For most of his 22 years, Zach Rath has celebrated his birthday with two German chocolate cakes — one for him, and one for his great-grandmother, Tillie Aichele, who will be turning 105 on Sunday.
“It’s been pretty special,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have great-grandparents, but my great-grandma is still healthy.”
Tillie has some trouble with her memory, eyesight and hearing, but is still able to move around with the assistance of her walker and enjoys watching re-runs of the “Lawrence Welk Show.”
She remembers bits and pieces of her younger years —growing up in Tuttle and working in the grocery store.
She married Fred Aichele in 1929. The couple moved to a farm near Driscoll in 1940 and raised seven children — Ike, Roy, Floyd, Luella, Shirley, Glen, and Lee Alan.
“We got along OK,” Tillie said, “They were all good kids.”
Tillie’s daughter, Luella Rath, remembers going to the outhouse at the farm and getting electricity for the first time in the 1950s.
“Things certainly were different then,” Luella said.
Ike Aichele, Tillie’s son, remembers working outdoors with his father and brothers — plowing, harvesting and feeding the cattle. Meanwhile, his sisters would help their mother with housework.
“That’s all I ever got done was cleaning and cooking,” Tillie said. “Thursday was my baking day and I always had cookies on hand.”
Tillie and her girls had jobs outside of the house as well. Luella specifically remembers bundling stacks of grain and milking the cows.
“I can see it ... we’re going out to the barn and milking the cows and getting away from it all,” Luella said. “I think it was very relaxing for her (Tillie) ... she always enjoyed it.”
One of Ike’s favorite memories of his mother is the chickens she raised each year.
“We would receive 150 baby chicks through the mail,” Ike said. “In the spring, we ate it (chicken) every day for several weeks and we never got tired of it.”
Tillie lost her husband in 1965, but continued to live on the Driscoll farm until she was 102, when she moved to Bismarck Baptist Home, where she now lives.
Tillie’s birthday party will be held at Bismarck Baptist home today. Many family members will be in attendance, including Zach Rath. He jokes that his great-grandmother will “probably still be kicking for another 10 years or so.”
Tillie is looking forward to seeing her family at her birthday party.
“I’ve got a pretty good life,” she said. “I don’t have a complaint. ... I’m over 100, but I can’t remember exactly how old I am!”