By May 29, 1912, when Lars and Anne Schager welcomed their daughter, Helma, into the world, they knew the Midwest had a Scandinavian ray of sunshine in its midst.
Those who know today's 99-year-old woman agree.
After graduating from Dows High School in central Iowa, the Schagers' fifth child of eight became Helma Hofsommer on May 13, 1933, when she married lumberman and future insurance salesman Vernie Hofsommer.
During her lifetime, the soon-to-be centenarian also witnessed the starts and ends of the: Great Depression, Dust Bowl, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Watergate scandal, Iran hostage crisis and Gulf War. Hofsommer also experienced Amelia Earhart's flight across the Atlantic Ocean, the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hawaii becoming the 50th state, President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington and his ensuing "I have a dream" speech, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, and Barack Obama's election as the 44th president of the United States.
Described as a "darn good cook" by many, this first-generation American proudly displays her Scandinavian heritage in Norwegian delicacies. Hofsommer made hoards of lefse for Christmas at Bethany Lutheran Church in Spencer, as well as for family, until she was 95. She recalls making the traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread made of potato, milk or cream and flour with her mother and sisters as if it were yesterday.
"We'd set aside a day or spend an evening making lefse," Hofsommer recalled. "We had one big, flat stick we'd turn the lefse with and special rolling pins with deep grooves. My older sister, Laura, and I would help turn it, but we mostly talked and giggled."
The craft of making other holiday delicacies such as the Norwegian waffle cookie known as krumkake, the Scandinavian pastry kringle and the pungent-smelling lutefisk were also passed onto her children and grandchildren.
The special Norwegian sayings of "mange takk," which means many thanks, and "uffda," which translates to an all-purpose expression with a variety of nuances and covering a variety of situations, have also been passed onto next generations.
Known as a generous and hard-working woman, Hofsommer's greatest joy comes from being with her family and friends. She is the mother of two: Don Hofsommer of St. Cloud, Minn., and Judy Hofsommer of Spencer; the foster mother of two: the late Tim Lavine and Jim Lavine, of the Republic of Panama; the grandmother of five and great-grandmother to 13.
"One of the things I'm most proud of is we always saw that our kids got to church and Sunday school," Hofsommer said.
The 63-year member of Bethany Lutheran Church is also a 50-year TTT member. Hofsommer worked for decades at Clay County Fair food stands as a TTT representative. Before retiring in 1982, she served as a sales clerk at Poole's and House of Dorelle, former high-end women's apparel shops in Spencer. Hofsommer, who enjoys reading the newspaper and getting together with friends, smiled as she also admitted to being a former "shark" when playing 500.
"I do like cards," she giggled.
Hofsommer's advice for others hoping to live a happy, productive life such as she has is to "be kind to everybody, keep a happy face and happy attitude."
As for her view on turning 100 soon, the St. Luke Lutheran Home resident stated, "I guess I don't even think about it. It's going to come whether I'm ready or not."