You ought to meet organic farmer Ronny Reitmeier

NEAR CROOKSTON, Minn. — Being a farm girl, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than going for a drive in the country. Recently I ventured out to a lovely spot near Crookston to which I had never been before.

The beauty and anticipated forthcoming bounty of the fields along the way nearly took my breath away. Then it was for sure gone when I gazed upon Ronny Jaeck Reitmeier’s high tunnel tomatoes.

A party began late that afternoon on the very farmstead Ronny’s great-great grandfather purchased in 1919 for Ronny’s great grandfather and his new family. Ronny, the adopted son of John Reitmeier, is the fifth generation caretaker of this land. He says absolutely everything done there is with sustainability as the No. 1 goal.

John Reitmeier threw the party for two reasons: To celebrate his son Ronny’s graduation from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, with a degree in agronomy, and so that all extended members of the Reitmeier family could meet Michael and Debby Terry who were visiting from Charles Town, W. Va.

It may all sound somewhat complicated, but it really isn’t. First of all you should know that adoption is in John Reitmeier’s blood. He and his sister, Jane Reitmeier, were adopted by Willard and Grace Reitmeier now both deceased.

Two years ago I was blessed to be able to help John find his biological roots. We learned his biological mother, Virginia Terry, died in 2001, but that he had a brother (Michael Terry), a sister-in-law (Debby Terry) and two beautiful nieces, Megan and Meredith. In fact, I traveled to Charles Town in April of 2012 to be with John and his sister Jane when they met Michael and Debby for the first time.

Unforgettable.

Now, Michael and Debby were in Minnesota and with Ronny’s graduation it was time to rejoice with good food, beverages and celebration cake on the patio.

Seated from left: Michael Terry and John Reitmeier. Standing left: Debby Terry and John’s sister Jane Reitmeier

 

As an organic farmer, Ronny is in his glory. And, does he ever have a story to tell.

From Berlin, Germany, Ronny was orphaned as a young child. “I grew up very very poor,” he said. After their parents died, he lived with an older sister. Some years later, John heard about him from a former foreign exchange student. After learning that help was needed on the Reitmeier farm, “God decided it should be me,” Ronny said. “There are no random acts. I had to be brave, too, and I feel so blessed. I never realized my life could turn this way after being orphaned at 11.“

Ronny thoroughly enjoyed showing guests his organic gardens where he is growing carrots, squash, potatoes and corn. He has a high tunnel hot house chock full of tomato plants and is selling his produce to Whitey’s restaurant, East Grand Forks, Sanders 1907 restaurant, Grand Forks, and at area farmers markets.

Tomatoes in a high tunnel hot house

Check out Ronny’s website at: www.ronny’sfarmtotable.com

It surely was nice being out at the Reitmeier farm and meeting members of John and Jane’s family on both their mothers’ and their fathers’ sides of the family.

I loved seeing Michael and Debby again, too, and I came away totally impressed by Ronny.

Until Soon

Of birthdays and sunshine

Another birthday has come and gone for this Ruby Girl. I’ve had lots of them, for which I’m very grateful. I hope to have lots more.

I think of birthdays as the fruits and veggies of life keeping in mind what was printed on a card I received some years back. It says, “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest.”

For reasons I can’t pinpoint, the one I celebrated earlier this week was just fantastic. It began with many wonderful well wishes that came to me on face book. More greetings trickled in during the day by way of emails, phone calls, cards in the mail and some hand delivered.

I’m way beyond 30, 40, 50 even. Those birthdays bothered me a bit, this one did not. Who knows why this one was and remains “peaceful,” to me?

For starters on July 9, I donned my ruby bracelet and earrings and had lunch at Paradiso with my friend Vickie. Free I might add complements of Paradiso. Secondly, Gemini (Jim and I) had dinner at Mamma Marias’s in East Grand Forks with more dear friends. Free I might add complements of Mamma Maria’s. I think restaurants that serve a free meal to the birthday girl or boy are very thoughtful and kind.

