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Helen Gergen celebrates her milestone 100th birthday

A century well lived ... and still going strong.

Helen Gergen was born April 10, 1913, to Paul and Emma Endres. She grew up on a farm in rural Hampton with her parents and siblings. This week, she turned 100 years old.

Helen attended a rural grade school which was just on the corner of their farm so she did not have far to walk. It was just a one-room classroom.

"We went up to fourth grade -- we had one teacher and about 20 students," she said. "She taught all grades."

After fourth grade she went to St. Mathias Catholic School in Hampton, which was about two miles from home.

"We walked to school when the weather was nice, but sometimes the bread truck driver would pick (my sister) Christine and me up and drop us off at school," she said.

After completing eighth grade, she did what many young women did at the time -- work at home. Her family ran a farm. They milked about 13 cows and they grew lots of potatoes, which they sold as a source of income. Helen helped with many of the indoor responsibilities.

"I helped with the cleaning, stuff like that," she said. "We had just about every kind of fruit tree too. We canned everything."

She met her husband Ray Gergen at the Doffing dance hall in Hampton. On Sept. 1, 1937, they were married. They bought a farm about 10 miles south of Hastings. There they raised their children: Mary Ellen (Fred) Angell, Lorraine (Bill) Suchy, Ray Jr. (Elaine), Leon (Nancy), Genevieve, Joann (Jerry) Bauer, Lois (Bob) Kieffer, Betty (Pete) Carpenter and Jim (Diane).They milked cows, raised pigs and chickens, and farmed about 220 acres. They had a large garden and an orchard. "We made lots of apple pies - 20 at a time," she said. "There was always work to be done."

During the summer of 1982, Helen and Ray moved off the farm to their retirement home in Vermillion. Even though they were retired, they spent most days back at the farm working in the garden and helping out on the farm. Ray loved to drive the tractor. Her husband of 48 years passed away on Feb. 18, 1986. Their son Leon and his wife Nancy still own the homestead and farm the acreage.

In Helen's spare time she made quilts and donated many of them to the missions. She loved to play cards with her family and friends, especially 500 and in-between. There was always a card game going on at family gatherings.

Helen now resides at Regina Nursing Home. She attends daily mass and still enjoys playing cards and bingo and loves visits from her family and friends. 

"My family comes to see me and brings me snacks," she said. "My family is so good to me."

Her family hosted a party for Helen on Sunday, April 7, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Miesville. The day started with a special mass and a reception for her. About 300 guests were in attendance, which included her children, 28 grandchildren, 47 great- grandchildren, five great-great- grandchildren, sister-in-law Clarice Gergen, many nieces and nephews and friends.

On April 10 she celebrated her birthday again with her family at Regina Medical Center. Residents and staff joined her for cake and ice cream. At Helen's request, her daughter-in-law played the accordion. Helen, family members and some of the residents danced to the music.

Helen said she really enjoyed both of her parties.