A century of living: Albert Lea woman celebrates big day with family, friends

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Ayanna Eckblad

An Albert Lea woman last month celebrated her 100th birthday in a party at St. John’s Lutheran Community.

Selma Lent described some of the events in her life with her two daughters, Kathrine “Katie” Johnson and Barbara J Throlson, and her granddaughter Anna Rahn.

Email newsletter signup

Lent was born east of Alden Feb. 15, 1924, to Hans and Kathrine Christensen in their home. She is the second youngest of seven children. She attended school in Alden from first grade through her high school graduation in 1942.

Lent worked at a few different places in Albert Lea, including working at a dime store, housekeeping and candling eggs for servicemen. However, she spent the most time working at Scotsman Ice Systems. Her husband, David Lent, served in three wars. When he returned, he joined the National Guard and eventually became the first person in Minnesota to retire from the National Guard.

“When she was married and had kids, she kind of raised us by herself for a while because Dad was gone in the war all the time,” Johnson said.

In those days, Lent sewed clothes for her daughters and embroidered dish towels, pillowcases and quilts. She loves music and used to go dancing when she was a child and eventually with her husband as an adult.

“When I was real young, when I was growing up, all of the farmers who lived around Alden and went to the Danish Lutheran Church … they’d have house parties and we’d dance. My brother played the accordion.”

Lent said she especially likes songs from the big band era and dancing the waltz.

Lent has a lot of fond memories from when she was young, including going to the movies, eating meals cooked on a cast iron stove and listening to neighbors’ calls through the party line phone. During Christmas time, her family decorated an evergreen branch with lit candles and hung streamers that were put away after the holiday was over to be used the next year. She also said that her house and school were heated with stoves that burned coal, oil, wood or even corn cobs. During snowy Minnesota winters, she sometimes had to take a covered horse-drawn sleigh to school because buses could not get through the roads.

Lent lived independently until she was 98. She now resides at St. John’s Lutheran Community. On Feb. 18, Lent’s family threw her a birthday party in one of the community rooms at St. John’s. She is famous for having a beautiful tree in her room that is decorated throughout the year for each season, not just Christmas.

“My birthday party turned out to be a blast,” Lent said, thanking all those who came or sent cards. “I never thought so many people would show up for my birthday.”

Her daughters agreed, also noting it was a good turnout even though some of her friends could not make it as they were wintering in Florida. There were five generations of family present at Lent’s birthday. She currently has six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Rahn commented that Lent has a great memory and always remembers her family members’ names and birthdays, sending out cards for the occasions. At her 100th birthday, her friends and family were able to return the favor. Lent counted about 100 cards when her party was over, and she now keeps them in her room.

Lent tries to stay active by using her walker and sometimes wheelchair to get around. She enjoys reading murder mysteries, playing bingo at St. John’s and watching the Minnesota Twins, Wheel of Fortune and Fox News.

She attributes her longevity to having good health throughout her life.

“A lot of things have happened to me in my life, but the most important thing is that I’ve mostly stayed well. I haven’t had any serious illnesses or anything.”

Her best advice is to “live a good clean life and stay strong.”

According to Johnson, “She doesn’t think about getting up and getting older every day. She just gets up and does what she has to do, says her prayers and goes to bed.”