Refusing to act her age

Litchfield woman celebrates a special birthday and Mother’s Day this month Ellein Flanders of Litchfield has a lot of advice for those who think they are getting old. “I tell people who think they are aging to keep their mind and body going. It takes both of them. And never say I can’t do it. You gotta try. I don’t care what it is.” She will be celebrating Mother’s Day on May 8 this year and then on May 11 she will turn 104. “I don’t feel like 104,” she says. “I make my own breakfast and supper.” An example of her advice to ‘never say I can’t do it’ is when she helped a lady in the nursing home who was doing rehab work on her arms. Ellein told her to bend her arms and raise them above her head. The lady said, “I can’t, I can’t. But Ellein persisted and told her to quit saying I can’t. A few minutes later the resident surprised herself and raised her arms up over her head. Ellein was born in Harvey Township in Meeker County and is the sixth child of nine children. Her family moved to Litchfield when she was three years old. She was nine years old when she got her first job. Her job was taking care of other children. She graduated from Litchfield High School and then went to St. Cloud College to get a teaching degree. After graduation she taught at a country school for all grades through the sixth grade. “I did fun things with the kids. You gotta have a lot of fun with children and have a lot of respect for them,” she said. Recess time was when she played hide-and-seek or croquet with the students. “When I left the country school they closed the school,” she said with a chuckle. After leaving the country school, she taught second and fourth grades at the Eden Valley elementary school. She taught for a total of 28 ½ years. “Those were the good ol’ days,” she said. One of her students said she wanted to be a teacher like Mrs. Flanders. In 1930 she married a farmer, Vernon Flanders. They lived on a 120-acre farm and raised cattle, pigs and chickens for 30 years. “When I was first married I had to wash clothes by hand. But they were fun days anyway,” she said. Their marriage was blessed with two daughters, Betty and Joan. Both daughters married and gave Ellein and Vernon six grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great great grandchildren. Ellein and Vernon moved into Gloria Dei Apartments in Litchfield in 1975. Vernon passed away on May 29, 1980 from Parkinson’s disease. Ellein still lives in the same apartment in Gloria Dei that she has occupied now for 36 years. She has one sibling remaining, Harry Driste of Paynesville, whom she calls her ‘baby brother’, and he will turn 101 in July. After her husband passed away, Ellein traveled around the United States and went to Canada three different times. She enjoyed going to the horse races in Canada. To keep her mind and body busy, Ellein reads newspapers, Reader’s Digest, plays cards and dominoes with her family and friends. Before this she made quilts for her children and grandchildren, made a 100 bibs for Emmanuel Nursing Home and did some sewing/mending for the nursing home. “I loved to sew,” Ellein commented. She doesn’t act her age, her giggle is contagious and her sense of humor is never-ending. The month of May is a special month for Ellein.

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