Want to wish a 108-year-old a happy birthday? Here's your chance.
CHISAGO CITY, Minn. — Judy Johnson didn't want a big party to celebrate her 108th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 13, but friends and family members are hoping she'll get a slew of birthday cards to mark the event — 108, to be exact.
Carol Seefeldt, a volunteer at the nursing home in Chisago City where Johnson lives, is organizing the effort.
"She says she doesn't want anything, but I sort of think she does," Seefeldt said. "I know she'd love it. She's just such a lovely lady that you have to love her."
Seefeldt, a professional photographer, has been stopping by Ecumen's Parmly LifePointes care center once a week for the past five years to visit Johnson.
"She's very sharp," said Seefeldt, 78, of Scandia, Minn. "Once I was looking for my clipboard, and I was looking all over, and I was in her room and I said, 'Judy, have you seen my clipboard?' and she said 'No,' and then she kind of laughed and she pointed under my arm, and there it was under my arm. We still laugh about that — how dingy I was and how sharp she was."
Johnson was born on Dec. 13, 1909, in North Branch, Minn., one of 15 children born to Gust and Hannah Swenson. Her father worked as a janitor and cemetery caretaker — "with our help," she said. "He made 29 cents an hour. He didn't get much, but we did OK. We never went hungry."
Johnson left school after the eighth grade and started working when she was 14. She worked as a nanny for a family in White Bear Lake, worked at a hotel in North Branch and worked as a cleaning girl for the Crosby family in Minneapolis, she said.
In 1937, she married Oscar Johnson, whom she had met through one of her brothers. "They used to swim together down at the creek," she said. "My brother came home and said, 'Oh, Judy, you've just got to meet Oscar.'"
The couple owned and operated an 80-acre cattle farm between Lindstrom and Almelund, Minn., for 16 years until hip problems forced Oscar Johnson to give it up. They moved to Minneapolis, and Oscar Johnson got a job working as a cleaner of airplanes at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Judy Johnson worked as a nanny.
The couple had one daughter, Betty Larson; three grandchildren; five great grandchildren; and four great-great grandchildren.
Through Oscar Johnson's job at the airport, the Johnsons could fly free of charge — "we just had to pay the tax," she said. "We went to Europe, South America, Hawaii...."
Oscar died in 1987 at the age of 87, she said.
"I've had a wonderful life," said Judy Johnson, a member of Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. "I tell you, the Lord has been so good to me — with my mind and my health. I have a lot of faith in the Lord. They come in here, and they want to know my secret for long living and I say, 'I don't have any.' I live like anybody else. But I do love my Lord."
She said she doesn't know how long she would like to live.
"Right now I've been telling people I'm planning to go before I get bedridden," she said. "I don't want to lay here, you know. I don't think anybody would want to. I'm still able to walk with my walker."
Judy Johnson walks about a mile a day — at least six times around the nursing home, she said.
"They have nice halls here," she said. "I've done a lot of walking in my life. They said I don't have problems with my knees because I did so much walking. I also never smoked or drank. Whether that had anything to do with a long life, I don't know."
Johnson and a friend regularly play the marble game Aggravation, Seefeldt said. "That's part of what keeps her so healthy and old — it's getting rid of her aggravation by playing Aggravation."
When she turned 105, her daughter, Betty Larson of Blaine, threw a big party.
"There were more than 100 people here," Johnson said. "That was enough, so I said, 'No more big parties.' She said, 'I won't have another one until you're 110.' I looked at her and said 'Just forget it.'"
Cards can be sent to: Judy Johnson c/o Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, 28210 Old Towne Road, Chisago City, MN 55013.
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