WILLMAR - Virginia Ansorge can look back on a long life of giving: pastor's spouse, mother of three, accomplished quilter and community volunteer.
Family and friends are gathering Sunday to honor her for a double milestone: her 100th birthday and 70-plus years as an American Red Cross blood donor.
Mrs. Ansorge, who was born July 14, 1919, still lives on her own in a Willmar condominium and stays active with her lifetime passions of quilting, knitting and volunteering.
"She's very positive and upbeat and very busy," said her son, Howard Ansorge of Chicago.
For much of her life Mrs. Ansorge also gave, quite literally, of herself as a blood donor to the Red Cross. She donated her last pint of blood at age 98, just short of the 15-gallon milestone.
She was first inspired to volunteer and donate blood by her husband, Karl, a Lutheran minister who traveled from town to town before they were married to raise funds for the Red Cross. She gave her first pint of blood during World War II when the Red Cross issued a call for blood donations to help wounded military members.
"She traveled to St. Paul by bus to give blood several times and also rolled bandages for soldiers," her son recalled.
Mrs. Ansorge was dedicated to the Red Cross and "always gave when she could," he said. "She received a call once from the hospital because they needed blood for a gunshot victim and she went down and donated. That was the only time she didn't donate to the Red Cross."
She took a break from giving blood while having her children, then resumed donating on a regular basis for decades more.
"Donating blood to the Red Cross meant an awful lot to my mother -- something she is very proud of," Howard Ansorge said. "She has kept all of her blood donation cards and pins that commemorate all of her milestones."
Bob Bruce, director of collections and donor recruitment for the North Central Blood Services region of the American Red Cross, said Mrs. Ansorge has shown "extraordinary personal commitment" to the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross.
"Her blood donations helped save the lives of countless patients. Virginia's dedication to the Red Cross blood program was outstanding - she surely is an inspiration," he said.
Although there's a minimum age for donating blood -- 17 years old or, in some states including Minnesota, age 16 with written consent from a parent or guardian -- there is no upper age limit as long as the donor remains healthy and meets the eligibility requirements.
The Ansorges came to Willmar in 1955 when Karl became pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church. They were called to another congregation in 1969. After her husband's death, Mrs. Ansorge returned in 1982 to Willmar, where she has made her home ever since.
She thrives on staying busy, Howard Ansorge said. An avid knitter, she knits tiny caps for premature infants and has produced countless knitted slippers for family, friends and even mere acquaintances. She is fond of gardening and maintained a plot in one of Willmar's community gardens well into her 90s.
Her daily routine includes delivering the West Central Tribune to her neighbors at her condo and reading the Bible. She remains a faithful church-goer and is one of the pillars of the Redeemer Lutheran Church quilters' group.
"She has to keep busy doing things," Howard Ansorge said.
Family and friends have been planning her 100th birthday party for months, he said. "She's been looking forward to this."