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Chowchilla resident guided planes into her 80s

Frieda Anna Luscher of Chowchilla made her living as a ground flagger for crop-dusters buzzing, swooping and spraying San Joaquin Valley fields and orchards.

She walked long distances to lay out markers for the planes to follow as they sprayed acre after acre. Although crop-dusting triggered health fears in some people, Mrs. Luscher did just fine, her family said.

Mrs. Luscher, 92, died Saturday of pneumonia. Her husband, John, died in 1989.

"She flagged into her 80s," son Richard Luscher said, "that and Avoning back in her 70s." He referred to Mrs. Luscher's Avon cosmetics sales.

She was born in Holtville in the Imperial Valley, where her parents had immigrated from Germany.

She wasn't one to shy away from hard work and adventure. She had worked on a cattle ranch, and raised chickens and turkeys, too, growing up.

Daughter Diana Whiton said Mrs. Luscher both fed and milked cattle to help on her family's dairy in Chowchilla after development in Southern California had forced them to move. Years of this work strengthened her hands.

"She was very strong," Whiton said. "Up until she went into the hospital, we would often find her in the garden."

Granddaughter Shara Livingston recalled Mrs. Luscher pulling weeds, feeding cattle, walking and square-dancing until she was 82.

Mrs. Luscher made three fishing trips to Alaska, and went halibut fishing there at age 89. She landed a 100-pound halibut, prompting an Alaskan newspaper to interview her for an article, Richard Luscher said.

He recalled one of his mother's earlier Alaskan trips, when she and two fellows were trolling for salmon. The guys' lines got hung up and broke. Mrs. Luscher managed to bring her salmon in.

Mrs. Luscher, who got around without a walker at 92, followed her father's prescription: Keep working hard.

Livingston loved to go square-dancing with her grandmother on Friday nights in Madera until a few years ago. She remembered how Mrs. Luscher swore by her monthly B-12 shots.

Maybe they fueled her energy for pulling weeds, feeding cattle and walking long distances until just before she finally had to go to the hospital the Sunday before Valentine's Day, Livingston wondered.

The day before she entered the hospital, Mrs. Luscher's family prepared the ground for the latest edition of her garden, which she was planting in tomatoes, squash, watermelon, corn and peppers.

The family will hold private services.

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