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Paynesville Press - April 26, 2006

Roseville farmer Henry Sunde celebrates 100th birthday

By Addi Larson

Henry Sunde, who turns 100 today, is eight months older than the first radio broadcast, which took place on December 24, 1906. He was born on a Roseville Township farm on April 26, 1906.

His life has greeted the dawn of radio, the automobile, aviation, the electric refrigerator, two world wars, television, rock-and-roll music, man's journey to outer space, and 18 U.S. presidents. "It's quite a thing to do 100 years," said Sunde. "There isn't too many people that get that far."

Henry Sunde on farm When he was a kid, listening to the radio was a treat, said Sunde, recalling the anticipation he felt when the radio battery was taken into town to be recharged so he could listen to his favorite show, Amos and Andy. "We didn't have as many stations as we do now," he continued. "We had to have ear phones, put them up to your ear. There was only one person that could listen at at time."

Henry Sunde - picture in September 1971 - farmed in Roseville Township for over 60 years. He turns 100 today at the Koornis Manor.

In addition to radio, Sunde fondly recalled his first car, a 1917 Ford Model T, which was used mainly for traveling to and from church. Before the invention of the automobile, "We walked," said Sunde. His family could take the wagon with two horses, or the sled in the winter.

Sunde was the ninth of ten children born to Edvard and Kari Sunde, who immigrated from Norway, where Edvard trained to be a carpenter. Sunde said of his father's trade, "That's what he enjoyed. He was a good carpenter. He didn't care much about farming, but he bought land to keep the boys busy."

Farming was Sunde's true passion; his life on the farm was filled with a sundry of labor for over 60 years in active farming.

Schooling was not a priority to Sunde, who ended his formal education after eighth grade. He recalled thinking as a youngster: "I was wishing the schoolhouse would burn down so I could stay home and plow, because I enjoyed plowing so much."

He and his older brother, John, farmed together, and Sunde continued milking until one year after John's death in 1969 and continued farming until the mid-1980s. "We farmed good. Boy, we did a lot of work. We were busy then," Sunde recollected.

Advancements in technology aided the progression of the family farm. To Sunde, two developments stand out in the ten, vastly varied decades of his lifetime. In 1937, the Sundes bought their first tractor and began the transition from a well-established practice of horse plowing. "To get the work done soon was to buy a tractor," Sunde said. Sleeping sickness afflicted the horses, which were all eventually replaced.

Electricity first came to the farm in 1939 when he was 33 years old. Sunde was told that if he and John could dig adequate holes for the power lines, each six feet deep, the Meeker County Co-op would install the poles in the fall, thus providing electricity before winter. "We had power that fall," he said, still pleased by their accomplishment.

On June 1, 1974, at age 68, Sunde was married at the Hawick Methodist Church, for the first time, to Edna (Pemble) McLouth. They were married for nearly 29 years until Edna's death in March 2003. "I had a dandy wife," Sunde said with a smile. Sunde first met his wife-to-be in 1927 when she visited his farm to pick up some straw.

Stacking grain bundles "What I miss most of all is my wife," Sunde said. "When Edna and I were married, we had a lot of fun. We traveled a lot. You know, one summer we drove across the United States, way to the Pacific Ocean." Sunde said that he wished his mother could have met his wife.

The Sunde family - shown stacking grain bundles with horse teams - farmed with horses until purchasing their first tractor in 1937.

They were diligently involved with the annual Mission Fest at Nordland Lutheran Church, a century-old tradition for Sunde, which began from infancy. "I don't think I've ever missed a fest," Sunde said proudly. It was at a Mission Fest where Sunde sampled his first ice cream cone. "That's my favorite dish. You can eat that any time," he declared, and chuckled when noting that he once said ice cream in his stomach, "fills in the cracks."

Together, he and Edna were locally recognized for their cross-stitched quilt-top patterns, which were graciously donated towards the charitable event. He also made candles with Edna when he retired from farming in his 80s. And he rolled rags into carpets, which were also donated.

Sunde, who was still cross-stitching past the age of 95, sewed six days a week and rested on Sundays, reasoning, "It was the Lord's day."

He now restfully resides at the Koronis Manor, where he has lived for the past four months. He is the sixth of his ten siblings to reach the 90-year hallmark and the second to attain the century milestone. He celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday at Nordland.

Sunde has a distinctly positive attitude for longevity. Offering no disparaging remarks, the Great Depression didn't seem to have left much of a negative affect. "We didn't suffer any," he said, commenting that he had chickens and eggs, which for them was more than enough. The drought of 1934 again showed Sunde's glass-half-full attituide, as he noted they had a good crop of garden vegetables and, "enough corn to fill the silo," he said.

That sunny outlook probably helped him get this far. His nephew Peter Jacobson, also the Press publisher, recalled Henry telling him that he would live to be 100 on Sunde's 50th birthday. Peter, then 12, thought his 50-year-old uncle was pretty old that day, but Sunde responded, "I'm only halfway there."

He was still walking until November, and now feels no pain. "I've never been really sick. I'm not sick now either," said Sunde. "I didn't think I'd be one hundred years old. I was just patient. I waited."

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