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Episcopal Homes resident celebrates milestone birthday

Posted on 08 May 2013 by robwas66

Loretta Eklund has lived in the Episcopal Homes in St. Paul for about 10 years and is an active participant in her community. Just about to turn 100, Eklund still shops for her own groceries and does her own housework. Above, Eklund holds a photograph of herself in earlier years. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Loretta Eklund has lived in the Episcopal Homes in St. Paul for about 10 years and is an active participant in her community. Just about to turn 100, Eklund still shops for her own groceries and does her own housework. Above, Eklund holds a photograph of herself in earlier years. (Photo by Jan Willms)

By JAN WILLMS

Shopping for your own groceries, doing your own housework and cooking and eating your own meals might seem like relatively common tasks, but may be a little more difficult when you are nearly 100 years old.

But Loretta Eklund, who will celebrate her 100th birthday June 3, accomplishes all of this with relative ease. With her white hair fashionably cut and her agile movements, she appears much younger than her chronological age.

Eklund has lived in the Episcopal Homes at 1830 University Avenue West for about 10 years and is an active participant in her community. She was born in Bridgewater, SD, and lived there until she was about 12. When her parents separated, she lived with a grandmother for a couple of years and then moved to St. Paul in 1928 to live with an aunt.

“I had to support myself, so I found a job doing housework and caring for children,” Eklund recalled. “I guess I was a nanny.”

One Sunday, a friend of hers who worked as a waitress on St. Peter St. invited Eklund to come and listen to a man who played the accordion and sang.

“I went down, and she introduced me. I fell in love with him immediately. I knew that was the man for me,” Eklund said fondly. She married Alex Eklund at 19 and the couple had a son, Hilmer, when she was 20.

Their marriage lasted 45 years, until her husband died unexpectedly one day while they were having a conversation.

“He was sitting and looking out the window and told me he wanted a cup of coffee. I told him I was making some, and suddenly he was gone, while I was talking to him.”

“He was a nice man and everybody liked him,” Eklund remembered. “He was very gentle and fun to be with. He was a machinist at St. Paul Welding and Manufacturing Company, over by Seven Corners. He played accordion as a sideline.”

She said the two of them went all over as he played, going somewhere every weekend. He also played for people in nursing homes and hospitals. The couple built a home in Center City in 1969 and lived there eight years together before Alex’s death.

Eklund remained in Center City a couple years before selling her home and moving to St. Paul. “I had an acre of land to maintain, and I couldn’t do it alone,” she said.

Eklund downplays her life, saying she lived very simply, being a homemaker and raising a son.

“My husband was born in Sweden, and he was very traditional. He didn’t want me working outside the home,” Eklund said. The two of them traveled a great deal, and she kept up the traveling after she was widowed.

“I spent my winters in Arizona and California for 25 years,” Eklund said. She also made dolls and quilts, a pastime she continues to this day. However, she said she plans to stop making dolls because she is finding the needle is too difficult to thread.

She started making ceramics in recent years.

Eklund’s granddaughter and her family live in Paris. Eklund has two great grandsons, and her apartment is full of pictures of family members. She has pictures of herself as a younger woman and one picture of her parents and she and her seven siblings.

“All but two lived well into their nineties,” she said. Third from youngest, she is the only one who remains.

Eklund does not attribute her longevity to anything in particular. She does eat six to seven helpings of vegetables a day. “I try to eat three that are above the ground and three that grow underground every day,” she said. She also eats little red meat, dining mostly on chicken and turkey and fish.

“I don’t do a lot of exercise, but I have always walked,” Eklund claimed. She said she can walk two to three blocks and it means nothing to her. She also walks very gracefully and purposefully, with an ease not often found in those half her age.

She watches a couple of daytime soaps, All My Children and Bold and the Beautiful, as well as a quiz show. “I like Channel 2 as well,” she said.

“I lived a normal life as a wife and housekeeper,” Eklund said. “I have had a good full life and a healthy one. I live from day to day.’

“I had a good married life,” she said wistfully. “Forty-five years of happiness with my husband. And he played and sang for me every day of his life.”


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