-from Merridith Frediani
“I’d rather knit than eat,” said Trudy Klapperich, who at 105 years is the oldest resident at the Milwaukee Catholic Home. She was ten years old when her mother taught her to knit and though there were stops and starts over the years, it remains her favorite way to pass the time. When life became busy she would stop, and “start in again when there is pressure. It’s so relaxing,” she said. Knitting is hard on her hands but that hasn’t stopped her; she took up crochet to replace it. “I would have gone mad if I came here and just sat,” she said. She thanks her father for instilling a strong work ethic in her. She learned to crochet through trial and error and with patterns her daughter, also a knitter, sent her.
She has much to show for her efforts. In the three weeks she has been in the health center, she has amassed a pile of hats that she gives to her nephew, Fr. Francis Dumbrowski who in turn gives them to the needy. In addition to hats, she makes baby slippers and sweaters, although sweaters “get a little boring,” she said. She likes to create something and see it finished. “Hats are perfect for me.”
When asked the secret of her long and good life, she said she dedicated herself to Christ when she was fifty-nine years old. She was attending a prayer meeting with women in her neighborhood. “I was looking for something. You get a hunger if God touches you. I noticed God giving me gifts, little touches. I continued to search for more and a friend drew me in,” she said.
Trudy has lived in Milwaukee for all but fourteen years when she lived in the Phoenix area. One of her daughters still lives there but her other two children remain in Milwaukee. She is close to her son because of many common interests. He bought her a comfortable recliner chair where she sits as she creates her crochet hats.
She grew up with one brother and two sisters on the west side of Milwaukee. Her father was an alcoholic which made home life a challenge and her mother died at fifty-two after a twenty year battle with cancer. She learned to think positively but it was hard. “ I always had God in the back of my mind. He knew I was trying,” she said.
She had a “terrific” job working a teletype machine taking orders for gears for ships and preparing them for the shop workers. She worked for almost five years and remembers being treated very well.
“The doctor was the last place I’d go,” she said of times when she was sick. She used home remedies for many illnesses and recommends baking soda and lemon juice for heartburn. When asked what has surprised her most during her life span, Trudy turned to politics and a reminder that it is important for all of us to stay informed.
She has a deep appreciation for nature and sees God’s touch in it. A picture of an ant carrying a leaf with another ant on top reminds her of God’s awesomeness. Trudy’s faith is the anchor of her life. “I don’t hunger for things in the world anymore,” she said. She is grateful for the wisdom she has received from the Lord. “God doesn’t give out wisdom unless he thinks it’s productive,” she said. “He does give wisdom when you ask. He has done it for me many times.” She credits his intervention when, one day, she wanted to say something sharp but he intervened to soften it. “Sometimes we are not aware of what God puts in our mouth.” She reminds us that “God demands a lot for all the good he gives.”
Despite some fuzzy details, which she jokes about, Trudy is a vibrant, faithful woman. She likes being at the Milwaukee Catholic Home especially when they bring her a banana she wasn’t expecting. She enjoys staying connected with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in addition to her own children.
“It was all good,” she said. “My whole adult life was good.”