Century celebrationIrene Jacobson knows the secret to a long life. She stitched it together for 100 years and counting with a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Irene Jacobson knows the secret to a long life. She stitched it together for 100 years and counting with a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
The gardens she always kept provided the nourishment — fresh fruits and vegetables, with lots of flowers to brighten the days. And maintaining an active lifestyle — golfing with the ladies’ clubs, and biking and ice-skating well into her 80s — kept her moving and on her own for most of the last 100 years.
“I didn’t know you were a skater,” said Sharon Kotter, co-owner of Harmony Houses I and II in the village of Superior where Jacobson celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and neighbors about a month after leaving her long-time South Superior home.
“Oh, yeah,” Jacobson said with a sly smile.
“Honest to God, it was amazing,” Reinkall said of her great aunt’s long, active lifestyle. “Until 10 or 15 years ago, she biked all over South Superior.” Reinkall said she would invite Jacobson over at the holidays, and Jacobson would say she’d ride her bike over.
Reinkall said it’s only been in recent years, as Jacobson’s stability waivered, that she’s picked her aunt up for the holiday gatherings.
Wednesday, friends and neighbors gathered to help Jacobson celebrate her 100th birthday at Harmony House in the village of Superior, where she took up residence early last month. Up until then, she lived in the house where she’d lived for 75 years.
Jacobson was honored with certificates from the city of Superior and Douglas County, and even received a birthday card from the White House, signed by President and Michelle Obama.
That, we’re going to frame, Reinkall said, pointing to the first couple’s signatures.
A former seamstress at the long-gone Roth Brothers Department Store in downtown Superior, Jacobson was still working on a craft Wednesday she once taught — knitting — after her birthday celebration.
Jacobson said she doesn’t remember how long ago it was when she first picked up a pair of knitting needles, but she does know it was a very long time ago, she said, as she unraveled the yarn in a quest for perfection after noticing she missed stitch in her work.
The one thing she doesn’t miss is church, Kotter said. Pilgrim Lutheran picks her up every Sunday.
“She’s very kind and gentle,” Kotter said.
The lifelong Superior resident grew up on Banks Avenue and attended Bryant School as a child. When she married Elmer Jacobson — a railroad yard master at a time when steam locomotives still ran — she moved to 6311 John Avenue where she lived for about 75 years.
“That’s the only place I ever knew her living,” Reinkall said. “When I was a child and went to Bryant School, when my mother wasn’t going to be home, I went to Irene’s for lunch ... She always had a dog. And Nipper was his name.”
Debbie Johnson, a caregiver at Harmony House and one of Jacobson’s neighbors remembers well the centenarian’s love for dogs.
“I grew up across the alley from her, and we had a white shepherd-mix dog that she just loved,” Johnson said. “She would give her bacon and eggs on the stairs; she had bacon and eggs just waiting for Smoky. It was just funny.”
And in recent years, Jacobson lived on her own with help, but concerns about her being alone at night — she struggles with memories — prompted her family to find an assisted living facility. She was too healthy for a rest home, Reinkall said.
“We should all be that healthy at 100,” she said.