When Ella Wilson was born - Jan. 4, 1903 - Theodore Roosevelt was serving as President of the United States; she has lived through 18 presidents and was fortunate to be able to see the first Black American voted in to serve this country. Radios provided the news and family entertainment, horses were used for transportation and farm work, oil lamps lit the home and party telephone lines spread gossip about the neighbors quicker than lightening.
Ella, now 106, and a resident at Methodist Manor, has seen the world change by leaps and bounds. She was born the same year as the Wright Brothers pioneered flight., and half a decade before the invention of the Model T Ford. She has also experienced the arrival of electricity, movies, television, large farm equipment and so many things that made living life easier.
She has cherished each year. "Health has been with me," she said during a small gathering in her honor Sunday at her home at Methodist Manor. She shared that she has always watched what she ate - satisfying her sweet tooth with fruit rather than candy. She made an exception for a piece of her own birthday cake.
Her physician, Dr. Daniels, was present at the party and she proudly introduced him to her friends. "You have sure taken good care of her," said one of the residents.
"She's a pretty special person - with a good heart," he said.
Ella loves living at Methodist Manor. It has been her home for the past 18 years and she praises the staff for the care she receives. "I am so proud to be living here," she said.
Reading is one passion she is no longer able to take part in due to failing eyesight. For many years, she shared stories from the media with residents at the facility who could no longer read. She misses that experience dearly.
Ella attended school near Climbing Hill and despite the two-mile journey each way to school each day, she loved it.
When she had completed the highest grade at the country school, she continued her education at the town school, which was over four miles away.
After graduating from high school, with a class of five in 1923, she landed a job in a combination physician/dentist office. Two years later, she married Carl Hagemann. The couple had two children.
She was a farmer's daughter and then a farmer's wife. She enjoyed the way of life but chuckles saying her husband didn't allow her to drive the tractors once they made their appearance and also kept her out of the barn.
She survived the Depression years, and still shakes her head at the thought of the years filled with little money and little food. She ate many breakfasts consisting of sweetened popped popcorn and milk.
Carl died in 1971. She moved to Storm Lake in 1976 and married Harrison Wilson in 1978. He died 10 years later.
Ella moved to the assisted living portion of the Manor when she was 86 and after breaking a hip when she was 95, she has lived in the care center.
Of all the changes she has seen, there are a couple that she has managed to do without. The invention of the computer is one of them.
"I would rather use my mind. We have to use our minds."
The other thing she doesn't like is that everyone is always in a hurry.
"Where are we going? We all hurry so, that's life today and it bothers me. In my younger days, land's sake, we were at such leisure. Is the world traveling that fast?"
Ella is content traveling at a slower pace and enjoying her family and friends; she always has a friendly hello for everyone.
Tracing back other members in her family, Ella said the oldest lived to be 92. She considers herself special for having lived such a wonderful life.
Prayer is important in Ella's life and she looks to God for guidance each morning.
"I must be here for a purpose," she has said. "I don't know why but I do know I love people and I have always taken time to help people. I have always tried to make people happy; it's just in me to be a watcher. Maybe I'm a guardian angel. I feel I am needed."
Ella lost her daughter eight years ago; her son, 81, resides in Hampton. She has six grandchildren and a host of great- and great-great-grandchildren.
In attendance at the gathering Sunday was Ella's niece - the daughter of her brother - Verna Davis of Sheldon. "You keep me going," Ella told her niece as they hugged. "No, Aunt Ella," she replied, "you keep me going." Who couldn't be inspired by Ella Wilson?
Some advice from the wise lady? "Always think before you speak."
Happy birthday, dear Ella. Happy birthday, to you.