Happy Birthday Gladys Johanson – 100 Years Young

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published the week of 10/23/2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” — Confucius

I love this quote by Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, a politician, and philosopher that lived between 551 BC and 479 BC. This thought came to mind as I contemplated the people in my life who have reached the grand age of 100. I am awed by the fact I have an aunt that is going to be 101, an uncle who lived to be 102 and now I have a friend who celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday.

File Oct 20, 9 26 32 AMMy friend’s name is Gladys Johanson and I first remember meeting Gladys back in my late high school years when one of her daughters was my best friend.

I want to share a little history on Gladys’ life. Gladys was born in Matawan on Oct. 19, 1917, and was the fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers and two sisters and two brothers that died in infancy. She married Wilbur Johanson on Nov. 18, 1937. He passed away Nov. 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

One of the many amazing things about Gladys, at least to me, is the fact she has 14 children, having them all within 20 years. And of these 14 children, seven were boys and seven were girls. When I think of the stress we go through today raising one or two children, I can’t imagine raising 14. Yet, I always remember Gladys’ smile and her kind heart for everyone. Her smile today is as welcoming as it ever was. She has a happy glow surrounding her.

Gladys was a stay-at-home mom until later years when her final child was in school. She then entered the working world at Stamper’s factory, and she never missed a day of work in the 10 years she worked for them. I wonder how that happened with 14 children, even though at that point all were not still at home. We all know kids and germs go together and illness usually follows the adults in their life. How many of us now could say we haven’t missed a day of work in 10 years?

Here is another little tidbit I didn’t know. Not only did Gladys take care of her house and her children, she also was the bookkeeper for her husband’s carpentry business. Remember there were no computers back in those days, just brain work and the pen and pencil and maybe a typewriter.

I had the joy of sitting down with Gladys and her daughters Corrine, Kim and Dawn. I admit I had lots of questions because I was curious, not only on tips for aging but having been an only child myself, how it felt to be one of 14 children.

My experience in knowing some 100-year-old people has been that they didn’t seem like people that worried a lot. I asked Gladys about that. She answered, “I never worried, tomorrow was another day.” And, “When there is a will, there is a way.” As for being 100, she said she really didn’t feel any different than when she was younger. Her daughter Susan in an email told me as Gladys aged and started to discover things she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

One of the things Gladys and her children attribute to longevity is a healthy diet. The backyard was a garden, and Gladys and her husband raised the food for their family. The gardening became an assembly line and even the smallest child was put to work doing something. Canning was a big part of their life in having their homegrown food year round.

According to Gladys daughters, each child had their own job. Saturdays were cleaning day and you did not go anywhere until the chores were done. And if you are a teenager out there today reading this column — the kids in this family had to earn money and put their own gas in the car if they wanted to drive.

Gladys is a fabulous cook and the girls shared one of their favorite dishes was their mother’s mashed potatoes. Corrine stated, “It must have been the love she put into it.”

Supper was always served at 6 p.m., and family members were expected to be at the table at that time. “When you heard the whistle blow you knew it was time to be in for supper,” Corrine reminisced. “The table was always set correctly and she still does that today.” The Johansons had different sets of dishes for every day than for special occasions. And prayers always did, and still do, accompany Gladys’ meals. Faith is an important staple in her life. The prayer at dinner: Abba Lieber Vater from her German roots.

At 100 years old, Gladys’ eyesight is still stellar and she can read the tiniest print. Her spelling and penmanship today are perfect.

Sitting down again after all these years at the Johanson table, I still felt the comfort of being a part of the atmosphere. I felt the love this family has for one another with Gladys being the role model for generations of Johansons. These parents had the secret we are all looking for in raising our children, and it was summed up by a statement from one of the daughters: “We had discipline but we always felt showered with love.”

Gladys has 20 grandsons, 11 granddaughters, 21 great-grandsons, 19 great-granddaughters and three great-great-grandsons. And she has made a quilt for each one.

After spending time with Gladys, I realize she led a simple, hardworking, content life knowing what was important and what wasn’t, and she is reaping the rewards of a long life with a family that loves her. Isn’t that what we all want but forget when we are caught up in the world we live in today? Gladys is a role model for all of us.

I would say Confucius statement fits perfectly with this family. Gladys planted a seed, the trees grew and those trees blossomed and planted new seeds for generations to come. Happy 100th birthday, Gladys.


Gladys Wilhelmina Irene Vogelsang Johanson

Born in Matawan, MN on October 19, 1917. The fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers: Melvin and Milton, and two sisters Mabel Buelow and Ellen Meyer. Two of her brothers died in infancy, Elroy and Roger.

She married Wilbur Johanson on November 18, 19367. He passed away November 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

She gave birth to 14 children within twenty years: 7 sons and 7 daughters:

Kenyon Johanson

Corrine Schultz

Joan Kuntz

Jerald Johanson

Glenn Johanson

Russell Johanson

Vila Stump

Bruce Johanson

Emily Ness

Mark Johanson

Susan Johanson

Dawn Dutton

Richard Johanson

Kimberly Zimmer

Mom and dad planted a very large vegetable garden in the backyard more out of a necessity than a hobby, and from the harvest, they canned and froze food for the upcoming winter. In later years, mother worked at Stampers factory for 10 years in Wells – never missing a day of work!  Mother also worked for her husband Wilbur as the bookkeeper for his carpentry business in Wells. Her hobbies were sewing and for her 30 grandchildren she hand-quilted each of them a quilt. Embroidery also became her hobby, and she hand-embroidered tablecloths, many dish towels and pillow cases for her family. To this day, she still embroiders.

