Four centenarians at Cassia’s Hastings Senior Health and Living share secrets of longevity—and their extraordinary stories
Reaching the age of 100 is a good reason to celebrate— and in the past year, four residents at Cassia’s Hastings Senior Health and Living have done so. Each one has an intriguing story to tell.
Millie Ruhr, who turned 100 on May 13, is an artist who used to paint china and now creates cards. Millie is also teaching one of her nephews to draw.
Millie worked for various government agencies throughout her life, and one of her favorite stories involves her marriage to Edward Ruhr, who was a seagoing marine. Millie and Edward met at a football game, which Millie attended with three of her sisters. Millie thought Edward was exceptionally handsome and she was attracted by his strength and confidence. World War II interrupted Edward and Millie’s courtship, and when Edward’s ship was damaged, he had to wait for repairs in California. He invited Millie to join him there, but she told him she couldn’t go unless they were to be married. Edward thought getting married was a wonderful idea, and when Millie’s mother agreed, Millie took a train to meet her fiancé. Of course, every wedding needs bridesmaids, and Millie didn’t have one. She brought her sister’s prom dress along, hoping to find someone who would fit in it. Edward notified the local Red Cross saying he and his intended were looking for a Catholic bridesmaid who was five foot two and weighed less than a hundred pounds. The Red Cross put out a call to local businesses. Amazingly, they found someone!
Catherine Johnson, who worked in the shipyards office, agreed to be a bridesmaid for the couple. She and the Ruhrs stayed in touch for years. Edward’s friend, who was serving in the Army station in San Francisco, was their best man. Millie and Edward were married sixty-five years.
June Alcorn’s extraordinary story actually brought her and her daughter Lynda to Hastings Senior Health and Living. June was the main caregiver for many years for her daughter Lynda, who lives with multiple sclerosis. In 2011, Lynda and June moved to the Hastings Health and Senior Living campus.
June recalls that she called or visited about a dozen assisted living communities and most would only recommend skilled nursing settings. When June discovered she could live with her daughter in Hastings Health and Senior Living apartments, she was overjoyed. June was able to get tracks installed for a ceiling lift and was able to be Lynda’s sole caregiver until recently.
Lynda is now receiving skilled nursing care, but she and her mother see each other daily and June moved to an apartment that is closer to her daughter. June will be 100 on June 30 of this year.
Marj Olson turned 101 years old on November 19, 2020. She describes herself as an outdoors type of person and walks regularly with her daughter. Marj has always loved to sing and has performed in numerous operettas. Marj sang in choirs and other singing groups and one of her fondest memories is singing for the King of Norway when he visited Minnesota.
Marj married a man who became a veterinarian and the couple lived in Detroit Lakes, where they were able to sail, fish and snowmobile, enjoying all the seasons outdoors. Some of Marj’s fondest memories include yearly fishing trips in Canada with her husband. In addition to exercising, Marj was a quilter and a great cook. When celebrating her 100th birthday created a cookbook with her daughter-in-law offering 100 recipes in honor of Marj’s 100 years.
Marybelle Lindberg turned 100 on October 18, 2020. Marybelle grew up on a farm in Farmington, Minnesota. She went to school at a one room schoolhouse through eighth grade and then attended high school. Marybelle married Burnett Lindberg in July of 1940. Burnett was in the Navy and during their first year of marriage they only spent twenty-two days together. Their son Dennis was born in Connecticut in 1942. The family lived there for a short time before Burnett was deployed during WWII.
Before settling in Richfield, Minnesota after the War, Marybelle, Burnett, Dennis and her parents traveled for a little over a year along the west coast, getting short-term jobs and exploring the beauty of the area. Eventually Marybelle, Burnett and Dennis moved back to Minnesota to be closer to parents and family.
After Burnett passed away, Marybelle lived in a few apartment complexes around the Cities. Her family suggested she move to Hastings and she loves living here, where she can be closer to family.
We asked all four women about their thoughts on longevity and stereotypes people may have about older adults. They readily gave us their thoughts:
Secrets of longevity and defying stereotypes Millie Ruhr: “Get a lot of sleep. I would get home before my husband and take a nap. I never drank too much or missed a meal. Religion is also important to me. Assume death can come any day, and live each day like it’s the last. I also learned you should not be too quick to judge people! You may not like somebody when you first meet them—but they may become your best friend. That certainly happened to me.”
June Alcorn: “The secret of longevity is in your genes. My mother lived six months past 100 and dad lived well into his nineties. I had very little sickness and exercised three times a week most of my life. Keep healthy and active. I was active in church and leading Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls. You don’t want to think in stereotypes. Having something to do keeps me busy and keeps me going.”
Marj Olson: “My father lived to be ninetyseven and a half. My grandfather was ninetytwo.. I think people are surprised I still go to exercise class and walk regularly. I love to be out when the weather’s good and be in fresh air and walk or ride.”
Marybelle Lindberg: “Growing up I didn’t eat much—meat and pickles! When I got on my own I started tasting things. Once in a while if you taste something, you find out it’s good! Now I’m conscious of what I eat and how much I sleep. I also think it’s important to trust in God. As far as stereotypes go, a couple I know said I shouldn’t move to a senior living community. Later, when they visited, they were surprised. I’m on the go constantly.”
About Cassia Cassia’s mission is to foster fullness of life for older adults in the spirit of Christ’s love. In 2018, Augustana Care and Elim Care voluntarily joined together to form Cassia, reinforcing both organizations’ missions. With more than 200 years of combined service, the affiliation strengthens our focus on meeting the needs of residents, clients and patients of all faiths. The name “Cassia” (‘KAS e– uh) was inspired by an anointing oil made from the bark of the Cassia tree and is said to symbolize the heart of a servant. Cassia provides independent and assisted living communities, memory care, skilled nursing care centers, short-term rehabilitation centers, adult day programs and a variety of community-based services for older adults across five states.