ZEELAND, Mich. — A lot has changed since 1917, but the smile on 102-year-old Wilma Boersen's face has stayed the same.
On Monday, Boersen celebrated her 102nd birthday surrounded by most of her three children and 14 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her oldest son Harry Jr. says he doesn't have a single memory of his mom being unhappy.
Long before her big family came along, however, Boersen went through some of the most difficult times our country has seen.
Boersen married her husband Harry in 1941. He was in the Army and was quickly deployed to Europe in World War II.
“He left me when my little boy was just born, 9 days old," Boersen says.
Boersen raised Harry Jr. for two years while Harry was fighting in Europe. When the war finally ended, Boersen's friends saw their husbands come home but Harry was nowhere to be found.
“I waited a whole month," Boersen says. "I didn’t hear and then I thought, ‘Uh-oh. He’s not gonna be here.’”
All of a sudden, a month later, the phone rang and Boersen picked up. It was Harry. He was in an Army hospital in Florida. Boersen says he had suffered extreme exhaustion.
“That was war. War days," Boersen says. “Oh, it was kinda hard sometimes but we managed good.”
When Harry came home, they had two more children and lived a happy life until Harry passed away at 59 years old from a brain aneurysm.
“Those days are what you think about when you get 100 years old," Boersen says.
Now, Boersen spends her days watching Detroit Tigers games, cuddling with her cat named Tobytina and going over the letters she and Harry wrote each other during the war.
Boersen says she's asked often about her secret to living so long.
“’How did you get so old?’ Because I ate sauerkraut and speck," Boersen says with a laugh. “They just laugh about that. ‘Well what’s speck?’ Fat.”
These days, she credits her happiness to keeping a strong faith in God.
“Now here I am and I think of all the blessings that I’ve got," Boersen says. "I’m blessed over and over and over.”