As stated in the Proclamation given to Velma Knigge for her 103rd Birthday Celebration “that the longevity of life is a blessing to an individual and to a community by providing an opportunity for investment of knowledge and experience for all” is so very true. The proclamation was presented to Knigge by Oakdale City Mayor J.R. McCarty.
The staff at Astoria in Oakdale made sure that Knigge was celebrated for her birthday milestone and invited a variety of guests including Mayor McCarty, Councilmember Cherilyn Bairos, Carol with the Oakdale Senior Advisory Commission, and a representative from Senator Kamala Harris’s office. Bairos presented Knigge with a bouquet of flowers along with a card from the family and a plaque from Assemblyman Heath Flora’s office. She also received cards from Carol and from St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
“We – staff, residents, and our special visitors – gathered in the dining room during lunch time, sang happy birthday to Velma,” stated Jackie Hernandez, Service Coordinator/Marketing Assistant, Astoria at Oakdale. “The mayor, councilwoman, and Carol gave very heartwarming speeches to Velma. She had a smile from ear to ear the whole time.”
According to the Proclamation, Knigge was born Velma Schrein in Crete, Nebraska to Adolph Schrein, an ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church and Mrs. Anna Schrein, a housewife, and was born on Jan. 26, 1916. She grew up on the family farm where they had no electricity, one telephone, and a total of two cars in town. She was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated from Doane College obtaining not one but two masters degrees; one in American Literature and the other in English. At that time it was uncommon for women to attend college.
For more than 40 years Knigge taught in both public and private schools in Nebraska and California. She married a teacher, Walter (deceased) and moved to Anaheim. They had two children that they raised in Orange County, a son Richard, a veteran of the United States Army and a daughter, Nancy, who was a school teacher. She succumbed to multiple sclerosis in 2008. The couple enjoyed many adventures traveling throughout Canada, the British Isles, Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
The proclamation ended with some thoughts from the mayor, speaking on behalf of the entire city council: “I offer sincere congratulations and continued blessings to Mrs. Knigge, a truly inspirational lady, for many more happy days to share with her family, including her son, Richard and daughter-in-law Dorothy, her three grandchildren and six great grandchildren, as well as the newest member, number seven in March of 2019.”
While more people are living longer, it still is cause for celebration when hitting the century mark.
“The mayor included that it is amazing that someone so special has been able to see many amazing things during her lifetime and cannot imagine – himself – the things she has seen,” expressed Hernandez.
Although the birthday celebration was held on Jan. 25 Knigge’s family celebrated her actual birthday on Jan. 26 with her.
“Cher (councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos) told Velma that Heath Flora and his office wished her a happy birthday and just wanted to honor her, Velma replied with ‘you guys shouldn’t have done that, but that’s one more thing to hang on my wall’,” stated Hernandez. “When I asked her what her secret was to live such a happy and healthy life her response was ‘well first of all I just thank the lord every time I wake up, but the secret is just drinking a cup of milk daily’.”