by Cori Hilsgen
If 70 can be considered to be the new 65, then Judy Meemken, 90, could be an example of the new 85.
Meemken, who turned 90 Sept. 6, continues to stay very active with various projects she is involved with.
She is a Sacristan and sings in the choir at the St. Joseph Catholic Church. Meemken previously also helped serve funeral dinners for 20 years, as well as cantor.
She said she has sung in church choirs since she was in fourth grade and sang in the choir with every church she belonged to.
“It was a joy and I loved doing it,” Meemken said.
She helped sew quilt tops for the church’s parish festival for 34 years before retiring. Currently, Meemken still helps set up lunches for the quilters.
Last fall, Joyce Stock, a St. Joseph resident who has been actively sewing dresses for Haiti brought lunch for the quilters and brought some of her dresses along.
Meemken studied them and thought she could probably help out with sewing some dresses since she had retired from making quilts.
She likes creating the dresses because she isn’t on any time frame and can sew them when she wants to. Meemken feels she can pick up and leave them at any time and doesn’t feel any pressure to get them finished.
In the last year, this 90-year-old woman has sewn more than 400 dresses. She said she has been able to do so because people continue to generously supply her with all the materials she needs.
People have dropped off new material, lace, elastic and other items. Sometimes they find them at garage sales or from people who don’t need the materials anymore.
The St. Joseph Y2K Lions also donated money for her to buy thread and other necessary supplies.
“People are really good-hearted,” Meemken said. “I couldn’t afford to do this otherwise. It is a labor of love and is just plain fun. When I stopped making quilts I was looking for something to do.”
She makes her own binding from material she gets donated to her, which she says is the hardest part of creating the dresses.
For many years, Meemken sewed on a Singer Talent machine until she wore it out. Her daughter recently bought her a Singer Tradition machine that she now uses.
Stock says she will sometimes get a call from Meemken who says she is walking some dresses over. The distance between their houses is about three and one-half blocks. Other times, Meemken’s daughter will drive her to deliver the dresses.
“Each dress is a work of art,” Stock said of Meemken’s dresses.
Stock said she is very impressed how tall and straight Meemken still walks and that she couldn’t believe she was 90.
Meemken has also been a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 328 for 25 years and donates her time calling Bingo every fourth time they have it at the American Legion in St. Joseph.
This year, for her 90th birthday, her family surprised her with a secret they had been keeping for almost a year.
For 27 years, her daughter Joyce Bauers, and she have attended a Minnesota Twins baseball game for Meemken’s birthday.
At the Sept. 9 game against the Kansas City Royals, Meemken was surprised to learn that her daughter had worked with team management to make arrangements to have Meemken throw out the first pitch of the game.
“It was a fabulous day for me,” Meemken said. “The whole day was so cool. It’s something at my age. How many people at 90 get to do something like this? You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
She said it was a complete surprise for her. Everyone that knew about it ahead of time, kept it a secret from her and she is glad they did.
“Man alive,” Meemken said. “I got to be down there. I was nervous and excited until I started walking out on the field and then I was so calm. I thought to myself ‘this is my chance’.”
Her family had reserved the Kirby Puckett suite for her and it was filled to the maximum number allowed in the suite. Her son, Bob Meemken, traveled from Florida and her other daughter, Jean Pogatshnik, came from Nevis.
Meemken loves baseball. Her favorite player is Eddie Rosario and she wore her new Rosario shirt to the game.
Meemken was able to keep the baseball she threw out and also received a cap from organizers.
“I’m not down from the high yet,” she told her friends at quilting lunch the following week.
Meemken has lived in the Millstream Lofts for 10 years and her entrance into her residence includes 25 steps with a landing area in between.
Meemken says she usually takes a break in the landing area and then continues up the rest of the steps.
About three years ago, her car stopped running and she decided not to replace it. She said it is so convenient where she lives that she is able to walk almost everywhere she needs to. Meemken especially enjoys walking in the evening when it is cooler.
Her daughter drives her to purchase groceries and she tries to schedule whatever else she needs on the same day.
“For my age, I’ve had very few health problems and I can’t complain at all,” Meemken said.
Meemken was born and grew up in St. Cloud. She had eight brothers and three sisters. A younger brother and sister are still living.
Meemken was married to her husband, Cyril, for 39 years. For 26 years, they farmed on land between Sartell and St. Stephen, which his parents had also farmed before them.
Meemken said she helped with the farming, including milking the cows and driving tractors. She didn’t always enjoy driving some of the tractors but she did it.
The couple moved to St. Joseph in 1978 and Meemken has lived there since then.
Besides her three children, she also has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
In her 80s, she sewed quilts for each of the grandchildren and wrote cards to put with each one to be given at their graduation parties, never thinking she would attend their parties.
She has attended two of those parties and hopes to attend more in the next couple of years.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.