June 13, 2024


Health Can Do

107 years young | Corewell Health

107 years young | Corewell Health

It’s quite the accomplishment to live beyond 100 years old.

And Evelyn Hamstra knows the trick.

She recently turned 107 years old. And she celebrated the best way she knows–with birthday cake.

Party time

Evelyn’s hospice team recognized that 107 is a milestone.

Once they got wind of her upcoming birthday, the team worked closely with facility staff to give Evelyn a celebration that would be meaningful for her.

Hospice was able to utilize memorial funds donated by the community for the purpose of enhancing quality of life and providing special extras to patients on hospice.

A group of about a dozen friends and family along with her care team and hospice providers from Corewell Health gathered to wish her well.

Pink and purple streamers and colored balloons lined the hallway and brightened the door to her room at SKLD Zeeland, a skilled nursing facility where Corewell Health team members often provide patient care.

She also received a flower bouquet with pink roses and bright yellow sunflowers.

“Evelyn thinks of times past daily,” Sandra Auxier, CAN (CNA), hospice aide and also granddaughter of Evelyn, said. “She grew up on a farm and said she sees flocks of chicken in her room almost every day.”

Emily Dorman, a hospice nurse case manager, said “I’ll ask her how are you feeling? And she says 106.”

Evelyn wore a birthday crown on top of her head as the team sang “Happy Birthday.”

Then they sliced into her favorite cake–angel food.

Secret to longevity

“I never thought I would make it to 107,” she said.

Not too long-ago Evelyn needed three liters of blood and was unconscious for two days.

Her family and friends came to visit as they didn’t know how much time she had left.

“They figured I was gone,” Evelyn said. “And then I sat up and said, ‘what’s going on?’ And here I am today.”

Evelyn and her husband Ted followed in her family’s footsteps as farmers.

“We didn’t do a whole lot for birthdays on the farm,” she said. “Not like they do now. We had two little boys and they always got something for their birthday. We had cake too, but it’s been so long.”

Evelyn said she is a vegetarian and never smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol. She said she believes this may have been part of her living such a long and healthy life.

She also grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist, and spent the seventh day of each week at rest.

Her faith is important to her, and she believes taking these days of rest may have helped her live so many years.

“My father lived to be 98 and my mother was quite old too,” she said.

Bonita Hamstra, Evelyn’s niece, said Evelyn used to drive a team of horses across the farm and always wore a dress, never pants.

Her family did not have electricity in their house when she was little. They lit rooms with kerosene lanterns.

“We listened to the radio and used to enjoy a show or two,” Evelyn said. “I can still picture them.”

‘A wonderful blessing’

One common theme among Evelyn’s visitors was gratitude.

“We feel so honored to be able to know you,” her niece Bonita said.

A volunteer from years past caught wind of the celebration and stopped by to wish Evelyn well too.

“I used to volunteer here before COVID,” said Marion Woodburry, past volunteer. “I always left feeling better than when I got there. Evelyn is the most hopeful and optimistic person I have ever known.”

She has been making a special card for Evelyn every year for her birthday, and this year was no different.

“I know she can’t see it anymore, but she can touch it. And that means something to me.”

On the hand-made card, she wrote:

Happy 107th Birthday Evelyn

You have known:

1,284 months

5,583 weeks

39,082 days 

56,277,720 minutes

And immeasurable blessings!

And what a wonderful blessing you are to all of us that have had the pleasure of knowing you. 

Evelyn married in Ted in 1937 who has since passed away. One of their two children is still living.

They went on to have eight grandchildren, numerous great grandchildren and several great greats.

Evelyn plans to spend the remainder of her days at the SKLD Nursing Center in Zeeland, Michigan, where both the facility and hospice teams love her and know her well.