100th birthday a musical celebration

Friends and family from Minnesota and North Dakota gathered Saturday at Walker Plaza, Anoka, to mark Jessie Murray’s 100th birthday.

Jessie Murray (left) greets longtime friend Mary Tolo of Wahpeton, N.D., at her 100th birthday party held at Walker Plaza Saturday afternoon.
Jessie Murray (left) greets longtime friend Mary Tolo of Wahpeton, N.D., at her 100th birthday party held at Walker Plaza Saturday afternoon.Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming

Jessie’s milestone marking party also featured the local band CODA, a special treat for a woman who is a longtime musician herself.

While she said she didn’t hold any special secrets, her children noted her positive outlook on life and her love of music among attributes that have lead to a long and full life.

“Mom has always had a way of connecting with all ages,” said her daughter Bonnie Thompson. “I believe music was the key.”

Jessie Siewerdsen Lahren Murray was born Sept. 27, 1912 in Breckenridge to Hans Siewerdsen and Jessie McDonald Siewerdsen.

She attended Breckenridge High School, graduating in 1930 and participating in basketball, softball, track and music.

Music has always been a big part of Jessie’s life. She and her brother Harold played in two dance bands, traveling around North and South Dakota and Minnesota performing.

Over the years she not only performed but also taught music to many young people.

In 1936 Jessie married Horace F. Lahren of Wahpeton, N.D. He died in September 1964.

Jessie was a member of Bethel Lutheran Church of Wahpeton, where she was church secretary for 22 years until her retirement in 1982. She was also church organist for many years, senior choir accompanist for over 40 years and pianist for both the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. She also accompanied for many other choirs and events, including accompanying Miss America Lee Merriwether at an event.

In 1982 Jessie married Dr. George C. Murray. The couple spent winters in Florida and summers in Detroit Lakes.

Jessie’s family includes her children Bonnie Lahren and Rick Thompson, Rod and Cheri Lahren, Dr. Bill and Louise Murray and Linda and Bill Tiller. Jessie is also a grandmother to eight and great grandmother to 13.

Son Rod Lahren said keeping up with her kids has helped her longevity.

“She was the one who took me hunting or took me fishing,” said Lahren.

Her adventurous spirit has lasted throughout her life. Her children told of Jessie taking up tent camping at the age of 75, visiting the Yukon into her 80s.

Jessie moved to Anoka nine years ago after recovering from knee surgery at 89 and a hip replacement at 90.

Thompson said Walker Plaza was the perfect place for her.

“Mom could be very independent with all of the amenities she wanted in such close proximity,” she said. This included the nearby RiverWay Clinic, Goodrich Pharmacy, Bridge Sqaure Optical, Sparky’s Cafe, the former Cal’s Corner and the Grassroots Co-op.

Until last fall she walked outside daily, year-round.

“She could be found walking around the block every day – on the coldest days she would do a half block and walk it two to three times,” said Thompson.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]