The year was 1918.
The “war to end all wars” had come to an end with the signing of an armistice on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.
A flu epidemic was threatening the world.
In those years people felt lucky to live to be 70.
Into that world a daughter was born to Vernon and Anna Anderson of rural Vesta. Her name is Lois, and she entered the world Dec. 12, 1918.
One hundred years later, the average life expectancy is just under 79 years, and less than one-half of one percent of people can make the claim Lois (Anderson) Larson did this past Wednesday.
She is a centenarian.
“I don’t feel any different,” said Larson Wednesday afternoon from her Marshall home.
Larson was born at home 100 years ago, which was a farm place just north of the City of Vesta. Larson’s dad was a farmer, and as one of three daughters, Larson learned that life on the farm meant hard work.
“I always considered myself to be an outdoor girl,” said Larson, who filled the role of helping care for the animals on the family farm. “I fed the chickens, gathered the eggs and even milked the cows.”
While Larson started her life of learning on the farm, she began her formal education in Vesta. She continued her education in the community through the 10th grade.
“I did two years of high school in Vesta,” she said .
Then it was off to the big city of Redwood Falls where she earned her high school diploma graduating in 1936. During the week, Larson stayed with some other girls in Redwood Falls doing some light housekeeping to help cover the costs of boarding with a family. She thought their last name was Timm.
Larson said she enjoyed school, adding a sad memory was the day the school she attended in Redwood Falls burned.
“It was the summer after I graduated,” she said, adding the school building was located where St. John Lutheran Church is today.
After high school, Larson traveled to Mankato to attend the teacher’s college there, and two years later, with her certification to teach, Larson began her career in Lafayette teaching in a rural school setting.
Larson also served as a teacher in Underwood Township near Vesta and in a school between Delhi and Belview.
As the teacher, Larson said she not only taught the students up to Grade 8 she also served as the janitor making sure the school was clean, that there was water and in the winter that the fire was going in the stove. Larson recalled enjoying the chance she had to teach and especially liked going out and playing with her students at recess.
Having taken piano lessons as a child, Larson was able to incorporate music into the day, and would begin the day with singing. Larson recalled one time when she opted to try something different for opening exercises and observed the scowls on the faces of the students.
“I asked them what was wrong,” said Larson. “They told me they wanted to sing.”
So, that is how they opened every day.
Teaching must have been important to the family, added Larson, as she and both of her sisters were all educators.
Four years into her career as an educator, Larson stepped down from her role.
“I got married,” said Larson.
Her husband’s name was Ronald, and they met at the Presbyterian Church in Vesta. They were married in 1942 and moved to a farm four miles west and about a half mile north of Vesta.
There she took on the role of farm wife, and soon added mother to the list of roles. Four children were born to the Larson’s, including Kathie (Cole), Marian (Fischer), Mona (Kuehn) and Steve.
Larson admitted she never expected to live as long as she has, adding she recalled turning 90 and telling her children to wait until she was 100 to have a party for her.
“I never would have guessed it would really happen,” she said.
Larson doesn’t know the secret to a long life.
“You just keep on living,” she said.
However, she did think living a clean life, eating healthy and being active certainly helps.
Growing up close to town, Larson said the family farm had electricity, but it wasn’t until three years after she got married that Larson had electricity on their farm.
“The REA came in,” she said, adding the house and barn were wired.
Church life was always important to the Larson family, and Lois said she was involved as a Sunday school teacher and at times would play the piano or pump organ at church. Larson said she could play well enough for church and for her students in school, but that was about it.
The Larsons retired from farming and moved to Cottonwood in 1984, and Lois stayed there until 2005 when she moved to Marshall.
Ronald, passed away in 2002.
Larson has lived at Hill Street Place in Marshall for the past 13 years. She enjoys spending time reading, adding she especially enjoys books with historic themes. Of course, much of the history she now reads about Larson actually witnessed.
Larson has many fond memories from different parts of her life.
She recalls being about 15 and driving an Overland.
You didn’t need a license then, she said.
Later when a driver’s license was required, Larson said she had to go down to the bank, pay 50 cents and got her license.
“You didn’t even have to prove you could drive,” Larson said with a smile.
Larson was able to celebrate her birthday with family earlier in December, and the ladies of the Echo Alliance Church, where the Larson family attended after the Presbyterian Church in Vesta closed, held a party for her Dec. 7.
A party was also held in her honor at Hill Street Place Dec. 12. Larson admitted she has had a lot of cake this month. (Her favorite is a marble.)
Larson said she told people not to get her any gifts, but said many of them did anyway.
It has been a good life, said Larson, agreeing things have changed a lot, especially in terms of technology, over the years.
“You can do so much more with technology today,” said Larson, who admitted she doesn’t really understand much of it.
Larson has six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The sweets she received for her birthday will likely be shared with them.
Larson said she plans on spending time just poring over the pile of cards she received in the coming days.
Other than that life goes on for Lois Larson just like it did when she was 99.