Living the good life for 106 years

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Florence “Flossie” Johnson continues to amaze her family and friends on her 106th birthday anniversary.

Anders and Lena Erickson, immigrant settlers from Dalarna, Sweden celebrated Midsummers Day, June 23, 1899, with the birth of their third child, Florence Emelia. At her birth, the young family was struggling so much that the doctor who delivered her offered to adopt her, a common practice at the time. But Lena refused to break up her family. Born in a hand-hewn log cabin near Fredrick, Wisconsin Florence grew up a happy, hardworking farmer’s daughter.

Flossie was a daydreamer and preferred to splash in their creek, play catch, and chase butterflies over studying her ABCs. But she successfully graduated from 8th grade at Round Lake School. At 16 she was considered grown and was sent to “the big city” to earn her way. Her chores and church had instilled in her a conscientious, hard-work ethic that enabled her to work as a maid and cleaning woman in some of the best homes in the Minneapolis Kenwood neighborhood, where she was appreciated and valued.

Florence soon caught the eye of a gentle Swede named Carl August Johnson as she walked past his front porch most every day. Their courtship was sweet, and it wasn’t long until Florence not only sported a man at her elbow, but a ring on her finger and a babe in her arms. Carl ran the city’s streetcars, and Florence chased after little Marvin.

Florence continued to clean house for others until her retirement in the 1950s. But her innate nurturing spirit found more expression with family, church and neighborhood. She was always sewing, crocheting and cooking for others. Her daughter-in-law Vicky’s house was filled with Florence’s handiwork. Her grandaughters, Gail and Terri, grew up in Flossie’s dresses and pajamas, dressing dolls with clothes she had sewn. Grandson Curt sported his own custom wardrobe too, but preferred the goodies that came out of Grandma’s oven.

For years Bethel Lutheran Church parishioners ate Florence’s cookies and cakes at potluck dinners and after-service coffee. The Swedish (immigrant) Club welcomed all the authentic ‘old country’ dishes and desserts. And North Minneapolis’s elderly warmed to her cheerful laughter and homemade breads.

While the family always was impressed with Grandma’s dynamic energy and her devotion to others, she finally got a well-deserved public acknowledgement in 1993 at the Minnesota State Fair. That year, five senior citizens were honored for their significant contributions to community. Florence, then 94, won the volunteer work award for the dozens of quilts she made for Lutheran World Relief and for visiting neighborhood shut-ins. Beds, hands and feet, large or small, were never cold when covered with Florence Johnson quilts, mittens or slippers.

Florence was just 80 when Carl passed over. Then living in an apartment and needing more to do, she helped take care of great-grandsons, Benjamin and Adam. These little ones too learned to sew and cook at Flossie’s side. Soon she also tended to Brian, Scott and Cori.

Flossie very seldom slowed down, and the grandchildren started calling her the Eveready Bunny. But eventually it was smart for her to move into another apartment, with assisted-living options. She was a youthful 95, with only a few minor health problems. Forgetfulness started becoming a problem after a few more years, but she continued to be happiest when she could be doing something for someone else.

Florence’s sunny phrases became well-known to other assisted living residents at St. Olaf’s. Even at age 100, many would come to ask how she was, knowing that she’d always answer, “So far, so good!”

Flossie is now 106 years young. Why? Once, when asked, she thought for a minute and said, “You know, I think it was clean living.” We (her family) believe there are other reasons: her upbeat attitude, sense of wonder, and ready laughter. We believe she has a very special soul. She never complains nor has ever been angry. She is patient, kind and forgiving. She gives to others before she gives to herself. She is truly a joyful person. The angels will sing and laugh when she someday greets them. We would all benefit from being a bit more like her.

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