Today’s world is almost unrecognizable to that of 1913, but Leonard Akers at the Madisonville Care Center has enjoyed a front row seat to every minute of it and celebrated his birthday for the 105th time on Tuesday.
“I guess I can say I have seen more change than just about anybody,” said Akers from his room’s armchair at the Care Center. “In a lot of ways I think the change is for the better, but in other ways it is probably for the worse. Traffic is certainly worse. I suppose I am an antique.”
Akers was born in Weed, New Mexico, on June 12, 1913, and was the oldest of eight children on his family’s farm. The farm included goats and sheep and his primary job growing up was to assist his father in herding and taking care of the animals.
Weed is a hamlet nestled in the Sacramento Mountains surrounded by the Lincoln National Forrest.
“There was always something to do and I had less play than any kid I ever knew growing up,” said Akers. “I also had to spend a lot of time on my own from an early age and often cooked for myself by the time I was 11.”
As the years went by, Akers spent the majority of his life outdoors in the backcountry of New Mexico, often on his own. He worked as a farmer and a rancher. Many of the mountains, canyons and creeks of the area are named for members of his family.
“I would sometimes go two weeks or more in the backcountry without seeing another person,” said Akers. “Back then, there were a lot of kids who would go off on their own around the age of 14 and never come back.”
Akers’ family came west early on and have been there ever since. His grandparents were born in Texas either during or soon after the American Civil War in the 1860s.
When the United States entered the Second World War in December of 1941 following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Akers was 28 years old. He did not join the military because of a knee injury he had suffered.
“They told me I was too crippled to join,” said Akers. “I was riding a bronc and tried to get through a narrow opening in a barbwire fence. We got stuck in the fence and that is how I hurt my knee.”
Akers met his wife Helen and they got married in 1942 when they were both 29 years old. He admits he had a wild side before he met Helen, who is largely responsible for the religious life he has led ever since. He also developed a love for writing poetry that he kept with him throughout his life.
“Things were different when I always thought I had to be alone,” said Akers. “I never really attended church before I met my wife.”
Leonard and Helen had five children together, three have since passed away. Their son Lewis works as a rancher in Madisonville and brought his parents to the Care Center where they lived together until Helen passed away three years ago. He has seen the birth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
When he was younger, Akers enjoyed rodeos as well as his camping adventures in New Mexico. He will still participate in activities at the Care Center when he feels up to it and has never lost his love for the outdoors.
“I have lived the best life I know,” said Akers. “And it has been a good life.”