Most people can only hope to live a long, healthy life.
An Edgerton, Minnesota woman is defying the odds, and an illness that runs in her family. She turns 103 years old next week, and the hands of time have only gently touched her.
You could say Ethel Sankey is a senior citizen, but there's nothing "old" about the way this woman lives. At 102, she works more in one day at home, than many people do at their full-time jobs.
"Making quilts most all the time,” she said. “I start at 8 in the morning, and work until about 10 at night."
Sankey has made 197 quilts. She can usually finish one in a week or two, and all are given to her family: nine kids, 37 grandchildren... and she never forgets a birthday.
"Oh, that's no job at all!” she said. “I have 65 great-grandchildren, and 10, going to be 12 great-great-grandchildren."
“Home" is really Chandler, Minnesota, but she moved to the assisted living facility in Edgerton two years ago.
"It took quite a while to decide to go or not, because I thought I could still be at home."
But her kids worried about her being alone in the wintertime.
"I always scooped my own snow yet, until I was 100 (laughs)."
Remarkably, her health has kept up with the rest of her.
"I have arthritis a lot and I have a backache, but otherwise no, my health is very good,"
She needs glasses, but her prescription hasn't changed in 15 years. And those eyes don't miss a thing.
Sankey says she's lived a full life.
"Oh yes, many a blessing, but many a hardship, too,” she said. “But I think the blessings outnumber the heartaches."
Sankey lost her husband in to diabetes in 1982, and then a son to polio in 2006. A neurological condition called ataxia runs in her family, so she's seen many others pass away throughout the years.
She also remembers vividly, the day an F-5 tornado ripped through the town of Chandler, in 1992.
"I went to the basement,” she recalls. “Before I could get under the bed, I heard my windows breaking, and it took shingles off of the house."
One woman died in the twister, and homes all around town were destroyed, including one right across the street... but for whatever reason, Sankey's wasn't damaged too badly.
Through the years, Sankey's lived for her family and her faith, and both have served her well. Her secret?
"I think live a decent life, eat good food, and do a lot of hard work."
Surprisingly simple, but as you can see, it's worked for Ethel Sankey.
Sankey's 103rd birthday is Monday, October 29. Her family plans to honor her with a party on Sunday.
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