Ethan B. Shelton, of Berrien Center

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, March 20, 2014

July 10, 1903— March 19, 2014

Ethan B. Shelton, age 110, of Berrien Center, Mich., died at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Saint Joseph, Mich. following a brief illness. Mr. Shelton was the oldest American-born man in the United States, and the 68th oldest person in the world.

Ethan Shelton

Ethan Shelton

He was born on July 10, 1903, in Pickens County, Alabama to Julius Caesar Shelton, DDS and Ethel Ada (Brotherton) Shelton.

At the age of 16, he moved to Detroit, and then to Chicago as an Optometry student. Upon meeting Miss Rose Zimmerman, he left school to begin a career in barbering to generate income for marriage. They moved home to Alabama where he farmed and established a barbershop business. They lived there for 18 years before moving back to Chicago due to the illness of their son Kenneth. While in Chicago, they owned a neighborhood grocery store.

In 1947, they moved to Berrien Center, and he continued to cut hair during the day while developing a fruit farm on the weekends. Eventually he owned and operated Shelton’s Barber Shop at 216 North Front Street in Niles and moved his produce retail from a roadside farm stand to Shelton’s Farm Market on 11th Street at Bell Road, which was established in 1959.

Ethan was a member of the Berrien Center Bible Church. He enjoyed playing golf, ballroom dancing and bluegrass music, all of which he did with remarkable proficiency in his 110th year.

He played several instruments and enjoyed monthly sessions with other musicians in Wakarusa, Ind. and weekly performances for “the young folks” at a local nursing home. He also kept a garden, often starting prior to sunrise to work before the heat of the day.

His greatest joy was his family, always entertaining one grandchild or another. In his last days, he played the ukulele while a 108-year younger great-grandson played the harmonica. Weeks without someone’s birthday cake and ice cream were rare, and some days included two parties.

On Jan. 18, 1926, he married Rose M. Zimmerman with whom he celebrated the 69th anniversary of their wedding prior to her death on April 25, 1995. He was also preceded in death by five children, Ronald Ethan Shelton in 2013, Martha Ann Webber in 2012, D. Jean Marston in 2011, Kenneth A. Shelton in 1983, and infant Norman J. Shelton in 1930; his parents, Dr. Julius and Ethel Shelton and his step-mother, Hattie Mae (Wharton) Shelton; and all of his siblings, Addie Smith, Ada Sanford, Frank Shelton, DDS, Freeman Shelton, Irma “Lovie” Howard, Talmage Shelton, Clyman Shelton, Winford Shelton, Buren Shelton (in action in World War II), Pauline Davidson, Ella Jean Shelton, and Thomas Shelton (also in World War II).

Surviving family includes two sons, James (Betty) Shelton of Granger, Ind. and Joseph (Deborah) Shelton of Niles; a daughter-in-law, Anna (Mrs. Ronald) Shelton of Berrien Springs, Mich.; 26 grandchildren and more than 120 great, great-great, and great-great-great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

The funeral service for Ethan Shelton will be at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at the Berrien Center Bible Church with the Rev. Bill Zebell officiating. Committal will follow at Mission Hills.

The family will receive relatives and friends from 4 until 8 p.m. on Monday in the Family Life Center at Berrien Center Bible Church and on Tuesday in the Worship Center beginning at 10 a.m.

Ethan always supported Alzheimer’s research in memory of Rose’s battle, and for that reason contributions in memory of Ethan may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association. Arrangements were made at the Halbritter Funeral Home in Niles.

For more information on Ethan’s history, see also