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Beuna May Bugel: Driving Mr. Moschet

Stew Carlson

My parents married in 1972. Shortly after, Mom and several community members were invited to a luncheon hosted by Grandma.

China was adorning the table. Grandma comes out and places boxes of Girl Scout cookies upon everyone's plates. My mom was confused until she saw others begin to eat, realizing that such fare was common for Grandma's luncheons.

Grandma turns 95 years old in December. She has no major health issues other than using a wheelchair. She will celebrate her birthday despite ignoring every common bit of health wisdom regarding diet and exercise for most of her life.

What explains her longevity? Researching the family tree, her great-grandparents were born in Sweden around 1820; they proceeded to live to 92 and 89 — nearly doubling average life expectancy.

Longevity researchers like author Dan Buettner, who partnered with the National Institute for Aging, estimate genetics explain 25 percent of longevity, whereas lifestyle accounts for the remaining 75 percent.

So what lifestyle choices can explain how a person lives to be 100 years old? Frank Moschet was born Aug. 23, 1917, in Iron Mountain, Mich. Frank drove to church last Sunday in Silver Bay. Here's what makes Frank's longevity so remarkable.

One in 5000 Americans currently lives to 100. Such longevity is even rarer in northern climates where Frank has lived his whole life due-to increased risk of developing respiratory infections over winter months. Lastly, among those living to 100, it is estimated that around 15 percent percent are able physically to maintain independent living status. Longevity is only a worthwhile goal if one can live well as in Frank's case.

There are thought to be common factors of longevity that all appear to be present within Frank's life. When one meets Frank, his low body fat immediately stands out. Frank eats whatever tastes good. Frank enjoys fish, meatballs, macaroni and breads, along with daily coffee. Frank speaks of not watching his salt intake. The one thing that he's always done is he eats merely to satisfy his hunger — never to excess.

Everyone who knows Frank, though, can point to his lifelong, active lifestyle. He enjoyed skiing so much that he operated the Mount Rockwood ski hill in Silver Bay. Even in his 90s, Frank was still hiking in the woods and canoeing. Frank has also enjoyed similar low-impact activities such as ice-skating, snowshoeing and taking walks around town.

Frank's activity level is thought to be a common trait among centenarians.

The second thing that stands out about Frank is his social personality. When I first moved to Silver Bay nearly seven years ago, I was told Frank is the most comfortable person in the entire congregation initiating conversations with visitors. The number of social connections is one theory behind why women on average live longer than men, including being 80 percent of all centenarians.

Frank's life though has been defined by his social connections. Frank married Shirley in 1949. Frank describes Shirley as being his life for 68 years. Frank even helped serve as Shirley's caregiver with her body weakening by cancer after his 100th birthday.

Frank also has a network of longtime friends within Silver Bay who will share meals with him and seek to support his well-being.

Lastly, Frank's faith has been a huge source of comfort over the years. Frank and Shirley in 1955 joined Sychar Lutheran Church, where they have attended nearly every Sunday since.

No one lives to 101 without experiencing a lot of loss within their life. Frank expresses doubt that people should live this long because of this. Because of his faith, though, he does not worry about what will ultimately be at the end of his life.

Frank sees his purpose whenever he visits with his three sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The conversations always close with a wish for Frank to "stay well."

Frank seeks to do this not only to honor Shirley's memory, but seek to be a presence in his loved ones lives as long as he can. Upon visiting Frank, he was getting ready to take a trip to Minneapolis to meet two great-grandchildren for the first time.

Moments like this will continue to bring out a big smile upon Frank's 101-year-old face.

Pastor Stew Carlson is the grandson of Beuna May Carlson of Lindstrom, Minn. He is also the board chairman for North Shore Area Partners and pastor of Sychar Lutheran Church in Silver Bay. He can be reached at sycharlutheranpastor@gmail.com.