When Forrest Luing was a young boy, he liked to put frogs in his pockets. Sometimes, those frogs ended up jumping out of his pockets during class time at school.
This affinity for the jumpy little amphibians earned Luing the nickname of “Frog.”
That nickname is well known at Windsor Manor in Nevada, where Luing has lived for more than four years.
Luing is now less than a month away from celebrating his 103rd birthday, and other than being hard of hearing, Luing gets around well for a man of his years. He doesn’t always remember everything you ask him about, but he remembered those frog-catching days of his youth very well.
“I went with dad to get the cows out of the pasture and would cross a little creek, and once in a while, I’d pick up a little frog.” Sometimes that was before school and he’d leave the frog or frogs in his pockets and when they jumped out, the teacher didn’t like that so well.
At Windsor Manor, Luing’s suite has been decorated with stuffed animal frogs, frog figurines and pictures of frogs, and the staff members may not all know his given name. But if you say Frog, they know exactly who you’re talking about.
Luing was born May 9, 1916, on his grandparents’ farm in the Collins area. He attended Warrington Country School between Colo and Collins until he finished eighth grade. For his high school years, he walked a mile to catch the bus, which at that time was pulled by a team of mules, into Collins. He graduated from Collins High School in 1935. He said, “it was the new school.” Back then, it was. And it was the school that he graduated from in 1935; his wife, Leonora graduated from in 1939; and all four of their children, Darwin (now living in Panora), Charlene Mullihan (of Collins), Pam Hamilton (of Texas) and Teresa Suggs (of Colorado) also graduated from, between the late ’50s and the early ’70s. Charlene said even a few of his grandchildren went to that school before it was demolished.
After graduating, Luing worked at a number of jobs. He was a farmhand, worked at the lumberyard in Collins and scraped carloads of coal off the train in Collins. He moved to Nevada for a time and worked for Laps Seed, where he would grind and sack alfalfa. Charlene remembers that her dad also was a builder, and helped build the atomic and chemistry buildings at Iowa State University.
He married Leonora Vasey the same year that she graduated from high school, in 1939. Asked now what he loved most about Leonora, he said, “just about everything.” Before Leonora’s death in April of 2011, the couple had celebrated 71 years of marriage.
The occupation Charlene remembers most was her dad owning his own trucking business and stockyard for hogs at Collins. He hauled livestock to Fort Dodge, Waterloo and Des Moines.
Luing remembers that he liked trucking livestock. “I was my own boss,” he said.
Charlene said her dad was the typical fatherly breadwinner, and if you wanted to spend time with him, you did it by going with him while he worked. She remembers going with her dad as he hauled livestock, many times returning home after dark. A favorite memory of going with her dad was the trips they made to Des Moines. “We always stopped for a coney dog at Porter’s on Hubbell,” she said.
In their later years, Charlene said her parents enjoyed wintering in Texas, which they did for about 30 years. She thinks her mom probably loved that Frog would get in the car and drive anywhere she wanted to go. He was used to being on the road.
In fact, these days, Wednesday morning’s “Men’s Outing” at Windsor Manor is one of Luing’s favorite activities. He talked about it a little, saying it’s a chance for all the guys to get out and go for a ride. And they go all over. They’ve been to Marshalltown, around the Ames and Gilbert area and to places further north, further south and further west. It’s a chance to just drive — or ride as the residents do — and see what’s going on.
Luing also stays active these days playing Bingo a couple of times a week and going to Story County Medical Center for exercise a couple of times a week. He moves his arms and legs a little to show how the exercise machines that he uses keep him limber. He also enjoys having biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and ice cream is still his favorite dessert.
Luing’s memories of Collins and all the things that used to be part of the town aren’t as good as they used to be, but daughter Charlene said he has always loved his hometown, and many there will still remember how he almost never missed a men’s coffee in his later years.
This father of four, grandfather of 11, great-grandfather of 29 and great-great-grandfather, too, has had a good life so far. His family plans to honor him as they gather at the Country House in Colo on Saturday, May 11, to celebrate his 103rd birthday.
When he turned 100, there was an open house at Windsor Manor in his honor and he got a certificate for being a centenarian from the Governor of Iowa. That framed certificate hangs on the wall by his favorite chair.
It isn’t all that surprising that Luing has lived to be over 100, Charlene said. It’s partly good DNA, as he had two aunts who also lived over 100 years.
Charlene, who is vested in the history of her hometown, said the neatest thing about her father’s age is that as far as she knows, he is the oldest Collins person alive at this time.