Can You Imagine?

On Dec. 28, Margaret Witzeling will celebrate her 104th birthday with family and friends. She also celebrates her 10th year at Bell Tower in December.

I remember the first time I met Margaret at her home in Tomahawk on Lake Nokomis. It was late November 2000 and she had lost her husband, Fred, one month short of their 72nd anniversary in August. She did not want to live alone and knew it was time to make some changes. She had a friend, Alberta Orlowski, who was already living at Bell Tower. She was very active at home and shared with me that she belonged to a card group that met regularly. She talked about how she and Fred started Modern Builders in Wausau and that a grandson is still operating it. She was very proud that it was still in the family despite economic challenges and other obstacles, including a fire.

She and Fred had three sons; Jim who lives in Tomahawk, Claude who lives in Wausau and Douglas who lives in Madison. Margaret still enjoys a game of cards but it is not the same without her dear friend, Alberta, who died in 2009. Every afternoon you would find the two of them out in the lobby playing cards. “It kept our minds working,” Margaret says with a smile. “When you get to be our age, you need to keep as sharp as you can! My mother used to play cards with us kids. I guess that’s where I got into the habit. She used to play ’66’, it was like a rummy game.”

Margaret’s maiden name was Wolfe and she grew up in Edgar with three brothers and two sisters. Her youngest sister is the only one still living and she will be 90. When asked what it feels like to be 104 she answered, “I don’t feel that old but I’m not sure what a 104 year old should feel like! I think I got the longevity from my father’s side of the family.”

“When we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, I remember Dr. Bachhuber telling me I shouldn’t do so much dancing as I was 71 years old!” she adds with a laugh. “I’m sure he never suspected I’d live to be 104!”

You can still find Margaret out playing cards with her friends but it is not every day like it used to be. “When they need a fourth for Sheephead or someone is looking for a cribbage partner, I’ll fill in. I’ve slowed down a little bit but you can’t keep me away from a good game of cards. Can you imagine?” she asks me. “Living to be 104?” I reply to her question, “No I can’t, but if I do, I hope I can be doing as well as you! You’re amazing!”

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