What’s better than a family gathering to celebrate a birthday?

What’s better than a family gathering to celebrate a birthday? A family gathering to celebrate a 100th birthday!

That is what Rhoda Dietz’s family did last week. Her children—Paul, Juliann, Phil and Kay, their spouses, and nearly all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, came to Sleepy Eye from near and far to celebrate the occasion. They trickled into town over a few days and held a party for Rhoda on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Event Center.

Friday morning, Rhoda graciously agreed to chat about her life for a newspaper story. She even had a tale about her birth. Rhoda’s parents lived in Sleepy Eye, but she was born in Minneapolis. Why? Because her mom went to the State Fair and it turned out to be the day baby Rhoda was born.

Rhoda’s parents, Arthur and Mabel Harris, owned the greenhouse and Rhoda has good memories of her mom running the business and working there herself. Arthur also had a machine shop and patented a machine that produced paper boxes for seedlings which were used at their greenhouse and also sold to other nursery and greenhouse customers.

Rhoda graduated from Sleepy Eye High School in 1936 and attended the University of Minnesota for a couple years. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to study,” she said. “But I wanted to go to college.”

After she returned to Sleepy Eye, Rhoda met Ray Dietz and they were married in 1941 and raised their family in Sleepy Eye.

Rhoda reminisced that she enjoyed working with girls, even as a teenager. “I started a Campfire Girls group when I was 16,” she said. “And after I came back from the University, I started another group.”

As their children grew, Rhoda became involved with them in 4-H. “I probably volunteered as a 4-H leader for 25 years—even after my kids were done,” she said. “I taught a lot of girls to sew.” She continued to enjoy sewing herself, making many quilts.

Rhoda’s volunteer activities also included much time devoted to St. Mary’s Church. “I took communion to the homebound, helped decorate in church, worked at a lot of dinners, and helped care for and alter priests’ vestments.”

Asked that traditional question: How did this happen, living to be 100? Rhoda said she had no idea. On second thought, she said, “I enjoyed water aerobics and was part of a square dancing group. I was always active.”