By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN Only a select few people nowadays can say they walked almost two miles to school, pulled weeds by hand on 120 acres of land, or harvested corn with a horse and buggy setup.
Christena Rozenberg of Howard Lake has done all three of those tasks in her 100 years of life.
“I praise the Lord for all the wonderful things and memories I have,” she said.
Rozenberg and her twin, Henrietta, were born Aug. 27, 1914 on their family farm near Maple Lake.
“I went to a two-room country school, which was nearly two miles away,” Rozenberg said. “We didn’t have buses, so we stopped to pick up our neighbors and we all walked to school together.”
She began school at Silver Creek Country School in 1921, when she was 7 years old.
“My twin sister and I couldn’t start school until we were 7 because our feet didn’t touch the ground when we sat in the desks,” Rozenberg recalls.
“There was no testing or anything to see if we were ready for school, our feet just had to touch the ground,” she added.
Rozenberg went to school through eighth grade, which was common for children at the time.
“When the school told my father I should continue school, he told them he needed me at home to help with farm work, and that was the end of it,” she noted.
Rozenberg and her family planted their fields with a one- or two-row planter, that was pulled by horses.
“We woke up at 5 a.m., harnessed the horses, and took a lantern to see which row to start in,” she said.
They used a windmill to pump water from the well, stored their cold goods in a well pit, and didn’t have electricity until 1951.
“We did have light when I was a little older, that was powered from wind caught by the turbine on top of the barn,” she stated. “But on a calm day, we didn’t have any electricity.”
Rozenberg’s father made about 50 cents per day farming; and she made 25 cents per day cleaning cabins on a lake when she was old enough, which she had to share with her sister who stayed home to work on the farm.
Rozenberg and her twin, Henrietta, were the youngest of seven children. Her four brothers, Simon, Albert, Henry, and Gerritt were born first, and then her sister, Johanna, before the twins.
Sept. 8, 1936, she married Albert Rozenberg, at a double wedding with her twin sister, and both couples moved to a house in Carlton, where they were dairy farmers.
In March 1937, their home burned down, and Christena and Albert moved in with Albert’s parents on their farm.
In 1938, Christena gave birth to their only child, Carolyn.
Albert passed away from complications of spinal meningitis and a heart attack in 1941, when Carolyn was just 3 years old.
“We thought he just had the flu, we didn’t have testing in those days,” Christena commented.
She stayed on the farm with Albert’s parents until Carolyn got married.
Christena has never driven an automobile or tractor in her 100 years, she said.
“I have never let a cigarette or drop of alcohol touch my lips either,” Christena noted.
In 1977, Christena moved to her home in Howard Lake.
“I used to walk to the post office every day,” she stated. “And during the fair, I would walk to the fairgrounds.”
Christena loved to garden, embroider, and bake goodies until recently when her hands and body began catching up with her age, she said.
“I used to bake 3,000 cookies before Christmas to give away to family and friends, until I couldn’t do it anymore,” Christena recalled.
She would plan her baking days ahead of time, and set out her butter or cream cheese the night before to soften, she said.
Now, she looks forward to a weekly phone call from her friend in Iowa, who is 102 years old, weekly visits from her granddaughter, Ruth, and any other time her family visits.
“I thank my Lord for my precious daughter, and wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Christena commented.
Christena’s daughter, Carolyn, had four children; Mark, Paul, Mary, and Ruth.
Ruth and her husband, Mike, have three children, Tom, Christe, and Jake; Mary has one daughter, Hannah; Paul has no children; and Mark and his wife, Ann, have two children, Dan and Jill.
Jake (Christena’s great-grandson) and his wife Brittany are expecting a child, and Christe (Christena’s great-granddaughter) is also expecting.
“That will be five generations of my family living at once,” Christena noted. “Not many people get to know their great-great-grandchildren.”
Although Christena has a hard time grasping all of today’s technology, she has a television that she watches local church services on, she said.
“The Lord has been exceptionally good to me,” Christena added.
A celebration in honor of Christena’s 100th birthday took place Sunday, Aug. 24 at First Presbyterian Church in Howard Lake.