A century milestone
“It's hard to believe, and I never thought I would get to this age," says Eleanor Harms, currently a resident of the Prairie Manor Care Center in Blooming Prairie.
Harms, who has lived most of her life in Blooming Prairie, will turn 100 on May 28.
"I have my phone," Harms responds when asked how difficult it is for her not to have company at Prairie Manor, locked down since mid-March. Most senior care facilities in Minnesota have been quarantined because of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
Harms’ family asks friends to send her a birthday card at the Prairie Manor Care Center, Room 34, 220 NW 3rd St., Blooming Prairie, MN 55917.
With the pandemic still having our state in its grip, it is not certain how family will observe Harms’ hallmark birthday. "My family had a big party planned," she says.
It doesn't take long to get to know Eleanor Harms, even if it is via the telephone. She is a proud woman, who values her family heritage. Her immediate family says that many people who meet her cannot believe she is soon to turn 100.
To what does Harms attribute her long life. She quickly responds that it is her faith that has shaped her long life. "I wouldn't want to brag, but the most important thing in my life has been Jesus dying for me," Harms professes.
"Jesus didn't die for just me, he died for everyone and blotted out all of our sins. He looks at us as perfect people. What more can you want!"
Harms has been a member of Grace Baptist Church in Austin for the past 40 years. She is quick to mention that this church has promoted having church services in the former parking lot of Target in Austin. Worshipers stay in their vehicles, tune in their radios and meet for an hour beginning at 1 p.m.
Talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, Harms says it is real and people should be mindful of that. "People are taking it serious and they had better," she warns. She urges everyone to follow the guidelines set up by state and federal government.
If people don't stay at home and follow strict guidelines including social distancing, they could be subject to fines. "That's OK with me," she says.
Harms vividly recalls living through the Great Depression. "These were really rough times," she confesses. She worked at Johnson's Laundry in Albert Lea at that time and was paid 23 cents an hour.
She also worked in the farm fields south of Hollandale. Her husband was a vegetable farmer.
Born at home on May 28, 1920 in Franklin County, Iowa, just south of Mason City, Harms was the next to the oldest in a family of 10 children. Lenora was the oldest. Then came Eleanor, Edward, Inez, Orville, Walter, Matilda, Dwight, Delbert and Lauretta.
Remaining siblings include Dwight, 89, of Albert Lea; Delbert, 86, of Clarks Grove and Lauretta, 82, of Austin.
Harms was born during the administration of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. She thus has lived during the time of 18 U.S. presidents.
Vividly recalling people talk about the Spanish Flu which raged the countryside from January 1918 to December 1920, Harms said it "must have been horrible."
She says she remembers her parents telling about a young family of mother, father and three little children being found dead in their beds, the cause being the Spanish Flu. Her mother cared for five people sick in bed. "She must have had immunity because she never got the flu," Harms said.
From Iowa, Eleanor and her family moved to a plot of land north of Hayward. She was six at that time.
"I have a good memory of those olden days," she claims. Her father bought a small piece of land, put a house on it and then raised potatoes and onions. "We rented land, all we could get a hold of," she relates. The most land rented was 160 acres.
Harms said The Great Depression, drought and dust storms are happenings that she will never forget.
During that time, Harms said her parents had a house full of people because neighbors' land was under water and they are forced to live with the Karsjens family (Eleanor's parents). "My mother did a lot of cooking and we all learned to cook," she says.
Harms worked in the fields south of Hollandale, weeding onions. "It was hard work on wonderful peat soil," she tells.
Eleanor and Doede were married on April 12, 1941. "Where was the wedding?" she is asked. Eleanor pauses and asks "What wedding?"
Doede died six years ago. He and Eleanor had four children: Dean, Inver Grove Heights; Darla Hjelmen, Gulf Shores, Ala.; Juanita Ingvaldson, Grand Rapids and Daniel, Deer River.
The Harmses built a home on Center Avenue 65 years ago. They bought land on the gun club road. "We grew produce but couldn't make money because people stole the produce," she says sadly.
She worked at the Hemp mill where Associated Grocers was in Blooming Prairie. She also worked six years in the dietary department at St. Olaf Hospital in Austin.
Asked what advice she would give our seniors who are distance learning. "I never got a chance to go to high school," Harms said. "I wouldn't have any advice, we just worked," she said.
Fighting with her hearing aids, Harms often has to ask people to repeat themselves. "My memory is also failing; I can't grab the things the way I used to," she said. "If you don't have your memory, you don't have much," she said honestly.
She urges people to stick to the truth. "Don't cover up anything, stick to the Bible and put yourself in the hands of the Lord. He will lead you all the way, even through hard times. He will cover you with grace and mercy."
Offering encouragement about the current hard times, Harms says matter of factly, "This, too, will pass."