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Former local teacher celebrates 100 years of living life to the fullest

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Rose Marie French | Courtesy French Family

IDAHO FALLS — Living to turn 100 years old is an accomplishment in itself, and when you’ve lived a life like Rose Marie French, there’s even more to celebrate.

This Monday — May 4, 2020 — marks a century of French’s adventurous life. During her lifetime, she rode in a horse-drawn wagon to school, built bomber aircrafts at Boeing during World War II and traveled all over the world after she retired.

“(Life was) quite different from now,” she said. “Everything we did seemed like fun (growing up). We didn’t have to have to go someplace. We stayed home.”

French was born in Idaho Falls, but shortly after, she and her family moved out west of Menan. She grew up with her five brothers on a farm during the Great Depression.

She has fond memories of spending time with her family, watching movies during the summertime and playing with friends.

“There were three neighborhood girls that we spent a lot of time in the summertime playing with dolls and swimming,” French said. “There were nearby canals and we swam in the canal.”

Her son Gary French said, “She saw electric lights come to the countryside, tractors replace horsepower and indoor plumbing replace the outdoor privy.”

But what stands out to him about his mother is that even though she spent a fair amount of time as a teacher in the classroom, she also taught her children in the home.

Rose taught school in several parts of east Idaho, but the majority of her 31-year career was spent in Idaho Falls. She taught every elementary grade, except for third grade.

“Often I would have to go to her classroom to have her do my hair. She would sit me on a stool in front of her class, do my hair and start her class,” French’s daughter Kathy Maughan recalls happening at Linden Park Elementary School. “She instilled a love for teaching then. I followed her example, became a teacher, teaching in southeastern Idaho for 34 years.”

After earning a two-year teaching certificate, Rose decided to go back to school and get her bachelor’s degree. In 1971 — the year one of her kids received their bachelor’s degree and another child graduated high school — Rose earned her diploma from Brigham Young University.

Barbara Hawley, Rose other daughter, said she and her siblings were always being exposed to learning opportunities.

“Reading and books were an important part of our childhood. Correct grammar was drilled into us. To this day I can’t listen to people speak without silently, and sometimes not so silently, correcting their grammar,” Hawley said. “Thank you, Mom, for being a wonderful mother and an exceptional teacher.”

Despite all her achievements over the years, Rose said her biggest accomplishment is her family. Her husband, Larry, passed away in 2003, but they raised four children together.

“Two of them are living here, one in northern Idaho and one in Boston,” she said. “They are good kids.”

The 100-year-old mother and former teacher now spends her time living in Ammon with her dog. Her family checks on her on a regular basis, but for the most part, she takes care of herself. In fact, up until a few years ago, she was still driving herself around town.

Looking back on the years, Rose is grateful for the moments that have turned into precious experiences, and her kids are thankful for the memories they won’t forget.

“She allowed us to roam and enjoy and have great childhoods,” her son Greg French said. “It’s something that kids nowadays don’t get to do too much, but we really enjoyed it.”

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