Photo provided by George Jedenoff
George Jedenoff: A 101-Year-Old TidBITS Reader
While helping a TidBITS member with a login problem recently, Lauri Reinhardt learned something fascinating. The reader, an amiable gentleman named George Jedenoff, was almost 102 years old. There may be an estimated 72,000 centenarians in the United States, but still, 101 years old! Can you imagine the history he has lived through? When Lauri relayed this fact, I knew I had to talk with George to find out more about him and his life, and he graciously agreed.
George Jedenoff was born in July 1917 in Petrozavodsk, Russia, in the midst of the Russian Revolution. His parents were members of the Russian nobility, and to avoid the bloodshed that was sweeping the country, they moved first to the Urals, then to Siberia, and then to Manchuria before eventually emigrating to the United States, ending up in Seattle in 1923. After graduating from high school as valedictorian in 1935, George attended Stanford, graduating magna cum laude in 1940 and getting his MBA from Stanford in 1942.
During World War II, he served as a commissioned officer in the US Navy Reserve, mostly on Guam. Upon returning from the war, he accepted a job as an industrial engineer with Columbia Steel, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Over the years, George rose through the company, eventually ending up as VP of Operations before being named as president of USS Engineers and Consultants, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. After taking early retirement in 1972, he was lured back to be president of Kaiser Steel, where he remained until retiring again to focus on management consulting for a few more years.
Adam: George, your story is fabulous—I realize you were just an infant, but how many people alive today can say they escaped the Russian Revolution? But where does technology come in? I was expecting that your big iron might have been early mainframes, not actual iron.
George: When I turned 70, I decided I needed mental exercise that would help to keep the cobwebs out of my brain as I grew older. I have always been interested in technology, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about computers. I wasn’t alone in this—a number of my friends did likewise but those who tried to learn about PCs had considerable difficulty and gave up. After some research and advice, I felt that the Macintosh would be easier to learn, so I ended up going the Mac route. About 1987, I purchased my first computer, a Macintosh Plus.
Adam: So you had no prior technology background before buying your first Mac Plus?
George: No, I had no previous experience using computers. When I graduated in 1940 with a degree in mechanical engineering, there were no personal computers and my principal computing instruments were a Monroe calculator and my trusty slide rule (which I still have to this day). Now I am completely dependent on my Apple devices.
Adam: Picking up personal computing when you were in your 70s is impressive—most people that age that I know aren’t tackling such complex topics.
George: It was not always easy. People would ask me if the difficulties were frustrating. I would answer by saying, “Yes, but the computer is just doing what I bought it for—it’s making me think.”
Adam: So when did you start reading TidBITS?
George: My neighbor suggested the Web site to me about ten or fifteen years ago and I have found information from TidBITS to be very informative and helpful.
Adam: Thanks—I’m pleased to hear that. What Apple devices are you using now? Did you move beyond the Mac to the iPhone and iPad?
George: Indeed. I now have a 27-inch iMac with Retina display, a new iPad Pro, and an iPhone XS Max.
Adam: Excellent choices. And what do you use them for?
George: Like many people, I carry my iPhone with me at all times and use it constantly for phone conversations, text messages, taking photos, and reading email. Unfortunately, my eyesight is not too good, so even with the size of the iPhone XS Max screen, I prefer to view photos and other information on the iPad Pro. I do my more serious work on the iMac, which has the large 27-inch screen. I use these devices to stay in contact with many friends, do online shopping, write important documents, and so on. In fact, I just recently wrote the history of my family and my life in a 232-page manuscript for my family and close friends. I am now in the process of writing a more public version, which I hope to publish online.
Adam: If I can offer any advice on how you can self-publish your autobiography, don’t hesitate to ask, and I look forward to reading it. And I’ll admit I’m curious if TidBITS will warrant a mention in it.
George: Thanks so much for your help and for this opportunity to get personally acquainted. Meanwhile, keep up the good work.
Adam: Thank you! For everyone reading this, one last thing. George also exercises for 45–60 minutes every day and is an avid skier. That, needless to say, is a tad unusual at his age, so Ski Utah has been making videos with him for the past six years. So let me leave you with a link to his most recent video and its closing quote:
Make every day count, and do something constructive. And the more you can do, especially for other people, the happier you are.
That seals it—when I grow up, I want to be like George.
