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Oneida woman turns 100

Posted: 6:34 PM, Sep 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-08 19:34:46-04

An Oneida woman turned 100 years old, but that's not her only accomplishment being celebrated.

The crowd burst into song, honoring Rose Kerstetter who celebrated a century of life.

"I can't believe it. I just can't believe it," said Kerstetter.

The family wanted to not only celebrate her 100th birthday, but also all she's done in those years.

"I guess the honor really rests in the fact that she's an Oneida veteran and that she served the country like the rest of us," said John Breuninger, the secretary of the Oneida Nation Veteran Affairs Committee. 

Kerstetter served in World War II and is the oldest living veteran of the Oneida Nation.

"Oneidas have fought in every single war the United States has been in since the Revolutionary War," said Breuninger.

The room was filled with family and friends celebrating Kerstetter's life and honoring her years. They said it is a very important tradition in the Oneida culture.

"It's one of our traditions that we do honor our elders,you know. They should come first. They should be taken care of, and the tribe does that very well," said Janet Skenandore Malcolm, Kerstetter's niece.

They said Kerstetter brought a lifetime of knowledge and artistic skill the Oneida Reservation when she moved back in 1997.

"Not only did she help the rest of us women think about joining the Army, she also came back and started teaching people about our own pottery and how to make it," said Malcolm.

"Wonderful. I can't get over it. I did it. I did it," said Kerstetter.

Her daughter Dori Gilbert was overwhelmed with the love her mother was shown with visits and letter from Governor Walker, Congressman Gallagher, Wisconsin's Women Veterans, and many others.

"I'm just so happy," said Gilbert.

She said four generations of her family also came to town to celebrate Kerstetter.

"Our tribe spent their money from the casino on their elders, on elder programs, and on education, and on language revitalization. And it's just one of our cultural things that's important to us," added Gilbert.

Kerstetter was smiling all day.

"It's really indescribable," said Kerstetter, "I know one thing, and that is that people are good and if there's a reason to celebrate, they will do it."