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A century of living

As Alexandria and the State of Minnesota celebrate Sesquicentennials this year, area centenarians shared their thoughts on the community, the changing times, and progress.

Anna Beulke

Bethany Community

Anna Beulke was born November 26, 1907, and lived her entire life in the Carlos/Belle River area. She and her husband, Herman, had three children.

Anna says she's never been more than 20 miles from home, and has never had any desire to be anywhere else, stating that, "Minnesota is a nice place to be."

She learned to milk cows at age 6. As she got older, she spent time helping the school teacher with tasks so the teacher could get home earlier.

She picked potatoes each summer for six weeks straight - 100 bushels a day was a good day and hard to do, she noted.

She remembers the arrival of the Ford automobile, and the days of horse and buggy prior to that.

One memory from childhood that never fades is this: "One time someone we did not know picked us up after school on our way home and we had to make a fuss before they would drop us off at home. That was a little scary."

Anna is amazed at her long life, saying that she never thought she'd be here this long.

Catherine Dobmeyer

Bethany Home

Catherine Dobmeyer was born February 15, 1908 in Warwick, North Dakota. She moved to a farm near Beaulieu, Minnesota, where she attended grade school.

She came from a family of 16 children and recalls her mother baking eight loaves of bread a day.

She moved to South St. Paul in 2006, and came to Bethany Home in Alexandria in 2008 to be closer to family. Her husband's grandfather started the Millerville Mill.

What she misses most about the "old days" are the barn dances, and has fond memories of winning a prize for waltzing.

She also remembers the days of horse and buggy, no running water, telephones or electricity.

"Electricity opened up a whole new field," she noted. "Medical advances also amaze me."

Catherine's husband died in 1983. The couple has two children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

For many years Catherine enjoyed sewing, making clothes for herself and her family.

Mildred Borg

Nelson Gables

Mildred Borg was born and grew up in Ridgeway, Pennsylvania.

In 1929 the Lutheran Synod sent a student intern to her town - Erland Levi Borg, a native of Parkers Prairie. Mildred was the church organist, and they became friends.

When Erland left, they agreed to exchange letters, but for more than two months, Mildred heard nothing. Then a package arrived from Erland that contained a basket with vanilla cream mints covered in dark chocolate and a card wishing her a happy birthday.

That began their letter writing. On June 22, 1933, they were married. Together they served churches in Iowa, St. Paul, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois before retiring to Lake Miltona.

Mildred feels the most significant change today is the lack of a stable atmosphere in the home and of a good Christian upbringing. She says parents should be like missionaries in teaching their children the right way to live. Every night she thinks of her own good rearing and of the joys of raising her two daughters.

Anne Hiebel

Nelson Gables

Anne Hiebel was born November 1, 1908. At age 2, she moved with her parents and six siblings from Czechoslovakia to Chicago, where they lived for three years.

They then moved to Hudson Township south of Forada. In 1929 Anne married John Hiebel and they moved to Alexandria. They were married for almost 74 years. Anne says that "Alexandria is full of friendly folks" and she has always enjoyed living here.

Anne volunteered for the senior center for 25 years. She recalls that in the beginning, they met in the basement of the bowling alley and later moved to the Depot. She served on the board for the new senior center.

Anne noted that she is amazed at how big Alexandria has grown.

She recalls working on the farm, and the change from using horses to tractors. The first time she drove her John Deere tractor she had trouble turning and accidentally took out a whole section of fence!

Anne and John have three children, seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Anne learned to make her famous kolaches from her mother in 1930 without a recipe, and has been making them and teaching her kids and grandkids how ever since.

She has been busy making kolaches all spring just so she has enough to share with her growing family when they come for her 100th birthday celebration this year.

Her family gave her an early birthday present of a Nintendo Wii gaming system. She has been practicing bowling on the system so she can bowl with her grandchildren.

Amelia Arendt

Knute Nelson

Amelia Arendt was born July 10, 1908 in Long Prairie. She married at age 24 and lived on a farm near Long Prairie. She knew her husband from school, and recalls their first date was to a dance.

"I wasn't a great dancer but my sister was," she said. "She could swing everything.

"I had a lot of friends in school," she added. "I had a happy life. I have fond memories of the farm where I worked hard in the garden. I enjoyed making sauerkraut and canning."

Amelia has lived at Knute Nelson for 18 years.

Irene Borchert

Knute Nelson

Irene Borchert was born in the family home in Leaf Valley Township on August 6, 1903.

