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Wilbur Hennings, approaching 100, credits God
Wilbur Hennings has no way of explaining why he's still on earth as he approaches 100 years of age other than laying it solely in God's court: "Maybe the good Lord knows what to do."

On Tuesday, April 28 the Westward Ho Mobilehome Park resident turns 100 but a party is organized for this weekend. Friends and family will pause to look back on an amazing life that started in 1909 in a rail town of Cedar Creek, Neb.

"He's a very religious man - he's been a church-goer his whole life," said stepdaughter Marie Cochran. Her mother was Wilbur's second wife who passed away in 1999. Wilbur was once active as an elder of Northridge Assembly of God Church on Hatch Road (now Victory Assembly of God), but he finds it difficult getting around.

"Time won't let me do what I'd like to do," said Wilbur, who wishes he could cast a line in the fishing hole but limits most of his activity to praying. Hennings lives on his own - using a cane to get around - but is checked on frequently by caring neighbors and family.

"He's pretty much self-reliant," observed Sue Randle, a friend and neighbor.

Wilbur was one of seven boys born to William and Mary Ann Hennings. He grew up on the Great Plains and was raised on a farm.

"All I ever did as a child was learn how to work," said Mr. Hennings. "That's about all I had to do all my life."

Wilbur's life had a rocky start. Midwives helped assist in the birth at the family farmhouse but something wasn't right about the baby.

"I cried, cried, cried, cried, cried," he said.

It was apparent that it was not just a matter of a colicky baby. His parents were urged to take him to the hospital in Omaha 150 miles away.

"Here we are way out on the lone prairie and the only way we could travel was wagon or horseback."

Wilbur's father got word to the Cedar Creek train depot. The community rallied to help the baby every step of the way. The station manager arranged for a caboose to be attached to a freight train for the child. The baby was taken to a second station and transferred to a passenger train. When the train reached Omaha he was greeted by a cab and a motorcycle police officer who escorted him to the hospital. Doctors discovered that the baby had a rupture in the stomach region. After surgery his crying turned to cooing.

His eyes are moist with tears as he recounts the goodness of others in the century-old tale.

In 1925 Wilbur met cattleman J.C. Cook and joined him on a cattle drive with 1,600 head of cattle. He worked cattle and broke wild horses as a cowboy in Nebraska, putting up with frigid weather as long as he could in Wyoming and Montana as well.

"It was a miserable life in the cold," he recalls. He never forgot his subsistence being coffee and hard tack.

In 1926 he moved to Plattsmouth, Neb., where he owned a operated a coffee shop restaurant where he served up mounds of five-cent hamburgers, 10-cent cheeseburgers and 10-cent bowls of chili.

"If they paid you it's all right too," he said with a grin.

Although he said he doesn't like to cook because he doesn't like how his food tastes, Cochran insists that her stepdad is a great cook.

Today Wilbur is described as both a "vitamin freak" and "bread and potatoes man."

"I'm an old-timer and they eat all they can muster up," he said.

He spent time in Oklahoma, where he became well acquainted with famous evangelist Oral Roberts. He remembers how Roberts showed him the land where he would build the world-famous Oral Roberts University.

In 1931 Hennings went to Arizona where he worked as a train master, conductor and engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and El Paso. In 1951 the railroad transferred him to Los Angeles.

Wilbur came to Ceres in 1978 because of a woman - Goldie Wallis, who became his second wife after they formed a telephone romance. She passed away in 1999.