Super Senior: John and Grace Mekkelsen

Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 4:41 PM EDT
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EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Once upon a time, busy Route 2 in East Montpelier wasn’t so busy.

Back in ‘60s, Grace Mekkelsen stopped to look at a farmhouse just west of the village center. “It was a mess. the front yard was all mud. The barn -- it was a mess,” Grace recalled. But it had 136 acres, enough to start a business with her husband, John, selling campers to Vermonters. “We just had to work and work and work.”

Grace was also a registered nurse and was raising a growing family with four kids.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Have there been times when you guys argued, you folks?

Grace Mekkelsen : Oh, yup, every day!

The couple are both just weeks away from turning 100 and it’s fair to say they’ve experienced life’s ups and downs.

Grace was a 21-year-old Army nurse stationed in the Philippines during World War II. The Japanese were close to defeat in the Pacific but the battles raged on. “A lot of burns... I was amazed, we used to wrap the whole body with bandages,” Grace recalled. When the war ended, she took care of the former American POWs who had suffered not only physical harm but emotional damage.”We did find one of the boys in the bathroom. Tried to hang himself from his belt from his pajamas.”

Grace, who had seen so much a half a world away, came back to Vermont. “I don’t think it changed me very much, I’ve always been strong and very stubborn,” she said.

John, who was also in the Army in the military police, met his future bride during a blind date to a dance.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Was he a good dancer?

Grace Mekkelsen: Excellent.

Graceful on the dance floor, but he admits he’s stumbled a few times through life.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Are you tough to get along with?

John Mekkelsen: Yeah, I have a short fuse. My fuse is only that long.

Grace, though, has always been by his side. “Family is most important,” she said.

It was family that came together when John, their oldest son, was in an accident just down the road. “He was coming home and went off the road and was killed a mile from us, so, it was the worst part of my life,” Grace said.

John was 21 and a recent grad from the University of Vermont. He was on his way to take over the family business. Bruce, their other son, was just 15 when he recalled getting the news. “Yeah, that was tragic. I mean, one o’clock in the morning and get the knock on the door,” he said. “That was a bad time for all of us, it was a struggle.”

John senior didn’t think he could go on. It was Grace and the need to support the family that got him through those difficult times.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What have you learned from your parents?

Bruce Mekkelsen: Respect, honesty, have a good set of morals.

Bruce has taken over the business and his daughter Olivia runs the rental department. Three generations of Mekkelsen’s coming together under one roof.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Why are you lucky?

John Mekkelsen: Because I am... look at the family I got. You can’t buy what I got.