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Woman’s kayaking hobby brings delight, discovery at 106

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Pat Marble, who's turning 107 in August, kayaks with her grandson, Craig.
Pat Marble, who's turning 107 years old in August, kayaks with her grandson Craig Wiklund on Island Lake in Northome, Minn., earlier this month.
James Napoli for MPR News

Pat Marble stood on the grassy shore of Island Lake earlier this month, steadied by her walker. It was a cool summer evening, the last of the day’s sunlight glittering off the water. Next to her on the ground was a bright red kayak.

Marble, just a few weeks shy of 107, knew she’d soon be out on the water. But at that moment, the seat seemed a long way down.

Pat Marble, who's turning 107 in August, kayaks with her grandson, Craig.
Pat Marble attributes her longevity to her family — they keep her active and trying new things, she said
James Napoli for MPR News

With the help of her daughter Peggy Wiklund, who is nearing 80 years old herself, and her grandson Craig Wiklund, nearing 60, she slowly eased her way to the boat.

Her legs are the only part of her body that really feels her age, she said. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe she was born in 1912.

The city of Northome, Minn.
Northome, Minn.
William Lager | MPR News

“I’m surprised every morning I wake up,” she said, laughing. “I don’t feel old!”

Marble lives in Richfield, just outside the Twin Cities, but still spends her summers at the family lake house in Northome, about four and a half hours north. When she’s there, she sleeps on the porch — she loves breathing the air on cold nights and watching the trees dance in the wind.

Pat Marble, who's turning 107 in August, kayaks on Island Lake in Northome
On a recent paddling trip on Island Lake, Pat Marble and her family were surprised to come across a couple of loons, who put on a loud display.
James Napoli for MPR News

It’s her family that keeps her going, keeps her active, she said. In the winter, Craig even rigs up a sled so he can pull her along while he cross-country skis. She gets all bundled up and bobs behind him over the snow. And it was her family that she went kayaking with for the first time — just before her 90th birthday.

“Their life is so entangled with mine,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh grandma, you can do it.’ Three times — not only once — three times, before I decide maybe I can.”

All this month, MPR News is celebrating outdoor adventure as part of Water Month, a partnership with The Water Main.

We recommend listening to this story of kayaking with Pat Marble — you’ll hear sounds out on the water, and more from Marble herself.