Probituaries -

Sylvester Carolan


Interview by Joanie Rollins (daughter of Sylvester) and Benji Nichols. Sylvester Carolan, age 105, claims his faith, his family, a good game of Euchre, and the occasional harmonica tune make for a long happy life.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Pray hard, and go to church! My parents taught me that.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a farmer from the time I was a kid, and I did farm my entire life. We used to milk and then later I got into feeding beef cattle and hogs. This is a tough winter but I remember worse like 1929, and 1936 – it started late but lasted until March. It makes for tough farming.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Row boat, an oar, or a helicopter!  (ed. We think Sylvester may also be happy with a deck of cards, a bible, and fresh oysters…)

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.
Although too humble to answer this question himself, a nurse who popped in during our interview said of Sylvester, “I’d call him simply wonderful!”

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I love a good steak – and oysters too, but I wouldn’t want anything every day of my life. I remember when I was young my Mom used to make soup – beef stew, with vegetables. That was pretty good. Sometimes when I was young on Sundays after dinner we’d get to have some home canned peaches – that was a pretty big deal.

Name one thing you could not live without.
Good exercise, good eats, and good family. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my family.

Multiple choice: tell us about…Your wedding day.
I was married on July 12, 1938 to Vivian Gossman. It was a hot summer day and we were married at St. Benedict’s in Decorah. Afterwards we went to the Green Parrot for dinner and then took a car ride down to the Mississippi River.

Your first job.
I started farming when I was young and then went to work for others. Times were really tough then and nobody had any money, but I found work on a farm – I made $22 and a half a month.

Your favorite memory.
I remember my first car – a 1929 Ford – it cost me about $12 a month to buy in 1935 and I paid it all off in a year. I also remember my first tractor, a 1944 Ford Fergusson. Our first home didn’t have a phone, well, it had a line to the place, but it went south from there to Spillville and everyone spoke Bohemian so there was no point in having it!

We also traveled to several places including Ireland, the Holy Land, and the Panama Canal. Those were fun trips.

Born on June 20, 1909 in Canoe Township near Decorah, Sylvester was one of 11 siblings, and began a career in farming early in life. After marrying Vivian Gossman in 1938, the Carolans had six children: Vernelle, Patrick, Kathleen, Gretchen, Dean, and Joan. Their family farmed in various places throughout rural Decorah including their farm just north of town near Coldwater creek. Sylvester is now a resident of the Barthell Order of the Eastern Star home in Decorah and turned 105 today! Drop him a line at the following address or stop by for a game of cards!

Sylvester T. Carolan
C/O Eastern Star Nursing Home
911 Ridgewood Drive
Decorah, IA  52101