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Taking it up to 100: St. Paul Park's Gunderson celebrates big birthday with Harley ride

Gladys Gunderson got a motorcycle ride from grandson Ken Kopren during her 100th birthday celebration April 3 at the American Legion in St. Paul Park. About 60 friends, neighbors and family turned out for the century celebration. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)1 / 3
Logan Gullickson, 9, came with mother Constance to hand deliver a 100th birthday card to Gladys Gunderson during her century celebration April 3 at the American Legion in St. Paul Park. Logan has a terminal form of muscular dystrophy, his mother said, and one of his wishes was to meet someone who was 100 years old. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 2 / 3
Gladys Gunderson holds a multi-generational portrait during her 100th birthday celebration at American Legion Post 98 in St. Paul Park. The portrait depicts, in descending order, Gunderson, her daughter Bonnie Coomer, granddaughter Chris Redenius and great-granddaughter Ashley Redenius. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)3 / 3
Three generations turned out to help Gladys Gunderson of St. Paul Park celebrate her 100th birthday April 3 at American Legion Post 98.

“I’ve got the best family in the world,” she said. “Every single one of them are good to me.”

That family includes three grown children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, not to mention nieces, grandnephews and grandsons-in-law.

You needed a scorecard to tell who was who.

“She doesn’t act like she’s 100, that’s for sure,” said her granddaughter Chris Redenius, wife of Cottage Grove Fire Chief Rick Redenius. Their daughter Ashley, 19, is Gunderson’s great granddaughter.

The guest of honor worked the room like a pro, cracking jokes and rising from her chair to greet friends and family. Niece Jolene Fox flew in from Texas for the party.

“I couldn’t make it for her 99th birthday,” said Fox, whose son Don traveled from Illinois to be there.

“I had a good life,” said Gunderson, who was born in Prescott during the Woodrow Wilson administration. “We weren’t rich but we had food.”

She was raised with three sisters.

“That was out in the country,” she said. “We had a great big barn. Mother had one of those washing machines with a hand crank.”

She recalls being startled by a sound overhead one day when she was 6 or 7. It was the first time she’d seen an airplane.

“We were out in the yard playing one day, my sister and I,” she said. “It flew low overhead. You could see the pilot’s face. We were scared green.”

Gunderson, who beat cancer three times, received a 100th birthday card from Logan Gullickson, 9, of Hudson. Logan has a terminal form of muscular dystrophy, his mother Constance said. One of his wishes was to meet someone who was 100 years old.

It’s become a family tradition for Gunderson to take a motorcycle ride on her birthday.

The party moved outside, where guests snapped photos of “Ge-Ge” astride a Harley-Davidson driven by her grandson Ken Kopren.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

(651) 459-3435
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