Emma Bateman of Medford celebrated her 103rd birthday Wednesday at Horton Plaza.
She was born Emma Marguerite Staats on Oct. 12, 1913, in a claim shanty in southwest Kansas. She was the fourth of 12 children by Lula and Voorhies Staats.
She grew up herding cows while riding horseback and driving a team of plow horses until technology gave her trucks and tractors to drive in the wheat fields. She stayed out of school for several semesters to help with her younger siblings (her youngest brother was only 15 months older than her first child).
She won a scholarship to Business College, but before classes started, she fell in love with a hired hand named Les Mollenkopf of Missouri. The two were married that June.
The couple tried wheat farming, but their fields were devastated by dust storms. They put their first two children in their Model T Ford and headed for his parents' home in Missouri. Outside Dodge City, their trip was cut short by one of the infamous "Black Blizzards," a dust storm in which there is zero visibility. They had to return home to bury his father, who'd died from pneumonia brought on by the dust storms.
They spent the years of the Great Depression and World War II in Missouri, then moved to Wyoming with their three children. Bateman was involved in the Methodist Church, Eastern Star and working with children.
Her husband died just before their 75th anniversary. At age 83, Bateman married fellow church member Jim Bateman, but was widowed again six years later.
At age 68, Emma Bateman followed a lifelong dream and began to paint in oils. She took three first and two second places in her first show. She was then required to enter as a "professional" and painted prolifically through her 80s.