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Celebrating 102 years, day by day

Elna Lund smiles while she talks about growing up near Maple and then moving to Superior during an interview Tuesday morning. Lund celebrated her 102nd birthday Wednesday. (Jed Carlson/

It’s a question Elna Lund has heard dozens of times before — what’s your secret to living so long? The 102-year-old just smiles and says “I don’t know.”

Tuesday at her Superior residence, Stardusk House, Lund did add a little to her traditional answer.

“I just live day by day,” she said, before returning to her knitting.

Lund is an avid crafter who also enjoys crocheting and embroidery as well as walking, gardening and doing puzzles.

“It has been very inspiring to the residents and staff here, seeing her go and go and go every day,” said Dhayla Fisher, manager of Stardusk House.

“She’s incredible,” said Lund’s former neighbor Sandy Breitzmann. “I just get tired thinking about Elna” being so busy at her age.

Lund has lived through two world wars, the rise of industrialization and the space race. The horse-drawn sleighs and buggies of her childhood were replaced with cars and buses. Through it all, Lund carved an independent path.

An only child, Lund was born in Bayfield on June 25, 1912. Her mother died when Lund was 1, and her father married her mother’s sister. During World War I, the family moved to Odanah, Wis., where war work was plentiful. When Lund was 8, they moved to Maple.

“I walked to school — that was a mile and three-quarters,” she said. At home, she helped milk cows and care for chickens on the family farm. Lund’s father was a carpenter, building structures and bridges throughout Douglas County. The family’s first car, a “used Ford,” was purchased when Lund was about 13. What were birthdays like for Lund as a child?

“I baked myself a cake,” she said. “Just a layer cake and then trimmed it, frosted it and trimmed it, put ‘happy birthday’ on it.”

At age 10, Lund learned to knit by watching her stepmother. Crafting became a lifelong passion for Lund.

“She’s knitted I can’t tell you how many of those (dishcloths and aprons),” Breitzmann said. Her work is given away as gifts.

When her stepmother died, Lund and her father moved to Superior. She attended Superior Vocational School and took a job as secretary at the law office of Crawford, Cirilli and Sullivan.

“I took the bus to work,” she said. The cases were interesting and she made many friends, but Lund’s main reason for taking the job was more practical.

“I got paid for it,” she said with a smile. After leaving the law office, Lund worked at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in the high school relations department. After retirement, she worked at Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency.

The 102-year-old never married, never even went on a date.

“I didn’t want to get married,” she said. “Because, why should I bother?”

Although Lund said she didn’t think much about her birthday, friends gathered at Stardusk House on Wednesday to celebrate it.

Breitzmann met Lund in the late 1970s when both were working at UWS. The two were neighbors for 17 years in Superior’s East End, as well. Breitzmann said Lund is very sweet, optimistic and strong-willed. She drove a car well into her senior years, painted her own garage in her 80s and had a picture of her garden poppies featured in a local newspaper when she was 93. The independent 102-year-old has always done her civic duty by voting in every election, although now she does it by absentee ballot.

“That’s our Elna,” Breitzmann said. “She’s something else.”