Former farm girl and business student reaches 108

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 9:11 PM

Trudie McFarland enjoys her morning rituals. Oatmeal, toast, an egg, coffee with half-and-half and her newspaper.

“She likes to read the news, the financial pages, skip the entertainment section, and go to the department store advertisements,” says Mary Kibiro, her longtime aide and friend. “If she sees any stories about Kenya, my home country, she always saves them for me.”

One morning, Kibiro pointed out some nice shoes for sale in a newspaper ad. Trudie shook her head.

“Those are for an old woman,” she said.

Kibiro recalled that exchange with a chortle last week when she joined three younger generations of Trudie’s family and nurse Meilan Chen at the Brightondale senior campus to celebrate Trudie’s 108th birthday.

“I’m just thrilled to see so many people,” she said, standing up to thank the crowd in a quiet voice. “It’s so good to have you all here and make sure to have a good year and enjoy every moment.”

She sat down and instantly began fretting about everyone getting their lunch.

“She’s a typical mother,” said her daughter, Joan Scovil, 77, who lives nearby in St. Anthony. “She’s too excited to eat and worried about everyone else getting their food.”

Among her concerns were the great-grandkids across the table, Annika, 11, and Sam, 9, who flew in from Port Townsend, Wash. Their mom, Holly Carlson, is Trudie’s lone grandchild.

“She just keeps going,” said Sam, who’s 99 years younger than his great-grandmother.

Trudie isn’t the oldest Minnesotan. A woman near Rochester is 112, and the Census Bureau says the state boasts four others 110 and up. Trudie is among 79 in the 105-109 age bracket and 1,130 Minnesotans older than 100.

Born Gertrude Rhode up the Minnesota River in Wood Lake in 1905, Trudie was the youngest of four. She says she was born in a chicken coop because her house was under construction.

Her father, William, emigrated from Berlin, Germany.

“Trudie asked me to hand her a napkin in fluent German the other day,” said Kibiro, who once studied in Munich. “She remembers the language well, and we had a nice conversation in German.”

Trudie’s mother, Lena, lived from 1874 to 1976, so longevity is nothing new. After growing up on the farm, Trudie attended business school at Mankato State and worked as a secretary for many years for a rug company and then a stockbrokerage.

“She graduated in 1933, and those were tough times,” said her son, Bill Hybsa.

She’s outlasted a pair of husbands, Tony Hybsa and Matt McFarland. She drove until she was 93 and didn’t start taking blood pressure medicine until 103.

“She’s always been unflappable, even-keeled and never gets too excited,” her granddaughter said. “I’ve never heard her raise her voice.”

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