"Oldies but Goodies" by Joni Stewart
Celebrating her 91st birthday this month, Kisty Staig's life is a celebration of family, friends and fortitude.
Born to the Benson family at a ranch just north of town, Kisty and one brother are the last of the seven Benson
children. The family all worked at cattle ranching and, like so many families in this valley,
lived a life of hard work and struggle.
"We were all pretty healthy," Kisty recalls. "When the flu virus hit and people in town were
dying, dad kept us all at the ranch and made us eat an onion a day."
Kisty has lived all 91 years here in the John Day Valley. And while she has traveled a bit, she remarks that
she likes the look of the country here, and that it is a good place to live. Her philosophy toward life is
distilled into one sentence, "Just try to stay well and work". She has done both, despite the three bouts of cancer and
all the accompanying surgeries. Her brother marvels at her stamina and wonders why she was the
one in the family who was besought with medical problems. "I was the tough one," she says emphatically. She muses about which comes first, the
strength to survive, or does surviving bring strength. Either way, she is an inspiration to her friends and an
embodiment of endurance.
She worked at Benson's restaurant on Main Street for many years and for a brother at Benson's shoe store. But she is perhaps best
remembered for owning and operating the liquor store franchise for 37 years.
Among her favorite memories are dancing scottish jigs in kilts and tams in Condon and Dayville; watching thunderstorms with
her oldest granddaughter; and her recent 5,000 mile drive through the southwest with friend Mary McKern.
"She's a darling," says Mary," a strong person, and very sharp." Mary gauges Kisty's edge by a game of kings corners.
"When she counts her cards quickly during a game, I know she's on!" Without exception, whenever Kisty's name
is mentioned, there is a universal positive concensus.
Her children have gifted her with 8 grandchildren, each of whom are represented in pictures on the shelves and tables
in her living room. They all visit, and are a source of love and concern to her.
She, like many of the settlers here, copes with life's losses and gains with a straightforward and no-nonsense approach.
"I'm still around," she proclaims. And that, in the common vernacular, says it all.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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