From the moment you meet her, Lorraine Amiot's warmth and charisma shine through. It's hard to imagine someone being so vivacious at 90 years old, or perhaps it would be better to say 90 years young in her case. Although she believes she "hasn't lead an interesting life," anyone who has the chance to spend time in her presence would thoroughly disagree. Due to her charming personality, spirit of volunteerism and nine decades of life in northwestern Minnesota, she has been recognized as the Golden Link Senior Center's most recent Experienced American honoree.
Born on a farm near Gentilly in 1922, Amiot was the only girl out of five siblings. "My brothers teased me to no end," she said, adding, "At the Golden Link they say I have an answer for everything. I tell them I had lots of practice dealing with my brothers." She attended a one room schoolhouse that housed grades one through eight. After her eighth grade graduation, she attended St. Joseph's Academy in Crookston for an additional two years of schooling.
At the tender age of 21, she married her sweetheart, Meddy Amiot, with whom she had a son, Morris. Meddy went into the service in 1943, shortly after their wedding, and tragically passed away from Leukemia a year after returning home. Morris was only eight months old at the time.
As a single mother, Amiot stayed with her son until he was old enough to attend school and made ends meet by renting out the upper level of the home she and Morris lived in. Over the years, renters came and went, but she recalled a special female tenant of 13 years who became a close friend. Amiot and her friend used to take a trip every summer, traveling to places including Medora, North Dakota, Yellowstone National Park and Wisconsin. The trips continued until Amiot no longer felt comfortable driving long distances.
Lorraine Amiot worked at Villa St. Vincent as a nurse's aid for 21 years and then went to Mount St. Benedict Monastery to care for ailing sisters. She expressed gratitude toward the nuns who treated her "very, very well", allowing her to take summers off to care for her son. Along with her nurse's aid duties, Amiot served as a French interpreter for older sisters when they went to medical or dental appointments. Although it has been along time since she's spoken the French language, she teasingly cautions, "I still understand what people are saying (when they speak French). I'll know everything you say about me!" When asked about her favorite part of working in the long-term care industry she said, "I've always liked old people. I wish I would have saved everyone's obituary from when I first started. There are so many people I could have remembered."
Page 2 of 2 - Retirement has proven a very busy occupation for Amiot. For many years, she drove people to church, was a member of the St. Ann's Society and helped with the weekly bulletin at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. She currently volunteers at the Golden Link, setting tables for meals and helping out with odds and ends. She still drives, cleans her own apartment, plays cards with friends three times a week and takes part in an annual ten day novena to St. Ann every July. "When you work all your life, you can't sit still. It is hard to stay home. I was so anxious to retire, but it isn't that great because you feel like you want to get up in the morning and go. I used say this (retirement) was another journey in my life and I'll have another one when I go."
"I've had a wonderful life. I can't complain," Amiot said. "When you live this long, a lot of your friends and relatives are gone. I have my son in Minneapolis and two grandchildren and five great grandchildren. I still have some good friends at the Golden Link. We are all like sisters there. We play lots of cards, even on Sundays."
Advice for those who want to grow old gracefully? "You have to keep your mind sharp. It is the secret to staying young," she said. " That's why I play cards so often. Last year we celebrated my 90th birthday in Minneapolis and are going to celebrate again this year. I am not going to let myself get lonesome or old. I will always have something to do."
For someone who thinks her life is nothing out of the ordinary, Lorraine Amiot has certainly had a remarkably positive impact on lives of others, from caring for the elderly in her early years to currently arranging senior card games to beat the Sunday blues. We should all hope to have such an "commonplace" existence.
Family and friends of Lorraine Amiot are invited to a reception to celebrate Lorraine's life and her designation as an "Experienced American" on Friday, June 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Golden Link Senior Center.