SHERIDAN — Longtime Big Horn residents Wyla Loomis and Vic Garber predicted they would celebrate their 100th birthday together someday.
“Years ago, Vic said that they would celebrate 100 together, since they were only a month apart,” Elmcroft program director Darcy DeLopp said. “And now here we are.”
The two were neighbors on ranches in Big Horn for most of their lives and have been friends for more than 70 years. Garber’s birthday was on Sept. 14, and Loomis’ is on Oct. 11. On Oct. 11, Elmcroft at Sugarland Ridge held a joint 100-year-old birthday party for the duo.
At the party, the two were presented with signed letters of congratulations from Gov. Mark Gordon. As the two stood in front, Garber took the opportunity to speak about the letters.
“I see that this letter is from the governor,” Garber said. “Well I got a letter from the president, and it’s so damn bad that nobody can read it.”
Garber told a story of a time “before 4×4” when the two first lived next to each other. Garber left his two-wheel drive truck stuck in a bog on Loomis’ property, where he went to retrieve his water. The Loomis family made sure the Garbers were taken care of.
“She saw to it that I got my share of the water,” Garber said. “End of speech.”
Garber said that he always loved to work rather than pursue other hobbies.
“I never had a job, I was a job. I was always self-employed,” Garber said. “I was born a rancher, and I made a living as a rancher.”
Garber said that he was unable to serve in the military at the start of World War II because of a badly mangled leg from a tractor accident.
Later, when he had recovered, the draft board in Denver determined his work raising food was too important.
Eventually, Garber had 3,000 head of breeding ewes and 100 head of sow.
“I ran pigs like some people run cattle,” Garber said.
Later, Garber “came up with something no one had done. I rigged up a deal to cook potatoes to feed pigs and cattle.”
Later, Garber served four terms in the Wyoming Legislature, three as a Democrat and one as a Republican. He said he decided to run for office after a lawyer “tried to show me up as a country hick” in Cheyenne.
Garber said the Legislature was a working fraternity, and he was especially proud of one session where he was one of two Democrats to cross the party line and make Wyoming a right-to-work state.
Garber offered two main pieces of advice to pass along to future generations. First, ranching is the easiest way in the world to raise children, as responsibility is the only thing that matters.
“Allow them to care and do whatever they’re capable of as long as they do no harm,” he said.
Second, don’t save money in a savings account or certificates of deposit. Put it in the market with a competent manager. Garber said he still receives money from the same account he opened at the start of his career.
“Well hell, if only the rich are in the stock market, why not get into the stock market?” Garber recalled thinking at the time.
Last, Garber repeated that Big Horn is a close-knit community and that it’s the women who keep it that way.
“They are the nucleus that makes everything in the community hold together and that’s still so,” he said.
Loomis herself served for decades with the Big Horn Woman’s Club.
“I have helped for over 50 years serving parties and weddings with the Big Horn Woman’s Club,” she said.
Loomis said when the club needed help to sustain its operations, auctioneers would call and she would help with sales.
Loomis said cooking had always been one of her favorite activities. She cooked for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom when she visited Big Horn.
Fellow Elmcroft resident Barbara Oedekoven wore a sweater with a cardinal on it for Loomis, who said it was her favorite bird.
Loomis and Oedekoven agreed it had been “many, many years” that they had known each other, “almost as long as you and Vic,” Oedekoven said.
Asked for advice for younger generations, she thought for awhile and asked to repeat the question — she had a lot of friends to greet — and said, “If you have a loved one, stay with the loved one and do things together.”
“Wyla is a great neighbor,” Garber said.