Her Swedish eyes smiling, her heart overflowing and her sunny smile ever present, Alice Sundquist welcomes each day with cheerful anticipation.
Back in the ‘20s, the little farm girl moved with her family from Fertile to Minneapolis. Before long, she graduated high school, fell in love, married, moved to Coon Rapids and raised three children – always ready for life’s next great adventure and eager to share the fun with family and friends.
The latest avenue on that great adventure had Alice reaching a milestone when she celebrated her 100th birthday on March 23.
On that day – a Sunday, in fact – family and friends gathered to celebrate her birthday with cake and a light lunch at Advent Lutheran Church, the Coon Rapids worship center she has called her church home for more than 50 years.
“She knew – probably back in September – that her birthday fell on a Sunday and she was so happy she could go to church on her birthday,” said Gloria Kost, grinning at her mother relaxing near a sunny window in her room at Park River Estates.
“I can’t believe I’m still here. I must have something left to accomplish, a mission that I have to do before I leave. I don’t know what it is, so I just keep on going,” the centenarian said, smiling her sunny smile and looking to the future.
“She’s always looking for the next good time, always very optimistic, always looks for the good and finds it,” Gloria said.
And Alice described the secret to her happy longevity.
“Just live a good life as much as you know. Respect people, love your neighbor as yourself, have good friends, and be a good friend,” she said.
And keeping active may be another secret to Alice’s long life. After early childhood days on the farm, Alice worked as a waitress, helped out at her brother’s East Lake Street convenience store, stocked the National Enquirer at magazine stands around town – and raised three girls while she was at it. (She had five children in all, but two infant boys died at birth, she said.)
Much of Alice’s 100 years have been spent in Coon Rapids where she and her husband Eric built their house on property they bought back in 1948. That 5-acre lot (located just off Coon Rapids Boulevard near the WCCO radio tower) is now called the Sundquist Addition, said Gloria.
Alice said after her husband’s retirement, they kept active offering rides to older people who needed to get to doctor’s appointments, get their hair done, go to church, do some grocery shopping, etc.
“We drove our Dodge, helping people out, giving rides to wherever they needed to go. We were happy to do that, but people always wanted to pay us to say thank you. But we said, ‘No, just buy me a cup of coffee or a piece of pie.’ So we had pie and coffee and everyone was happy,” Alice said.
Alice continued offering rides to others for many years, driving her Dodge until she was 95 years old.
“When I had to give up that car, it was sad, but I just waved good-bye,” she said, frowning at the memory and waving a sad good-bye as she told it.
Alice (or Grandma Sunny, as her nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren call her) is also an avid sports fan.
A life long fan of the Minnesota Twins, Alice remembers getting on the bus to go to games at Met Stadium.
“That was always so much fun and I liked Zoilo Versalles,” she said.
Her favorite player today?
“I like that Joey (Mauer). He’s a good player, he’s a good boy,” she said. “And you know he’s married now and has twin babies.”
The 100-year old sports fan also follows the Vikings and keeps track of those “boys” too.
“Adrian (Peterson) needs to stop getting hurt and he’ll have a good year. He had a good year, but if he stays healthy, he’ll have even better,” she said.
Alice calls the best days of her life the days she spent vacationing with Eric.
“I liked my 70s,” she said, recalling adventurous road trips to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix after Eric’s retirement.
“That was nice. That was very nice,” she said, a quiet smile revealing joyful memories of those long-ago vacations.
After Eric’s death 14 years ago, Alice continued making her home in the house they built and lived there independently until this past November, just a few months before her 100th birthday.
And now, as a resident of Park River Estates care center, she still keeps active, giving it her all in 30-minute exercise classes, visiting with her roommate, chatting with staff, and getting to know the rest of her new Park River family.
And so, as she marks a century of living, Alice celebrates all that life has to offer, especially enjoying time with family and cherishing the love they share.
Family members all live close by, Gloria said, and much family time is enjoyed by all.
“They’re no more than a phone call away. I always love to spend time with my family,” said Grandma Sunny.
As for her legacy, Alice wants “to be remembered that I was a good person, that I love my family and always pray for them.
“I’m thankful for the blessings of each and every day.”
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]