SIOUX CENTER—You’re never too old to enjoy some dessert, especially birthday cake.
Goldie Colenbrander firmly believes that and demonstrated it Monday evening, Oct. 14, as the Sioux Center resident celebrated her 104th birthday with family at Crown Pointe. Today (Tuesday, Oct. 15) officially marked that milestone.
“I really don’t feel that old,” she said. “It’s hard to believe. I said that when I turned 100. It’s hard to believe I get to add another year.”
Colenbrander was born Oct. 15, 1915, to Frank and Mary Kuiken.
She was their third child as their firstborn, a son, died at six months old. They had a 5-year-old daughter at the time Goldie was born and a boy four years later.
The family lived on a farm northeast of Maurice in a home heated with a cook stove and space heater that burned coal. Colenbrander could remember picking cobs out of the hog yard to burn in the cook stove. She recalls it being a cold experience to sleep upstairs without any heat. In the morning her father would make coffee before going out to milk the cows and there would be ice in the tea kettle.
They also lived near the train tracks and sometimes hungry gypsies would disembark and come to their home begging for food. Colenbrander’s mother would make them a sandwich for them to eat on the front porch.
When she was 9 years old, Colenbrander’s family moved to an 80-acre farm on the edge of Sioux Center — at least, it was on the edge of town “back then.”
“Our pasture went right by the cemetery and ended at the church [First Reformed],” she said. “Now, that’s where Kinsey [Elementary] stands.”
The cemetery and housing developments have taken up the rest of the pasture and farm land. The home no longer stands.
Shortly after they moved to Sioux Center, Colenbrander’s mom gave birth to twin boys. Her oldest sister had to quit high school to help her mother raise the babies. Another set of twins — this time a boy and a girl — were born two years later.
In the summer they would play in the grove.
“There used to be a store at the corner a quarter mile away,” she recalled. “I’d put my siblings in the baby buggy and walk to the store to get groceries.”
The farm had a little bit of everything — hogs, chickens, dairy cattle and sheep — but Colenbrander said she’s never ridden a horse.
“We were just on the edge of Sioux Center — if we went anywhere, we walked, and I remember my parents owning an automobile,” she said. “I enjoyed riding in the car.”
Her favorite mode of transportation to get to school also had four wheels.
“I walked, but I’d also roller skated to school,” she said, noting the school was located where the Sioux Center Public Library now stands. “I’d walk through the pasture and a little ways further to get to where the sidewalk started, which was about by the church. Then I’d strap on my skates and I’d go to school.”
After her eighth-grade graduation, Colenbrander worked for ladies who needed help when they had new babies. One of the experiences was working for a family in Plymouth. The husband was a schoolteacher and they didn’t want help from their town. They had relatives in Sioux Center who knew Colenbrander could help them. She got on a train in Hull and went to Plymouth by herself where she met the family who had a baby and two other little girls. She helped them for three weeks.
Colenbrander met her husband, Arie, through Christian Endeavor, a church gathering for teenage youth.
“After CE, I would walk home and he’d be standing along the sidewalk,” she said. “One night he asked me out.”
After dating for three years, they tied the knot Jan. 14, 1936, which also happened to be Arie’s birthday.
“We just thought that’d be a good day; Arie never forgot our anniversary,” she said, with a smile.
That same year Sioux County received several feet of snow.
The white flakes had already begun falling by their wedding day, but the couple spent seven weeks at home after their wedding because the snow buried them in.
“The snow was much taller than a person,” she said. “People were digging tunnels to get to their farm buildings.”
The hard work didn’t deter them. The couple lived on a farm four miles north of Sioux Center for 30 years — the first seven of which they shared a home with Arie’s parents.
“The house was actually divided in two,” Colenbrander said. “His parents lived in the front part of the house and we lived in the back half of the house. We just made the best of it. We had enough room. We had a nice stove for burning cobs, wood. It served our needs.”
Colenbrander would work side by side with her mother-in-law milking the family’s eight cows during planting and harvest season but was mostly in charge of raising the chickens and roosters to sell poultry meat and eggs.
“My husband was farming with his dad already,” she said. “We never thought about not farming. It’s just what we did.”
Their main hardship was trying to start a family, until their doctor offered a suggestion.
“He said I shouldn’t have any more miscarriages and should consider adoption,” Colenbrander said. “We didn’t second-guess the idea. We just made work of it.”
Eight years into their marriage the couple welcomed a 3-month-old daughter, Esther, into their world in March 1944. Of the 400 families in Colenbrander’s church at that time, they were only the second family to have grown their family through adoption.
“I didn’t think so much about it,” Colenbrander said. “We were only too happy to have a child.”
The couple retired from farming and moved back into Sioux Center in 1975.
“It was kind of amazing to see how things changed,” she said. “There was so much more where the farm used to be; there was so much more around town.”
Colenbrander has lived alone since her husband died in 2000. Presently, she lives in Crown Pointe Assisted Living in Sioux Center.
She enjoys watching First Reformed Church’s worship services via the television because she can no longer travel that distance on her own. It’s especially enjoyable on Sunday evenings when family joins her.
Besides her daughter, she also has three granddaughters and six great-grandchildren.
Other than having her tonsils and appendix removed, Colenbrander has remained healthy. She takes no daily pills and has never had any type of cancer.
“I don’t have a secret,” she said. “The Lord knows the number of our days and he’s blessed me with many.”