WORTHINGTON — Here’s an obvious question to pose to Clarence Kremer, the West Lake Avenue resident who marked his 102nd birthday on Tuesday:
“What’s your secret to such a long life?”
In response, Kremer would likely shrug his shoulders, as he did Monday morning. “You tell me and I’ll let you know,” he said.
Upon further reflection and conversation, it’s not difficult to develop a theory about Kremer’s longevity. As his son, Loren — who now farms the land three miles north of Reading that Clarence farmed for many decades — said, “He worked hard and stayed at it a long time.”
In other words, Clarence has not been one to be idle. Even though he retired from farming in 1983, Loren said his dad would occasionally come out and offer assistance until “his low 90s … and he’d still be working out there today if we let him.” Clarence and his wife, Dolores (who died in 2006), farmed thousands of acres in their heyday while also raising hogs, cattle and 2,500 hens — along with two sons and two daughters.
It’s not difficult to wonder at all the technological advancements, changes and world events Clarence has lived through over the decades. With his some prompting from Loren as well as a granddaughter, Stacy Lee, a few milestones of sorts came to mind.
He recalled farming with a pair of horses when he first began working the fields; many years later he was able to operate a four-wheel drive tractor with automatic steering. He also remembers owning a Model T Ford (“I had to crank the god darn thing,” he said) and still has a Buick LaCrosse today, though his driving days are over.
As a young man in the 1930s, he helped dig holes for the high-line poles that brought electricity to rural Nobles County. He lived through the Great Depression (“It was hard to stay on the land,” he said, while also remembering grasshoppers that would eat away at tractor wheels ), and he can now claim that he’s lived through the 1918 Spanish Influenza and the current novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a July 15, 1963 feature story in the Daily Globe, it’s noted that Clarence was one of the first farmers in the area to adopt six-row planting, and the first to use chemicals, such as atrazine, to kill weeds.
Born May 5, 1918 in Mott, N.D. to Carrie and Bernard Kremer, he and his family moved to a farm north of St. Kilian when he was very young, and they later moved again to another farm south of Iona. Clarence married Dolores in 1941 and they lived on a separate farm south of Iona, then relocated to the farm north of Reading in 1948.
Clarence pointed out that his three brothers, who have all preceded him in death, served their country in World War II, while he — as the oldest — stayed home and helped their dad on the farm. He has a sister, Beverly, who was the youngest of the five children; she’s now 89 and lives in Slayton.
In addition to four children (Carol, Loren, Alan and Charlene), Clarence has 12 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. He’s lived in current Worthington for nearly four decades now.
“He’s kind of seen at all,” Loren said.
“These hands have done everything,” added Clarence.
As Clarence himself might say, he’s “god darn right.”