Gudrún Jónsdóttir was born at the farm Audkúla in Arnarfjördur in the West Fjords on August 9, 1906 and turns 105 today. She is the third oldest Icelander alive today.
Arnarfjördur. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Jónsdóttir said in an interview with Morgunbladid that longevity runs in the family; her sister Matthea Kristín turned 102 before passing away five years ago.
“They lived for such a long time, the people in my countryside,” she said. “I don’t know what it is. We always had plenty of fish because dad had a fishery and the men in the countryside rowed his boats. And we ate a lot of fish. I believe it must be very healthy.”
Her father, Jón Bjarni Matthíasson, was a captain and a farmer and her mother, Gudmunda María Gísladóttir, an educated midwife. They had nine children but four of them died during their first year.
Jónsdóttir said life was fun at the farm. “We had three cows and one hundred sheep, which wasn’t considered a lot. We hiked mountains in the summer and went horseback riding and sometimes to balls in the winter, which were held in the schoolhouse.”
They never lacked food. “We had a lot of milk and skyr and such. And fish. And berries which we put in the whey along with the soured products so we had plenty of berries all winter long; they preserved well in the whey,” she described.
When asked what changes since her childhood she finds most memorable, Jónsdóttir said so many things have changed for the better, electricity, for example, which made the farm work so much easier, especially dairy production.
Her son, Sigurdur, who sat next to her during the interview, mentioned rubber boots. “Yes,” Jónsdóttir agreed. “One always wore homemade shoes of skin or leather and it was considered a great improvement when the rubber boots arrived; then one could wear them while raking the pastures. The skin shoes were always soaked.”
Jónsdóttir had five children with her husband Gunnar Andrew Sigurdsson. Apart from being a homemaker, she worked as a secretary for Sigrídur Valdemarsdóttir, chairwoman of the West Fjords Association (Vestfirdingafélagid), and later worked in the sewing room Vogue.
She now lives at the nursing home Sólvangur in Hafnarfjördur. She uses a walker and describes her health as fine, even though she has suffered bone fractures three times in the past three years, the last time in April when she broke her thigh bone.
“I feel tremendous. I’ve always been healthy,” Jónsdóttir said. “I like living here; the people are friendly and the food good.” Today there will be a birthday reception at Sólvangur to commemorate the big day.
“A few people will drop by.” Then Jónsdóttir smiled, explaining that when her daughter recently counted her decedents she figured there were more than 70, so probably more than just “a few people” will come celebrate her birthday.
Click here to read more about longevity in Iceland.