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Former Dassel teacher turns 100 years old

Sept. 15, 2008

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Turning 100 is quite a milestone, especially when one is as healthy and active as Myrtle Engebretson, a former Dassel and Darwin grade school teacher.

Deanna Martens remembers having Mrs. Engebretson as her teacher when she attended the Darwin country school, Independent School District 42.

“She was the first one that taught me art could be expressive. I appreciated that,” Martens said.

Martens also remembers Engebretson telling the class about her adventures teaching English as a second language to Eskimos in Alaska.

Engebretson taught in eight Eskimo villages for eight years. She even made her own books for her classrooms.

She has also taught overseas to five countries through the St. Paul-based non-profit organization, Global Volunteers.

Her favorite country to teach in was Poland.

“That was the best one. They were very gracious people,” she said.

Other countries Engebretson taught in were France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.

According to the records at the Dassel Area Historical Society, Engebretson taught first grade at Dassel Elementary from 1950 through 1953.

Even though she doesn’t remember much about teaching in Dassel – after all, it was only about three years out of her 100-year life – she does remember she was happy there.

Engebretson was born Sept. 24, 1908 in Ivanhoe, Minn., near Sacred Heart.

She has survived two husbands and has two sons, Maynard and Marvin; six grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

Engebretson attributes a long and healthy life to being active. Even to this day, she has a hard time sitting down for too long.

Engebretson also loves music. She’s been playing the accordion since she was 8 years old.

“Oh I love to play,” she said, as she got out her accordion to play a tune.

She enjoys playing hymns and “cowboy,” Engebretson said.

One song she particularly enjoys playing when she gets frustrated with life is “Please Release Me,” by Jim Reeves, and she says it helps.

After 100 years of teaching, volunteering, being active, and playing music, Engebretson feels fortunate she’s been able to do so much for so long. Even at the age of 91, she was restoring houses through volunteer organizations.

“It feels like you’ve really accomplished something,” Engebretson said about turning 100.

Engebretson currently lives at Augustana Homes assisted living in Litchfield and says that even many of the residents there can’t do what she can.

“I take one pill,” she said, adding that many others who are younger take as many as 13, 14, or 15 pills each day.

After she hurt her hip, Engebretson needed to use a walker. She eventually weaned herself off of it.

“I got tired of it being in my way,” she said.

Come celebrate 100 years of life

The public is welcome to help Engebretson celebrate her 100th birthday Saturday, Sept. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Gloria Dei dining room at Augustana Homes, 200 Holcombe Ave., Litchfield.

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