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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

FLORENCE KRUSA gets a big birthday kiss from grandson Bob Hetterly. Hetterly traveled all the way from North Carolina for a Sunday morning birthday party. “I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.

'Here I Am – 100!'

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — April 29, 2003 – Florence Krusa has lived a dream.
The Liberty resident dreamed of a big, fantastic party for her 100th birthday.
And Sunday morning she got it.
Family members told Krusa to stop by the basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church for a cup of coffee.
She got that – and a huge cake saying, “Happy 100” – and at least 80 friends and relatives who gathered from up and down the Eastern Seaboard to celebrate the birthday of a “giving, kind person.”
Krusa, born Florence Heinze on April 28, 1903, moved to Liberty as a teenager, and she’s never left.
She eventually married Henry B. Krusa, pastor of St. Paul’s for 25 years (up until the late 1950s), and was enveloped by his huge family. Although she never had any children of her own, Krusa boasts a number of step-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Later in life, Krusa was known throughout the community for taking in teachers and boarding them at her Liberty home. It’s one of those teachers, Leon Harrold, who picks her up each Sunday morning and drives her to church to keep up with the Lord and the goings-on in the community.
“I have a big family,” Krusa said. “The church – they’re my family; they’re part of me.”
The folks gathered in the church basement said they wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Bob Hetterly made the trip from Efland, N.C., without his wife and children, because his own grandchildren were being baptized Sunday morning.
But he couldn’t miss Grandma Krusa’s birthday, he said.
“I won’t be around for the next 100,” he added with a laugh.
Mary Holland Brennan, the daughter of Krusa’s niece, made the trip from Mahwah, N.J., with several of her own children.
“I’m 42,” Brennan said, “and she taught me the Lord’s prayer, taught me the best paper dolls and taught me to be a lady at all times – for all those reasons, I’m here.”
The party, Brennan added, was Krusa’s big dream – a major celebration for her 100th birthday.
According to St. Paul’s Pastor Audrey Pedersen, Krusa has been a central figure in the church for many years – not only was her husband a former pastor, but Krusa taught in the church’s Sunday School.
“[People] came,” Pedersen said, “to honor a woman who has always been open and welcoming.
“She was a very giving, kind person,” Pedersen added. “People really wanted to be here.”
And what did Krusa think of the outpouring of love for a centenarian?
“I’ve got chills,” she said with a grin.
“Here I am – 100!”

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