He is a supercentenarian
Gordon “Gordy” Saunders, of Blue Earth, has now done something not many people will ever accomplish in their lives.
He has become a supercentenarian.
Just what is a supercentenarian? A person between the ages of 100 and 109 is called a centenarian. Anyone over 110 is called a supercentenarian.
And, this past July 12, Gordy Saunders turned 110 years old. There was a little party and big birthday cake at Moonlight Lane at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, where Gordy now calls home.
“After his wife, Katy, died in 2003, Gordy told me that whenever I thought he should go into the nursing home, to go ahead and take care of it,” Gordy’s nephew, Gene Murphy says. “So, he turned 100 on July 12, 2010, and in August of that year I told him it was time.”
It was a tough decision, Murphy recalls. His uncle Gordy still had his driver’s license, and had been driving up until he was 98 years old.
“Physically he was doing good, not even taking any medications,” Murphy says. “But mentally, he was slowing down and having some issues.”
That is still pretty true today. Gordy is doing pretty well, for a guy who is 110 years old. And, he has had a pretty interesting life over those 110 years.
Gordy Saunders was born in Blue Earth and lived here pretty much all of his life.
His parents farmed and Gordy attended school in Blue Earth.
But, he played in his older brother’s band, his nephew says.
“He tells me it was a popular band and they played a lot of nights all over,” Murphy says. “Gordy says he caught up on his sleep in school.”
After high school he did several jobs, including working in the plumbing and tile business.
Then he went into the Army in 1943 or 1944, and served in World War II. He enlisted when he was older, in his early 40s. He told his nephew that he was a “tin man” and did a lot of repair work on planes.
Although he never talked a lot about his time in the Army, Gordy was stationed in Alaska at least some of the time.
“He got married to his wife, Catherine (Katy) Lang, my mother’s sister,” Murphy says. “That was also around that time, when he had gone into the service. They were married in Chicago.”
It is thought Gordy might be the oldest Minnesota World War II veteran still living, but it has not yet been documented.
After his service to his country, Gordy started his own business called Gordon Saunders Decorator. He did painting, wallpapering, staining woodwork, installing carpeting, floor tile, etc.
He did a lot of work in conjunction with Ankeny and Wiederholt Builders. They would build houses and stores and Gordy would come in and finish it up with the painting and other work.
While Gordy enjoyed his work, Murphy says his uncle’s passion was definitely hunting and fishing.
“He went hunting and fishing all the time,” Murphy says. “He and Katy did not have any children, so he was free to go as much as he wanted to. And that was a lot.”
Gordy even tells stories of going hunting and fishing in Alaska with his commanding officer, a colonel. The two would sneak off to go hunting, but it was OK because he was with the colonel and wasn’t really AWOL.
One of his hunting and fishing buddies in Blue Earth was Gordon Enger. The two Gordies did a lot of hunting and fishing trips. They even took several trips each summer to Canada to fish. They went to a place called Frog Rapids Camp, Sioux Lookout, in Ontario most of the time, and caught lots and lots of fish.
Another hunting and fishing friend was Ted Wiederholt. They would just drop everything spur of the moment and head off to hunt or fish.
“Now, Uncle Gordy didn’t have kids, but Ted had a bunch, so I never figured out how he did that,” Murphy says. “Uncle Gordy had painters hired, so he could just take off when he wanted.”
When Gordy was 67 years old he sold his business to Gudahl and Nesbitt and retired. It was then he took up hunting and fishing basically full time.
“They had a trailer up by Walker, at a campground, and they would go up there a lot, maybe weeks at a time,” Murphy recalls. “Then that camp closed and they moved the trailer to Bena.”
Gordy was going hunting and fishing even in his late 80s. In fact, when he was 89, he went deer hunting and shot a buck. But, he finally had to quit going up north.
“Uncle Gordy also had his pilot’s license and did some flying,” Murphy says. “His wife, Katy, sometimes flew with him, but she didn’t like it. He said she always wore a parachute when she went with him.”
Gordy liked his cars, too. He seemed to always be getting a new one, sometimes for work, sometimes not. The first car he ever owned was when he graduated from high school.
“He liked to put his cap down and drive fast,” Murphy says. “And he was still driving fast when he was in his 90s. But at 98 he started letting me drive him around. I think he knew it wasn’t safe for him to still be driving.”
Gordon Saunders has led a pretty good life for the past 110 years, doing what he loved, enjoying the outdoors and hunting and fishing most of his life.
One can suppose that now he still sits and thinks about those days of hunting and fishing with his friends.