I love this article, and I’m glad that TidBITS, as well as Apple devices and services, have made a difference to such an accomplished, active and dedicated man. Altro cent anni, George!
Loved the article, loved the video.
I particularly love George’s zest in the brief shot of his bike workout. Maybe I’m reading into it, but I feel like he’s thinking “I’m 101 and I’m still here and I’m dynamic and strong and DOIN’ stuff!”
I may not remember the particulars, but I will remember to do that when I get old. Just soak in the pure joy of dynamic movement, at whatever level is possible.
George is an inspiration! Thanks for a great piece.
This was a great article, and inspiring!
I hope I can be as vibrant as George at 100-ish.
I wonder which Monroe model calculator he has and if it was one of the last electro-mechanical models?
I still have my “slipstick” also though it is in storage now.
I hope you’ll inform us when his book is published. Thanks!
What a gift to the world. Thanks for this, really loved the article and video. The power of optimism, staying positive, habits are key. I’ll remember this one.
Great story, although (channeling Tom Lehrer) it lets me know how little I’ve accomplished.
I’m looking at mine as I type this, which means that it’s not in storage and I can still type without looking at the keyboard or screen. (And that’s my accomplishment!)
What a remarkable man and a great life and attitude. Given I’m nearly exactly half George’s age, I can only hope that I’m middle aged.
Truly amazing. Great instincts to reach out to him for an interview and then publishing this. Much aloha to George!
So great to see this story! I am almost certain I met George on the chairlift at Alta about 8-10 years ago (he would have been in his early 90s then). His age, voice, and ski jacket make for a pretty unique combination that one doesn’t forget.
I used to go to Alta to ski 30-40 days a season and also meet with tech folks in SLC who worked with me on iOS app projects in the heyday of the app revolution. At Alta, I met quite a few of the folks from the “Wild Old Bunch” who were more than double my age, and they were a true inspiration. I would be thrilled if I can make it to that age and still ski. Way to go George!
What a story! Hope he does do his autobiography, I too want to read it.
Here’s another centenarian who’s similarly inspiring.
Another one, this time not a sprinter, is a local to me: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a27305018/george-etzweiler-cant-stop-running/
I see him occasionally on my way up Laurel Run Rd. in Rothrock State Forest on my mountain bike. Every year his team is the first one out on the Tussey Mountain Ultra Marathon course, although I’m not sure if they do the entire 50 miles.
I have neighbors, both in their eighties, who regularly run marathons.
Their minds are similarly fit, I’ve noted.
Man, I’ve a lot of catching up to do.
I know quite a few runners in their 70s, including one 70-year-old friend who races twice every weekend on average, with one of the two often being an ultramarathon. He regularly does two marathons in a weekend sometimes. But the oldest runner I know personally is Dixon Hemphill, who in 2018 raced the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile meet that I direct at age 93 and only missed last year’s race due to bad weather.
And yes, regular exercise is absolutely key in staying both physically and mentally fit, as I think George would attest to as well.
As a member of the dementia caregiver community I know many people with younger onset dementia who exercised a lot and kept their minds busy. Many had mentally challenging jobs at the time of their diagnosis. While exercise, diet and involvement have been shown to to delay the onset of dementia it is far from preventing it.
As a physician who treats people with dementia, I agree. We can always encourage good eating and exercise and there is some evidence it helps delay (prevent is too strong) dementia, but I tell them if they enjoy exercise, do it. We see the stories about centegenarians and marathons and our brain connects the “over 100” with “running", but obviously the people that can’t keep running are not written about. Some people love to run and their bodies can take the impact, others hate it and keep pushing, others drop out. It is inspiring to read of people who are still living a vigorous or intellectually active life after 90.
Just find something you like to do to keep active and enjoy your life now. Don’t defer too much for “some day”.
Sorry, getting philosophical here.
Getting philosophical is entirely appropriate here.
Thank You George for your service. And, thank you for the inspiration.
Adam; Please pass this along will ya. TCC:}
Great article, and put me down as one who would purchase his autobiography. I found this quote at a ski site from him:
Just heard from George. He’s doing well at 102, and continuing to ski!
I asked him what he thought about the coronavirus situation, given that he’d lived through the Russian revolution, the Great Depression, and World War II. He wrote:
I love George’s book, and it’s wonderful to see he’s still a very accomplished and daredevil skier. Another cent anni to you, George!
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