Henrietta Dotting sat in a recliner in her room at the Sheyenne Care Center as she contemplated the significance of turning 107 on Jan. 4. “It’s not a big deal!” she said to her nephew Duane Farnquist.
“It is a big deal!” he replied.
Indeed, Dotting doesn’t attribute her longevity to anything she did or didn’t do. Her mother lived to 94, so it could be biological.
At 106, Dotting is still sharp-minded. Even though her eyesight is nearly gone, she still spends many hours listening to books on tapes through a pair of headphones that Farnquist had to remove.
Dotting was born at home in Dazey in 1906. Theodore Roosevelt was president, the United States had its first Olympic Team which competed in Athens, Greece, and an earthquake and subsequent fires virtually destroyed the city of San Francisco.
Her parents were farmers, growing mostly small grains and some livestock. They raised Dotting and her five siblings on the farm.
Farming was done the hard way then, with horse-drawn equipment. Dotting remembered the family’s first tractor, a “B” which they got in the 1920s.
Another early memory was the family’s first car in 1910, though she had to think long and hard about it, it was after all, more than 100 years ago.
Her parents lived on the Dazey farm until they lost it in 1932 during the Great Depression. They moved into town, but Dotting’s father never got over the loss. He died of a heart attack about five years later.
By then, Dotting had finished college in Valley City (back then Valley City State University was a teacher’s college and students graduated with a teaching certificate in two years) and was a teacher for 17 years in Eckelson, Stewart and Pierce.
Teaching has changed, said Dotting, especially how math is taught.
“I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve had parents tell me that they can’t help their kids with their math homework,” said Dotting.
She quit teaching when she married Bill Dotting in 1941 and became a farm wife. Bill was a handsome, quiet man, she said. Together they went to dances and school plays and other school entertainment.
Even though she,quit teaching, Dotting was on the school board of Leahl, Rogers, and Dazey, schools that later formed the North Central School District and is now Barnes County North.
The couple had no children of their own, but Dotting took care of her nieces and nephews as well as other area children. She also taught Sunday school at the Dazey and Sanborn Lutheran Churches and was the Sunday school superintendent.
On the farm, Dotting took care of Bill and the farm workers, she was a great cook, said Farnquist.
“I cooked for the threshers, and all the men that worked for us,” Dotting boasted.
One big achievement for Dotting was being a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal organization related to the Masons. She joined in 1930 and was recently presented with a lifetime membership in recognition of more than 80 years of membership.
For fun, Dotting liked to sew, knit or crochet. But her favorite pastime was making rugs using her loom.
“I made rugs for everybody. People would save their rags, and most of them sewed them together, and they would roll them into big balls. I would make rugs out of the balls,” she said.
Dotting and her husband lived in Sanborn for a while. Bill died in 1994, after having a foot amputated due to infection.
Dotting was the first resident at Bridgeview Estates in Valley City and now resides in the Sheyenne Care Center.
Her family will hold a 107th birthday party for her there on Saturday, Jan 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Sheyenne Care Center coffee shop. Friends and family are welcome. Dotting doesn’t have any wishes for her birthday.
“I don’t need anything’” she said.