Gertrude Leonhardt reached a milestone in her life Aug. 30 – she celebrated her 100th birthday.
A resident of Anoka County for more than 70 years, she currently lives at Camilia Rose Care Center, Coon Rapids, where a birthday party took place in her honor the evening of Aug. 30.
Family members from Minnesota, Texas, California, Oregon, Florida, Michigan and Georgia, along with Camilia Rose residents, were among the guests.
She did not feel 100 years old, Gertrude said.
Nor did Gertrude know why she had lived such a long life, she said.
But Michael Leonhardt, one of her five children, called her longevity the result of “healthy living.”
“She has never smoked or drunk alcohol,” he said.
And both her parents lived long lives – her father to 84 and her mother to 76.
While Gertrude has a difficult time hearing, she is healthy and happy, according to Mary Leonhardt, another of her children.
Born Gertrude Elsie Collins in Minneapolis, Aug. 30, 1912, Gertrude grew up in Arlington in southern Minnesota.
She met her future husband, Howard Leonhardt, at a dance in Gaylord and they were married in Henderson Aug. 26, 1931 when she was 18 years old.
Neither of his parents graduated from high school, but they were both very intelligent, according to Michael Leonhardt.
The couple moved to the Twin Cities in 1932 and lived in North Minneapolis.
“That was during the Great Depression when housing was hard to find, but they were able to rent space in a duplex,” Michael said.
His father did not have a job and walked the streets looking for work, according to Michael.
Howard eventually got a job at Fleishmans Malting in Northeast Minneapolis, where he worked until he retired in 1975.
The Leonhardts later moved to a home at 48th and University Avenue in Columbia Heights, where they lived for 20 years before buying a home in Fridley off what is now Old Central Avenue and 66th with Rice Creek in their backyard.
“It was a beautiful home filled with love and happy memories,” Mary Leonhardt said.
Gertrude and Howard traveled the United States with their children on long, five-week vacations, she said.
His parents spent 30 years in their Fridley home where their children grew up, attending parochial school through ninth-grade, then graduating from Fridley High School, Michael Leonhardt said.
They later lived in several apartments in the Anoka area before Howard died from congestive heart failure at the age of 91 in 2002. They had been married for 70 years.
Gertrude continued to live independently at Walker Plaza in Anoka until the age of 98 when she moved to Camilia Rose.
“She was tired of living alone and wanted to be around people,” Michael Leonhardt said. “She enjoys people.”
According to Mary Leonhardt, Camilia Rose is a beautiful care facility where her mother has settled in and made many friends.
“The caregivers and staff are remarkable in their care of Gertrude,” Mary said.
Gertrude has three living children – Michael, Barbara and Mary – and two deceased, the eldest, Eugene and James.
She also has 16 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.
Gertrude, who was a homemaker, instilled values of working hard, being independent and family in her children, Michael Leonhardt said.
“Family is first with grandma,” said granddaughter Tami Leonhardt.
Gertrude has been a devout Catholic all her life attending St. Timothy’s Catholic Church, Blaine, for many years.
A homemaker, Gertrude was devoted to her children’s activities as they grew up, for example, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, according to Michael Leonhardt.
“She learned to drive so she could take us places,” Michael Leonhardt said.
“She would never lost track of us kids and would never let us get away with anything.”
“We all had a great childhood and none of us ever got into trouble.”
Gertrude was also an avid gardener and although she never had a large garden to work with, she loved working with plants, especially roses, Michael Leonhardt said.
“She had a pretty garden,” he said.
And Gertrude will tell people that she has witnessed the most advanced period of time on earth – from horse-drawn buggies to watching men land on the moon, according to Michael Leonhardt.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]