She completed 8th grade and lived in Minneapolis, California and Alexandria, living in her home for 65 years.

"I started driving at age 14 and had to 'crank' the Model T to start the car," she said. "My sister Luella (Woessner) said I was a champion driver. I could drive a tractor or anything."

Irene enjoyed playing baseball in her younger years. She met her first husband, Walter, at the Roosevelt Ball at the Armory.

Irene has six children.

Lillian Erickson

Knute Nelson

Lillian Erickson was born November 28, 1901 and has lived in Alexandria her entire life.

"I lived on a farm north of Highway 10 with my parents and younger sister," she said. "I took care of my parents through the years."

She worked as a bookkeeper at North Star for many years, and noted that, "Alexandria is a caring and friendly community to live in."

She remembers when television changed from black and white to color, and remembers walking a mile to the country school.

"I remember the wood stove in the school and when it was time to go outside I would play baseball and jump rope," she said.

Hortulana Goering

Knute Nelson

Hortulana Goering was born April 5, 1901. She moved to Alexandria from Brandon several years ago after losing her left eye.

She was an only child and has 12 children, 67 grandchildren, 119 great-grandchildren and 21 great-great-grandchildren.

She enjoyed baking and cooking and used to fish in her "younger days." "I never went ice fishing because the cold didn't agree with me," she said.

Her husband was a railroad worker and the family got free train rides. She also helped work at the depot.

When asked about the changing times, she said, "I am amazed by the washing machine. Not having to wash on a board makes it easier and cleaner.

"I'm also amazed by the freezer, which keeps food longer. Before, we had to pick from a garden, then clean and sterilize food."

Another thing she enjoys; "Today we have great snacks that we didn't have back then, like Cheetos!"

When asked what she likes about the community, she replied, "Alexandria is a very good place to raise children."

Clare Neby

Knute Nelson

Clare Neby grew up on a farm near Kenyon with her parents and two older brothers. She attended District 108 school, which she reached by a path through the pasture in good weather and along the gravel road during winter.

When she reached the age for high school, she went to live with her aunt and uncle in Minneapolis because the distance from her home to the Kenyon High School was too great and there was no school bus.

During high school, she developed an interest in athletics. Although she did not participate herself, she enjoyed going to sporting events, especially football.

After high school, Clare worked at a beauty shop, styling hair and giving manicures.

Her family was always sure to get together for the holidays in spite of traveling by horse and buggy or taking the train.

Clare and her husband were long-time members of First Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Clare enjoyed all types of music, and played piano and sang in the choir.

Alva Pederson

Knute Nelson

Alva Pederson was born August 27, 1908 on the family farm in Kensington, where she lived for 17 years. She moved to Moorhead with her husband and lived there until his death. She then moved back to Alexandria.

The couple had a son and a daughter, and Alva stayed home to care for the family.

One of the things she appreciated about Alexandria was that it was "an easy city to drive in."

She recalls the days when people either paid for everything with cash or "went without," commenting on how people now use credit cards to buy things they want.

"I liked teaching in a one-room country school," she said. "I had to get the stove going on Monday mornings and it sure was cold after the weekend. I taught in many of the schools in the Alexandria area. I only needed a one-year degree to teach.

"I've outlived all of my students," she added. "I had a student that brought me potato sausage every year for Christmas until he died."

She also remembers sewing with a treadle sewing machine, using her feet to make it go.

"I'm amazed that I have lived so long," she said.

Luella Woessner

Knute Nelson

Luella Woessner was born August 24, 1905 near Leaf Valley. She went to country school through 8th grade. She recalls that girls went to school longer; boys only had to attend for 40 days, as they were needed on the farm.

"I started taking piano and organ lessons at 10 years old," she said. "I played church organ for Leaf Valley Lutheran in Fergus Falls and another church in Finlayson. I gave music lessons for over 20 years and taught Sunday school. The kids claimed I was the best Sunday school teacher."

Luella was 27 years old when she married Harry, a butter maker in a creamery. Her sister, Irene Borchert, lived across the street from her for a short time, and now they are together at Knute Nelson.

"Everything is much easier today," she said of the changing times.

Hazel Whiting

Knute Nelson

Hazel Whiting was born in Montevideo, but lived with her husband on a farm near Brandon for 43 years. They raised four daughters and one son.

Some of Hazel's favorite chores were feeding the chickens and ducks and raising a large garden.

After her husband died, she lived on the farm alone for six years before moving to Knute Nelson.