COL Remembering admirable Amelia
Amelia Kruesel died peacefully in her sleep early Wednesday at the age of 109.
She was Rochester's longest-living resident and oldest native. She not only remembered the famous Mayo brothers, but also their father, who died in 1911 when Amelia was 12. Born when Grover Cleveland was president, she lived through all but the first 41 years of the city's 150 years.
Unlike most of her fellow centenarians, Amelia never left the city of her birth. She'll be buried Monday in Oakwood Cemetery next to her husband Elmer, who died 19 years ago.
I visited with Amelia several times during the past nine years, first at her home, where she lived until she was 104, and later at Samaritan Bethany Heights care center, where she died. I last talked to her in April while I was doing research for the P-B's Rochester sesquicentennial project. She'd just finished playing bingo, and she chatted with me for half an hour or so about what it was like growing up in Rochester around the turn of the century.
She talked about the neighborhood grocery store where she and her siblings bought candy. She talked about playing on the courthouse lawn. She talked about the men who went around lighting the gas street lights every evening. And she talked about working as a nanny for Dr. Edward Starr Judd, one of the first physicians hired by the Mayos after they decided to expand their practice outside the family.
I admired Amelia a lot. And not just for her longevity.
I admired her values. When anyone asked her for the secret to living so long, she said it was her strong faith in God. "In talking to ministers who knew my mother, they all say they've never seen a more devout Christian," her son, Elmer Jr., told me Friday. "Most of us have doubts. But she had absolutely no doubts. When I went to see her after she died, she looked just like an angel, like all of the burdens had been lifted from her."
I admired her spunk. My favorite picture of Amelia is one she kept on the wall at the nursing home. Taken when she was 100, the photo shows Amelia going down a water ride with a granddaughter and her family at an amusement park in Florida.
She grew up in the city, the daughter of a plumber, but she learned how to take care of baby chickens and grow vegetables after marrying a farmer's son. She stayed healthy and active until two years ago when she fell and broke her hip. Until then, Elmer says, she'd never spent so much as one night in the hospital.
I admired her commitment to family. One of 13 children, she quit school after the eighth grade to help her mother care for her younger siblings. All but one are gone now; her sister Edna is 95. Elmer Jr., a youthful 86, says Amelia was also a wonderful mother to him and his two sisters. But I was impressed with how much interest she took in her extended family. Now, you have to remember, I didn't meet Amelia until she was 100-plus. At the time, her progeny stats looked something like this: two surviving children, 13 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and 20-something great-great grandchildren. I would forgive anyone with more than 60 direct descendants if they missed a name or two. But Amelia prided herself on knowing where each of them was. In my last visit with her, we chatted about one of her great-grandchildren who will graduate from Century High School next spring with my oldest daughter.
And I admired her resolve. Although her health had been failing a bit when I talked to her in April, she was looking forward to her 109th birthday on Sept. 13. "I suppose they'll have a party for me," she said. "They always do."
They did. But during the next few weeks, her health took a turn for the worse, and nurses called Elmer late Tuesday to tell him the end was near. He was holding her hand when she died.
Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at email@example.com.