Ethel Larson will be riding in her sixth Ag Days parade this year as a representative of Hillside Homes.
Ethel Larson will be riding in her sixth Ag Days parade this year as a representative of Hillside Homes.
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What do you do when you turn 99 years old? You throw a big party and invite the whole town, of course! And that is just how Ethel Larson rang in her 99th year this past Tuesday, July 9.

Joined by her sister, Florence, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Ethel enjoyed mingling with old friends as they dined on cake and ice cream.

She has lived in the area all her 99 years, growing up on a farm in rural Ostrander along with four sisters.

One of her favorite memories from her childhood is when her mother needed more spices for a meal she was preparing for Ethel's sister's wedding and she was volunteered to drive to Ostrander. She was 12 years old and had never driven before, but that didn't faze her father, who had complete faith she could make the trip.

"I drove that Model T and I just barely moved as the roads weren't very good, but there wasn't much traffic. I drove down the middle of the road and once I got to Ostrander I parked in the middle of the street went in the store and got the spices, then I turned around and came back home just fine."

Amazingly, in all the years since she never once got a ticket or had an accident!

When she married her husband, Alvin, they lived on several homesteads in the area, until they settled down on a farm north of Lime Springs.

The couple lived there for 23 years, until one day Alvin told Ethel he was thinking about selling their cattle; she said he had them all sold a week later!

Shortly thereafter, he took Ethel and their youngest daughter, Diane, to Spring Valley; little did they know he was taking them to an auction. Ethel had always admired a pretty house on Highway 63 and it just happened to be up for auction. They stopped in so Ethel and Diane could take a look inside. Before she knew it, Ethel heard Diane exclaiming, "Dad's bidding!" She couldn't believe it, but when she questioned Alvin he said he knew she always liked the house. They ended up getting the house that day and called it home for 25 years.

Ethel credits her long healthy life to hard work. And work hard she has, after raising her four children, Ethel took classes to become a nurse's aide at the urging of a neighbor. Ethel had always been there to help with the sick and even helped deliver five children as a midwife before she was married. When she graduated from nursing school she already had two jobs as a nurse's aide for different families in the Spring Valley area. Soon after she took a job at the Stewartville nursing home. Twenty years later she decided to retire, as Alvin was also retiring from his job at the cemetery. Ethel was 78 and Alvin was 82.

When Alvin became ill, the couple moved to Stewartville to be closer to Rochester, but when Alvin died eight years ago, Ethel told her family she was moving back to Spring Valley even if she had to crawl. Very soon, her family helped her move in to Hillside Homes. She explained that though she does miss living in the country now and then, she is blessed to have people help her with anything she needs.

She now spends her time enjoying the activities at Hillside, walking around town and zipping along on her red scooter. In fact, you might have seen her scooting around or in the last five Ag Days parades where she helps to represent Hillside Homes.

Ethel's good friend, Mary Jo Dathe, whom she considers an adopted daughter, remembers when she first saw that red scooter.

It was on her way to eat and mingle at senior dining. After she saw it she immediately went in to investigate. She asked whose hotrod was parked out front and, according to Mary Jo, Ethel kept her head down trying to hide her smile before she admitted it was her scooter.

After dinner Ethel let Mary Jo take it out for a test drive, but when she was done she asked Ethel if that was as fast as it could go. She replied, "Oh, no, it goes faster than that," and off she went to prove just how fast it goes!