Much can change in the course of a century and many do not have the privilege to live see those changes; Lena Bargfrede, who will turn 103 Wednesday, is amazed at how much the world has changed since her birth.
“I don’t know how I made it,” she said from her room at Winchester Meadows on Monday. “It just blows my mind to think about the change that I have seen.”
She added that she felt many changes weren’t for “the best,” but she is thankful for her health and most of all for her family.
“We’ve had a lot of advancements,” she added. “My brother used to say I’m living in the most important time of life, because they can do so many things. He thought of it in that way. But I think they are getting further from God all the time.”
One of seven children, born in Houstonia to Albert and Eliza Mae Waisner in 1915, she remembers a simpler but more difficult time.
“Now see, when we were growing up there was no paved roads, there was no cars,” she said. “We lived in the country and there was no electricity and no central heat. I think of it now as survival, but I didn’t then. My parents worked hard and every one of us, when we got old enough, we had chores that we had to do.
“We raised our own food, most of it,” she added. “Oh, the grocery stores then was so different. They were one room, you can’t imagine it.”
She said that at the time food was placed in barrels. If you needed three pounds of dry beans they would scoop the beans out of the barrel into a sack.
“You can’t imagine that today,” she added. “It just blows my mind to think about it.”
As a youth she didn’t think about how difficult it was to grow up early 1900s.
“We did not know any different,” she said. “Because there was nothing to tell us any different and we could not imagine it in our mind.”
She added, laughing, that her father never accepted that man walked on the moon July 20, 1969.
“They were born in the 1800s,” she said of her parents. “My father could never accept the changes. He just said ‘they don’t do it, they just make it you think they do it.’”
She added she wasn’t fazed by the prospect of man going to the moon.
“I just accepted it for what it was,” she said. “I took it one step at a time. As things changed, I changed with it.”
Bargfrede has advice for others traveling the journey of life.
“I really think work is our salvation,” she said. “It keeps us busy and we don’t have so much time for nonsense.”
She added that she was a housewife and she stayed busy working on their farm with her late husband Ludwig Bargfrede.
“But, that says an awful lot,” she noted. “Because in the country there’s always work to do. I had a garden, and I had the yard to keep, and I kept the house and cooked three meals a day. You know, you were just busy. I think that was good.”
She said her fond memories revolve around her family. Her youngest granddaughter, Dedra Eaton, of Cabot, Arkansas, made a family photo album for her with the saying on the cover, “Family, where life begins and love never ends.”
“I think this says it all, right here on the cover,” she added. “All my family is gone, all my brothers and sisters.”
Her only son, Bob Burnett, died about four years ago due to Alzheimer’s, but she has two grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild and many nieces and nephews.
Over the weekend her grandchildren came to celebrate her birthday, and Wednesday she will have five family members celebrating with her at lunch.
Her niece Marcy Scott, of Oak Grove, said Bargfrede is like a grandmother to her. She remembered when they celebrated her 100th birthday three years ago; 50 cousins attended the event hosted at Winchester Meadows.
“Oh, Aunt Lena has always been the most positive person I know, she’s an inspiration,” Scott said by phone. “She’s worked hard all her life on the farm. She’s always been so strong, taking care of herself.”
Scott added that she would be having a birthday lunch with her aunt Wednesday.
“She’s our hero, really,” Winchester Meadows Administrator Rhonda Gaylord said.”We aspire to be like her. She’s a great role model.”
Bargfrede said she has been lucky through the years because she still has her eyesight and hearing. She also retains a good sense of humor.
“At 103, this chair is the most important thing,” she said smiling. “I’m happy to be here.”
Bargfrede has lived in the Sedalia area for about 25 years after moving from Blackburn when her husband died. She has been at Winchester Meadows since 2010.
Those wishing to send her a birthday card may send it to: Lena Bargfrede, Winchester Meadows, 3751 W. 10th St., Apartment 124, Sedalia, Mo. 65301.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.