Utah man celebrates 100th birthday by dancing the night away

Family, friends and a positive attitude — along with the rhythm for the dance floor — keep Tinggaard going.


First Published Feb 28 2014 07:17 pm
Last Updated Feb 28 2014 09:50 pm

Murray • When the seniors take to the dance floor at the Heritage Center each week, Karl Tinggaard is among the first there and the last to leave, gliding around the venue all evening.

Not bad for a centenarian.

On Thursday, Tinggaard’s family and friends celebrated his 100th birthday at the center with cake, ice cream, presents and, of course, dancing. The birthday boy kept a promise to dance with every woman there.

"This keeps me going," Tinggaard said. "Look at all the exercise I get in three hours. I dance with all these beautiful women."

Tony Summerhays, the one-man band who provides the music at the weekly dances, said Tinggaard "can dance all night." One of his regular dance partners, Riekie Shields, said her friend knows all the dances, including the tango, her favorite.

"Some guys don’t have the rhythm," she said. "He does."

Tinggaard also is liked for his sense of humor and his cheerful demeanor. Venus Cederstrom calls him a live wire who’s full of energy, while Chuck Kreher describes him as a "fun guy."

"He’s really popular," Kreher said. "When he’s dancing, that’s really something."

Tinggaard, a retired engineer, was born Feb. 27, 1914, in Denmark and raised on a farm. He and his wife, Esther, first moved to the United States in the 1950s with their only child, Sonja, and lived in Chicago, among other places.

The family eventually moved back to Denmark but Sonja found her way back. She fell in love with Utah while on a vacation, sold her belongings and moved to the Beehive State with her two children in the 1980s. A few years later, her parents followed.

Outside of his work as an engineer, Tinggaard found plenty to keep him busy. He played violin in a band called the Old Swingers, which put out two albums on cassette tape. He loved golf and gardening, danced a lot, did wood sculpting and traveled extensively.

"He’s always doing something," longtime friend Erly Pedersen said. "He never sits at home."

When he is home, Tinggaard — who lives in Taylorsville with his granddaughter, Jennifer Miller, and two of her daughters — loves to read, watch soccer on TV and play with his cat Blondie. He Skypes with two great-granddaughters who live in Kuwait but has declined to make use of another modern convenience, joking that he is the only person in the world without a cell phone.

He also likes to look at his photos and reminisce, especially about his beloved wife, who passed away in 1990. The two were together for 55 years.

"I still miss her," Tinggaard said.

He also misses his daughter, who died at age 71 two years ago, but is grateful for what he does have.

"What a wonderful thing to have so many friends," he said at his birthday party, which drew more than 100 people.

Tinggaard attributes his longevity to his sunny disposition.

My secret," he said, "is to be in a good mood all the time, to smile, to laugh."

pmanson@sltrib.com Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

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