December 19: Supercentenarians
A supercentenarian is a person who lives to be at least 110 years old. Once a rarity, the number of supercentenarians has grown steadily, and North Dakota has had its fair share.
On this date in 1988 Katherine Misialek turned 111 years old. Katherine was born in 1877 in Jaslo, Poland. She immigrated to the United States in 1902 and married Andrew Misialek in 1903 in St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Warsaw, ND. They farmed in Minto, Drayton, St. Thomas, and Auburn, before retiring in Grafton. The couple had 11 children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood. Andrew died at 70 in 1946. Katherine lived with one of her daughters until she was 107, when she moved into Lutheran Sunset Home in Grafton. She enjoyed crocheting, embroidering, and watching General Hospital. When asked how she lived so long, she simply replied, “hard work.” She died on November 11, 1989, only a month before her 112th birthday.
Coincidentally, as of 2022, the oldest living person in North Dakota lives in the same nursing home that Katherine Misialek lived in. Clarabell Demers turned 112 years old on November 3, 2022. She was born in 1910 near Oakwood. She married Frederick Demers in 1930 and farmed with him until 1944. They purchased a building and refurbished it into JR’s Bar, which she ran with her husband until his death in 1979. She claims that drinking 4 ounces of wine a day helps with her longevity. Clarabell has 3 children, 19 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren, and 14 great-great-grandchildren.
The oldest living North Dakotan ever was Iris Westman, who died at age 115 on January 3, 2021, in Northwood. She was born in 1905 in Aneta.
Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa
- Associated Press, “Hard Work Secret to Long, Healthy Life, 110-year-old Says,” Argus-Leader, Sioux Falls, December 19, 1987, pg. 4C.
- Associated Press, “State’s Oldest Resident Dies,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 14, 1989, pg. 6B.
- Author Unknown, “Lillian Moran,” The Fargo Forum March 19, 2011, https://www.inforum.com/lillian-moran accessed November 16, 2022.
- Berg, Gunder V., et al. Walsh Heritage: A Story of Walsh County and its Pioneers, Vol. 3, Grafton: Associated Printers, pg. 512.
- Dunken, “How Old is the Oldest Living Minnesotan?” 106.9 KROC October 18, 2022, https://kroc.com/how-old-is-the-oldest-living-minnesotan/ accessed November 16, 2022.
- Hagerty, Marilyn, “Clarabell Demers Looks Forward to 100th Birthday, Bowling,” The Grand Forks Herald, September 11, 2010, https://www.grandforksherald.com/opinion/marilyn-hagerty-clarabell-demers-looks-forward-to-100th-birthday-bowling accessed November 16, 2022.
- Hagerty, Marilyn, “Grafton Woman Celebrates 110th Birthday on Election Day,” The Grand Forks Herald, October 30, 2020 https://www.grandforksherald.com/community/grafton-woman-celebrates-110th-birthday-on-election-day accessed November 16, 2022.
- Henson, Matt, “North Dakota’s Oldest Resident Celebrates 112th Birthday,” The Fargo Forum, November 3, 2022 https://www.inforum.com/news/north-dakota/north-dakotas-oldest-resident-celebrates-112th-birthday, accessed November 16, 2022.
- Ihry, Leann, “Alumni Focus: The Oldest North Dakotan, Iris Westman ’28 is Still Learning,” UND Today, https://blogs.und.edu/und-today/2019/12/alumni-focus-the-oldest-north-dakotan-ever-iris-westman-28-is-still-learning/ accessed November 16, 2022.
- Pinke, Katie, “Iris Westman, a 113 year-old Educator and Farmer,” AgWeek, August 30, 2018 https://www.agweek.com/business/iris-westman-a-113-year-old-educator-and-farmer accessed November 16, 2022.
- Schletcht, Jenny, “North Dakota’s Oldest Resident and Farmer Iris Westman Dies at Age 115,” AgWeek, January 4, 2021, https://www.agweek.com/community/north-dakotas-oldest-resident-and-farmer-iris-westman-dies-at-age-115 accessed November 16, 2022.