Anderson and her daughters

Anna Anderson sits at a table surrounded by her daughters (from left) Betty Waldron, Melodee Lujano and Leanne Allen.

One hundred years ago Anna Anderson began her life in Coal Springs, South Dakota.

Since then Anderson has lived in Nebraska, Idaho, Iowa and finally Wisconsin, where she has resided for the past 64 years.

This past weekend, three celebrations were held in honor of Anderson’s 100th birthday. The first was a family gathering on Friday, followed by a party on Saturday and a potluck containing only sweet foods on Sunday at the Lighthouse Assembly of God.

Religion and church have always been a huge part of Anderson’s life. Her advice to the younger generation in leading their lives is to have strong faith.

“I wouldn’t want to try life without the Lord,” she said.

Anderson’s eldest daughter, Leanne Allen, said faith is something Anderson’s parents instilled in her, and she passed it on to her daughters.

“Her mom and dad taught her early on to pray about everything and live by the good book,” she said. “That’s something she’s done.”

Melodee Lujano, Anderson’s youngest daughter, said her mother truly is a woman of faith.

“I don’t think you could ever have known a more righteous woman,” she said.

Betty Waldron, Anderson’s second daughter, agrees.

“She’s truly a Proverbs 31 woman,” she said. “It tells of a godly woman.”

Not only is Anderson devout, but she has spent her life volunteering at the church and church events. For about 60 years she taught Sunday school to children and adults, volunteered at the ABC Store until she was 95 and has been a leader in the women’s ministries for many years.

She has also been incredibly giving to others. At her birthday party on Saturday, a family mentioned how they wouldn’t have survived without Anderson’s giving nature, Lujano said.

“They were a young couple with three young kids, and their grocery budget was $35 a week,” Lujano said. “She said if it wouldn’t have been for Mom and Dad bringing them eggs and butter and milk and beef, they would have never been able to survive.”

About 50 people attended the family gathering Friday, about 120 on Saturday and even more attended the potluck following the church service on Sunday.

On May 6, 1919, Anna Anderson was born to Richard and Edith Miller as the second of three daughters. Anderson was proceeded by her elder sister Margaret Marler and followed by her younger sister Billie Bailey.

The family resided in a sod house that Richard had built. Unfortunately, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl drove the family from the area prematurely.

One thing Anderson remembers from the Dust Bowl is the number of grasshoppers that came with the dust.

“They would latch on you and just hang on, and they would go in the house and they would eat the curtains − they would eat everything they could get their hands on,” she said. “There were so many of them.”

So the family sold its farm, piled all their worldly possessions into a Model “A” truck and headed to a new farm near Ainsworth, Nebraska, that they rented from an acquaintance of their uncle, who was a pastor at a church in Ainsworth.

After three or four years, the family bought its own farm about three miles south of Ainsworth.

Not long after Anderson had to leave school to help her mother, who had scalded her foot when she and Anderson’s father were butchering a hog. It was Anderson’s freshman year of school, and by the time she could go back, the school year was out and she would have had to repeat her freshman year. She never returned and instead jumped into the workforce.

In 1938 Anderson met her husband, Leland Anderson, when he was dropping her younger sister back home after a date. It was love at first sight.

“When he took Billie home, I was there and our eyes met,” she said. “The next time I went with him and that was the end of Billie’s date.”

They were married in 1939 on Leland’s birthday, when they both were 20, Lujano said.

Together the two moved around the country, first to Iowa, where Allen was born, then to Idaho and back to Nebraska, where they had three more children — Waldron, Wayne Anderson and Lujano.

Back in Nebraska the Andersons did a bit of trucking first, hauling lumber and either hay or some other crop to and from the Black Hills, before buying a farm in Newport, Nebraska.

Then in 1955 the family moved to Wisconsin.

Lujano said Wisconsin was chosen after a friend of her father’s told them of the state of the farming there. The Anderson’s we discouraged by the state of farming in Nebraska after losing their crop three years straight.

“A neighbor man came to Wisconsin to get a load of hay and came back and told my dad, ‘I have found the promise land ... you should see those fields, the corn is taller than our heads. You’ve got to go back with me when I go back to get another load of hay,’” she said. “The next load Daddy went with and he came back and said ‘he’s telling the truth, it’s the promise land.’”

Anna Anderson said the week after they returned home they moved to Wisconsin.

Lujano said her parents bought the first farm they found on Hwy MM, buying it with all the cattle and machinery on it.

One the farm Anna Anderson said she ran the truck and all the machinery, milked cows and more.

Allen said her mother was a farmer’s wife all her life and has always worked hard.

Waldron said despite living on a farm, her mother always wanted to travel and loved to do to.

In 1982 Anna and Leland Anderson sold the farm, bought a fifth-wheel travel trailer and spent years traveling the country, visiting everywhere except the northeast.

They always returned to Wisconsin, Lujano said.

“They would come home every spring about this time of year,” she said. “They’d come home and they’d park in my yard for a while and then they’d park in Leanne’s for a while and spend the summer here. Then come October when the temperatures started dropping down, I’d see Daddy start readying the vehicle to head south.”

They finally stopped traveling when Anna Anderson wanted to spend time with her grandchildren. They bought a place north of Tomah and lived there until Leland Anderson died in 2002.

Anna Anderson now lives with Allen south of Tomah.

The hardest thing to get used to as she ages is technology, Anna Anderson said.

“Cell phones,” she said. “Those little things that people pick up and start pecking on.”

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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