WORTHINGTON - For Lecil Arends, every birthday she celebrates marks a new milestone for her and her family.
Turning 105 years old, after all, is a special accomplishment reserved for a select few. So what does Lecil credit for her remarkable longevity?
“Faith,” she said during an interview in her Ecumen Meadows apartment earlier this week. “And my kids.”
Lecil, a resident at the Meadows since July 2008, is a lifetime resident of southwest Minnesota. She was born April 24, 1914 on her parents’ farm north of Wilmont, the daughter of Peter and Rosa (Noyes) Smith.
“My folks came here from Missouri with a covered wagon,” she remembered. They had their son, Mirl, with them when they came. Later, they had Eunice, Eleanor, Ella, me, Woodrow and Zel.”
As was the case with most rural residents during her youth, Lecil grew up without many modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing. Her father had a motor in the basement that generated their electricity.
Lecil went to a country school a little more than a half-mile from her folks’ place and stopped attending following the eighth grade. She worked on the farm -on which her nephew and his sons still farm today - and before long began a new life.
“I got married to my husband, John … his family lived a mile south of us by Wilmont,” she said. “First we lived by Edgerton for a while, then we bought a farm by Chandler. Out in the grove there is an old hay loader and some old machinery, but the house and all of the other buildings are gone now.”
Lecil added that she still owns the farmland there, with her sons managing the property. She and John went on to raise a family of eight children - four sons and four daughters. The two oldest children, both sons, are now deceased, but the surviving six children all attended her birthday party at the Meadows last week.
Lecil spent many years working at Campbell Soup Co. in Worthington. (“I still get a check from them,” she said.) Working nights, she maintained the ability to fall asleep ever so briefly while on the chicken processing line yet somehow keep up with operations.
Another part of life Lecil remembers well is helping care for her husband’s mother, John, who lived with them for an extended time, Later, John - known to many as Jack - died.
Lecil also fondly recalls traveling to multiple countries around the world following her retirement from Campbell’s.
“After I quit working I traveled with a group,” she explained. The first year we went to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales .The next year we went to Belgium, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, and the next year it was Egypt, Jordan and Israel.”
In the following year, Lecil made a return trip to Egypt.
“My youngest daughter married a man from Egypt, and we went over there and visited his family,” she said.
“I think my children were the ones that directed me around the world,” she added. “They were always pushing me and saying, ‘You do it.’”
Lecil still is doing plenty, even though she’s five years past the century mark. It wasn’t until somewhat recently that she began relying on a walker to get around, and even walked up the one flight of stairs from the Meadows’ main level to her apartment. If she had a pedometer, staff at the facility say, she’d still be putting on multiple miles.
“I just want to find ways to pass the time,” Lecil states.
At the Meadows, she gets assistance that helps make multiple activities possible. She enjoys shopping excursions led by staff, and she also is sure to keep attending worship each Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
“It’s very nice here,” she said of her home of nearly 11 years.
Lecil, naturally, has multiple grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Two of her grandsons made the trip to Worthington with their families for her 105th birthday event, which over two days included a party during coffee hour at the Meadows as well as family trips to the home farmstead in Chandler, Edgerton and Wilmont.