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Mary Tysdal, 100 - November 2009

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Mary Cecelia Moran Tysdal, 100

Mary Cecelia Moran Tysdal was born in South Dakota on November 7, 1909. She celebrates reaching the century mark in the home she and her husband shared for over 60 years, and the same home where he celebrated his 100th in 2006!  Now a widow, she says she’s getting along just fine and recently renewed her drivers license for another five years. Mary is pleased to be able to live independently, drive to get her own groceries and go out for coffee and social events “with the girls,” most of whom are 20 years younger.  She believes that both family and friends are important for maintaining a good quality of life in later years.
       She is proud of her Irish heritage, is an avid fan of the Minnesota Twins, travels to visit her four children (and attended a Twins game this summer), has a positive outlook on life and is glad that the powers that be have let her live so long to enjoy life and her family.  Her oldest sister lived to be 109, so Mary contemplates many more happy years of living. 

Happy 100th Birthday, Mary!

Happy 100th Birthday, Mary!

       A telephone conversation with new centenarian Mary Tysdal will lift one’s spirits.  Her lovely voice belies her age, and indeed she says she doesn’t feel old.  “I read the paper every day, watch the news and stay current with events,” she tells. “I believe in having a positive, happy disposition – no one wants to listen to someone complaining.”  Her son, Jim, describes her as “with it, very hip and up to date, and dresses fashionably in contemporary styles.  She still loves to dance, loves people and social interaction and is always ready to go out whenever we come to visit.”  But even without these things, Mary confides, she would still be happy living in her own home.  
       A happy home life was instilled in Mary in her formative years, growing up the second youngest of eleven children in the small community of Woonsocket, South Dakota.  “It’s the Irish tradition to sing and dance and to put on programs for special events and holidays” she tells. “Every night after supper, we would all go into the parlor to sing and dance.  We’d sing popular songs, Irish songs and hymns.  My oldest sister, Helen, who lived to 109, would play the piano and I would dance – especially the Irish jig.  Everyone would sing.”
       Mary graduated from high school in 1928 and attended Notre Dame College in nearby Mitchell for one year, receiving her teaching certificate.  “My whole family were educators; all of my brothers and sisters were teachers” Mary says.  Mary had planned to continue her college education, “but it was the beginning of the Depression,” she says, “everyone was freaked out. The bank closed – it was awful. People were taking whatever work they could get.  A one-year degree qualified me to teach in a country school, and so that’s what I did.  Later, one of my brothers who was two years older and I paired up to teach on an Indian Reservation.  We taught together – it was fun.  In those days there were few career choices for women: traditionally, you could be a nurse, a stenographer or a teacher.  My mother wanted me to be a teacher, and so that’s what I did, and I’m glad.  When times got easier, I returned to college and received my State Certificate that enabled me to teach throughout the state. Teaching second grade was my favorite.          

The Tysdal family celebrates Lloyd's 100th birthday.
The family celebrates Lloyd's 100th Birthday in 2006.
Front row: Mary and Lloyd. Back row (l-r): sons
Morrie and Bill, daughter Mary Jo and son Jim.
Photo courtesy of the Tysdal family.

       While in high school she met a young local man, Lloyd Tysdal, also the tenth child of eleven. “We saw each other off and on for awhile – nothing serious – she tells.  He was Luthern.  Intermingling was rare then. In fact, at that time, a couple of two religions was considered a ‘mixed marriage.’”
       ”I went away to college and on to teaching and was busy doing other things and not thinking about getting married.  Oh, I dated, I just wasn’t serious about it.  Lloyd and I met up again at one point, but then drifted apart. Finally, in 1944, they married.
       “We got along fine – everything went great.  Lloyd was a character, full of laughter and good humor. We had a good time.  He had done a lot of traveling and knew a lot of people; it was lively.  We lived in town, but he owned farms and hired others to run them.” They began their family of three boys and one girl when Mary was 35.  “That was considered pretty old to begin motherhood,” she says with a chuckle, but it didn’t deter her.  In fact, nothing ever has.  After her children were grown and in college themselves, Mary returned to finish her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education at Dakota Wesleyan University.She went on to teach elementary school for nine years before retiring.  Mary remained active in her community, primarily in elementary education, expanding her social network to include friends of all ages. She enjoys playing bridge and is really happy to be able to continue to drive and to live independently.      
       Mary attributes her longevity to her strong Catholic faith, positive attitude and resiliency.  Two years ago when her husband passed away at 100 and three months, Mary says she “adjusted and moved on.  I mourned his loss but you just can’t dwell on it.  I get along just fine here now.  My kids were concerned that I would be isolated, since none live nearby. But I have a wonderful social network and I’m sensible – I don’t take risks. I have help come in when I need it, but otherwise I manage my home myself. 

2009 Mary Tysdal and her children.
2009 Mary Tysdal and her children: Front row (l-r) Jim,
Mary and Mary Jo; back row (l-r) Bill and Morrie.

       My son Jim and his wife came last year and surprised me with a “do-over.” Lloyd and I had maintained our home, which we build in the 60s, but it needed updating and got it.  It was fun.  I chose the colors – my bedroom is lime green with flowered drapes and a fluffy down comforter. I have chocolate brown accent walls in the living room (Jim’s idea) – it’s truly my house now.
       Mary adds philosophically: “When you’re young, you don’t think about getting old.  But as Lloyd and I got on in years, we accepted it and had a good feeling about getting older and continuing to enjoy life.  That was very rewarding.  So many people fight it, or are frightened.  But you have to just get on with living and enjoying and keep a good attitude and feel good about coping – about your own ability to cope. Resiliency is the main thing.” Then she jokes: “I have a few wrinkles – they used to be freckles. Now I just don’t put my glasses on when looking in the mirror!  You might as well forget them; if you can laugh at yourself, it’s all OK.  You need to have a sense of humor to get joy out of life.
       "Sure there are trials and tribulations, but on balance, just be glad to be alive. I know I am. I have a good family, and I thank God he’s let me stay here this long to be with them."


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1998-2012 National Centenarian Awareness Project & Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
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