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Clark resident Hazel Ness named South Dakota Centenarian of the Year

First-generation American celebrated 107th birthday May 17

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The South Dakota Health Care Association’s Century Club, along with KELOLAND Television, recently announced Hazel Christopherson Ness as the South Dakota Centernarian of the Year. Born in May of 1915, Ness is 107 years old, and is the current oldest member of the Century Club.
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CLARK, S.D. — A 107-year-old Clark resident has been named South Dakota Centenarian of the Year.

The South Dakota Health Care Association’s Century Club, along with KELOLAND Television, announced Hazel Christopherson Ness the recipient of the 2022 honor. Born in May of 1915, Ness is 107 years old, and is the current oldest member of the Century Club, according to a press release.

Even at 107 years old, Ness continues to celebrate her proud Norwegian roots. A 13-year resident of Clark’s Roetell Senior Housing, in recent years she has helped make lefse for residents and staff along with oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Coincidentally, her birthday is May 17, a national holiday in Norway, also known as Constitution Day. A first generation American, Ness was born in 1915 to Andrew and Marie Christopherson on the family farm near Naples, S.D. She was one of seven children, all of whom grew up working on the farm.

When asked recently about the secret to her longevity, she told her granddaughters that she was “never babied.”

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Ness has spent her entire life as a resident of Clark County. She married her husband, Clarence Ness, at the Lutheran parsonage in Clark on Feb. 2, 1934. The couple was blessed with two children: Clayton Allen, born in 1935, and Dianne Marie, born in 1940. The family farmed in Foxton and Merton Township until 1956, when they moved to Clark.

Ness worked as a custodian at the local St. Paul Lutheran Church and at different restaurants. She also worked at a local dance hall selling tickets, while her husband worked as a bouncer. She liked to say that she let them in, and Clarence kicked them out.

Ness has served in several organizations, including the Sons of Norway and Extension Homemakers. She was reportedly a smart and savvy card player and has belonged to several bridge and card groups over the years. She enjoyed quilting, making handmade quilts for all of her grandchildren. She is a wonderful cook, serving up Norwegian specialties, fresh fruits and vegetables from her garden, and her light and buttery sugar cookies continue to be a family favorite.

Over the years, she and Clarence enjoyed visiting their children and their families often. She is the proud grandmother of six and great-grandmother to six more. Her son, Clayton and his family still travel from Oklahoma to see her several times a year.

Ness was always close to her siblings, especially her three sisters, Margaret, Anna and Clara. When they would all get together, the giggles and laughter could be heard from the street. They loved to play games, tell stories and try to one-up each other with the quickest wit.

Ness has seen much in her life including two world wars, the Spanish flu, the Great Depression and the dirty 30s. Through it all, she’s shown strength and determination, and has never lost her quick wit.

The Century Club was created by the South Dakota Health Care Association to recognize South Dakotans aged 100 or older, both for their longevity and their contributions to South Dakota. Over 1,300 South Dakotans have been inducted into the Century Club since its founding in 1997. The Century Club is, as its name states, a club. Therefore, there may be older people in the state that have not yet been inducted by a family member or loved one into the Century Club.

The Century Club is open to any resident of South Dakota upon the celebration of his or her 100th birthday. There are no dues and each inductee receives a specially designed certificate and membership card. Once a year, the current oldest living Century Club Member is recognized as the Centenarian of the Year.

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Nominations for the Century Club can be made by visiting www.sdhca.org and downloading a Century Club application or by calling LuAnn Severson, Century Club Coordinator, at 1-800-952-3052.

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