Small western Minn. care center home to four centenarians

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CLARKFIELD, Minn. — There are lots of ways to measure the changes of the past 100 years, but ask those who have witnessed them and you will learn that what matters most hasn’t really changed.

The Clarkfield Care Center held a party Wednesday in honor of four centenarians who make their home there, a day that also happened to be the birthdays for two of them: Angie Lee, 110, and Eunice Anderson, 105. Sharing the spotlight as family and friends gathered were Elise Husby, 101, and Grace Larson, 100.

The care center is home to only 28 residents, making the fact that there are four centenarians among them a source of pride. All four were peppered with questions about what their secret for longevity might be, but none had any pat answer.

What they did talk about is what they’ve enjoyed most through the years: family and friends.

“If it weren’t for my friends, I wouldn’t care to live,’’ said Angie Lee, the senior of the group.

Along with their love for family and friends, the four share two other obvious attributes, according to Jeanine Satre, a caregiver at the facility. Each keeps a very keen sense of humor and an upbeat attitude. “They’re happy,’’ she said.

Anderson grew up on a farm near Hazel Run in Yellow Medicine County. Like her brothers, she drove the horses and helped with the physical labor farming required.

Anderson said she was happy to put farm life behind her. “I left there because I wanted to get out and get my own money,’’ she said.

She moved to Minneapolis, where she worked at the Bemis Bag Company.

It was hard work too, she said, but her brother Erling Anderson pointed out that she became a supervisor “and ran the show.”  

“She always ran the show no matter where she went,’’ he added, laughing.

Eunice Anderson never married, but treated her nieces and nephews as her own. She traveled to all 50 states. She pointed out that she has been on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Larson, the youngster at 100, grew up in Clarkfield as one of nine children, married and stayed active with church and family. “She basically led a simple life,’’ said family members.

She never smoked or drank, but abstinence is not essential for reaching 100 years.

Family members of Husby, for example, said that even after the death of her husband, she and her friends continued to enjoy life by getting out once in awhile. They all looked forward to a cocktail with their meals.

Husby married, raised a family and worked a number of jobs in Clarkfield, including a stint at the care center and, earlier, as a telephone operator. She was active in her church and the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion.

Lee grew up in Dawson, where her father ran a general merchandise store. She moved to Clarkfield, where her husband managed the Consumer Oil Company. She talked about how she and friends used to hop on trains to get to neighboring towns.

She remembers her first car ride as a white-knuckle affair. “It was my dad and he wasn’t a very good driver,’’ she said, laughing. “It was a kind of car where you didn’t have doors.’’

Lee is probably the best known among the four centenarians, thanks to an appearance last year on WCCO television. Reporter Angela Davis made the 130-mile trip to Clarkfield to interview Lee after learning she is one of the longest-lived fans of the Minnesota Twins.

In recent years, the Twins have made it a practice of sending her birthday presents. They fill her room at the care center.

Lee said Davis asked her why she lived so long, and she repeated the answer she gave the reporter: “To keep breathing.’’

She laughed, and so did the friends and family members gathered around her.

And that’s how the day went for all four of the centenarians, who shared cake, music and laughter with dozens of friends and family members who had come to celebrate with them.