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Centenarian reflects on the importance of family

Staff writer

At 102 years old, Frieda Bentz has seen great change, but her family has kept spending time together through it all.

The clan has kept its tradition of playing cards at family gatherings, and she and her husband stayed involved with a bridge club for many years.

The couple reached a card game at her parents’ by horse-drawn sleigh one snowy evening in the 1940s, but they managed, Bentz said.

“The snow was so deep in drifts that we went home on a sled,” said the lifelong Tampa resident. “They were surprised to see us.”

While they were inside, some of Bentz’s brothers took the opportunity to take a ride on the horse and sleigh, she said.

Bentz has lived in the same house since her 1943 wedding, one mile south from where she grew up.

“When Otto and I got married he was already farming,” she said. “I always said I moved in on him.”

The memories from over the years are what make the house special, she said.

Bentz was fifth out of 12 siblings. She and brother Wilbert, the youngest, are the last of her generation.

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “I didn’t expect this at all. I thought I’d be gone soon after Otto passed away.”

Growing up on a farm during the Great Depression had advantages, like the availability of eggs, Bentz said.

The family also kept apples in stock thanks to a nearby orchard, but she said apple butter sandwiches became such a staple that the siblings looked for other lunch options.

“We were so sick and tired of apple butter,” she said. “We tried putting syrup on our bread in our lunch buckets. That didn’t work either because it just soaked all the way through by the time noon came. That was a mess.”

Living on a farm meant chores for the children, including combating summer locusts during her teenage years, Bentz said.

“That was terrible,” she said. “All those grasshoppers came, and they ate everything as they came along. They even ate the bark off the trees. It was terrible.”

As the oldest remaining family member, Bentz said having relatives nearby is especially important now.

“I wouldn’t be able to be here if it wasn’t for my family living right across the driveway and helping me out all the time,” she said. “They bring me everything, food, mail, and whatnot.”

While no longer as physically active as she once was, Bentz reads four books every three weeks, or between 65 and 70 a year.

Bentz prefers to read religious fiction, which is important since she can no longer make the trip to church each week.

“I’m past the stage where I can get to church anymore,” she said. “I can’t walk well enough, and reading these books really helps.

“There’s religion in there and it strengthens your faith.”

After so many years, Bentz said there isn’t much left for her bucket list.

“I don’t think there’s anything more I can accomplish,” she said. “Just keep on reading and things like that.”

Last modified Jan. 30, 2020

 

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