What is it like to be 100 years old?
Gladys Raddatz was caught off guard by the question last week.
“I don’t know! I just got here!” she said. “When you’re younger you never stop to think about getting to 100. I’ve had people ask me what’s my secret. I don’t have a secret. I’m just here!”
Raddatz has something almost no one else today has: memories of life during World War I. Of course, hers involve starting kindergarten.
“My earliest memory? Oh, my goodness,” she said on Feb. 24, the day after her 100th birthday.
“I was born in Echo on Feb. 23, 1912. I remember my sister and I were afraid to start country school. Then we learned the neighbor girl was the teacher. If she was teaching, we could start.
“My sister and I were just kids on the farm, and we didn’t do much. We had no brothers, so we became the hired men, and we did it all. It was a happy life,” she said.
Raddatz made it through eighth grade, then “we had a big lollapalooza when we graduated.”
Her first jobs off the farm were as domestic help doing housework for town folk in Wood Lake, where her father left farming to operate a gas station.
That’s where she met her first husband, Everett Krueger. They married in 1932, when she was 20 and living at home.
“Everett and I met at a dance or something,”?Raddatz said.
It was the depths of the great depression, and Everett worked as a hired man for local farmers while Gladys stayed home to raise the three children.
“It was the depression, so there was nothing to do. It was tough, but you never worried, not about every little trivial thing, like they do now. Everyone was in the same boat, which is what helped.
“We always seemed to manage, but then you could sit down with a dollar bill on a Saturday night and make out your week’s grocery list. Things were cheap then, but there was no money!”
Raddatz can’t quite remember when she moved to Redwood Falls, but knows it was during the second World War she got to experience at a distance.
Finally, Everett got a good job with the straw balers, “which was a big deal at the time,” Raddatz said. “That’s what brought us to Redwood Falls. Everett always had to drive up to the lumber yard at Redwood, and they hired him right off the truck.”
When Everett was drafted, Gladys was on her own for a year. Then, after the war, things went back to normal, with Everett working and Gladys at home.
Page 2 of 2 - Everett Krueger died in 1982. Four years later, Gladys married Harvey Raddatz, and she got to live the life of a retiree.
“These have been my golden years, with no job and no kids hanging on me,”?she said.
Raddatz’s family and friends held a reception for her at Wood Dale Nursing Home on her 100th birthday. Her table was filled with just the cards she had opened. A second package of unopened cards waited on the floor.
“I’ll get to those this afternoon. I had an awesome birthday party. The list of friends who came was endless. I thought they’d never stop coming.
What has Raddatz learned in her 100 years?
“I always said I wasn’t going to be a crab,” she said. “I’m not going to be a grouchy person. I’ve always maintained that. Don’t let things bother you.
“There’s always a time when you’re going to get upset about something, but keep smiling through all of it, like my dad did.
“Over the complete 100 years, I had a lot of good times and a few bad times. That’s all I can say. One hundred years seems like al long time, but when I try to put it all together, there wasn’t much time. It all went by so fast.”