By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN On the day Esther Meta Ida (Koch) Butterfass was born Nov. 5, 1912 Woodrow Wilson defeated incumbent Republican William Howard Taft and Progressive challenger Theodore Roosevelt “in a landslide” to become the 28th US President.
In the year of Esther’s birth, the Titanic set sail for New York City, hit an iceberg, and sank; the first postage stamp featuring an airplane was issued; and Arizona became the 48th state.
Esther raised her family on a dairy farm south of Waverly, and now lives at the Good Samaritan Society-Howard Lake, along with her husband, Lloyd.
Although she has seen many changes throughout her life, she notes that “everything is more or less the same only it’s all built up.”
She further explained that people are the same with the same values and attitudes and the area is the same, but the way people get around and communicate has changed, and the towns and countryside have developed.
For instance, when Esther needs assistance in any way, she pushes a button and someone comes to help.
Of her 100 years on earth, Esther says, “They’re good if you don’t let yourself down. If you try and be happy, there’s nothing better. Just don’t do nothing more than you can handle.”
Esther will be celebrating her 100th birthday Sunday, Nov. 4 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Good Samaritan Society-Howard Lake.
The public is welcome to help her celebrate, and are asked to bring photos and other memories for a scrapbook the family is putting together.
Growing up nearly 100 years ago
“I’m a Nebraska girl,” Esther said proudly of her birthplace, noting it was German territory and she was baptized and confirmed in the German language.
When she was “just a little kid,” Esther’s parents and the family loaded up a lumber wagon, and moved to the Dakotas, walking alongside or riding in the wagon.
Eventually, the family moved to Breckenridge, and then near Bongards, where they settled for 17 years before moving to Howard Lake, Esther said.
Being the fourth of 10 children, Esther commented, “I still can’t figure out how my mom could feed us all but we had good eats.”
Growing up, the children “liked to run around and be with mom feeding the chickens, milking the cow,” Esther said.
Esther also recalled how well her mother could bake bread, which she taught Esther to do.
During World War I, Esther’s dad was called into the service. “I remember Ma saying, ‘I’ll have to get along alone,’” Esther said. However, for a reason Esther doesn’t know, he never had to go.
Esther was about 17 when she began driving. “I was snoopy,” she said about playing with the car in the shed without her parents knowing.
With the key turned off, Esther would shift gears and use the pedals. “Then one day, I turned the key on, and backed it out,” Esther said. “I knew where the brake was to stop.”
After she was grown, Esther spent several years working in Minneapolis as a housekeeper, where she also learned to cook more, she said.
“They had two girls, I was the downstairs girl,” Esther recalled, noting she had to be very polite, saying yes and please.
When there was snow, her employers would come into the house and hold up their feet for Esther to remove their overshoes, she said.
“I got kind of sick and tired of town life,” Esther said, so she came back to the farm to stay with her folks.
During that time, she worked helping women who had just had babies. “All boys, but the last one was a girl,” she remembered, noting all the people she worked for in the area were of German descent, too.
Esther remembers walking everywhere when she was young to church, school, to get the cows, and to town and never grumbled. “Wherever we went, we walked and they want me to walk to this day, yet,” Esther said.
Nearing the age of 100, Esther is in fairly good health. “I feel really good. Nothing hurts, just losing some strength,” she said.
Esther has enjoyed good health throughout her lifetime. “I’ve been very, very lucky,” she said. “Never had a broken arm or anything.”
Raising a family
After returning to her parents’ home, Esther was out in the pasture calling the cows home one evening when a young man came by on his way home from helping on his brother’s farm.
The young man’s name was Lloyd Butterfass. “He was on the road, and seen me in the pasture. One evening, he came over and asked me to go to the dance,” Esther recalled.
Thinking it was the key to longevity, Esther had thought she wanted to stay single. “I had relatives a hundred years old in Nebraska, and I wanted to live that long,” she said. But she decided to give it a try, anyway.
Although Esther and Lloyd were able to become acquainted at the dance, they never asked each other’s age, Esther noted.
“Oh, did he have a nice head of hair,” she remarked. “He was kind and warm; liked to go dancing; liked to work hard; and liked to be the boss.”
The courtship was short, because Lloyd wanted to get married. Esther was 32, and Lloyd seven years her junior, when the couple married May 6, 1945, at 2:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Montrose.
Pointing out her wedding dress (a suit) in her wedding picture, Esther said she never wanted a big, fancy wedding.
“I didn’t like them,” Esther said. “You spend too much money, then stick it in the closet. Sure, it’s a memory, but . . .”
The couple farmed south of Waverly, and Esther drove the horses and tractors, milked the cows, took care of chickens, mowed lawn with a push mower, and checked on the sow in the sow house to see if it had its babies.
Esther and Lloyd suffered heartache just before their first anniversary when their first child, a daughter, was stillborn.
It was four years before they would have another child, a daughter, Doris. Then the couple added a baby every two years Edward, Loren, and Esther until they had four.
All of her babies were born in a hospital. The first in Wayzata, and the last four in Watertown.
She remembers Edward was born during threshing on a really hot day when Esther was preparing the meal with the help of her mother and mother-in-law. “He came real quick,” she said.
Esther and Lloyd suffered heartache again last year with the death of Edward.
However, their children gave Esther and Lloyd 13 grandchildren, and “a lot of great-grandchildren.”