Edna Carlson celebrated her 105th birthday on Sept. 29, with her granddaughter Juliah and 9-month-old great-granddaughter Olive joining the party in her honor. Surrounded by friends, Edna blew out the candles on her fancy cake and smiled appreciatively while champagne flowed, balloons bobbed and lively music was expertly played on a grand piano.
She received a huge card signed by her buddies, congratulatory letters from the White House and Gov. Jerry Brown, a sassy little red jacket and a framed certificate, calligraphed by her friend Vince Chirles that read, “You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”
Edna said the secret to her long, long life is “good genes,” and healthy nutrition. “I think it was the food we had when we were kids. We didn’t have all the sweets they eat now. I grew up on a farm where we ate real food.” Her mother and one of her sisters also lived to be more than 100 years old.
Edna moved to Sonoma in 2004 and lives at Emeritus, formerly known as Merrill Gardens. She rises at 6 a.m. every morning, eats a hardy breakfast, and gets her four-wheeled walker in gear for an almost-mile-long walk. On good days, she takes a second stroll in the evening. She has two daughters, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She enjoyed a long marriage to her husband Peter and misses him everyday. “He was a jewel,” Edna said, “Such a very nice man.”
Edna was born in Bertha, Minn., and grew up in the Wieseke family of 11 children. “I was the best cook in the family and I did most of the cooking.” She can still picture herself sitting in the garden snapping a big pan of peas, and remembers pulling rhubarb out of the ground and eating it on the spot. She helped out on the farm, haying and potato digging, and shucked many ears of corn. Her family also raised prize-winning Holstein cows.
Always an excellent student and a whiz on the basketball court, Edna graduated from Moorhead Teachers College and began her career in a one-room schoolhouse.
Her husband worked for the Minnesota highway department and they moved 30 times throughout the state, with Edna substitute teaching in many of those towns. She taught full-time again in another one-room school when her daughters were teenagers. “Sometimes I liked it,” Edna recalled about teaching. “I liked it better when I was older. And I was better at it when I was older, too.”
Edna and Peter eventually left Minnesota and lived for 20 years in Hood River, Ore., where she was an avid fisher. They traveled extensively – Europe, Africa, South America – and Edna has been to every state in the Union. She’s enjoyed living in Sonoma these past 19 years. “It’s a fine, beautiful place and no one’s come in and spoiled it.”
Edna plays bridge and reading is her favorite pastime, although her eyesight is giving her a little trouble. She loves baseball and cheers for the Oakland A’s, but not for the San Francisco Giants. Her health is pretty good. “I have no special aches or anything,” she said, “I feel fine, only I get tired.”