‘I’ve had a good life altogether’: Spirit Lake native celebrates 106 years of life

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Born in 1915, Berneice Johnson grew up on a farm near Spirit Lake. Now, she’s celebrating 106 years of life.

“I’ve been very, very happy and very, very blessed. I’ve had good health and I’ve had a good life altogether,” she said.

For 42 years, she was a school teacher in Iowa. Though she never had kids of her own, her students filled that role for her.

“And I still hear from some of them now and then and see them once in awhile in the streets,” Berneice said.

After retiring, she and her husband moved to Sioux Falls in 1978, where she spent another 40 years volunteering in various ways. Her husband passed away in 2001, but Berneice still lives in the same house they built here 43 years ago.

“I read as much as I can, I keep up with the news on TV and newspapers and that type of thing,” Berneice said. “I like to do anything with a pencil. I just like to write, I’ve written up my own story of my life. I had that and I’ve had it printed.”

And her advice for younger generations? Find your purpose.

“Find something that you like to do and then just do it to the very best of your ability,” she said. “That’s a good feeling.”

Berneice may live on her own, but her neighbors are there to watch over her and celebrate each birthday.

“My mother’s been gone since 2006 and so she’s kind of my mother replacement,” neighbor Barb Buchanan said.

“I still have my mom, but she’s almost like a mom to me too,” neighbor Sherry Sorensen said.

“She’s like my grandma. Grandma, best friend, anything,” neighbor Carla Casanova said.

Berneice adds this birthday to her long list of favorite lifetime moments.

“I’ll remember this, look up and down all my friends, I”ll remember this for a long time,” she said.

Berneice has lived through so much in her lifetime. Hear her recount her experiences during WWII and the polio epidemic in these videos:

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