Arlene Hartwick enjoys living at Riverview Homestead Cooperative Housing.  During warm spring days, she enjoys being chauffeured around town by her caregiver in a sporty Mustang convertible.

Arlene Hartwick celebrates 100th birthday

“I can’t believe that I’m 100,” says Arlene Hartwick, who is observing her 100th birthday today!

She is enjoying visits with her daughters, Judy Essen of North Mankato and Sharon Antonios from Kent, Connecticut, the birthday wishes arriving in the mail, by telephone and in person, and she looks forward to the celebration of her century on Saturday.

“I hope that my friends can come to say hello,” is Arlene’s birthday wish.  “I have enjoyed all my friends and the many different ways they have made me thankful.” 

“I’ve had a good life,” Arlene said during a recent interview.

 “There are things I should have done, and some things that maybe I shouldn’t have done,” she said, stoically. “I wish I had done more than I did.   But I had the best job in the world.”

Arlene was Springfield’s librarian for more than 50 years. Her dedication to the task, her discrimination in selecting books to anticipate the needs of library patrons and her skills in matching people with the right books were rewarding and important.  She worked to broaden the scope and the usefulness of the facilities that included membership in the Minnesota Public Libraries and the regional Traverse des Sioux Library System.  That provided an extensive delivery system and interlibrary loan service that can be used to tap the resources of literally the entire nation.

The biggest thrill of her life, Arlene says, was the gift of more than a million dollars bequeathed to the Springfield Public Library from the Charles and Ethel Altermatt estate in 1989.  

“It was absolutely unbelievable,” Arlene remarked. “That was a wonderful gift that benefited our entire community.” It provided a new library building for Springfield. 

Arlene’s friendship with the Altermatt  family and being a strong advocate for Springfield and the library during Ethel Altermatt’s visit  to  the library in the early 1970s, presumably helped Mrs. Altermatt decide that the gift to the library in her husband’s hometown was the right place for the money. Arlene apparently said the right things at the right time. “If I did, I didn’t know I was doing so,” she said.

Arlene began work as a volunteer in the local library that started as a project of local women’s study clubs, and was eventually hired. Friends on the library board sought her for the local librarian’s work. At that time, the library collection of books on a couple of shelves was housed in a small, old house that also served as a police station next to the municipal power plant. “In the beginning, we just had a small amount of books to loan out,” Arlene recalled. “Money from fines, at two cents a day for late returns, provided a few dollars, with which we would buy more books,” Arlene recalled.

When the library came under the jurisdiction of the city, and was moved to the former kindergarten building on Cass Avenue (now Library Apartments), “We thought we were in heaven,” Arlene said.


A bit of history

Arlene Wagner was born on May 6, 1915, to Michael and Rose Wagner, and grew up in Stately Township, Brown County, with two older brothers. She attended District 66 country school and Sanborn Public School through the eighth-grade. She graduated from Springfield High School with the Class of 1932 at the age of 16. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1936. 

While growing up, Arlene helped with the chores and the fieldwork on the family farm. “I could plow the field with horses. It was fun,” Arlene recalled.  “The day I left the farm they bought a tractor,” she added, laughing. The Wagners were progressive farmers and cooperated with the University of Minnesota Extension and had various test plots on the farm.  Her mother raised a big garden and Arlene helped with the gardening as well as with a large flock of chickens.  “I had to work,” Arlene said. “I didn’t have anything given to me.”

Arlene married her high school sweetheart, Lowell Hartwick.  They lived in a big house on the corner of Mary Avenue and Lincoln Street in Springfield. She loved being a wife and mother. She golfed, played bridge, belonged to ladies clubs and the Legion Auxiliary.

Today, she lives at Riverview Homestead Cooperative Housing of Springfield where she moved 20 years ago when it was newly constructed.

She’s happy there and her daughters are glad with peace of mind that she’s comfortable in a safe place.  


Arlene enjoys life at 100

“I am enjoying life,” the life of a queen, Arlene says.  “I have such good help here.” She has a caregiver who prepares her breakfast and evening meals.  She gets noon lunch with Meals on Wheels. She has help for light housekeeping.  “I don’t see the dirt, so there’s some advantage of poor eyesight.” she said, laughing. The housing service provides needed maintenance. “If I need a light bulb, there’s someone here to install it,” she said. 

Arlene has no secrets for longevity. “I never worried much about what I ate and drank,” she said. However, taking the advice of a good friend, Dr. Penk, Arlene drinks a glass of orange juice every morning. She enjoys a glass of wine every evening. “And then I go to bed and sleep at least five hours,” she said. 

Arlene enjoys bridge and her card partners say she plays a good game. She remembers the cards she’s dealt and she remembers what has been played.  “I look at my hand and if it looks pretty good, I’ll just bid,” she says. She is a member of two bridge clubs and plays weekly.  She would play bridge every day if she could round up the players. 

Arlene manages to keep interested in things despite the fact that she’s legally blind.  She enjoys listening to audio books. “I would have lost my mind without them,” she says.  She subscribes to a service that continually sends books and magazines. “I like to keep four books on hand. When I return one they send me another book. It’s a wonderful service,” she says.  She listens to television news. With failing eyesight it’s difficult for her to follow the story of many shows, but she doesn’t miss her favorite CBS 60 Minutes television broadcast.  “I get Time magazine and look at the headlines,” she said. She reads her mail with an E-reader (illuminated, magnifying page reader).

The most difficult time of her life, Arlene said, was during the sickness and death of her daughter, Pam, at the age of 11.

The most difficult thing about living so long is losing so many friends,’ she says.  “I miss having friends to chat with and to reminisce.”

“I have had a lot of fun. I have had a good life. I’ve been fortunate,” Arlene concluded. 

And, turning 100 is something special.

Springfield Advance-Press

13 S. Marshall Avenue PO Box 78 Springfield, MN 56087