Bio: Herr, Martha (Niemi) (100th Birthday - 2009) 

Contact: Robert Lipprandt


Surname: Bauer, Hemersbach, Herr, Klinke, Niemi, Saari 

----Source: The Tribune Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., WI) Wednesday, August 26, 2009, page 12 

Herr, Martha (Niemi) (100th Birthday - August 22, 2009)   

Colby woman reaches century mark 

Martha Herr celebrates 100 years with family, friends 

Martha Herr celebrated her 100th birthday in grand fashion last weekend with parties Saturday at the family farm in rural Greenwood and Sunday at Colonial Center in Colby. 

Martha (Niemi) Herr was born Aug. 22, 1909, in DeKalb, Ill. She has been a resident at Colonial Center since March 5, 2007. 

Many friends and family members, including her two children, Marianne and Francis Jr., grandchildren and great-grandchildren, gathered on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to reminisce with Martha about her rich and wonderful life. Special guests included Dickie (Klinke) Bauer and the daughter of Hedi Hemersbach. Both families are special friends who farmed nearby for many years.  

The youngest of four children, Martha was raised with two brothers and one sister on the family farm near Longwood, where her parents from Finland finally settled. Her mother Maria (Saari) Herr passed away when Martha was nine years old, so her older sister was given the job of caring for the family. 

Martha attended the Longwood School through the eighth grade. She married Francis Herr Sr. in 1929 and continued her calling as a farm wife. She worked hard alongside her husband, never complaining, doing everything from caring for pigs and chickens to milking cows and tending to a huge garden. She loved to crochet and sew, eventually becoming a 4-H sewing leader as Marianne was growing up. 

She found time to participate with the St. Anne’s Society at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenwood, cooking for many special events including funerals and weddings. Martha was an absolute whiz at crossword puzzles. 

Marianne said her mother’s health has been truly amazing.  

"She only had one surgery in her life, and that was when she was nine years old, to correct an eye muscle problem," she said. "Mom has been really lucky. She refuses to acknowledge any pain. 

"We had a huge garden every year, including cucumbers, beans and berries. If you can pick it, we picked it. Dad loved to fish and hunt." 

Marianne described a small vase she has at her home in Fountain Valley, Calif. At the age of 10, Martha purchased the vase for 25 cents at the Neillsville fair. Her dad took the whole family by horse and buggy and gave each child the same amount of money to spend.

"Her brothers blew their money on food and rides, while mom wanted something to keep to remember the fair," Marianne said. 

Martha and Francis Sr. started farming in the Great Depression. If they didn’t have money, they didn’t get things, and they refused to borrow money. 

"I guess you could say they had kind of a Depression mentality," Francis Jr. said.

An addition to the barn in 1969 allowed the farm milking operation to grow from 37 cows to 72 cows. For a time the Herrs owned 300 acres of land and rented additional land to plant crops, Francis Jr. said.  

Martha and Francis Sr. built a house just up the road in 1979 and retired from farming, selling out to Francis Jr. For many years they traveled to California for Thanksgiving, and Marianne and her family took them to Hawaii twice. On other occasions they visited relatives in Illinois. 

Francis Sr. passed away in 1997. Martha then moved to the Greenwood River Senior Apartments, where she resided for almost 10 years. She then began her stay at Colonial Center.  

Martha couldn’t get over how many people attended her birthday party. The last time everyone got together at the farm was for her 90th birthday, she said.  

Colonial Center also featured a celebration Sunday afternoon with special music and a huge birthday cake.  

"It sure was a lot of fun," Martha said.  



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