‘An old gal that pretty much does what she wants to’

After a life of 93 years, Dort Gere died Saturday. If you want a model of how to approach life for that long and how to deal with the inevitable disappointments and slowing down, watch this five-minute video of the woman from rural Bertha, Minn.

When Ground Level conducted its coverage effort in Todd County last spring, focusing on how a community adjusts to an increasing proportion of elderly, videographer Nikki Tundel spent time with Gere and produced the piece, which we showed during a public forum at the Long Prairie-Gray Eagle High School.

It evokes a wonderful spirit of a woman who gave much — helping establish volunteer programs and senior centers, planting trees at the home she and her husband bought in 1954, just playing cards with friends.

She called herself just “an old gal that pretty much does what she wants to.” And that meant returning to her house from the nursing home when told not to, giving herself baths when others offered the service. She still had her drivers license but knew she shouldn’t drive, accepting help from a volunteer driver service she helped establish years ago.

“Gosh,” she said, “if people didn’t volunteer a lot of things wouldn’t get done.”

In the end — “I did not ever expect to be this old” — she was a woman whose card-playing friends had died, who couldn’t dig in her garden, who needed dialysis twice a week. But she preferred solitaire in her own home to other possibilities.

There will be a remembrance gathering for Dort at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 14) at the Bertha Community Center. (Thanks to radio station KEYL in Long Prairie for confirmation on the time and date.)

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