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George Stadstad marks 100 years of doing what he wants

George Stadstad talks about growing up on a farm near Manvel, N.D., in the early 1900s. On Saturday, his family is hosting an open house in the auditorium at Valley Square 4000 to celebrate his 100th birthday. (Photo by Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

An open house to celebrate George Stadstad's 100th birthday is planned for 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the auditorium at Valley Square 4000.

His life "has been quite a trip," he said, as he relaxed Friday in his recliner at his apartment at Valley Square 4000.

In a century of living, there's nothing he wanted to do that he didn't do, he said.

On May 4, 1917, he was born in Grand Forks, the first of two children of Obert and Bertha Stadstad, who farmed near Manvel, N.D. They came to Grand Forks by train for his birth.

His earliest, and apparently strongest, memories of growing up on the farm were of milking cows, the first and last chore every day.

He had grandparents who emigrated from Norway.

"I spoke Norwegian and English fluently," he said. A good chum spoke only Spanish, but that didn't deter their friendship.

As a boy, he trapped skunks and sold them for $4 or $5 each to a Minneapolis hide and fur company.

"I started that enterprise at 11 or 12 years old," he said. The profit went to his dad.

"What was I going to spend it on?"

He attended country schools, graduating from Manvel High School in 1935.

Stadstad briefly attended UND where he felt a bit out of his element.

"I had no idea what I wanted to do," he said. "If I majored in anything, I majored in girls."

He remembered a fraternity brother who said, "You've got some rough edges."

"He polished me up a little bit," he said. "My, was I green."

Since then, various enterprises captured his interest, including growing potatoes, sugar beets and assorted vegetables on the family farm in Ferry Township; flying a private plane; raising tomatoes and potatoes in Florida; travelling worldwide, and running a potato operation in Winnipeg—where he stored potatoes in the basement of the Assiniboia Downs race track building.

"It gets cold up there," he said. "We could barely keep them from freezing."

For about nine years, a cotton seed business in Texas also kept him busy.

His personal life was not always sunny. Divorce from his first wife after 20 years of marriage was "worse than death," he said. His second wife died.

In his 90s, he married for the third time, he recalled. "I thought, 'I've got lots of living to do yet, and I'm not going to do it alone.' "

He presented a $10,000 diamond ring to his beloved, Luane Hoverson. At the time, the jeweler told the family Stadstad was the oldest man he'd ever sold a wedding ring to.

About eight months after the couple wed, she suffered a stroke. Every day, he rode a motorized scooter from his townhouse to visit Luane at the nearby nursing care facility at Valley Square 4000.

Up until November, he drove his own car and cooked all his own meals, his son Terry Stadstad said. "He makes the best pork roast ever."

"It's amazing to have the capacities he has at 100 years old," Terry said. "His memory is very sharp."

As he looks back on his life, George is most proud of "fathering three beautiful boys," he said without hesitation. "That's my crowning achievement."

In addition to Terry, who runs the six-generation family farm, those sons are David and Dale, who live in Minnesota.

George Stadstad seems to have been blessed with good health. He was 70 when he first spent time in a hospital, where he was subjected to a barium enema.

"I don't recommend it," he said dryly, peering over his glasses.

His parents both died from cancer, he said. He suspects that exposure to DDT, an insecticide developed in the '40s and banned decades later, may have been the cause.

"I didn't go near that stuff," he said.

Stadstad has lived to see 100th birthday, he said, because "I ate everything I like. I don't exercise—I don't believe in it."

He quit smoking "50 or 60 years ago," he said, "but I never did quit drinking."

He favors Scotch and soda.

The centenarian doesn't place a lot of value on exercise, "not like some of these clowns, trying to recapture their youth," he said. "The next thing you know, I see them going out in a box."

The only exercise one needs is gained from "doing whatever you have to do," he said.

"I don't go out of my way to wear myself out. What's the point?"