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Local woman takes flight for 106th birthday celebration

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POCATELLO — For most families, having the matriarch wish for a helicopter ride to celebrate her 106th birthday may seem like a surprise. But for Naomi Wilde, it was almost to be expected.

In her 70s, Naomi hiked through Portugal and Spain with her husband and a few friends. For her 104th, she rode an elephant. On Friday, the Portneuf Medical Center and Portneuf Air Rescue teamed up with Grace Assisted Living, where Naomi is a resident, to take her on a trip high above Pocatello.

After a long helicopter ride — including a few passes over her friends and neighbors at Grace and a doughnut, Naomi shared a few minutes to offer advice for getting the most from life.

“You never give up,” she said. “Look forward to every day, having fun. Get out of bed, something will come along that’s fun if you make it fun. Make new friends and listen to their stories.”

As her son Dean Wilde predicted would be her answer, when asked what the secret to enjoying life for as long as she had, Naomi said, “If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret.”

There could be some meaning behind the short answer. Perhaps by calling her secret to a full life at 106 a secret, Naomi is telling all who will listen that the key to their own happy life is writing their own story and finding what makes them happy and complete.

Naomi is happiest when she is surrounded by loved ones and pushing the boundaries in some way.

At this point, her family is no longer surprised by her requests and wishes, according to her son.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all, when it comes to her,” Dean said. “She’s always up for a new adventure. When they (Grace Assisted Living administration) asked her a couple of months ago what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said, ‘Well, I rode an elephant a couple years ago, so why not take a helicopter ride?'”

That request went to Glenda Stoddard at Grace. And Stoddard got to work contacting anyone in the area with a helicopter.

Eventually, Stoddard worked out a deal with a company near Yellowstone. But that fell through when that company had to shut down one of its helicopters for repair, according to Portneuf Air Rescue Flight Nurse Margot Wolfer. That’s when Portneuf stepped in.

“We love to do this kind of thing, to be involved in the community,” Wolfer said. The route Naomi took included a couple passes over Grace, where Naomi was able to wave to her fellow residents.

“They had the window open, and I was waving.,” Naomi said.

“They had balloons, and they had some sidewalk chalk that said, ‘Happy birthday, Naomi 106,'” said Naomi’s granddaughter Brittany Dudley, who accompanied her grandmother on the flight. “They were waving and cheering.”

“Can you believe 106?” Naomi chimed in. “I had to stop and think.”

Naomi’s bother, Edwin Nelson, was also in attendance to watch his older sister take flight. At 96 years young, Nelson was mobile — discussing his golf game with family — and as mentally sharp as his sister, lending a joke to the proceeding when asked if he would be willing to ride a helicopter for his 106th.

“I don’t want to get to 106,” he said with a laugh, though he said he would fly in a helicopter.

“It was fun,” Naomi said. “I wish I could see better, then it would have been even more fun, but it was exciting. … It was an experience I have never had.”

Edwin Nelson, 96, with his sister Naomi Wilde, 106, and her six great grandchildren
Naomi Wilde celebrates her 106th birthday with her brother Edwin Nelson, 96, and her six great-grandchildren on June 4, 2021. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

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