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'I've had a pretty good time'

EFFIE KALK TURNED 100 YEARS OLD ON MARCH 16. She was given a special cake to celebrate the occasion with her friends and fellow residents at Emmanuel Community in Detroit Lakes.

When you ask Effie Kalk what it feels like to be 100 years old, she feigns surprise.

"Really? A hundred? That's getting up there," the Detroit Lakes resident joked on Monday afternoon, sitting in her room at Emmanuel Community.

Effie celebrated her centennial birthday on Tuesday, March 16, surrounded by friends and fellow Emmanuel residents.

Though she was born and raised in Philadelphia -- "I lived at 1620 Porter Street," she says -- Kalk became a resident of the Fargo-Moorhead area at a young age.

"I came out here with my dad," she said. Effie also had an older brother, Rufus, who has since passed away.

Effie and her husband, Rudolph Otto Paul Kalk, dated just three weeks before they were married.

"He was good to me," she said.

They lived in the Fargo area many years, and raised their two daughters there. Oldest daughter Delores now makes her home in Illinois; younger daughter Arlene died as a teenager, from a cerebral hemorrhage.

"She was a good girl," Effie said, eyes tearing up at the memory of her long lost child.

"Sometimes life can be a bummer," she added sadly.

But Effie refuses to dwell on unhappy thoughts.

"I've had a pretty good time," she said of her life.

And while she occasionally gets homesick, Effie said she still enjoys life at Emmanuel, and the friends she has made there.

"They have good food here," she added.

When asked to spill her secret to longevity, Effie said that she didn't think she had one, except for this:

"You only live once -- you might as well enjoy it while you're here, because once your time's up, bingo, you're done," she said.

As for the afterlife, Effie said she isn't quite sure it exists.

"I don't know -- I haven't been there yet," she joked.

While still living in Fargo, Effie used to make regular visits to Emmanuel to visit her sister-in-law. She drove a Buick Electra Ltd.

"That was a nice car," she said. "I've always liked cars -- my father did too."

She liked the car so much, Effie recalled, that she gave it a name.

"I called her Susie," Effie said.

She also liked driving fast. "I had a heavy foot," Effie admitted. "Nobody ever passed me."

Yet she never seemed to get a speeding ticket.

"I had eyes behind my head," she joked. "The cops never could catch me."

When she came to Emmanuel, Effie would come bearing gifts, in the form of candy and artisan bread.

"That was good bread," said Emmanuel's Sandy Lia, who has worked at the nursing home for 30 years.

Lia also recalled one time that Effie made the trip from Fargo to Detroit Lakes "in a roaring blizzard."

When she walked in the door and the staff wondered at her bravery in making the journey, Lia recalled, Effie said, "This ain't nothin'."

"I'm Pennsylvania Dutch," Effie said proudly.

In other words, she didn't scare easily -- and still doesn't.

"I'm a tough old bird," she said with a smile.

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