Melrose–“I was a firecracker baby.”

With a smile on her face, Millie (Lemm) Wall referenced the day she was born during a July 20 Melrose Class Reunion at the Cornerstone in Melrose.

That firecracker turned 100 on July 4. Born on July 4, 1918, Millie was the instigator for this class reunion, for classes from the ‘30s to the 50s, citing the fact that she is probably the only person in her graduating class to live to 100. 

Before she attended the reunion, she toured Melrose, hoping to find the house on Riverside where her parents, Ignatius and Margaret Lemm, raised her and her two siblings, older brother, Homer, and younger sister Carolyn. 

Millie’s son, Bill, accompanied her, as did long-time friend Dorothy (Laing) Roman, originally from Freeport, as they drove around Melrose in search of the house. 

They never did find her home, because it was demolished a few years ago. 

But Millie has many fond memories of growing up on Riverside Avenue, laughing when saying the youth in that neck of woods were called “River Rats.” During a phone interview Wednesday morning, Millie rattled off names of neighbors, like the Triskos, Zachmans, Frees, Meyers and Welles. 

“My dad used to haul in sand back by the river, and we’d swim there,” she said, adding “We knew how to swim when were about five.”

She talked about the ice wagon that came around to homes handing out ice to keep food cold.

“We’d chase it around and eat the little pieces of ice,” she said. 

In the winter they’d slide down Molly’s Hill across the ice, ending up at their house. 

Her dad was the city clerk and a judge. She recalled the times she was a witness for cases her dad was working on. 

“Sometimes if they had a DWI or something and they needed a witness he’d wake me in the middle of the night and I’d have to be a witness,” said Mille.

Her dad also served as a two-term senator. Homer was a one-term senator. 

“Homer was also a liquor salesman and owned the bar,” said Millie, of a bar on Main Street called Homer’s Lounge for years. 

Millie attended St. Boniface Catholic School for eight grades.

“We had all nuns,” she said and when asked to share a few memories, she said, “That was 90 years ago.” 

She continued at Melrose High School, one block south of Main Street. 

“We didn’t have street numbers. It was just Main Street and Riverside Avenue and that was about it,” she said. 

Millie was a cheerleader. In fact, she did a cheer at the 2017 class reunion. She and Homer were also on the declamatory team. 

“My brother was in the political side and I was in the story side,” she said. 

Her brother had a paper route and when he went out for sports Millie and Carolyn peddled the papers. 

“We weren’t very happy about that,” said Millie, adding the money they made went to their parents. 

Millie was president of her senior class. She graduated with the Melrose Class of 1935  when she was 16. Recently she found a class photo with her 35 classmates. She also found a 1927 campaign sign from when her dad ran for senator. She hopes to donate each to the Melrose Area Historical Society.   

After high school she worked as a nanny in the Twin Cities and then came back home and worked for Dr. Meyer and Dr. Zachman, helping them “with whatever they needed,” she said. 

Laughing, she said one time “this fellow came in and I had to hold a pan because his back draining and I fainted. Dr. Zachman said, ‘I don’t know which one I should take care of.’” 

A couple of years later she went to St. Cloud working at a government job “that my dad got for me,” she said. Then she went to the Twin Cities and worked for Minnegasco, which eventually led to her meeting her husband, Lawrence Wall. 

“I was marching for Minnegasco in the Aquatennial parade and he was with some fellows. We were with four or five girls and they wanted to know where we were going to eat after the parade and they followed us. And that started it,” she said laughing.  

They were married 42 years before Lawrence passed away from cancer.

She rattled off the names of their five boys, Charles “Chuck” of Woodbury; Curtis of North Oaks; James of Fort Myers, Fla.; Richard “Rick” of Shoreview and Bill of Lakeville. She has eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Millie stayed home to raise their children and after they were grown, she worked at Honeywell and eventually St. Anthony library. At age 82 she retired. 

But she kept busy volunteering, like for her church. 

Around age 80 she was in the Holidazzle Parade with her son, who was Jack to her Jill. 

Good health allows her to live an active life. 

“I broke my hip in 94 and I thought that was the end of me and I made that one. I broke my pelvis twice,” she said. 

She still drives, to church and the store. 

“I just got a different car. And my son said, ‘Mother I put a three-year warranty on the car.’ So that means I have to live a few years yet,” she said. 

Millie has a computer, mainly for playing solitaire. 

It’s that active life that she credits for her long life.

“And a little humor helps too,” she said. 

“I can’t keep up with her,” son Bill said Wednesday morning, adding that on Friday Millie and two ladies from the condo she lives at in St. Anthony will drive in a convertible in a parade. 

Millie has always been a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings and rarely misses a game on television. In fact, when the Vikings do something she doesn’t like or agree with she throws a foam brick at the TV.

“I had to get up so many times and pick the brick up that I put a string on it to retrieve it,” she said. 

Last season after the Vikings found out this then 99-year-old lady was a huge Vikings fan they gifted her with tickets to their divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints deemed “The Minneapolis Miracle.”

At the game she held up a sign that read “2018 will be my best year yet. First playoff game. Turn 100 years old. Watch the Viking win a Super bowl.” She was able to check two of these items on her bucket list.  

She has one more thing on that list.

“I’d like to go to Washington D.C. There are so many historical things to see.” 

Millie enjoys her trips back home to Melrose, even though she admits, “A lot has changed.” 

When asked if she did a cheer during the July 20 reunion, like she did during last year’s reunion, laughing she said, “No, I’m still kicking but not so high.” 

At age 100, Millie is still a firecracker.