Ecumen Century Club: Honoring the Always Positive Pearl Nelson, 104

"There's always something good," says Pearl Nelson, a resident of Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, who is 104 today.  

Pearl Shoquist Nelson, a resident at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes in Chicago City, turns 104 today.  She might celebrate a little, but mostly it will be like any other day.  You can bet she will be busy all day. She will do her word games and write in her journal.  She will read her daily devotional.  She will exercise.  She might crochet or go bowling, her favorite activity.  And she will surely take time to be thankful.

“There’s always something good,” says Pearl.

Her friend Pat Achman sums Pearl up this way: “She’s never cranky.  She’s always steady.  She never says anything negative about people.  Never a cross word.”

And consequently, Pearl has many friends, which is fortunate because she has no family.  She was orphaned when she was eight years old and had no siblings.  She married Elmer Nelson when she was 23, and he died when she was 71— 32 years ago.  They had no children.  But she does not dwell on the absence of family.

“The Lord made up for that,” Pearl says.  “There have been so many wonderful people in my life who have been so good to me. I’ve had a good life.  I’ve made the best of it.”

Pearl is a devout Lutheran.  About the only time she turns on her television is on Sunday morning, when she faithfully watches evangelist Charles Stanley, who happens to be a Baptist.  “I like him,” Pearl says with a wry smile, “because I can hear him.”

Pearl was born in Clinton, Minn., and grew up near Shafer, Minn. She was raised by her maternal grandparents. When she finished the eighth grade, she had to go to work — at first doing “odds and ends.”  Later she got a job as a telephone operator first in Center City, then in Lindstrom.  That job went away when the telephone company converted to the dial system, and she moved on to a job at the Lindstrom hospital, working in the central supply department. 

When she stopped working, she started volunteering — at the hospital where she used to work and at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, when Elmer’s mother lived there.  In addition to being a selfless volunteer over the years, she also is a generous donor to Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, designating her regular donations to the memory care community.

“Pearl’s generous gifts over the years have made a huge difference in improving the quality of care at Parmly,” says Ecumen Development Director Amy Williams. “She is a very caring person who is committed to helping others.”

Pearl says she’s not sure about the secret of her longevity.  Clearly, she points out, it’s not genetic.  “Maybe it’s that I didn’t drink, and I didn’t smoke — never,” she says.  “But I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.”

Or maybe it has something to do with finding the good in everything and caring deeply about the welfare of other people.  Whatever it is, Ecumen honors you, Pearl Nelson.  Happy 104th birthday!