Oldest graduate dies at 110

Marion Howell Davidson was in the FLHS Class of 1919

Marion Howell Davidson with her medal and certificate honoring her selection to the first Forest Lake Area Schools Hall of Fame last June. She died on March 4, 2012 and was the oldest living graduate of Forest Lake High School. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Eshleman)

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

The oldest living graduate of Forest Lake High School has passed away.

Marion Davidson, who graduated here with eight fellow students in 1919, died Sunday, March 4 in New Richmond, WI, where she had lived since 2005.

“She had a very strong immune system,” said her daughter, Jackie Eshleman of New Richmond. “She never got sick as a kid.”

At the time of her death on March 4, Mrs. Davidson’s age was 110 years, one month and two days.

When Forest Lake High School celebrated its 100th graduating class in June of 2011, she was named to the first Forest Lake Area Schools Hall of Fame. She was one of 66 to be honored.

She was the youngest of four children born to Sereno and Thekla Howell in Hinckley. Her birthday fell on the second day of the second month in 1902.

The family moved from Hinckley to Carleton before traveling south to Forest Lake in 1915. Her father was a brakeman and a conductor on the Northern Pacific Railway working trains running between St. Paul and Duluth.

It was Forest Lake where she finished her final three years of high school. She was salutatorian for the Class of 1919, the eighth class to earn diplomas here.

She married Robert Arlow Davidson of Forest Lake in 1921. The couple lived in Forest Lake for a time, but also spent years in St. Paul and lived in Oklahoma City,  OK, for a short time.

“She loved being a homemaker,” her daughter said. Still, she found jobs outside the home. She worked as a beautician, spent time in retail sales and for a number of years worked as a clerk for St. Paul Fire & Marine.

They were the parents of two daughters, Jackie Eshleman and Joyce Davidson.

Her husband passed in 1965. In 2000, Marion moved to Reno, NV, to live with her daughter, Joyce. Following Joyce’s death in 2005, she moved back to the Midwest, settling in an assisted living facility in New Richmond and close to her other daughter.

A Long Line

Marion Howell Davidson was part of a family with a long life line.

There were four siblings in the family. She had two sisters and one brother: Lillian Johnson, Dorothy (Bill) Nicholson and Leslie Howell. All lived into their 90s.

But none could match their younger sister.

“She died of old age,” her daughter said. “She was ready to go.”

Jackie Eshleman said her mother looked at herself as a “curiosity” and often joked about her advancing age.

“She was always in good health,” Jackie said of her mother. “She thought it was because she ate dirt as a kid. She had a wonderful sense of humor.”

Memorial Details

A memorial service for Marion Howell Davidson will take place 1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 21 at Solid Rock Fellowship, 240 Wisconsin Drive, New Richmond, WI.

She is survived by one daughter, Jackie (Fred) Eshleman of New Richmond; eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and five great-great grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband and two sisters and one brother.