Oldest Virgin Islander celebrates 111th birthday
Published: April 22, 2013
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Ursula Krigger, known to her family and friends as "Aunt Sula" and widely believed to be the oldest living Virgin Islander, turns 111 today.
She is blind and hard of hearing, but her mind is sharp, and she remembers all of her very long and happy life in the Virgin Islands.
At a special church service and birthday party Saturday, she was celebrated by her family and fellow Moravians at the Nisky Moravian Church.
Sitting in front of her birthday cake, surrounded by her family and friends, Aunt Sula closed her eyes and grinned as everyone sang "Happy Birthday."
Born Ursula Nathalia Magdalane Millin in 1902, she was the second of eight children - all of whom she has outlived. Her last surviving sibling, Una Davis, died about one month ago, Aunt Sula said.
What turned out to be a long life was almost cut short as a child, however.
When she was 12, Aunt Sula was stricken with typhoid fever and almost died.
"They didn't expect me to live," she said.
Thanks to the care provided by her family and doctor, Knud Hansen, she recovered after a monthlong illness.
She said Hansen was very proud about that and always remembered her.
"He would tell all the other doctors about how he saved my life," she said.
Aunt Sula still lives in the Estate Neltjeberg house that her mother had built for her family in the early 1900s. Although her blindness keeps her largely housebound, she has memorized about 25 phone numbers and calls her family daily to check in, relative Gwen Moolenaar said.
Aunt Sula takes no medication, and has no health conditions or diseases other than arthritis.
"She's just hearty," Moolenaar said. "And she has a raucous sense of humor."
Aunt Sula is actually part of the Moolenaar family; her grandfather was a German named Moolenaar who settled in what was, at the time, the Danish West Indies.
"Many of the people who are here today are here to represent their parents and grandparents, her contemporaries," Moolenaar said.
An educator by profession, Aunt Sula began teaching young children when she herself was only 15 years old. She became a Moravian after becoming a teacher at the Moravian school when she was 17.
Born a Dane, Aunt Sula clearly remembers the 1917 transfer of the territory from Denmark to the United States.
"We were in school then," she said. "Some of the people were crying. I didn't know what to say because I was so young."
She taught school until she was married in 1934 to the late Laurence Krigger. She retired from teaching to raise her two sons, Alaric Krigger and Ashton Krigger.
Lillian Moolenaar said that as children they would call her "Aunt Sulee."
"She really raised us. And she always made sure we had a cup of coco tea, hot chocolate, and a slice of bread with butter before we went to bed," Lillian Moolenaar said.
When asked the secret to her extraordinary long life, Aunt Sula simply says, "I don't know."
However, she did say that her mother had a "cultivation" or garden. Not only did it feed the family, but her mother would take produce to the market to sell, she said.
Other than that, God's blessings have kept her in good health, according to her grandson, Sean Krigger.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.