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Deerfield home to seven 100-year-old women

Pictured are the seven 100+ year old women who live at the Deerfield in New Richmond, including: Edna Thomas, 100; Mildred Livingston, 105; Edna Fernstrom, 100; Doris Erler, 100; Sophia Malone, 100; Eleanor Springer, 100; and Norma Berndt, 103. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia

Over the next month or two, Deerfield Senior Living will push its number of residents who have hit the century mark — who are all women — up to seven.

"I think that 100 percent of these women never smoked and they didn't over drink much. What is exciting about this is that a lot these women started at the Deerfield when we opened and have been living well," said Deerfield Housing Director Jackie Waalen. "I've known many of these people for many, many years."

To celebrate its 100-plus year old residents' lives, the Deerfield gathered the seven women to ask them how they think they were able to live such long and happy lives.

"I think part of it is due to my parents and the way they raised me. My mother was knowledgeable and the food was good. And whether or not we liked it, we ate it," said 105-year-old Mildred Livingston, who grew up in Oklahoma. "Then we were very active. I lived in a big city and if we went any place, we would walk the six or so blocks to the streetcar line and that would take us where we needed to go.

"My faith has also been one of the things that has helped me through the years. We always said a prayer at meals, and we would always pay attention to what we ate."

For 103-year-old resident Norma Berndt — who grew up in St. Paul — living to be over 100 had a lot to do with her focus on staying healthy.

"Norma moved in when we were taking reservations at the Deerfield over 19 years ago. She always was worried she was staying physically fit. Her son now lives in the independent living apartment she used to live in," Waalen said. "And she is always very positive and always giving us affirmations."

Of the seven 100-plus year old residents at the Deerfield, 100-year-old Doris Erler had one of the more insightful philosophies of the group.

"I guess you just take one day at a time. As the day comes, you live it and do the best you can and then go on to tomorrow," said Erler, who grew up in Stillwater. "I've also enjoyed spending time with family and being part of the group here, especially after so many years here. It's been a wonderful life."

Erler is also one of the residents who has lived the longest at the Deerfield, having been at the facility since it opened 19 years ago. She has been living in the same independent living apartment for the last 19 years, according to Waalen.

Edna Thomas, who has lived in Star Prairie as well as New Mexico, has always been artistic and creative and loved to share her creations with everyone.

"When she was in her 90s, she was living in the independent living, and continued to do artwork. She and her second husband traveled a lot and kept up with a lot of cultural opportunities," Waalen said.

Sophia Malone, 100, who grew up in North Dakota, feels she has lived a good life and has enjoyed the time she has been able to spend with her family and friends.

"One thing about Sophia is that she is always around people and she really enjoys her plants, as well as making jewelry," Waalen said.

Edna Fernstrom and Eleanor Springer will be the next two residents to turn 100 at the Deerfield, with Springer turning 100 in February and Fernstrom turning 100 in March.

"The secret to living a long life ... I don't know really what to say. I didn't really make anything of it or think about it much. I would just take life as it came, one day at a time. I feel free," said Fernstrom, who grew up in Milwaukee.

Springer grew up in Michigan and has always watched her health and made sure she exercised to stay in good shape.

"Eleanor's son said that she always took care of herself. There was never a day that she didn't exercise or watch what she ate," Waalen said. "I think she would say that living the right way was part of what let her life so long."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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