Two of her older brothers reached their 90s before passing on, eldest brother Conrad Sunde at 91 and fourth-born George Sunde at 93. And Clara still has two younger siblings, both of whom are approaching 100 themselves. Sister Ruby Borsheim, 96, lives in Waite Park, and brother Henry Sunde, 95, lives at 700 Stearns Place.
"It's a surprise that I'm living to be old," said Borsheim, who was born and raised on a farm between Paynesville and Hawick.
Clara was born on March 13, 1901, the sixth born in a family of ten. Both of her parents had emigrated from Norway, where her father had trained as a carpenter.
The farm - with fields and cows, pigs, and chickens - provided jobs for all the kids. They brought eggs to town and sold them in order to buy groceries. They had butter, cream, and meat from the farm.
"We were brought up to work," Clara explained. "We all had our chores, but when we had time off we had fun."
But for fun and games they didn't have lots of toys. "The scrap pile and imagination," said Clara, "that's all we had for toys."
Conrad went to high school at Augsburg Academy and then attended Augsburg College. Clara and her older sister, Emma, were the first members of the Sunde clan to go to high school in Paynesville.
"In those days, way back then, not everyone went to high school," said Clara. "In the country, there was no bus service so that was not the regular thing to do."
Clara and Emma boarded in town during the week and attended school. Every Monday, their brother John took them to town in either a horse-drawn buggy or a horse-drawn sleigh in winter. Then he would pick them up again every Friday.
When they left for school on Monday, they had to bring clean bedding, clean linen, and food for the week. "Just think of the work for my mother and brother John," said Clara. "That was the cost of getting to school in those days."
Teaching and marriage
After high school, Clara attended St. Cloud Normal School (which later became the teacher's college and then St. Cloud State University) for a year. She earned a teaching certificate and taught a year in a country school.
"Then I found out I didn't know anything," she said of her first year of teaching. So she went back to St. Cloud for another year of training. Then she taught for two years in Monticello and three years in Warren.
In 1927, she married Peter Borsheim of Irving. Irving Township still lies between Lake Koronis and Green Lake, but in the early part of the century there was actually a town called Irving, based around a creamery. Clara's family used to bring milk to Irving. "The Irving creamery died when cars came in and farmers could take their milk into Paynesville to the North American Creamery," Clara explained.
Peter and Clara farmed for 20 years and then moved to New London for 11 years, during which time Peter worked at the elevator. In the late 1950s, they moved to a home near the south shore of Lake Koronis, where they retired.
20 years at the Manor
In 1980, Peter - who had had heart trouble for years, stemming from a bout of rheumatic fever he had at the age of 19 - needed greater medical care. He moved to the Koronis Manor in the spring.
Clara stayed at home for the summer, and then moved into the Manor herself in the fall. They lived there together for four years, and now Clara has lived for another 16 years since Peter's death.
Clara has lived at the Manor longer than any current resident, said Luann Fahlberg, an occupational therapist at the Manor. Nowadays, there are more housing options for seniors than 20 years ago, leading to shorter nursing home stays.
Clara, though, has no regrets. She said the Manor is a good, clean place to live. "It was a good thing the Manor was here," said Clara. "The doctor knew (Peter) needed a doctor and he needed care."
Now in a private room, Clara likes to embroider, read, and participate in the activities at the Manor. Every weekday, she volunteers as a towel folder. She has one daughter, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
An open house in honor of Clara's birthday will be held on Saturday, March 17, at Nordland Lutheran Church from 2 to 5 p.m.
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