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Woman’s kayaking hobby brings delight, discovery at 106

By Britta Greene

MPR News/90.1 FM

Pat Marble stood on the grassy shore of Island Lake earlier this month, steadied by her walker. It was a cool summer evening, the last of the day’s sunlight glittering off the water. Next to her on the ground was a bright red kayak.

Marble, just a few weeks shy of 107, knew she’d soon be out on the water. But at that moment, the seat seemed a long way down.

With the help of her daughter Peggy Wiklund, who is nearing 80 years old herself, and her grandson Craig Wiklund, nearing 60, she slowly eased her way to the boat.

Her legs are the only part of her body that really feels her age, she said. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe she was born in 1912.

“I’m surprised every morning I wake up,” she said, laughing. “I don’t feel old!”

Marble lives in Richfield, just outside the Twin Cities, but still spends her summers at the family lake house in Northome, about four and a half hours north. When she’s there, she sleeps on the porch — she loves breathing the air on cold nights and watching the trees dance in the wind.

It’s her family that keeps her going, keeps her active, she said. In the winter, Craig even rigs up a sled so he can pull her along while he cross-country skis. She gets all bundled up and bobs behind him over the snow. And it was her family that she went kayaking with for the first time — just before her 90th birthday.

“Their life is so entangled with mine,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh grandma, you can do it.’ Three times — not only once — three times, before I decide maybe I can.