112 Golden Years
A nearly lifelong Jamestown resident who was born in Sweden has been found to be the 30th oldest person in the world at the time of her death earlier this month.
Esther L.I. Fagerstrom Ecklund passed away at the Regency Oaks Skilled Nursing Facility in Long Beach, Calif. on March 13. Born on Oct. 28, 1901, she was 112 years, 4 months and 16 days old at the time of her passing.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, www.grg.org, an organization based in California that claims to be the world authority on validating 110 years or older supercentenarians, Fagerstrom Ecklund was the 30th oldest person in the world with a verified age at the time of her death.
“Isn’t that astonishing – nobody expected her to live so long,” said Fagerstrom Ecklund’s last remaining grandson, Mark C. Ecklund. “As Esther got older, my son, James Ecklund, made contact with the Gerontology Research Group to get her on the list of old people. They did a lot of work to confirm before putting her on the list. They’ve since performed an autopsy on her to try to figure out why she lived so long and we’re awaiting the results. They also took some blood samples to see if they could do her genetic makeup to determine whether she had things in common with other really old people.”
GOLDEN STATE LIFE
Formerly of 118 Wilton Ave. in Jamestown, Fagerstrom Ecklund was moved to California after having a stroke in 1999. Up until her stroke, Fagerstrom Ecklund was still fit enough to garden and cook for herself, and was nearly completely independent.
In Long Beach, she was closer to some of her family members, including her late son Richard C. Ecklund, grandson Mark C. Ecklund, nephew Jack Baker and daughter-in-law June Walkington.
“Richard drove her around until the end of his life and they had a great relationship,” Ecklund said. “Every day he would take her for a drive down to the harbor area in Long Beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. Not too many 82-year-old guys still have their mom alive, so when he’d take her out to Dairy Queen for ice cream they got the biggest kick out of it. After he passed, Jack Baker and June Walkington drove her around about once a week.”
“I used to take her to a place called Sunset Beach and then get off the main road to go up one of the service streets through a neighborhood slowly so she could see things,” Baker added. “We’d get back up along the coast route to Long Beach before going down to a peninsula to park near one of the channels to watch the boats go in and out – she liked that. She looked forward to it every week, and her face would always light up with a big smile. I’ve known her most of my life because I was born in Jamestown, and she’s been almost like a second mother to me.”
Even though Fagerstrom Ecklund passed away in California, she will be returned to Jamestown to be buried with several other members of her family in Lake View Cemetery.
“She’s had a plot in Lake View Cemetery all these years, and her marker said Esther Ecklund, 1901-19?? – she outlived that by 15 years,” Ecklund said. “It’s where she belongs, with her siblings, and her husband Aleck is in the soldier’s circle.”
A JAMESTOWN HISTORY
Fagerstrom Ecklund was born in Ulvstorp, Sweden, and was one of 10 children of the late Per Anton and Anna Karlsdotter (Carlson) Fagerstrom. She moved to the United States in 1912, and attended Jamestown public schools. She married the late Aleck C. Ecklund in 1921, and was employed by the Wellman Brothers. She was also a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Although the first time Fagerstrom Ecklund ever flew on a plane was to go to California, she did enjoy traveling by car. She took many trips with Sigred Hollings to visit their brother Birger N. Fagerstrom near Lake Ontario. They also visited Maryland often to see their brother Milton Fagerstrom.
In her earlier years, Fagerstrom Ecklund enjoyed spending time at her sister Sigred Hollings and brother Carl J. Fagerstrom’s camps on Dodge Road. She loved watching musician Lawrence Welk, and she also played organ and harmonica. She spent a lot of time knitting, and was a big New York Mets fan.