Minnesota’s oldest resident turns 113

Zahn is the oldest person in Minnesota, 10th oldest person in the U.S. and 30th oldest in the world
Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (KEYC) — Minnesota’s oldest resident gets another year wiser.

Erna Zahn, a resident of Oak Hills Living Center in New Ulm, is celebrating her 113th birthday Wednesday.

“She looked at me, she touched my arm and said ‘Here we go again.’ She knows that she’s kind of famous,” said Cindee Krzmarzick, life enrichment coordinator at Oak Hills Living Center.

Not only does Zahn hold the title of longest-living Minnesotan; she is the 10th oldest person in the U.S. and 30th oldest in the world. Zahn continues to impress those around her as she celebrates 113 years on Earth.

”To remember back when she was in a horse-and-buggy to transition to an automobile, she can tell those stories. It’s phenomenal,” Krzmarzick added.

Born in 1907, Erna has lived through times most can only read about in history books, including the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Her daughter, Christine Heckman, says her mother’s experience gives the 113-year-old a unique outlook on the current pandemic.

“We lived through that once before, I remember. Dad had to deliver groceries because people couldn’t come to the store, they were sick. And we never got sick, God kept us safe. She says that every time I say the word epidemic, she goes back to 100 years ago,” Heckman recalled.

Friends and family gathered at Sleepy Eye Coffee Co., at Zahn’s request, to celebrate her long, eventful life on Wednesday.

As much as Erna would have liked to see relatives in person during the last year, the pandemic made it nearly impossible. Now, she’s fully vaccinated and seeing loved ones again, some for the first time in over a year.

“It’s so heartwarming, I just get tears in my eyes,” Heckman said. “When she is overwhelmed and not understanding of what’s going on, but as soon as she understands who is talking, her face just lights up, and she’s the old mom we always knew.”

As for Erna’s life advice, her daughter knows exactly what Erna would tell you.

”Just be thankful for what you have, say your prayers and give God the glory.”

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