Oldest American-Born Man in the U.S. Dies in Michigan

Ethan B. Shelton “not only lived a long time, he lived a full life,” said one of his surviving children. “My father was a remarkable man.”

Ethan B. Shelton 1903-2014 (Photo: Halbritter Funeral Services)
Ethan B. Shelton 1903-2014 (Photo: Halbritter Funeral Services)

The oldest American-born man in the United States, Saint Joseph, MI, resident Ethan B. Shelton died Wednesday. He was 110.

The 68th oldest person in the world, he died at St. Joseph Hospital following a brief illness, the Detroit Free Press reports. He had been active until nearly the end of his 1.1 centuries on Earth, his son, Joe Shelton, said, and was still living in his own home at the time of his death.

“My father was a remarkable man,” Joe told the newspaper. “There’s been quite to do about the fact that he lived so long, but the key thing is he not only lived a long time, he lived a full life.”

And how he lived, gliding across the ballroom dance floor and playing instruments with what his son called great proficiency until the end of his years. He accompanied his namesake great-great-great grandson, Ethan, 2, on the harmonica as the toddler played the ukulele during his final days at the hospital.

“That was incredible to behold,” Joe told the newspaper. “It was an incredible moment for my dad. He was just overjoyed. The most fun was seeing them playing with a 108-year spread between the two.”

The elder Ethan Shelton was born on July 10, 1903 Pickens County, AL, moved to Detroit at age 16 and then to Chicago with the intent of becoming an optometrist.

But he fell in love along the way, when he met Rose Zimmerman, who would be his wife for 69 years before her death in 1995. He began barbering, a career that would span many years while he also took up various other pursuits.

The Sheltons returned to his native Alabama, where they lived for 18 years and began their family of seven children. He continued barbering, but also farmed, before returning to Chicago when their son Kenneth became ill.

There, Ethan opened a neighborhood grocery.

In 1947, they moved to Berrien Center, MI, and bought the home where Ethan lived until his death. He continued to cut hair, but also established a fruit farm that now spans several acres and supplies produce for Shelton’s Farm Market in Niles, MI, an enterprise he established in 1959 that grew to also include Shelton’s Wholesale Co. and Shelton’s Garden Center.

Joe attributes his father’s success to a positive attitude.

“He was an eternal optimist and didn’t dwell on the negative,” he told the newspaper.

Ethan finally retired and, at 72, took up golfing and other hobbies he hadn't had time for during a long career as a successful buisnessman.

Above all else, he prized his family, his No. 1 priority throughout his long life, Joe said.

By the time he died, his family had grown to include 26 grandchildren and more than 120 great, great-great, great-great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Additionally, he is survived by two of his and Rose’s seven children, Joe and James Shelton.

“I’ll miss his companionship. He was my dad. He was the leader of the family, but also he was my best friend,” Joe said.

TELL US: As your read about how Mr. Shelton lived his life, what's your takeaway to enhance your own?
Lee Jacobsen March 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM
A positive attitude is the key to longevity, there is positive in anything, even Obamacare, as it allows folk to find a use for spending extra money that will help the less fortunate, whether they wanted the healthcare or not. The passengers on the 777 flight are probably safe and secure in Pakistan, held as long term hostages by nefarious folk. Obama will probably win the basketball March madness, since he deems that more important than world affairs, but that's ok, at least something is being accomplished. Keep that positve attitude.
RG March 31, 2014 at 04:40 PM
Considering how long and well he lived, we would be wise to heed his advice! Also, the fact that his son said that he will "miss his companionship" would imply he was a genuine man. I hope my children will miss that about me one day.
Kariann Hart April 19, 2014 at 07:41 AM
This has absolutely nothing to do with politics. This has to do with a good man looking at life from a positive view point. Maybe exercise, good food, and the ability to learn new things.


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