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RedHawks to attend 100th birthday party

Florence sits in her favorite chair. On the paneled wall behind her hangs a framed certificate she received from Gov. Hoeven commemorating her 100th birthday. Sue Cwikla/West Fargo Pioneer1 / 4
Longtime caregiver and friend, Bev Kirby, enjoys spending time with Florence. Bev's kids and grandchildren call Florence "Gramma." Sue Cwikla/West Fargo Pioneer2 / 4
Beautiful yellow tulips have adorned the front of Florence's house for years on the southeast corner, and red tulips grace the southwest side. Sue Cwikla/West Fargo Pioneer3 / 4
Anxious to see how her tulips were doing, Florence ventured out as far as her doorway to take a peek at the bright red and yellow blossoms. Sue Cwikla/West Fargo Pioneer4 / 4

Florence Ornberg will be 100 years old on June 6, and her family and friends are making sure she celebrates her landmark birthday in style. Invitations to her open house have been sent out, including a hand-delivered invitation to the Mayor of West Fargo. A big canopy tent will be set up in her yard for the big day.

But the biggest highlight will happen a few days prior to her birthday, when members of the RedHawks team plan to pay a visit to Florence in her West Fargo home. Florence has never actually been to a RedHawks game, but she is a big RedHawks fan and listens to their games faithfully on the radio. When her caregivers help her get ready for bed, they always turn the radio on so she can listen to the RedHawks or the Minnesota Twins.

Bev Kirby, who has been taking care of Florence for the past seven years, as her primary caregiver, gets a kick out of how excited Florence gets over baseball.

"She knows all of the players' names and keeps up with who's been traded," Bev said. "She's not too happy with the Twins right now though. They're not playing too well," Bev added.

"Well, they've been playing those teams like New York," Florence says, shaking her head.

Getting around with the aid of a walker, Florence has managed to stay in her cozy rambler with the help of four caregivers who tend to her needs. Bev comes in the mornings to help Florence get dressed and makes her breakfast and lunch. She comes back in the afternoons and tends to her needs and spends time with Florence looking at old photo albums or talking. Three other independent caregivers, Mary, Joy, and Halida, come in for a couple of hours over the weekend, and Hospice checks on Florence a couple of times a week. It has been a good arrangement that has worked well.

Seven years ago, after Florence was hospitalized with a broken hip, her doctors recommended that she should move into a nursing home. But Bev convinced them that she would be happier in her own home.

"Her mind is just as sharp as mine or yours," Bev said. "When we go for a drive, she can tell you where things used to be in West Fargo years ago."

Florence grew up on a farm between Prosper and Harwood. She remembers attending big church picnics with her family on the Fourth of July at Garfield Hogland's farm. She completed her schooling through the eighth grade, quitting school when she was 14, as was common back in those days with chores and household duties taking priority over schooling.

She, and her husband, Edward, had three children, including a daughter who died in infancy. Edward and Florence continued to live in the Harwood area until Edward passed away in 1971.

Florence worked until she was 73. She worked at Fargo Laundry for 12 years, and was a housekeeper at the Gardner Hotel in Fargo for eight years.

In 1972, after Edward's death, Florence moved into town with her son Dennis. Dennis passed away four years ago at age 67, leaving Florence to live on her own in her West Fargo home. Her son, LeRoy and his wife, Ruth, live in Ames, Iowa, but call her several times a week to make sure she is doing okay, and carefully coordinate her care with Bev and the other caregivers.

Florence sees her doctor twice a year, and is only on two prescription medications. She also has her eyes checked twice a year, and is a firm believer in taking vitamin supplements, including fish oil and flaxseed. In the seven years Bev has taken care of her, Florence has only been in the hospital twice; once for pneumonia, and once for bladder infection.

Florence is up every morning by 7:45, eats breakfast at 8 a.m., and follows a daily schedule to keep her on track. She has a healthy appetite and enjoys the home cooked meals her caregivers prepare for her.

Besides listening to the RedHawks and Twins baseball games, Florence likes to read. She has read the whole series of 'Little House on the Prairie,' and enjoys reading about two

Siamese cats named Cocoa and YumYum in Lillian Jackson Braun's books.

Life is good. "The good Lord is watching over my girl," Bev said.