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'100 years is a long time'

Evergreen Township native Malinda Gamer celebrated her 100th birthday last Sunday, May 31 at the Frazee Care Center -- one day before the actual event. Her open house was attended by more than 120 friends and family members.

"One hundred years is a long time -- and I wasn't sitting still."

So says Malinda Gamer, who celebrated her centennial birthday this past Monday, June 1, in the Frazee Care Center.

And for most of that time, Malinda has made her home in the Evergreen Township area -- first on her parents' farm, and later, with her husband Carl. It was only during the 15 years after her family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, when she was just 4 years old, and a brief six-year stint in North Dakota, that Malinda made her home elsewhere.

Married in 1929 -- at the start of what would later be known as the Great Depression -- Malinda and Carl Gamer had six children together. (Two of them died in infancy.) Initially, the couple lived in the Davenport, N.D., area, where four of their six children would be born.

"Those were rough times -- people were starving," Malinda said. With jobs hard to come by, and land so dry that raising crops became increasingly difficult -- not to mention the swarms of grasshoppers that at times became so bad the farmers needed to burn their crops to kill them -- she and her husband sometimes had difficulty putting food on the table.

"I raised a garden for us to eat -- and did as much canning as I could for winter living," she said.

"I stayed home and took care of the kids," Malinda added. "My husband worked -- when he got a job. They were few and far between."

Finally, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office, the Works Progress Administration was established -- and Carl had a job.

It paid $29 a month --which was enough for the family to live on, albeit frugally.

When the children were big enough to enable Malinda to go back to work, she got jobs at the Lakeland turkey plant in Frazee, the Swift turkey plant in Detroit Lakes, and the Skyview Café in Frazee, to name a few.

Prior to her marriage to Carl, Malinda had worked in "cook cars" in North Dakota, serving meals to hungry farm workers in the field.

"I was always in the cooking business," she said.

In fact, Malinda often cooks food for the residents at the Frazee Care Center, where she also serves as president of the resident council.

"She makes fry bread and doughnuts for the residents once a month," said Malinda's daughter, Carol Litzau -- and she always makes sure there's enough for everyone.

Though the loss of her right leg 10 years ago may have slowed her down a little, she is still able to enjoy favorite pastimes like baking and playing card games like pinochle and whist, as well as crocheting and visiting with friends and family.

And she was more than ready to enjoy her birthday celebration, which was held a day early, on Sunday, May 31.

Besides her family, which includes three daughters -- Litzau, Arlene Halvorson and Shirley Glander (daughter Marilyn Remmen passed away at age 52) -- as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, Malinda has so many friends that there were upwards of 120 people at her birthday celebration.

"I had a wonderful time," she said. After morning church services at St. Paul's Lutheran in Evergreen, Malinda took a drive to her family's old homestead before returning to the Frazee Care Center for the afternoon party.

At the party, one of her grandsons presented her with a video that included hundreds of old photographs he had dug out of an old trunk in Malinda's room.

"He went through my trunk and found a lot of pictures I had forgotten about," she said. "It was a wonderful, wonderful day -- a grand day to remember."

But by the end of it, Malinda admitted, "I was bushed."

"I think she went to sleep at 6:30 that night," Carol said.

Malinda and Carol were still going through the stack of cards she received several days after the event.

So what is Malinda's secret to a long and healthy life?

"Take everything to the Lord -- he provides for you," she said. "He was my guide and strength all these years, and I taught my children the same thing."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454