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Bob Lind, Published September 01 2012

Lind: Stay in hospital first in 105 years for Fargo woman

The bad news: Eiline Nelson fell and broke her hip in January, and was in misery. The good news: She got better and is doing fine today.

But her stay in the hospital was a milestone. It was the first time she’d been hospitalized in all her 105 years.

Eiline lives in the skilled care section of Bethany Retirement Living, Fargo. She’s full of pep and has a sharp memory.

Well, except for one thing: She can’t remember the first presidential election she voted in or who she voted for. “Maybe I voted half and half,” she says.

Parents didn’t fight

Eiline was born in 1907 in a town that no longer exists: Addison, N.D., near Davenport.

Her parents, Benjamin and Mary Torgeson, could have had a troubled marriage: Her father was Lutheran and a Republican while her mother was Catholic and a Democrat. “But nobody fought; nobody got hurt,” Eiline says.

Eiline is one of eight children. She’s the only one still living. All but one of her siblings lived to be at least 100.

She went to school in Dazey, N.D., where her father owned a store and, she says, “sold everything: shoes, needles, thread, even caskets.”

In 1928, Eiline married John Nelson, from Dazey, who, Eiline says, “Always said he didn’t get his bride because of his good looks, but because he was a good dancer.”

And he was. He once won first prize in a waltz contest. Eiline says she had all she could do to keep up with him. “I just stumbled along,” she says.

John and Eiline had one child, but she died in childbirth.

The Nelsons owned a drug store in Dazey, back when the Depression was taking its toll.

“Farmers lost everything,” she says. “There was just grasshoppers and sand.”

The Nelsons sold their store, opened a confectionary store and survived. But John lost a new car he had just bought.

They sold their store in 1950, moved to Fargo and bought an apartment building, where they lived until John died and where Eiline continued to live until she was 100 and moved to Bethany.

Many friends

Thinking back on the Depression days, Eiline says, “It was a hard life. I hope it doesn’t happen again.” But she fears hard times are coming. “People are living too high; they have to cut back. America is going to go broke.”

She keeps on top of the news, largely by radio, even though she says “They have wild, wild ideas on there.”

She has macular degeneration, so reading is difficult and TV is out.

What really cranks her up is visiting with people. And she has many friends, according to one of them, Fran Allery, Fargo, who has known her for years and says, “To all of us, Eiline is A-1. I lost my grandmother over 20 years ago; she is a pretty good replacement.”

Eiline admits aging creates problems. “But I’ll make the best of it; it could be worse.”

Eiline, a member of First Lutheran Church, Fargo, for 62 of her 105 years, says she’s “been blessed; God has been good to me.”

What will she do in the days ahead?

Well, she won’t drive, although she did until she was 87. “I got a ticket once, but the cop let me off,” she says.

And she won’t get a computer. “I have no idea about all that kind of thing,” she says.

Well, Eiline, maybe you’ll get married again.

“I don’t think so,” she says. “I’d have to find a wedding dress that fits me.”

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