'Stay close to Mother Nature'
When you see Lenore Anderson, you don't necessarily think of her as a matriarch of a huge clan, you would just think of her as someone's grandmother. She is both.
When she celebrated her 80th birthday the first of May, about 50 members of her family and friends showed up for the party.
The biggest surprise of the day was a telephone call from U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, a friend of one of Lenore's sisters.
"He wished me a happy birthday," she said. "I asked him to take care of my grandson, B.J., who is in the Navy. He has served submarine duty in Africa and Greece and has been to Iraq and Iran. Mr. England said he would be honored to take care of him. I thought that was very nice of him to say that."
B.J. is just one of 22 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren that Lenore worries about. There are also her two daughters and six surviving sons.
She came from a big family as well -- seven girls and five boys.
Her husband, Sid Anderson, was well known in the Eureka Springs area as a law man, while she earned her reputation as a cook in various restaurants in town.
"My cake recipe is framed and on the wall at the Crossbow Restaurant in Huntsville," she said. "My hot rolls are famous all over the county."
The Andersons moved to southern Carroll County in 1955 from Texas. They moved into Eureka Springs in 1968. Like so many others, they took whatever jobs were available.
Sid went to work for Gerald L. K. Smith on the construction crew that built the amphitheater for The Great Passion Play.
As various departments within the grounds developed, Lenore worked in them. She enjoyed working in the Bible Museum, giving tours in the summer months, and in the gift shop. In the winter, she worked in the mail room.
"The Smiths were beautiful Christian people," she said. "They were very kind to my husband and I."
The Andersons were such valuable employees, the Smiths gave them a home on the Passion Play grounds for the remainder of their lives.
Sid Anderson died in November of 2003, but Lenore continues to live in the mobile home parked near the side entrance to the theater seating area.
Taking care of Sid and her own health problems have kept Lenore pretty well housebound the past few years, but she is feeling better and planning on getting out and about.
She enjoys country western music, but hasn't gotten caught up in any television soap operas.
"I watched soap operas when the kids were young, but not any more," she said.
She was a bit miffed when she found out Willie Nelson was in town for a performance in March and she didn't get to go.
Asked about what contributes to a long life, she answered, "Stay as close to Mother Nature as you can. The closer you can stay, the better off you are."
Teasing her a bit by asking about "smoking, drinking and cussin'," she laughed and said, "Don't do it, don't do any of them."
For her, the secret to a long life seems to be in taking care of a large family and being involved in their lives.