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96-year-old is oldest alumna

Photo by Sara Hacking Aurelia Koch graduated from Wadena High School in 1931. She is the earliest graduate 2010 Wadena-Deer Creek All-School Reunion organizers have located in their exhaustive search.

Organizers for the upcoming Wadena-Deer Creek All-School Reunion have searched all the way back to the early 20th century looking for alumni to invite, and the oldest class they have been able to locate a student from is 1931. Aurelia Koch, 96, of Wadena, graduated that year.

Koch has spent most of her life in Wadena after moving here when she was 3 years old and spending a couple years at the College of St. Benedict after her graduation. She attended St. Ann's Catholic School through eighth grade.

She doesn't remember much about her school days, she said. She was focused on the future.

"My life was such that I always looked forward instead of behind," she said.

Koch does remember enjoying anything pertaining to music in high school, she said. She was in the choir and sang in musicals. It was always exciting and fun when costumes, some made from satins and decorated with gold braid, arrived in huge trunks from Minneapolis, she said.

"That was wonderful," she recalled.

Koch loved history, geography and civics, she said. She hated math.

Her class, which would reach its 80th anniversary next year, graduated 54 or 56 students, she estimated.

Koch married her husband, Meinrad, in 1934 and raised six children who all graduated from Wadena High School.

Although Koch's formal education ended in college, life has been an ongoing education.

"When I look back through my married life, it's always been a learning experience," she said. "I worked with Boy Scouts. I worked with Girl Scouts. I worked with church. I was busy all the time."

Education was important in her years, she said.

"We always wanted something more and better for our children," she said.

All of their children attended school at St. Ann's, she said. Some of them went through college and some said, no, they didn't want that and went out and got another job they liked.

"But they all got what they wanted," she said.

One son went to medical school. A daughter got her master's degree.

Some of Koch's children will travel to Wadena for the reunion, but she isn't planning to attend, she said.

"I'm not even trying it," she said indicating her difficulty walking.

Approaching 100 years old, Koch doesn't know what the Lord has for her. She isn't able to do hard work anymore, she said, but she can say prayers for people.

Koch is an avid reader, she said. She reads five books a month. Her latest read was "Lacuna," by Barbara Kingsolver. She gets her daily Minneapolis paper, the weekly Pioneer Journal and three or four magazines.

"Between having my family, talking to them and seeing them, I think reading is the most important thing in my life," she said.

Her family is very caring and can't do enough for her, she said. She enjoys them.

When Koch received her diploma as a young Aurelia Walters, she didn't know what life had in store for her.

"I've had a good life," she said. "It's still good."