Mother never complains she takes life in stride; often you will see her sporting a big smile. As she aged and started to discover things that she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

File Oct 23, 10 15 55 AM

My Heart is With My Granddaughter!

I love my grandchildren. This year I decided on each of their birthdays I will post a special blog about them. I know they don’t like to be in the spotlight but I want them to know how special they are to me.

Today is my Granddaughter’s  13th Birthday. I remember her tiny beginnings. She was our first grandchild and I jumped up and down with screams when I knew I was going to be a Grandmother and then panic set in. What did I know about being a Grandmother?

I remember when we got the call  she was here. I was overwhelmed by joy and love for a tiny being I hadn’t yet met.  A few days after her birth we were able to travel and meet her. She was the cutest, sweetest little angel I had ever seen. The first few days were a little challenging. There was a problem with milk and so she was a little temperamental and was awake and crying, making her displeasure known. Four of us grandparents camped in a tiny house along with her parents and took turns, holding her, singing to her, rocking her and loving her. She could do no wrong in our eyes. And there was another blessing during the time and it was the blessing of four grandparents forming a friendship that continues today. It seems like yesterday.

As she grew we rejoiced over every little accomplishment she made, her first words, her first steps and the first time she could say Grandma and Grandpa. Her twinkling eyes and cheerful spirits always make our days brighter.

I wish children could remember their early years and all the love they received from the special people in their lives and the special moments that were shared. They will only live on by the stories we tell, planting in their hearts memories that last forever.

My granddaughter is lucky because she has two very special parents who raised her and nurtured her into the beautiful young lady she has become. I am so proud of them and of her. She used to wake up in the morning and always remark, “It’s going to be a beautiful day.” My wish for her is that she can do that every day of her life no matter how old she becomes.

So Happy Birthday Ms Teenager. I wish you the joys of growth, the strength to get through the hills and valleys that accompany the teenage years and the wisdom to know the choices you are making for yourself are right for you. But most of all I want you to know you are so loved and you always will be.

Grandma Julie


Revive The Greeting Card!

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf printed in the Albert Lea Tribune February 3.

The United States Postal Service is raising its rates. It is partly my fault. The reason I partially blame myself is that I am memory-challenged when remembering to send people cards for birthdays, Christmases, baby births and times of illness, sympathy and friendship.

I like to get the cards. I keep the people in my prayers and always have good intentions but never seem to get it done.

This is not something new that has developed since I have become an adult. When I was in grade school and high school, I would write letters to my aunts and uncles and cousin but they would never get mailed. When they came to visit and occasionally their visits were yearly, I would hand deliver the letters to them.

This is my greeting card showing greeting cards.
This is my greeting card showing greeting cards.

There is one problem, and that is the fact that I love to buy greeting cards, and I love to make greeting cards. I must have a problem with that in many areas of my life since I love cookbooks and recipes but don’t like to cook. Maybe it is the author in me that likes to see things in print.

Since I am changing careers I need to readjust and change out my office so I can work more efficiently with my new writing career. It is amazing the joy it creates when you find an object that you have been looking for. In the midst of the mess I found so many greeting cards. As I looked and sorted the beautiful cards in to categories I wondered how in the world I ever accumulated so many cards. Then I felt a little sad that I never sent the cards to the people they were meant for.

Some of the cards that I found were perfect for someone in their young adult years, but the person that I had in mind when I bought the card is no longer a young adult, in fact they might be called a senior citizen now.

In my meandering of thoughts it crossed my mind that greeting cards are probably obsolete too or they will be soon. I hope not. History is represented in greeting cards. I have the Valentine cards that my mom got when she was young. I have the Valentines that my parents gave me when I was young, and when I read them it brings tears and good memories to my heart.

I am de-cluttering, but there are some things that are keepers in my heart, and those are the Valentines of my youth. The birthday cards from certain people from my youth that I still have. It is the Christmas cards, not all but some, that I have kept over the years from people that I miss because they are living with God now. Those cards give me comfort, make me smile, occasionally make me cry and bring back memories.

My mother never threw anything out, and I was very vocal in letting my opinion be known. There are items that did not need to be kept, and I would still be vocal about them if she were here. She was a child of the Great Depression, and that made her at times hoard things.

When it was time for me to go through her things I found the treasure of her youth. I found a scrapbook she had made of old Valentines. I found cards and letters of sympathy from my dad’s funeral. I hadn’t paid much attention then to all the cards and letters of caring he received when he was sick and when he died. Reading them twenty years later as an adult made me appreciate the impact he had on people’s lives. I would have never had known that.

As I look at the cards, the many, many cards, I have in my stash to send to people I made a decision. This year I will try over the year to mail every single card that I have to someone. As crazy as it may seem, I might send a Christmas card in July. I am not going to pay attention to season but I will pay attention to the get-well and sympathy cards and make sure they go to the right place at the right time. Sending a sympathy card could get a little tricky if the person were still alive, though many years ago when my uncle’s favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, lost the World Series, I felt it did warrant a sympathy card. I was sure my uncle mourned for the next year about that.

Will I live up to my new resolution? It’s not a New Year’s one. Join me in sending cards to friends, family and strangers this year. It may change their day, it may make them smile and … it might keep the Postal Service in business. Challenge your friends. Let’s start a card revolution in 2014.

I have started a page on Facebook called “Revive the Greeting Card.” Hopefully it will help me in my resolve to send out greeting cards. Hopefully the members of the group will keep me on task.

If you are a Facebook person look for the page “Revive the Greeting Card “and join us. Take the time this year to send some greetings to someone, it may change their day.