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‘What a remarkable life’

Fergus Falls woman celebrated 107 years

By Thomas Hintgen

Gratitude and serenity were conveyed by Gertrude Larson of Fergus Falls as she reached her 107th birthday on April 4.

Gertrude Larson of Fergus Falls celebrated 107 years on April 4. Contributed photo

Gert, as her family and close friends fondly refer to her, has survived two pandemics, the first in 1918 and the second that took hold in 2020. For the latest pandemic, Gert used her trusty 1939 Singer sewing machine to sew masks for nursing home staff and residents. She recently moved from her home near Lake Alice to Pioneer Pointe in Fergus Falls, and happily shared her positive attitude and zest for life with other residents.

Gert has lived through the administrations of 19 presidents, starting with Woodrow Wilson in 1916. And during her 107 years, she has left a positive impact on the people she meets.

“Yes, my mother has touched many lives,” said her daughter, Margaret, a 1966 Fergus Falls High School graduate and resident of the Twin Cities.

One of those impacted by Gert, and who keeps in touch on a regular basis, is 1971 FFHS graduate John Runningen, who today resides in Atlanta, Ga. Gert was his Sunday school teacher at First Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls. Runningen’s grandfather worked for Gert’s late husband, Ed Larson, who worked in the insurance business. “We have lots of great family connections that we both remember and cherish,” said Runningen, whose family operated Runningen Café, prior to the establishment becoming the Viking Café.

Pete Ellingson, FFHS Class of 1965, grew up near the Larson home on the southeast side of Lake Alice.

“What a remarkable life,” Ellingson said, “Gert put on some really nice parties for her kids back in our old neighborhood days.”

Gert was raised in Barnes County in southeastern North Dakota, and attended a small schoolhouse. She studied at St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Fargo. Her first employment was at Wright Hospital in Fergus Falls, which later merged with St. Luke’s and became Lake Region Hospital. Gert and Ed were married in 1940. Ed served in the Navy during World War II, and Gert was able to find employment in communities in which they lived, including historic Williamsburg, Va. In 1945, before their return to Fergus Falls, Gert worked as pediatric supervisor at St. Luke’s Hospital, which is now Sanford Medical Center.

“Many people have influenced me,” she said. “From my mother I inherited my longevity, good health, and love of nature. My father was an avid reader and deep thinker.”

Her husband, Ed, died in 1990, and son, David, 45, died from a brain aneurysm. Over the years, her family, home, friends, church, community activities, volunteer service, and travel have kept her busy. “I loved our house on East Lakeside Drive for close to 70 years, and have many wonderful memories of living near Lake Alice,” she said.

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