Centenarian enjoys life’s chapter to the very end
One of my most memorable assignments in covering the news came nearly three years ago when I ventured to North Mankato to meet a woman celebrating a big birthday. Oh, but this was no ordinary birthday.
At the time, Otilla Anderson was already a centenarian and getting ready to celebrate her 105th birthday. As she began closing in on the oldest verified person to have ever lived of 122 years, Anderson clearly told me, “I don’t want to be the oldest person in the world.”
Anderson’s wish came true. She died Jan. 29 at the age of 107.
The oldest confirmed person as of 2018 is Nabi Tajima of Japan. She is 117 years old.
There is no doubt Anderson was a part of an elite club. Census Bureau records for 2010 counted Anderson among 1,211 Minnesota centenarians.
I found some other interesting tidbits in my research about centenarians. A December 2012 Minnpost article examined the national and state statistics gathered for the report. Of the 53,364 people age 100 and older in the United States that year, most were female. The ratio was 100 centenarian women to about 20 centenarian men.
Anderson lived alone in a country home west of Blooming Prairie for most of her life. She and her husband, Ormond, built a new house in 1935 for $1,400. He died in 1983.
Anderson lived near Blooming Prairie until she was 90, at which time she moved to North Mankato to be closer to her daughters. She also has relatives living in the Dodge County area.
Anderson shared about how at the time she moved she thought it would be short lived.
“I didn’t think I would live very long anymore,” she said. “I thought it was time to die.”
But she hung in there. For almost 18 years more.
Anderson was a fighter. She was a cancer survivor of more than 30 years. Shortly after her husband died, she came down with colon cancer. She beat it. And besides a little slip-up in which she broke her hip and had a hip replacement in the late 1980s, she had been as healthy as can be.
What impressed me the most when I interviewed Anderson in 2015 was how she, even at 105 years old, still lived independently in her own apartment. She still cooked for herself, though it was with a microwave. “They won’t let me use a stove anymore,” she said at the time.
Anderson had been a faithful subscriber of our sister newspaper, the Steele County Times, for many years up until about seven years ago. The only reason she stopped was because she simply couldn’t read the small print any longer.
When I asked her in 2015 how many more years she hopes to be around, she replied, “I’m ready whenever.”
Her only regret at that time was that she couldn’t see or hear very well. But she displayed quick humor to get past what she didn’t have.
“Sometimes it’s all right to not be able to hear,” she said with a chuckle.
Reading was one of Anderson’s passions. She kept her mind sharp by reading. Even with failing eyesight, she read large-print books. She loved novels, especially mysteries.
There is no question that Anderson lived a good life, far surpassing the years many of us will live to.
I just hope she will be able to go in hot pursuit of resting in peace now that she has ended her life chapter after a century and more.