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Retired nurse celebrates 103 years

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

She’s seen a century pass by, and has enjoyed most of it.

Audrey Eastman has celebrated 103 birthdays now. She treasures her independence and her church community at St. Mark’s Lutheran. (Submitted Photo)

Audrey Eastman, formerly Homme, grew up in 1914, in Kloten, North Dakota, a small town near Grand Forks.

“I grew up speaking both English and Norwegian,” she said. “My grandparents came from Norway to North Dakota. My parents grew up in America. My mother grew up in a different area from my father. My father grew up near Grand Forks, and my mother grew up near Chicago. She went to visit a friend up in Kloten, and my father and mother fell in love.”

Her faith and her church have always been an important part of Eastman’s life. She’s been a member of Roswell’s St. Mark’s Lutheran Church since moving to Roswell over 40 years ago.

“I grew up as a Lutheran,” she said. “Norwegians are all Lutherans. We enjoy St. Marks.”

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As a child, she played piano and organ for her church.

“I played the piano,” Eastman said. “I never played it here. I played it in my church in North Dakota. I started when I was small. My grandmother gave me a piano. All my friends played the piano and so I had to learn, too. I played the organ in church.”

Children in her town grew up working hard and were expected to make careers for themselves as they grew up.

“I grew up in the Eastern Part of North Dakota near Grand Forks,” she said. “You played. You had a lot of room. My parents were grain farmers. I didn’t work on the farm as a child, but my brother would help. You had to have high school to go to nursing school. I finished high school in my hometown in Kloten, North Dakota. Where I lived, people went to school. They knew what they wanted and went to school.”

One of the most memorable times in her life was the change from a North Dakota farm girl, to a nursing student in a big city.

“My most exciting time was in nurse’s training,” she said. “I took up nurse’s training years ago. It was different and a little difficult and strenuous.”

The nursing school was conveniently located near where her mother’s family lived.

“I went into nurse’s training in Chicago,” Eastman said. “My mother’s relatives were there and they recommended a good nurse’s school in Chicago, so I went there. I was 18. I was a nurse in Chicago during World War II and after. I liked it.”

The school and ensuing work were at the Illinois Masonic Hospital.

“I did special duty nursing,” Eastman said. “I belonged to a registry. When a patient was very sick, they wanted a special duty nurse. They would hire me and I would work eight hours and take care of them. I’d work either in the home or in the hospital. A lot of times if patients are very sick, they need help in the hospital, too. We wore pins that said ‘private duty nurse.’ A lot of times on the floor, people would ask you to do things and you’d have to say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t, I’m taking care of a patient.’”

Eastman took great pleasure in her work.

“You’re always learning something new,” she said, “and you’re helping somebody get well. I enjoyed all of my patients. They were all fairly nice people.”

It was through her church that Eastman met her husband, shortly after starting her career.

“I met my husband after I finished nurse’s training,” she said. “I attended a meeting in my church, Parkview Lutheran Church, and I met my husband there. He was attending a special meeting, and that’s where I met him. We were married over 50 years.”

Eastman’s husband served in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he built a career with the government.

“My husband was a supervisor at the Post Office,” she said. “We had built a home in the Chicago suburbs.”

The Eastmans enjoyed seeing the world.

“We traveled when we could,” she said. “We did a lot of traveling. We went to Europe one time and we went to Spain one time. We tried to go to interesting places.”

They took pleasure in growing their own food, and in supporting local farmers as well.

“We had a nice little garden in Illinois,” she said. “The ground is very good. You can buy a lot of stuff that you don’t want to have in your garden. We lived in the suburbs of Chicago and they have these fields with corn and squash. You could go and buy that.

“The squash was so good. The man that raised it told me how to cook it. He said to bake it. It was full of seeds. You’d cut it and take the seeds out. You’d put some brown sugar in it with butter and bacon and cook it. It was good. It was acorn squash. Then you’d get the fresh corn on the cob.”

Due to health issues, they felt they needed a change. Eastman’s sister-in-law helped them make their decision.

“My husband’s sister had moved to Roswell,” Eastman said. “She said the climate was so nice. He had developed heart trouble and chest pains. His sister had moved here after the base closed. She had obtained one of the homes on the base.”

The Eastmans sold their custom-built home in the Chicago area and came out west.

“We moved here in the 1970s,” she said. “This house had been built for a man who worked here. My husband had heard that it was for sale. When he asked, he was told no, that the owners had just transferred here. But when the owner learned we were interested, they sold it to us.

“My husband was still working when we moved here. I worked, too. I tried to go to private duty nursing, but it didn’t work out well. Roswell didn’t have the wealth that I was accustomed to in Chicago. My clients didn’t turn out to be as lucrative as I had hoped.”

The Eastmans have spent their sunset years enjoying Roswell. Since she lost her husband, Eastman still keeps busy.

“My husband played golf,” she said. “He had friends that he golfed with. I sew. I make piece quilts. I cut pieces and put quilts together.”

Eastman just celebrated her 103rd birthday. She still lives at the home she and her husband purchased in 1973.