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Elsye McGuire to celebrate 100th birthday Thursday

Elsye McGuire takes daily walks around Baker Park and Lake Boulevard. She will celebrate her 100th birthday Thursday in her hometown of Cass Lake. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

On Aug. 20, 1909, Mary Schaak gave birth in a lumber camp on Kitchie Lake. She and her husband, Steve, named the baby girl Elsye.

"No bridges, no roads - when I was baptized, they had to take me by boat to St. Charles' (Catholic Church in Cass Lake)," said Elsye McGuire.

Elsye will celebrate her 100th birthday at a party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday hosted by the Cass Lake Family Center, Second Street and Spruce Avenue in Cass Lake. Elsye will also celebrate the afternoon of Aug. 22 with family members and friends at St. Philip's Catholic Church in Bemidji. She switched her membership from St. Charles' to St. Philip's four years ago when she moved into Baker Park Apartments.

When the lumber camp moved north, she said her father homesteaded on 40 acres on Swenson Lake between Lake Andrusia and the Mississippi River so she and her eight siblings could go to school. Elsye said she went to the Swenson Lake Country School.

"By the time I was through eighth grade, I could drive a car, so I drove to Bemidji to go to high school," she said.

After two years of high school she studied for another two years at French's Business College in Bemidji.

During the summers when she was a teenager, she served as a fishing guide on area lakes Winnibigoshish, Andrusia, Swenson.

"I rowed the boats, no motors," she said.

Those were the days before women's sports clothes were available, so she wore men's suspender overalls. She added that the fishermen she guided were always respectful and polite.

She married Cal McGuire and moved to Cass Lake where they owned and operated Cal's Sweet Shop until 1965.

"It was kind of famous in those days," she said. "Some summers we sold the most non-resident fishing licenses in Minnesota."

When they retired they bought a cabin on Big Wolf Lake where one of their three daughters lives in the summer. She also has many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and two "great-greats."

They also dove into volunteer work after they retired, for their church; Cal as Cass Lake School Board member and City Council member; and Elsye with the Cass Lake food shelf and clothing depot.

Cal died in 1983.

She said she feels fortunate to have found a comfortable apartment with east-facing windows at Baker Park.

"The morning sun is just beautiful," she said. "I never pull my shades in my bedroom so I can see the sun come in."

Elsye makes no secret that she has a happy life. She also is physically active taking walks along Lake Bemidji morning and afternoon.

"I'm just living today and hoping for tomorrow," Elsye said. "I always have a good time. I think some of the old people think I'm a little bit wild."