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Schmidtke is ‘blessed,’ 100 times over

Dee Schmidtke, 100, birthday, 2024
Dee Schmidtke stands with her “guestbook,” flowers and balloons before the start of her 100th birthday party on April 28. Her children hosted an open house for her at Ecumen Countryside Assisted Living in Owatonna, which drew a huge crowd. Submitted photo
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

Nearly a foot of snow fell in southern Minnesota on March 29, 1924 – a record that year.

Much like this year, it had been an unusually warm winter: Beginning at the end of January, temperatures were consistently in the 30s and 40s. Three days earlier, the mercury had hit 50 degrees.

April had brought with it a quick return of balmy temps, with several days near 80, when Walter and Serena Velzke welcomed their first baby, a little girl they named Delores.

And on a very similar warm spring day 100 years later, Delores Velzke Schmidtke was the once again the star of the show, celebrating a century of blessings.

She now lives at Ecumen Countryside Assisted Living in Owatonna, where her children hosted an open house for her on April 28.

The guestbook – a large sign that read “Happy 100th Birthday!” – was filled with notes from family and friends who joined the party.

Delores, nicknamed Dee, grew up on the Velzke family farm west of Faribault with five younger siblings.

Not long after she graduated from high school, Dee moved to Milwaukee, where she lived with relatives and worked in a plant that supported the war effort.

At the end of WWII, now 21, she moved back to her hometown – and caught the eye of a young soldier who had served in the war with a medical unit in the Philippines.

She and Harvey Schmidtke were married on Oct. 4, 1947, a union that lasted 67 years. Harvey was 96 years old when he died in 2015.

The couple raised four children: Dennis, Dianne, LouAnn and Cindy. As the family grew, they moved to and became a part of Owatonna – which her kids said is “home” for Schmidtke.

She worked at the downtown Montgomery Ward store, and for many years at Owatonna Savings and Loan. Her greatest joy, she said, was raising her family alongside Harvey.

While Schmidtke said she has been “blessed, many times over” in her life, her children say the hope is for her to be “blessed many more times.”

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