Nielsen celebrates 105th birthday

Nielsen celebrates 105th birthday
Just three years into the twentieth century, few people used electricity and the first car was preparing to roll off the assembly line, but on June 22, Grace Jensen Nielsen was born and now, with electricity and automobiles still very much around, so too is Nielsen. The Chicago native and resident of Greenbrier Meadows in Martin, known to her friends as “Amazing Grace,” will be celebrating her 105th birthday this coming Sunday. Naturally, Nielsen is no ordinary senior citizen. She’ll readily admit, “When I get lots of wrinkles, I’ll let you know.” At a meeting of Greenbrier Meadows’ Red Hat Society, the Greenbrier Sassy Red Hatters, another Greenbrier resident, Marie Bowers, spoke up and said, “I guess we have something that no other Red Hatter group has. We have someone turning 105.” “Joye White got our group started and all you have to do to be in the group is wear a red hat and talk,” Bowers admitted. It’s not too difficult of a task for most of the residents of Greenbrier, including Nielsen. She was born in Chicago, the only child, to a mother from Iowa and a father from Allborg, Denmark. Weighing two pounds at birth, she spent some of her first days in an oven for incubation. Growing up, she attended schools at such places as Nobel and D.R. Cameron. She learned to speak both Danish and English and studied piano for three years under Dr. Ziegfeld, the father of Florenz Ziegfeld. Nielsen’s first job was to sew the lining into ladies’ hats and fedoras, a job she kept for three weeks before getting tired of it. She later worked as a bookkeeper. “There were differences in prices from then to now, of course, but it was never cheap, though, because it was Chicago,” she admitted. She met and married Henry Nielsen and the couple had a son, Ronald. When Ronald was in his early high school years, Henry hit his wife with the news that they would be moving to Tennessee. “His brother had a shop and his partner wanted to get out of Chicago,” Nielsen said. “Henry came home one day and said, ‘We’re moving to Tennessee,’ and I had no idea about it. Had never really heard much about it.” Over the years, the couple traveled overseas to Denmark and went north to Canada. Henry Nielsen visited many cities around the United States. Grace Nielsen worked as a volunteer in the library in Dresden. Though both Henry and Ronald both passed away, Grace Nielsen only outlived her husband by a few years and now has several family members in the area. Ronald had two children, Paul Nielsen and Mary Ellen Stooksberry. Paul had three boys and Mary Ellen had two boys and two girls. In chalking up her secret to longevity, Nielsen readily admits she loves to read, especially history books, and plays the piano and she loves to eat baked beans and hot dogs — Chicago style preferred, of course. “It’s just another day. It’s just another age,” Nielsen admits when asked about the significance of turning 105. “It’s not amazing. You just have to keep busy. You have to keep your mind sharp. When you get to be my age, you’ve learned a great deal. If you remember even half of it, then that’s something.”

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