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A double birthday at Lamplighter Manor

OMA GROVE, 98, and RUTH KNAPP, 97, residents of Detroit Lakes' Lamplighter Manor, both celebrated their birthdays on Monday, March 29.

This past Monday, Lamplighter Manor in Detroit Lakes had not just one, but two birthday girls among its residents.

Oma Grove, 98, and Ruth Knapp, 97, were born one year apart, but on the same day -- March 29.

Oma is a relatively new resident at Lamplighter, having moved there from her longtime home in Adrian, Minn., about a year and a half ago.

But she has plenty of family in the area, with her oldest daughter, Donna Luneberg, living in rural Detroit Lakes, and second-born daughter, Roberta Hartog, living in Vergas. (Youngest daughter Janet Graf lives in Illinois.)

In addition to her daughters, Oma has 14 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren, as well as numerous step-grandchildren and step-great grandchildren.

Despite the fact that her family tree is so large, Grove said, she's met all of her relatives except one.

A native of Iowa, Oma has lived most of her life in Minnesota, including 30 years in Jackson, Minn., and another 60 years in Adrian.

She and her husband, Donald, operated a farm in Jackson County before moving to Adrian, in Nobles County, where they had an International Harvester dealership for many years.

Donald also worked for an equipment company and a plastics company, as well as being a custodian and ambulance driver for a nursing home and hospital in Adrian.

"He was also a cemetery sexton (i.e., caretaker)," Oma said.

She herself worked in the kitchen of a nursing home in Adrian for several years.

But before her marriage to Donald, Oma went to normal school to be a teacher, and taught at a country school in Jackson County for a couple of years, 1933-35.

"My first year, I got paid a whole $35 a month," she said. "The second year, I got $50 a month."

She and Donald got married in 1935, and moved to Adrian in 1946. They would stay there for more than 60 years, until Donald's death in 2002.

"I came to Detroit Lakes in November 2008, to be closer to family," she said.

With failing eyesight, Oma is no longer able to enjoy some of her favorite hobbies, such as knitting, crocheting, quilting and tatting.

"She also wrote a lot of letters," said daughter Donna. And even now, Oma never forgets to send out birthday and anniversary cards to every one of her relatives, she added.

Though she can't play cards or participate in some of the other activities at Lamplighter because of her eyesight, Oma keeps busy with books on tape, watching the Twins and "Wheel of Fortune" on television, reading the newspaper "with a magnifying glass," and playing the occasional computer game.

"There are still a few she can see well enough to play," Donna said.

So does she have any secrets for living a long life?

"Good genes," Oma said, adding that her father and mother lived to be 99 and 89, respectively.

"I never smoked or drank," she said, adding that she also tries to stay active with daily exercises and doing "most of my own cooking."

Oma's birthday-mate, Ruth Knapp, has been a resident at Lamplighter for nine years now.

"I love it here," she said. "It's the best home I've ever had."

Ruth keeps active with card games like Solitaire and taking part in as many activities at Lamplighter as she can.

"There are things going on here all the time," she said, adding that she also likes to go walking when she can.

A native of Thief River Falls, she moved with her family to a farm near Hancock, Minn., and went to country school until she was old enough to attend high school in Benson, where she graduated.

Though she attended Moorhead State Teacher's College, financial difficulties kept her from graduating, and she ended up working as a nanny for a family in Dilworth.

She then moved on to become a companion for an older woman in the Dilworth area -- and that's how she met her future husband, Bill Knapp.

"He was her son," Ruth said.

Bill and Ruth Knapp were married in 1937, and stayed together until Bill's death in 1974.

Bill "was a railroad man," Ruth said, though he sometimes found it hard to keep a steady job.

So the couple ended up working together at the Silver Moon Café. Ruth was a waitress; Bill was a bartender.

Ruth continued to work as a waitress for over 30 years in the Moorhead area.

"When my husband retired from the railroad, we moved to Severson Lake (near Detroit Lakes)," Ruth said. "We were there for 10 years."

His health beginning to fail, Bill persuaded Ruth to move into Detroit Lakes, where they continued to live until his death.

"I stayed in the house for a while after he died, then decided to move to the Lamplighter," she said.

Ruth said she doesn't really have any insights into longevity.

"Just work hard and stay active," she said. "I'm just thankful I can get out of bed and dress myself every morning."

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