Minnesota's oldest resident dies

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2011 - 11:28 PM

The avid Scrabble player was fluent in Swedish.

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Ruth Anderson grew up on a farm south of Ruthton, Minn.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Ruth Anderson, believed to be the world's oldest twin and the last Minnesotan born in the nineteenth century, died early Tuesday at age 112 and 149 days.

An avid Scrabble player with family and other visitors, she played her last game on Thursday at a nursing home in Marshall, Minn., relatives said. She remained alert, talking and reading books in English and Swedish until about two days ago, said her daughter-in-law, Beverly Anderson.

"She was such an amazing person. She cared about people and how they were doing," her daughter-in-law said. "She really had an impact on so many people."

Ruth Anderson was the oldest Minnesotan, ninth-oldest American and 23rd-oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles, which verifies ages and tracks people age 110 and older.

In an interview two years ago, she said she looked forward to every day.

"You do things. You think about things," she said. "And then don't waste time fussing about things you can't change."

Her death makes Anna Stoehr of Elgin, Minn., the oldest Minnesotan at 111 and 67 days. She was born on Oct. 15, 1900, near Manning, Iowa, and has lived most of her life in Minnesota.

Anderson, born Ruth Peterson on July 24, 1899, grew up speaking Swedish on the family farm south of Ruthton in southwest Minnesota.

Her twin brother, Abel, died at age 1. Anderson learned English at a one-room schoolhouse reached by walking a mile across farm fields.

She never attended high school, but went to secretarial school in Mankato and worked for six years in Minneapolis before returning home to care for her ailing parents.

Like most people who reach age 110 or older -- called "super-centenarians" -- she was healthy most of her life and took prescription medications only for short-term illnesses.

She was hard of hearing, and walked little because of arthritis.

First married at 60

At age 60, she was married for the first time to her widowed brother-in-law, George, and helped raise his four sons, her nephews. He died at 90.

Anderson lived on the farm until age 98, when she became the first resident of a new assisted-living apartment complex in nearby Marshall. She had a two-bedroom apartment, one for her and one for her numerous quilting projects. At age 106, she moved to Avera Marshall Morningside Heights Care Center.

To celebrate her 110th birthday, Anderson went to her home church, Sillerud Lutheran near Balaton, where she spoke to the congregation after reading aloud from her Swedish Bible, then translating it into English.

For an Earth Day celebration that year by the city of St. Paul, she wrote a wish that was sent aloft on a kite: "I, Ruth Anderson, wish that all people would seek the Kingdom of God because all things would be added unto you. I wish for gentle rains, May flowers and bright sunshine and that all people would live together peaceably."

She is survived by her four stepsons, Philip Anderson of Ruthton, Paul Anderson of Moorhead, Carl Anderson of Mount Prospect, Ill., and Dan Anderson of Balaton.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Sillerud Lutheran Church.

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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