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Ardis Souhrada celebrates 24th Leap Day birthday

From an article in the Post Bulletin
Read the original article on the Post Bulletin website >>

Ardis Souhrada (Photo from the Rochester Post Bulletin)

Ninety-six-year-old Ardis Souhrada will celebrate her 24th birthday today. She was born on leap day, Feb. 29, 1920, and a lot of things have changed since then. In Souhrada's memory, it's not the birthdays that stand out, it's the changes in technology that she's seen.

Now a resident at the Waters on Mayowood, she remembers when electricity came to the homes in Southeast Minnesota, "Oh, my!" she exclaimed, "that was quite a change — it made life a lot easier."  A farm girl from the Iowa border in Fillmore County, Souhrada was the eldest of seven — four brothers and two sisters — during the Depression. "Everyone was poor and nobody knew it — everybody was the same," she recalled. At the time, they didn't even know they were in a "depression."  For her birthday during those years the family would gather and sing "Happy Birthday," and there was always a cake, Souhrada said. But frosting wasn't always a given. Looking back, "we never did go hungry, we always had plenty."

Souhrada attended high school in Preston, so she stayed with a family in town during the week since it was so far from her family's farm. Her father would drive her in on the weekends by horse and buggy and to prepare for the journey during the cold winter months her mother bundled her up and warmed hot stones to keep at their feet. "I remember the drifts were so high, we drove over the fences," Souhrada said of many of the winters. "It was a long drive."

On another trip, she remembers making the trip 40 miles north on the crushed rock road to Rochester, to see her first airplane. Her family watched planes take off in amazement.  "When I was a girl, I didn't know what an airplane was — what a change!"


Souhrada graduated high school in 1938 and got married two years later to Emil Souhrada. When her husband was alive, Souhrada said he commemorated her Leap Day birthday with bright bouquets of red roses. "My husband thought he was smart," she laughed, noting the dozen or so flowers would show up once every four years.

Her four children and 21 grandchildren are spread throughout Minnesota. Many will join Ardis for her birthday celebration today. Through all the changes the years have brought, one thing has remained constant, she said — celebrating with family, "that never changes."


"Our family is coming, we've always been together for birthdays," she said. "I really kind of look forward to this birthday, that it happened — to make it," she said.