Likely the oldest person in N. Dakota has died at age 115

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, January 6, 2021

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NORTHWOOD, N.D. — A woman who was likely the oldest person in North Dakota has died at age 115.

Iris Westman died Sunday at the Northwood nursing home where she’d lived since 2012, family members said.

Relatives say Westman was mentally sharp right up until the end of her life. Great-great niece Katie Pinke said Westman “was always the epitome of a lady. She was so polite and kind and put together. She always shared such grace and kindness.”

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Westman never married or had children, but Pinke said she cultivated relationships with her many nieces and nephews.

“She was pen pals with generations of family,” Pinke said. “She wrote us letters and sent us savings bonds for birthdays and Christmas. She could always make you feel special.”

Born in 1905 on a farm in Aneta, Westman graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1928 and was an English teacher and school librarian in several North Dakota and Minnesota cities, including a long tenure in Worthington, Minnesota, the  Star Tribune  reported.

She later earned a library science certificate from the University of Minnesota, attending summer classes during breaks in the school years.

Asked the secret of her longevity, Westman said, “I’ve eaten properly and lived decently.” But ultimately, she added, “That’s God’s business.”

A private service will be held in the spring at Silent Hill Cemetery in Aneta, according to her obituary.