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At 105, Mabel Sande has ‘enjoyed it all’

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In 1908, the first Ford Model T was made available for purchase on the American market, Teddy Roosevelt was president and Mabel Sande was born in Two Harbors, the oldest child of five children. She has lived to see two world wars, Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight and over a century of changes in her hometown. Last Friday, Sande celebrated her 105th birthday and said she’s enjoyed it all.

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She looked tiny tucked into the overstuffed chair in the living room at Barross Manor where she lives, but after a few moments of conversation it was clear that time has done little to diminish her spunk or weaken her opinions on a number of topics. And she is quick to point out the reason for her longevity.

“I lived so long because I never had the stress of a man in my life,” she quipped.

Sande said she was raised and lived most of her life on 10th Street with her four siblings and parents, who were both Norwegian immigrants. Recalling her first days in school, she was not so sure that formal education was going to be a good fit.

“I came home and said ‘Ma, I can’t go back to that school. I said hello to the other girls and they won’t even talk to me!’” Sande said that she had spoken little English in her early years and had greeted her classmates in Norwegian, which they didn’t understand. Despite the initial language barrier, however, she continued through school, graduating from Two Harbors High School in 1928, just months before the start of the Great Depression.

“We didn’t have much money,” she said, but she held out her hand and showed a gold class ring, a treasure from those earliy years.

Sande said she worked all her life, starting her first job the Monday after she graduated from high school. She’s been employed in restaurants, at an ice cream shop and at the “co-op store” for over three decades. Asked what she plans to do in the coming year, she said she wasn’t sure.

“I’ve been thinking about that, but I haven’t decided yet,” she said.

Friday afternoon there was a birthday party for Sande at Barross Manor. She wore a special birthday hat and was expecting a visit from a jolly old elf in a red suit and white whiskers—a role undertaken each year by Jerry Carlson. Now a senior citizen himself, Carlson and Sande have a connection dating back many years – she was his Sunday school teacher at Bethlehem Lutheran when he was a child. Sande said she has good memories of those times and remembers Carlson fondly.

“He was a good boy,” she said, “and full of fun.”

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