Esther Slemenda can keep a secret. After all, she did it for a living.
Before coming to Masonic Village at Sewickley, she spent her life working with classified documents and even worked for the CIA. Although the details of her work are classified, she is still able to share other stories from her 105 years.
Esther was born in Arco, Idaho on Sept. 16, 1913. As a child, she and her two sisters enjoyed swimming in the river, but Esther’s childhood ended when her father left her mother. She had to find work in a bakery to make ends meet.
“I liked it very much, but it was not my life,” she said.
Yearning for something more, Esther moved to Idaho Falls at 19 years old. She went to the Bonneville County courthouse looking for a job. Fortunately for her, they were hiring.
“I was good at typing, so they hired me to type election records,” she said. From this position, Esther moved on to other jobs, eventually gaining her position in the classified documents department. Documents were stored in a vault in an enclosed room; she monitored which documents went in and out. Everyone had to sign before removing a document from the room.
“One lady wanted to sign in purple ink!” Esther said. Always a rule follower, Esther had to inform the woman that it was black or blue ink only.
According to Esther, supervising the classified documents was one of the highest positions available at the courthouse, and of the most high-pressure. The motto was, “What you see here, hear here, leave here,” but Esther did not have any trouble doing that.
“You just put a zipper on your mouth,” she said. “They knew I was honest.”
She encourages young people to “be honest and never tell a lie,” knowing firsthand the consequences of lying from a young age.
“I told one lie once. I asked my mother if we could go to the river and she said no, but I told my sister she said ‘Yes, but be careful.’ When my mother found out, she whipped my legs all the way home,” Esther said.
Esther married and had two children. Having celebrated her 105th birthday in September, she credits her longevity to “good living and treating my body right.” She attends the “Sit and Be Fit” exercise class two times a week and does exercises in her room as well.
“I’ve had a good life,” Esther said.