Ethel Reistad, a resident of the New Richland Care Center, celebrated her 100th birthday this summer with many friends and family members present. Born Ethel lone Miller on June 1, 1917 to Ida and Edward Miller at their farm home in Bath Township, Ethel was baptized July 8, 1917 at the Norwegian Lutheran Church in New Richland, MN. She was later confirmed November 15, 1931 at North Freeborn Lutheran Church in Clarks Grove, MN. Ethel was the oldest of five children; siblings are Phyllis, Eileen, Dwight and Edward.
Ethel took care of her siblings because her mother was busy helping her dad on the farm.
“We always enjoyed being together,” says Ethel. “My last sibling, Ed Miller, passed away the day before her 100th birthday, though he always visited her and her children while he could.
When she was a little girl, Ethel’s mother made dolls out of hankies or old material. She also remembers having a little dog named Spot who would follow her everywhere she went, so everyone knew where she was playing or hiding.
“I remember playing in the woods behind our house, where we would build houses by tying string around the trees to make rooms and sweeping the ground until they had a nice hard floor.”
They also liked to make mud pies and cakes.
“I remember my mom loved to cook, can and bake,” says Ethel, “always having good things to eat. Especially her white roll out cookies were the best. She also had a large garden, and I helped her with canning food for the long winter months. I got my love of gardening from her.”
Ethel went to school in a one-room schoolhouse about a mile from home, where she and her siblings walked to and from school.
“If it was really cold, Dad would hitch up the horses and give us a ride. One day I brought my sled to school and told the teacher I was sick.” She spent all day sliding and having a great time.
“It was fun until a friend's mother called mine to see how I was feeling and my folks found out that I played hooky. I was in big trouble then.”
Throughout her life Ethel went to two different schools: District 64, located east of her parents’ farm, and District 90, located northwest of the farm. She attended grades 9-12 at Ellendale High School, graduating in 1935.
After graduating, Ethel lived at home and did house work for Clarence and Palma Nelson and Reverend Knutson and his wife in Ellendale. She later lived with them and took care of their house and two children, and when Rev. Knutson was called to Red Wing, Ethel moved with them.
While singing in the choir at the First Lutheran Church in Ellendale, Ethel met Vernon Reistad. “Our choir was scheduled to sing in Owatonna, MN. He offered me a ride to the concert. I accepted.”
Vernon made many trips to Red Wing, where Ethel lived, returning home late on Sunday evening. The two were engaged on January 21, 1940 and married June 24, 1941. They were married on Ethel’s parents’ 27th wedding anniversary and honeymooned at the North Shore in Duluth.
Vernon and Ethel Reistad lived in several communities around the area over the years. Vernon mostly farmed, and Ethel was a stay-at-home mom with their four children: Virginia, Jane, Bruce and Dale.
“I enjoyed sewing outfits for the girls and baking donuts and lefse. Later I worked for the Morristown Telephone Company, where my job was to say, ‘Number, please,’ and the customers would reply, ‘Please ring up the doctor,’ or ‘Please ring up Mary Johnson,’ and I would connect them.”
She also worked for Morristown Public Schools as a cook for 16 years, enjoying seeing many of the children every day. One of Ethel’s children was still in school at the time and some of her grandchildren were in the school, too. Ethel was also involved in the Red Cross sewing club making quilts for victims of natural disasters, teaching Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and being part of ladies’ aid groups over the years.
She has 12 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. “What a joy for me,” she says.
‘When I think back about my life, I am grateful for a good life with warm, happy memories and for always having my family.”