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100th birthday celebration is no joke

Katherine Karras turned 100 on April 1 at American Heritage Care Center.1 / 2
Members of Katherine Karras's family came to celebrate her 100th birthday with her on April 1 at American Heritage Care Center in Hammond. Pictured (back, from left) are Dave Anderson, Nancy Anderson, Bobbi Karras and Alissa Deneen holding her infant daughter Audry. Karras is pictured in front.2 / 2

She may have been born April 1, but Katherine Karras is no April Fool. Karras, born April 1, 1913, just reached her 100th birthday on Monday. Her sense of humor is still going strong.

"When people ask me how did you get to be 100, I say I kept on breathing," Karras said.

She also advised would-be centerians to keep learning. Karras she took college classes into her 80s.

Another piece of her success, she said, has been her writing. Karras wrote feature stories for the Pioneer Press and Milwaukee Journal for years.

One of Karras's favorite experiences with journalism was interviewing Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt had given a speech at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and met with Karras upon finishing the speech.

"She said, 'Do you mind if I knit?' She was just like a sweet little grandma," Karras said. "I did not take her picture, because the pictures I've seen of Mrs. Roosevelt are not flattering at all."

Karras also met Baroness Maria VonTrapp when she came to speak at UW-RF.

"She was so much fun," Karras said.

In addition to writing newspaper stories, Karras said she has also written poetry, a play for a Hudson women's group and many songs.

One song, titled "Going Steady is for the Birds," Karras said was especially popular with mothers.

"It's all about a young girl getting swept away by a young fellow in high school," Karras said. "And it tells all the bad parts about getting married."

Now, despite living in a nursing home, Karras said she is trying to work with professional singers to record an album of music that she has written.

Karras lives in American Heritage Care Center (AHCC) in Hammond, where her children brought her when it became unsafe for her to live alone.

"I like it here, it's more like family," Karras said. "They're good people. They take care of us and we even have fun here."

Karras lived in Hudson with her husband for many years, but she said some of her favorite April Fools' Day memories come from her hometown, Bird Island, Minn.

"They carried away anything that could move one year; they piled it all in front of the school and we couldn't go to school the next day," Karras said. "They had to spend time clearing the things out of the way."

Karras's eldest daughter Nancy Anderson said the family used to try and outdo each other with April Fools' Day jokes. This year, Anderson said the family didn't have time to play pranks, but she and her husband, and a few other relatives, did make it out to visit Karras on her birthday.

More family members will gather with Karras for a larger celebration on Saturday, April 6.

Karras has six children, 18 grandchildren and eight or nine great-grandchildren with more on the way. She said her family is another of her secrets to success.

Anderson said her mother's secret is a positive attitude.

"She always sees the positive side of everything," Anderson said, "She tries to see the good in everything and everybody."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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