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Clyde Ozment celebrates a century

The countryside may have changed, and airplanes have become more advanced, but Clyde Ozment still takes the changes in stride.

Ozment, a Farmington resident who turned 100 July 7, has done amazing things in his lifetime, whether it be digging a well 65 feet deep or starting a church.

"I remember being a little kid and thinking, 'My dad could fix everything,'" Dennis Ozment, Clyde's son said.

Ozment was born in Arkansas in 1908. His mother died of typhoid fever when he was 6 months old, and his father died when he was only a year old. He was raised by his grandmother in a traveling carnival until her death when he was 12. From then on, he took care of himself. Ozment continued traveling in the carnival until he settled in Rochester in 1930.

"The Depression began," Ozment said. "So I stayed in Minnesota during the Depression, doing whatever work I could find."

At one point, Ozment worked at a gravel pit where he was paid about $1 a day.

Ozment met his future wife, Dolores, in 1930. They were married June of the following year and settled in Rochester for several years before moving to St. Paul and finally to Rosemount in 1941. Ozment decided to take up carpentry during this time.

"It was the best job I could get," said Ozment. "Carpentry work is one of the most interesting works there is. There's no end to it."

He is a self-taught carpenter, having learned through a set of books which he still has. He had a little help, however. His sister-in-law was a teacher at the time, and helped Ozment figure out the specific measurements for jobs he took until Ozment could figure it out on his own.

Carpentry work is what brought Ozment to Rosemount, as he was contracted to help build the Gopher Ordinance Works plant along County Road 42. At the time, County Road 42 was little more than a sand road, according to Ozment. He rode his bike along that sand road everyday to work.

Since he knew carpentry, Ozment built his own 12 ft. by 24 ft. house on a three- to four-acre plot of land, and then dug out a basement. Ozment even dug a well using only his hands and his tools to tap the water he knew was somewhere underneath his property, something his neighbors told him would be impossible to accomplish.

"They told me I couldn't do it," Ozment said.

This wasn't the only great accomplishment for Ozment. He helped found what is today known as the First Baptist Church of Rosemount.

"He went door to door, as I understand the story, asking if anyone wanted to start a Baptist church," said Dr. Ed Johnson, pastor emeritus at First Baptist. "He was the one that really took the initiative."

Ozment had been going to a church in Minneapolis for some time until he and his wife decided to bring a Baptist church to Rosemount. They planned to buy the St. John's Lutheran church building which was for sale, but Ozment's wife wouldn't let Ozment make a $50 down payment until they had at least six people willing to be church members, to help defray the cost of the church. The church cost about $7,500 to purchase in total.

Ozment and his family were heavily involved in the church. He was head usher for about 15 years, and was a deacon for many years as well. Every Saturday for many years Ozment and his wife would clean the entire church.

"Somebody had to take care of it," Ozment said.

The most important accomplishment Ozment feels he has ever done is raising his family. It shows, as his two surviving sons have made several accomplishments as well. Dennis Ozment has been a state representative since 1980 and was a fire captain before his time in the legislature. His other son Dick is retired after building up a Country Kitchen restaurant franchise with several partners and selling over 300 restaurants to Carlson Companies, the company that also owns such businesses as TGI Friday's, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, and Country Inn & Suites. His daughter, Barbara, who passed away three years ago, was the safety director for Transport Designs, a trucking company formerly in Savage. His other son Eugene passed away in a car accident in 1962.

Ozment retired in 1974. He and his wife spent almost 20 years in a mobile home traveling the country year-round. The Ozments traveled south in the winter every year. They would stop in Florida before they crossed the U.S. to reach Arizona and California, all the while visiting friends and relatives. They would travel north from California to Washington, and from there make their way east to Minnesota for the summer. They ended their traveling in 1993, when they moved into the Spruce Place senior apartments in Farmington. Ozment and his wife were married for 74 years before she passed away three years ago at 94.

Over the course of 100 years, Ozment has seen plenty. He still remembers the Wright Brothers experimenting with airplanes.

Rosemount has changed little according to Ozment. It's just expanded a bit.

There isn't a secret to Ozment's longevity, as the years just pass by for him.

"The years go by whether you like it or not," Ozment said with a slight grin. "You try to avoid some of them, but there's no getting around it. The years come like clockwork. Better than clockwork."

Ozment is still enjoying retirement, and still has accomplishments to share. Last Sunday at First Baptist Ozment was honored for his centennial birthday. First Baptist Church will present him with a plaque to commemorate the occasion. Ozment also received a letter from Governor Tim Pawlenty congratulating him on his birthday, and a card from President Bush and his wife wishing him well. Recently, Ozment received his 65-year pin from the Local 87 carpenter's union, of which he is still a member. Spruce Place apartments will also hold a celebration for Ozment at 3 p.m. Thursday, July 10.

Of course, there are other joys Ozment has experienced recently. One of his neighbors who checks on him recently gave him a $2 bill.

"I'll keep that $2," Ozment said. "You can't find a $2 bill nowadays."