Vivien Francis Langston, 106, receives visits from her daughter, Claire Spohnholtz, once a week. Every visit, Spohnholtz brings her mother her favorite treat – a slice of pie. Although Vivien is forgetful because of her dementia, she knows who Spohnholtz is.

“There are days she remembers certain things from the past and other days she doesn’t,” Spohnholtz said. “The staff at Mother of Mercy take such good care of her.”

Because of her dementia, Spohnholtz shared her mother’s story on her behalf.

Vivien Francis Daly was born June 15, 1912 on a small farm in Oto, Iowa. She was the second oldest out of eight children, a family comprised of six boys and two girls.

As the oldest daughter, Vivien was often tasked with housework and taking care of her younger siblings.

“Her mother gave her a lot of the housework and chores,” Spohnholtz said. “I think that’s why when she was younger, she didn’t want to get married.”

Little is known about Vivien’s family heritage as both her mother and father were orphans. Vivien’s father was a farmer and during the Great Depression, he, like many others, lost his farm because of the poor economy.

Spohnholtz recalls stories she heard from her mother, who would ride the family horse to school, except for the days when it was feisty and would buck Vivien off and run home, leaving her to walk the rest of the way to school.

At 16, Vivien graduated high school and worked for a brief time as a reporter for a small-town newspaper. She then worked as a schoolteacher for a one-room country schoolhouse before she married Perry Carl Langston, who went by Carl, Jan. 3, 1934 in Danbury, Iowa at the age of 21.

“They were neighbors, that’s how they knew each other,” said Spohnholtz. “She said the wedding was small.”

Their first child, Ralph, was born Oct. 25, the same year.

As an adult, Vivien loved music and to dance. She often played her father’s violin, which is now over 110 years old. Although Vivien no longer plays it, she still has it and opens the case every so often to admire it.

“She would go and spend time at neighbors, socializing and dancing,” Spohnholtz said.

Work was scarce in Oto, therefore, the family moved to the small northern Minnesota town of Northome (population 200), north of Bemidji in the winter of 1938-39, where Carl found work as a lumberjack.

While Carl worked, Vivien was busy raising and caring for their children – Ralph, Evelyn, Roger, Carol, John and Claire, with her seventh child, Alan, soon on the way.

Tragedy struck the family in December 1944 when Carl was killed from injuries sustained in a logging accident at the age of 37. Vivien was pregnant with Alan at the time and due that month.

“Most pregnant women who go through something traumatic like that, it induces labor,” Spohnholtz said. “But it was the opposite for [Vivien]. Alan was born a month late.”

At the age of 32, Vivien was a widow, left to raise her seven children on her own. She did not have much time to grieve the loss of her husband as her children depended upon her.

“The oldest child was about 10 years old when my dad died,” Spohnholtz said. “It’s a big chore raising seven children and no one to lean on or ask questions. Her parents lived in Iowa. Fortunately, we had a lot of good neighbors who helped us out.”

Vivien fed her children by growing produce in a large garden and canning it. The family also raised livestock; cows for milk and beef, pigs and a few chickens.

“We had jars and jars of canned fish,” Spohnholtz said. “In those days, people speared for rough fish and that’s one food we would eat. We had two cows; one was named Pumpkin and was as gentle as can be. The other cow, Flossy, wasn’t so nice.”

The kids also resorted to the woods, foraging for wild berries.

“We didn’t live too far from the lake,” Spohnholtz said. “We spent time down there and if we wanted to relieve some stress, we’d take off into the woods and just wander.”

Whatever food they could not raise or grow on their own, Vivien ordered through the grocery store and had the items delivered by a mail carrier.

Vivien’s brother taught her how to drive in the ‘50s. Spohnholtz remembers the Ford Model T the family called “Leapin’ Lizzy.”

“It had no heater, so we took a bunch of blankets and all of us were crammed in there,” she said.

Vivien had a strong faith, which Spohnholtz believes is what kept her going throughout those years.

“We went to church every Sunday,” Spohnholtz said.

Music, dancing and children are the things Vivien enjoyed most in life and still does to this day. Later in life, Vivien enjoyed attending music jamborees and spending time with her grandchildren.

“She has seen so many changes and events in her life, that it boggles your mind, really,” Spohnholtz said.

Vivien looks forward to seeing her husband, Carl, once again when she leaves this world.

“She always said dad was her soulmate,” Spohnholtz said. “She can’t wait to see him again.”