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86 year old Red Wing woman spreads Irish cheer

Eileen Broze's contagious positive attitude was on full display on St. Patrick's Day. Broze performed two dance and comedy gigs at Jordan Tower and the American Legion. (Photo by Samantha Bengs)1 / 2
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Eileen Broze is a woman who wears many hats. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, avid baker, card club regular, a smiling neighbor and friend to many. When the calendar flips to March each year, however, Broze's most compelling and colorful hat comes out to play. Just a few weeks shy of her 87th birthday, Broze performed two comedy gigs yesterday for St. Patrick's Day.

"What's the difference between an Irish wake and an Irish wedding?," Broze asked the audience gathered at Jordan Tower Friday afternoon. "One less drunk," she answered to laughter.

Broze is fairly new to stand-up comedy.

"I started this foolishness when I was 70 years young," she said. "I don't prepare or rehearse, I just have fun."

Broze not only showcases her storytelling and comedic chops, but also her tap dancing skills. A small patch of linoleum tiles in her kitchen serves as her practice area.

"My steps aren't as high as they used to be, but I still love dancing," she said.

Broze grew up in rural Miesville as a Wiederholt.

"My mother was full blood Irish, and she was very proud," she said.

Broze began living in Red Wing at the age of 14, and has since fully embraced life here.

"You've got to have fun in life," she said. "You'd go crazy if you didn't."

As her children grew and left the nest — with grandchildren soon following — Broze continued the good cheer. She has received gifts of rollerskates, new tap shoes and even a motorcycle ride around Lake Pepin at the age of 83.

"I was combing my hair for three days after that ride," she said proudly while gazing at a frame full of photos from the ride.

Her home of 60 years is full of memories, she said, with walls lined with photos of family, friends and all the moments life has handed her along the way.

"Life has handed me many blessings, but we've all had bad days," Broze said. "I've seen bad days, but a laugh helps us through it all."

Broze's zest for life is perfectly accentuated by her St. Patrick's Day cheer. At 86, she has performed on the holiday for the past seven years and a few scattered years before.

"I play the crowd a little bit," Broze said. "I get Irish jokes in of course, but the Norwegians and Swedes aren't off limits."

The Red Wing Irish organization crowned Broze the St. Patrick's Day Queen in 1978.

"How does that work?" she quipped. "I go from a queen to a jester. Next I'll be serving the food."