Helene Sandvig

  • Lifespan: Nov. 25, 1911 –
  • Age: 111
  • Birthplace: Chaffee, Cass County, North Dakota, USA
  • Last residence: Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota, USA
  • Validation date: May 19, 2023
  • Validation source: Waclaw Jan Kroczek/Oliver Trim/Robert Young

Helene Sandvig was born on a farm near Chaffee in Cass County, North Dakota, USA, on November 25, 1911. She was the youngest of Gottlieb and Augusta Strunk’s children, who were German immigrants. Helene had three older brothers named Elmer, Harvey, and Edward, as well as a younger brother named Earl, who sadly passed away in infancy. Additionally, she had three half brothers and a half sister from her father’s previous marriage. She remembered attending and teaching school in rural school houses without indoor toilets or running water. As a child, she would have to take turns with her siblings staying home from school on Mondays to help her mother wash clothes. They used a hand washer, a wringer they turned by hand and a wash board for the clothes that might be too hard on the hand washer. She could recall influenza pandemic and World War I.

Sandvig started teaching when she was 19 years old. “At that time, young girls became a teacher or a nurse,” she said. Her first job was in a rural school near Lehr. She made $75 a month and paid $15 for room and board. She had 28 students in first through eighth grades. She sent home the first check she received teaching to help buy her mother a washing machine. She also later bought a radio for her family. Sandvig bought her piano after she started teaching and received lessons through the mail. Her family had an organ when she was a child, but she was too busy during to learn to play. During her second year of teaching, she started working at a rural school near Leonard. She taught in a few different country schools, mostly in Cass County, for eight years. One winter she got mumps and was told after a week off if she didn’t get back to work, they’d hire someone else, so she went back to work. She would pick up her students in a horse and buggy and when they got to the school building, there was a barn there, and the oldest boy would put the horse in the barn and she would start the fire.

On June 8, 1938, Helene married Edwin Hjelmer Sandvig. While she stopped teaching regularly to help him farm, she served as a 4-H leader for a while and as Sunday school superintendent for Leonard Lutheran Church for 10 years. She was also a Homemakers Club member for 50 years. Helene and her husband farmed south of Embden before moving near Leonard, where they raised cattle, turkeys, chickens, pigs and grain. Sandvig did everything from driving tractor to raising the chickens and turkeys and milking the cows by hand-something she had also done on her family’s farm as a child. After her husband became sick in 1974, they sold the farm and moved into an apartment in Leonard, where Sandvig lived until she moved into Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo in September of 2014. Edwin Sandvig died in 1991-just before his 80th birthday. They didn’t have children of their own, but they fostered a number of kids, including one boy who lived with them through his high school years. Of the many changes the world has seen over the past century or so, Sandvig said one thing that continues to amaze her is how much things cost today compared to yesteryear. When she and Edwin first started to rent farmland, she said the cost was nominal when viewed by today’s prices.

Sandvig and her husband enjoyed traveling throughout their marriage. After Edwin died, Helene continued to travel and has been to Europe, Alaska, Hawaii and New York.

In November 2021, Helene celebrated her remarkable 110th birthday, marking another milestone in her long and fulfilling life, becoming a supercentenarian. Her family has a history of longevity, with her father living to the age of 94, her mother to 92, her brother Elmer to 94, and her brother Edward passing away in 2007 at the age of 97.

When she turned 100, Sandvig wrote a seven-and-a-half page story of her life. At 104 years old, Helene Sandvig still played her piano every day, met her friends for bingo and crocheted covers for hangers. She would also attend Bible studies and church services. Religion has always been an important part of her life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandvig occupied her time with embroidery, making quilts, and playing piano.

As of her 111th birthday, Helene Sandvig resides at Bethany Homes in Fargo, North Dakota, USA. She held then the title of the second-oldest known living person in North Dakota, with Clarabell Demers being the only person ahead of her in age.

Helene Sandvig’s age was verified by Waclaw Jan Kroczek, Oliver Trim, and Robert Young, and validated by the Gerontology Research Group as of May 19, 2023.


“I’ve seen a bit of the world and enjoyed every minute of it,”

“The most important lesson is to be thankful.”

“We have so many things that we take for granted.”

“God is good to me, I have to be so thankful,”

“I am just thankful to be here,”

Interview with Helene Sandvig.

Helene Sandvig at age 110 in Dec. 2021.

Helene Sandvig as a child (1910s).

Helene Sandvig at her graduation.

Helene Sandvig as a young woman.

With her husband Edwin, on their wedding day in 1938.

Helene and Edwin Sandvig on their farm.

Interviewed on her 108th birthday.

Helene Sandvig at age 109.

Helen Sandvig celebrating her 110th birthday.

Helene Sandvig on her 111th birthday.

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