Larry LaRue

Larry LaRue: No retirement home life for this 99-year-old man; “I like living in a yurt.”

The old man man in the yurt is about to turn 100, and rarely travels far beyond the 7 ½-acre Bremerton property he bought in 1951.

Jim Lyman is happy there. He doesn’t care for freeways, traffic.

“We used to get him to our house in Gig Harbor,” said his daughter, Martha Gagnon. “He has about a 5-mile zone now where he’s comfortable. So we come to him.”

A few hundred yards below his 24-foot-diameter yurt is the house where Lyman once lived. Now his son and daughter-in-law, Jim Jr. and Nancy, live there.

“I cook most everything I eat,” Lyman said. “If they’re having steak, I’ll go down to the house and eat with them, but about 45 minutes later, I’ll be back here.”

Which works out just fine, he said.

“I feel 100 percent. I’m going to live to 106,” Lyman said, sitting in a padded rocking chair. “Why have I lived so long? Well, I eat a lot of cookies. I drink two glasses of milk every day. In the summertime, I might take a beer once or twice a week.

“I used to roll my own cigarettes, but more than 50 years ago a guy I worked with said, ‘You smoke the same thing my dad smoked. He just died.’

“That was it. I quit that day and never smoked again.”

About 20 years ago, Gagnon started interviewing her father and putting together a biography. He was getting up there in age and she didn’t know how much longer he’d be around.

He’d already lived a full life, and he just kept on living it.

Lyman was born on Jan 21, 1915, in Texas and was brought to Bremerton in 1917 by his shipbuilding father and mother. Lyman eventually would work at the Bremerton shipyards, too.

“Daddy was a World War II vet and was always a working man, but a happy working man,” Gagnon said. “I remember him chopping wood for our stove and whistling while he did it.”

Lyman says he had the good fortune of two wives — the first for more than 50 years, the second for 20 years.

“Both were wonderful women. I was with each of them when they died.”

After his second wife died, Lyman lived alone for years in their Bremerton home. Unhappy, he moved into a senior-living apartment where meals were served on the dining-room schedule.

Jim Jr. laughed remembering it.

“After the military, dad never cared for regimentation,” Jim Jr. said. “He said, ‘This is like a damn warehouse, with everyone sitting around waiting to die.’”

Jim Jr. had friends who were building their dream house on Orcas Island and, in the interim, they lived on site. In a yurt.

When Lyman heard their story, he was fascinated.

“I’d never seen one,” he said.

Five years ago, he bought a kit. It took two days for Junior and friends to put together. When finished, it had a couple of hard plastic windows, tall ceilings and a bamboo wood floor.

This is not your standard state campground yurt. Lyman’s has running water and electricity, a stove, oven, microwave — even a treadmill.

“I get on it now and again,” he said. “Not as much as I should.”

One of the downsides to a long life is outliving family, loved ones. Lyman points at the wall of his yurt, where dozens of photos hang.

“Those photographs are of family and friends. I think there are 34 blood relatives on the wall, and I can look at their pictures and remember stories about each of them.

“I had three children, nine grandkids, 10 great grandkids and three or four great-great grandkids.

“I like living in a yurt. Those photos are my memories, but they’re happy memories. I’ve lived a good life, I have no complaints.

“If you think young, you feel young. Look at my hands,” he said, pulling up his long sleeves. “They’re don’t look old. Look at my face. I don’t look any older than you, do I?”