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A Century of Memories

By Staff | Apr 12, 2020

While Vi Hoeg, in the white blazer, could not be with her children in person for her April 10 birthday, like she is in the above photo, she says they have all sent cards and special messages to her at the Shepherd’s Inn where she is currently residing and quarantined due to the COVID-19 stay at home order.

Violet (Vi) Lenore Jergenson Hoeg has witnessed something not many humans on this earth have witnessed: she has seen an entire century of life. On April 10, Vi turned 100 years old.

Did Vi ever see herself as one of the few who lived to see 100 years? Oh, heavens no, was Vi’s response, but she has been grateful for every day she has been given. This life has given her plenty, too, she says.

From growing up on a small farm just southeast of Wells, learning the tricks and trades of farming?(she still remembers how to thresh hay), to growing up and marrying her beloved late husband Donald and giving birth and raising her six children, Charles, Kenneth, Nancy, Lenore, Tom, and Sandi, to experiencing life enough to not only be a grandmother to 15, but a great-grandmother to 34 children, and a great-great grandmother to three lucky little ones.

“It’s just wonderful,” she says. “There are moments in my life where I have witnessed and endured some great strifes, but being able to experience the joys of life are just as, if not more, important. My oldest grandchild, who is about to become a grandfather himself, always claims that he’s my favorite. I have to set the record straight I have 15 favorites. They are all wonderful.”

Now granted, Vi’s birthday party plans have changed a bit since her daughter, Nancy, started planning things a few months ago. What was going to be a grand event for her extended family has become a card shower for Vi.

“I live at the Shepherd’s Inn in Wells now, and I only recently moved here. I was living on my own for a good while at Broadway Apartments. There are some changes I am still getting used to,” she laughs. “Living in a community is much different than living alone. But since the quarantine, I have had my family come visit me and we visit through the window. It’s nice but it sure is different.”

However, this isn’t the first quarantine Vi has lived through in her life. When she was just a young teenager, Vi and her sister had been stricken with Scarlet Fever, a bacterial infection epidemic that came in waves beginning in 1858. It was in the late 1930s when Vi and her sister had caught Scarlet Fever.

“I remember my sister was very sick with it,” recalls Vi, choking back some tears. “Our doctor at the time, Dr. Holmes, came out to see us every week, if not every day. There was a point where he just couldn’t figure out how to save my sister. He suggested giving her whiskey and eggnog to keep her heart going, and I guess that’s what she needed. She and I were quarantined to our rooms, and we found out later that my younger brother was being birthed just below us in our house.”

Vi also remembers when polio had come into the area. She recalls her husband’s cousins were both stricken with polio.

“There was a new doctor in the Alden area at that time, and it was one of those situations where we weren’t sure if the new doctor had enough experience to get through something like that, but when he was called out to Donald’s cousin’s home, he saved both of them, and that helped us as citizens see that he knew what he was doing.”

This quarantine is a little different.

“I know those quarantines weren’t like this,” she says. “All of our staff wear masks everyday, and at meals, we sit far apart from each other, but really that’s all there is to it.”

Vi was also one to witness the development of technology. She remembers a time before household electricity, before radio, before television and Bluetooth, and live streaming and tablets and smartphones.

“I was 14 when we got a radio for the house,” she says. “And it ran on batteries because the house didn’t have electricity yet. Even with transportation, during the Great Depression, we walked everywhere. Mother didn’t have a vehicle, or a license, and Dad was always farming. When it was really bad, say in winter for an emergency, we would get the horses out. Things certainly have changed over the years.”

It wasn’t until 1952 when she and her husband got their first television. She and Donald married on Feb. 17, 1940, and rented and owned a variety of farms throughout their years together. They even moved to Winnebago, bought the bowling alley there, and operated it for a number of years, and eventually chose to spend their days together in a house in Wells. Once Donald passed away, Vi chose to sell the house and move to the Broadway Apartments where she lived independently up until pretty recently.

“I have so many memories, that I have been working on trying to share them,” she says. “I have written a book, and now Pat Schuster, the manager at the Shepherd’s Inn, is helping me print more of my writing.”

From memories as a school child and learning songs like Yankee Doodle, to recalling pinpoint moments through American history, Vi is working on writing anything and everything she can recall from her memory, which is still very sharp.

“I’m surprised I remember as much as I do for 100. I am just one person out of many. You take what you can get and be satisfied with it,” she advises. “Some things may not seem like they are going to work out for you, but somehow, they always do. And you just hold onto that.”