters in 1989.
“I’m grateful Sy’s niece moved here and encouraged them to move here. They have been 20 of the best years of his life,” Del said.
Everyone is invited to Sy’s birthday party on March 2 at the community room of Sisters Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration from 2 to 4 p.m. Five generations of Ennises will be at the party. Cards may be sent to: Sy Ennis, P.O. Box 902, Sisters, OR 97759.