Turning 100 Years Old with No Regrets

Story by Trisha Murphy, Palatka Daily News

Some might say Mary Louise Bondegard has an inquisitiveness about her that has led to a long life for the 100-year-old.

“My advice for living a long and fulfilling life is to have plenty of friends,” said Bondegard, who lives at Vintage Care Senior Living in Palatka, Fla. “Also be around people of all ages, exercise daily, try not to worry by putting your trust in the Lord and stay curious.”

That curiosity is part of what led Bondegard to learn to use an iPad her granddaughter gave to her when she was 96.

“I had never used a computer,” she said. “I really enjoyed learning to use it and I use it every single day to keep in touch with my family and friends. I would be lost without it.”

Bondegard, who was named after both of her grandmothers, was born Feb. 12, 1922, in Minneapolis, Minn., where she grew up. She was the only child of Paul Kellogg Larson and Louise Larson.

Her mother was an accomplished pianist, who taught music to children who were blind and mentally challenged. Her father worked for a hardware company as an estimator for large commercial construction.

Bondegard has lived through many ups and downs during her century of life, including the Great Depression in 1930, World War II that began in 1939, Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Vietnam War in 1955 and seeing the first man in space in 1961, to name a few.

Bondegard recalls the time she met John, who later would become her husband.

“We met at a hamburger joint after a high school football game,” she said. “John played on the opposing team.”

The couple married Aug. 29, 1945, after John returned from World War II and got a job working for an air reduction sales company as a superintendent for an acetylene plant and was transferred to the the St. Louis, Illinois, area. The couple lived there for 20 years where they raised their two daughters, Marilyn Nicholson of Palatka and Karen Turlington of Houston, Texas, who recently passed away. John Bondegard died Sept. 11, 2005, after a 14-year battle with Alzheimer’s. The couple has four grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Nicholson planned a multi-day birthday celebration with family to honor her mother’s milestone event. Family came from as far away as Texas, Maryland, and Virginia.

The first day’s activities included family pictures taken by a professional photographer. The second day included an outdoor barbecue party attended by family and friends at a rental vacation house, large enough for the whole family to stay together on the St. Johns River. The third was a Champagne Brunch at the Magnolia Cafe in Palatka. A birthday party was also held at the Vintage Care Senior Living community, which included a birthday cake baked by Bondegard’s friend, Jeanette Barber.

During her working career, Bondegard worked at a hospital in the Chicago Metropolitan area as a cancer tumor registrar in the medical records department until she retired in 1987.

Before moving to Palatka in 2016 to be closer to her daughter, Marilyn, Bondegard lived on her own in the High Point community in Brooksville, Florida.

Nicholson enjoys her mother being close.

“We like to travel together to visit family and just spend time together,” she said.

During her life, Bondegard was a Girl Scout and a leader and a member of Eastern Star. She and her husband were also members of the Danish Lodge, a traveling square-dance group and very active members of their church, United Church of Christ. In the past, Bondegard has enjoyed bowling and playing golf with her husband and friends, as well as dancing, playing cards and games.

Nicholson knew just the word she would use to describe her mother.

“I would describe her as always punctual and very meticulous,” she said. “She has had many friends and family who love her, and she reciprocated that love.”

Bondegard fulfilled one of her bucket list items when she and her husband traveled to Denmark to sightsee and research her relatives.

Bondegard’s favorite color is blue and admits she has a sweet tooth, too.

“I love ice cream and something sweet after meals,” she said. “I have no regrets.”

This story has been reprinted with permission of the Palatka Daily News. The original story can be found here.