Cover photo for Elizabeth Jane Ellsperman (Powell)'s Obituary
Elizabeth Jane Ellsperman (Powell) Profile Photo
1916 Elizabeth 2021

Elizabeth Jane Ellsperman (Powell)

October 27, 1916 — March 24, 2021

MISSOULA ~ Jane, who delighted in laughing and making others laugh, untethered herself from Earth on March 24, 2021. Her son, John States, was holding her hand as she passed.

Jane was born to Laura Longfellow Stoffle and George Powell in Red Cliff, Colorado, on October 27, 1916. Premature, weighing less than four pounds, Jane was not expected to live. Swaddled by the midwife and put in a small box placed in the wood stove’s warming oven, Jane loved to say: “I sure fooled them.”

A brilliant but modest scholar, Jane graduated from high school as Valedictorian at age 16. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration at Denver University in an era when most women did not pursue higher education. Breaking another norm, she worked outside the home. She tried teaching but hated grading papers at night. Over the years she worked for the Air Force Reserves Record Center, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Postal Service. No doubt in each of her jobs, regardless of title, she was the brains of the outfit.

A passion for travel took her all over the world. Favorites were Easter Island and Tahiti. After classes at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, Jane enjoyed and excelled at ballroom dancing.

In June 2001 Jane moved from Lakewood, Colorado, to Missoula. She gleefully participated in hootenannies and various family gatherings, but not so gleefully in Tai Chi and other exercises that her family thought would benefit her health. Eventually it became obvious that she needed no advice about longevity. When asked her secret, she replied that she had never smoked. A favorite joke was to tell people that if they didn’t want to get trapped too long in a marriage, just marry a smoker.

Jane listened and was kind to others. In the Riverside Healthcare Center, Jane was beloved by staff because she treated them with respect. “These places sure are nice for seniors.” Gratitude for and contentment with whatever situation she was in empowered her and surely prolonged her life. Jane’s family thanks the many generous people who helped her over the years: staffs at the Missoula Manor and Riverside. We are profoundly grateful to Cassie Maguire, Heidi Halvorson, Tammy Block, and Bobbi Johnson.

Survivors include David States, his wife Diane and children Dylan and Dakotah; John States, his wife Rosalind Hudgens and son Jason Gutzmer; stepchildren Brian Van Horne, Cheryl Sanborn, and Jerry Van Horne; and niece Laura Powell.

At Jane’s request, no services will be held. To leave memories, photos or condolences online, please visit

Arrangements are under the care of Garden City Funeral Home in Missoula.

An article from The Missoulian dated October 30, 2016

Jane Ellsperman celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday by wearing her favorite T-shirt, which read “Made in 1916 – All Original Parts.”

Ellsperman, who lives at the Missoula Manor retirement home, also spent the day taking visits from friends and family and reminiscing about her extremely full and lengthy life.

In fact, she has been defying the odds since the day she came into this world.

She was born prematurely in a small cabin in the mountains of Colorado, where her dad was a forest ranger.

“In 1916, of course, the cabin had no electricity or running water,” explained Ellsperman’s daughter-in-law Rosalind Hudgens. “The midwife who helped with the birth did not expect Jane to survive. Jane was tiny, under 4 pounds. The midwife swaddled her, put her in a small box, and placed the box in the warming oven of the wood stove so she could attend to the needs of Jane's mother Laura.”

Ellsperman not only survived that ordeal but went on to high school at age 12.

“Isn’t that ridiculous?” she asked. “I can’t imagine how I fit in at the age of 12.”

That didn’t stop her from graduating and moving on to Denver University at age 16. She graduated college and worked her entire life.

“Which was rare for women in those days,” Hudgens said. “We laugh about how surprised everybody would be that the tiny, vulnerable newborn exceeded all expectations. She went to college at a time when women didn’t go to college, she worked when women didn’t work and she got divorced when women didn’t get divorced. She was fearless, but in a ladylike way.”

Other than a few broken bones and a cold here and there, Ellsperman has not been affected by major health problems.

“They didn’t expect me to live, but I sure fooled them,” she said.

She mostly avoided alcohol and junk food, although she does enjoy chocolate and coffee. She doesn’t have any big tips for long life, but her advice is straightforward.

“One of the secrets is I didn’t smoke,” she said. “And sun is bad for your skin. I almost drowned once, and I’m scared of water. The only way I like water is under a cruise ship.”

A member of a travel club, she’s been to places like Hawaii and Tahiti, then moved to Missoula in 2001 after she retired.

She made sure she got a lot of exercise in her life.

“She worked all her life but the last job she had in Denver before she retired was at the post office, and she walked to work every day from the bus stop,” explained her son John States. “So she exercised a lot. And now her room is the farthest from the lunch room. She thinks I put her in this room on purpose so she has to walk farther every day, but really I did it because it has the best view.”

Longevity runs in Ellsperman’s genes. Her grandfather emigrated from Wales, worked as a lumberman and owned land around Aspen, Colorado. The family sold the land during the Great Depression, but he lived to be over 100. She still has a picture of him on her wall.

“I guess it skipped a generation,” she said, because her parents didn’t make it to the century mark.

Ellsperman enjoys bingo and chatting with friends these days, and doesn’t worry too much about the future.
“I asked her once what she fears and what she hopes for. She doesn’t fear anything in her future,” said Lou Garman, a nurse who cares for Ellsperman through Hestia In Home Support. “And that’s one of the biggest things I learned from Jane is she doesn’t stress about much. That’s one of the big keys to her living so long. I asked her how long she thinks she’s going to live, and she doesn’t think about it.”

Over the years, she worked for the Air Force Reserves Record Center, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Postal Service. She also taught high school kids business, English and shorthand typing for a while, but didn’t keep that job too long.

“I didn’t like grading papers at night,” she recalled.

At one point, she passed a test to work for the Central Intelligence Agency, but her husband got transferred to a different location.

When you live to be 100, you have your share of near-death experiences and collect plenty of stories.

“When I was a girl, we were living in the woods, and I went to a neighboring farm to pick up the milk,” she recalled. “And a mountain lion was following me, and I guess it thought I looked like a good little tidbit. So I never went after the milk anymore.”
To send flowers to the family in memory of Elizabeth Jane Ellsperman (Powell), please visit our flower store.

Visits: 2

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers