Tomboys live longer: Ethel Satre celebrates her 108th birthday

"There wasn't a tree too tall to climb or a horse too wild to ride," self-proclaimed tomboy Ethel Satre stated, as she explained her temperament as a young lady.

Ethel Satre reads greeting cards and laughs with friends and family Tuesday on her 108th birthday at the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Nursing Home. Satre grew up on a farm, one of 11 children, in rural Brainerd riding horses, milking cows and being a tomboy. Her usual routine involves reading the local daily paper every day for one of Minnesota's oldest residents. (Forum News Service photo by Steve Kohls)

"There wasn't a tree too tall to climb or a horse too wild to ride," self-proclaimed tomboy Ethel Satre stated, as she explained her temperament as a young lady.

As one of Minnesota's oldest residents, Satre, who turned 108 years old Tuesday, spoke of climbing trees, riding horses and milking cows as part of her normal routine growing up on a farm in rural Brainerd. One of 11 children, Satre remembers admiringly how her mother would cook homemade chicken and dumplings, which was her favorite meal. Fresh meat was a treat to have back then and "it tasted so wonderful," she added. However, stretching it to make it last for the entire family was a struggle.

Satre, who experienced some recent troubles with her hearing aid, was assisted by her daughter Phyllis Collignon with some of her responses. Collignon attributes her mother's longevity to her farmer's lifestyle and said, "She can still show you how to milk a cow." Satre also still has one living brother, Levert, who is 97.

Born in 1908 in Garrison Township to parents Joseph and Lily Avery, she was a religious girl who enjoyed sewing and gardening, both of which she continued well into the later years of her life. To this day she still has a fondness for flowers and appreciates sitting outside to feel the warmth of the sun when Collignon comes to visit her at the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Care Center, where Satre now resides.

Satre recalled her younger years listening to big swing bands such as Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo with the Royal Canadians and attending barn dances with friends.


"It was a different world then," she said.

She remembered dance halls in the Brainerd area and a few in Chicago they once visited with the fanciest of dance floors. With a twinkle in her eyes, she piped up, "You wouldn't dare step foot on that dance floor unless you were dancing, not one foot!" Satre claims she wasn't the best dancer and her husband was nearly a foot taller than she was, which made it more complicated.

"My favorite song today is probably my lullaby," she joked, referring to how she can't stay awake long enough to listen to music.

Before marrying she held several jobs, including cleaning at Segutchie Lodge, working in the kitchen at the Nolan House, and housekeeping for a local Brainerd family.

She married Carl Satre in 1934 in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Brainerd. A few years later the two purchased a home in Riverton and had it moved to the corner of 13th and H streets, where it still sits today, now occupied by one of her grandsons.

When reflecting on one of the best experiences of her life, Satre said she really enjoyed the trip they took to meet relatives in Norway.

"It was so nice to meet relatives that you didn't think you would ever see. To get to talk to them, hug them, it was a wonderful experience," she said.

Collignon confirmed it was back in 1974 that her parents took the trip to Norway and they visited for about two weeks. "The time went so fast," said Satre. Over their lifetime together the Satres also visited nearly all 50 states along with Mexico and Canada.


When asked about her life regrets, Satre said jokingly, "Oh, I wouldn't be human if I didn't have any regrets but I would say that it would be losing my mate so early in life." Satre's husband passed away in 1999 at the age of 88.

"To her that seems like so early on," said Collignon.

Collignon hosted a party for her mother at the nursing home on her actual birthday and has another one planned for the weekend when more family members will be able to attend.

"I've lived a good life," said an optimistic Satre. "I've done many things that some people never get to do."

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