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'Sweet little Rosie' celebrates 100th birthday

Rose Wilhelmy shares a laugh with Doris McShea during Wilhelmy's 100th birthday party Tuesday at Red Rock Manor in Newport. McShea, of Cottage Grove, volunteers to help Wilhelmy and others at Red Rock Manor. "There's not many of these old-timers left," McShea said of her friend. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente.1 / 3
Rose Wilhelmy gets a congratulatory greeting from her 11-year-old great-grandson Tyler Werle. Many of Wilhelmy's relatives attended her 100th birthday party Tuesday at Red Rock Manor in Newport. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente.2 / 3
Everyone wanted a photo with Rose Wilhelmy as she celebrated her 100th birthday Tuesday. Pictured with Wilhelmy is Jan LeClaire, who also lives at Red Rock Manor. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente.3 / 3

You'll have to excuse Rose Wilhelmy for using the elevator Tuesday to get to the party that was in her honor.

She was celebrating her 100th birthday - and probably had already used the stairs earlier in the day, and maybe even her stationary exercise bike.

Wilhelmy strolled into the community room at Red Rock Manor in Newport to dozens of waiting relatives, friends and fellow Red Rock Manor residents gathered to mark her big day. They sang to her, had lunch with her and shared a birthday cake with violet frosting -- Wilhelmy's favorite color.

Wilhelmy admitted that she was surprised by all the fuss.

"I can't imagine it," she said.

Six fellow Red Rock residents organized the birthday party, including Patti Zwetow. She said "our sweet little Rosie" was one of the first Red Rock Manor residents almost 30 years ago, and has remained active at the living center.

"We all just love her to death," Zwetow said.

Wilhelmy's big birthday got her a lot of attention recently. She received a congratulatory letter from Gov. Mark Dayton, was recognized at last week's Newport City Council meeting and received a proclamation stating that Feb. 7-11 is "Rose Wilhelmy Week" in Newport.

"This is a special one," Red Rock property manager Jestina Rainer said of Wilhelmy's celebration. "She's just a wonderful lady."

Wilhelmy is the only 100-year-old at Red Rock, but Helen Petrowske is not far behind. Petrowske is 99 and looking ahead to reaching the century mark in November. Petrowske said she is in good health, but admires Wilhelmy.

"I wish I had her legs," Petrowske said. "If I had her legs, I'd be perfect."

Those 100-year-old legs have slowed a bit: Wilhelmy only exercises 10 minutes at a time on an old stationary bike in her apartment.

"It's wearing out, just like I am," she said with a smile.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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