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Bertina Carlson celebrates 107

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on March 08, 2012 with No Comments

When Bertina Carlson was profiled a little more than a year ago, readers and other residents of Brentwood Assisted Living in Hobart came to know and love her.

Another 12 months have come and gone.  And with Bertina’s 107th birthday and Mardi Gras falling so closely together this year, Brentwood decided it was too great a coincidence to ignore.

Together, Brentwood’s staff, Bertina’s friends and family and, of course, Bertina herself gathered recently for a memorable birthday celebration.

Carlson came into the world in Wisconsin, in rural Barron County, a first-generation American. Her parents were Elsing and Erick Nelson. Her dad had emigrated from Norway.

Carlson is the seventh of 12 Nelson children. An older sister, Emma, also lived to 106.

According to her memoirs, she attended a rural schoolhouse near home and also attended monthly Norwegian classes through her home Lutheran church.

“The people of the church, anyone, who wanted to host the Norwegian language lessons did so,” she recalled. “I grew up where I was born and I liked it.”

When she finished the eighth grade, a horse-drawn bus service to Barron High School had begun picking up the farm children in the area. She was the first in her family to attend. She and her younger sister, Selma, were the first in the family to complete high school in America.

Ready to pursue a higher education, her dad lent Carlson $100 to pay for a Red Wing Seminary business course in adjacent Minnesota.

She started a long banking career, first in her hometown, then with a brother and sister in Gary.

The Depression wiped out that first Indiana bank. “That Depression was hard,” Carlson said.

Carlson took a decade off to raise her only child, Feldman, and then restarted her career with Gary National Bank about the time World War II ramped up and stayed there for the next quarter of a century.

“It had different names, as banks bought out banks, but it was always the same bank to me,” Carlson said.

“We used adding machines at first,” she said, as she made the hand motion for pulling a lever on the manual machines.

She had met and married a native of Sweden, Erik Gunnar Carlson, a carpenter. They moved to Hobart in 1934 and raised their daughter there.

Carlson’s beloved husband died in 1972.

At 67, Carlson learned how to drive and so stayed active in her hometown as a volunteer at Hobart Mercy, now St. Mary Medical Center.

She is a three-time cancer survivor, winning the last battle at age 100.

Of course, the question that comes to her most often is what the secret of her longevity is. “Well, I have been lucky,” she said of her long life.

Of course, the question that comes to her most often is what the secret of her longevity is. “Well, I have been lucky,” she said of her long life.

Relatives and friends of other residents filled the dining area to overflowing.

Rachel Feldman of Valparaiso was one of two of Bertina’s daughters attending the event.  “She is still doing great,” Feldman said of her mom’s ability to get around and keep up with everything.

In the end, amid the hoopla, the abundance of well-wishers and the good times, Bertina closed with the same question of a year ago: “But why would anyone want to interview me?” she asked.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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