At Mamma Maria’s, we happened to be seated at a table next to Bonnie and Loren Abel who were celebrating their daughter, Emily’s birthday with other family members. Emily and I share the day. Bonnie (her mom) baked and brought cupcakes for their group and just happened to have four extra, which they passed on to us. We brought them home to share with friends over vanilla ice cream and coffee. They were scrumptious. I must get Bonnie’s frosting recipe to share with you.

Among my birthday gifts is this charming little ice cream dish from another dear friend who found it at the Hallmark store.

This friend knows how much I love ice cream and also how much I love riding my bike. With her gift came this card with a drawing of a bicycle on the front and the words, “The secret to life is enjoying the ride.” On the inside it says, “Ride On.”

That I am definitely doing!

Yes, I had a birthday on Tuesday and today (Friday), I reached the halfway mark of my goal to ride “Sunshine,” my pretty yellow Trek Cruiser 3,000 miles during 2014.

ME AND MY SUNSHINE

I rode 3,000 miles in 2012, 3,000 miles in 2013, and this year can be no different. People ask me “why” I ride so much. I say, “Because I can.”

As the birthdays come and go, this Ruby Girl may one day have to permanently apply Sunshine’s brakes, but until then, I will eat ice cream in my new dish and – “Ride On.”

Until Soon

Frost Fire tradition just happened.

One summer, many years ago, Gemini (Jim and I) planned a day trip with good friends and neighbors, Richard and LoAnn Stallmo, to see a production at Frost Fire Theater near Walhalla, N.D.

We enjoyed the show so much, not to mention the breathtaking beauty of the Pembina River Gorge, that we went again the next year and the year after that and the year after that.

In fact, we’ve never stopped.

We’ve come to realize that our annual trek to Frost Fire has continued for nearly three decades. We were there again last Saturday night to see “Smokey Joe’s Café,” learning that this is Frost Fire’s 30th season. Looking over the list of past performances, we believe we’ve been going there for 27 years.

That’s a milestone!

Every show we’ve seen has been stupendous: Big River, West Side Story, Shenandoah, Paint Your Wagon, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, to name a few. Same goes for every single cast member who has ever graced the stage. The majority are local/North Dakota/Minnesota talent.

David and Amy Jo Paukert have directed the show for most of those 30 years. This year, however, they took a break and Darin Kerr, a cast member, also serves as director.

In case you haven’t heard me mention this, Darin Kerr is probably my favorite local actor.

Smokey Joe’s Café is a Tony Award-Nominated and Grammy Award-Winning tribute to legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It’s a song-and-dance celebration of nearly 40 of rock n’ rolls greatest hits. This powerhouse of music was the longest running venue in Broadway history and features nearly 40 of the best songs ever recorded.

The nine singers and dancers virtually go from one song to another without stopping except for a 15 minute intermission. We heard such hits as: Young Blood, Ruby Baby, Dance with Me, Searchin’, Kansas City, Poison Ivy, On Broadway, Saved, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, and many more.

Kirsten Crockett singing “Saved.”

 

 Justine Pulec singing “I Keep Forgettin’ “

Besides Darin, cast members are: Justine Pulec, Ruben Flores, Kirsten Crockett, Daniella Lima, Jordan Thornberg, Heather Williams, Luke Hoplin and Ryan Jones. Luke is another favorite of mine because he is the grandson of friends, Tom and Marge Gabrielson.

The pit orchestra is made up of Farren Rowan, keyboard; Spencer Black, bass; Miles Uhrich, guitar; Alex Huther, drums, and Josh Frey, saxophone. It was great fun to learn that Miles is the grandson of my Newburg, N.D., hometown friends/school mates, Judy and Darwin Hunskor.

If you’ve haven’t been to Frost Fire, I dare say you are missing out. It takes less than two hours to get there from East Grand Forks/Grand Forks, and the North Dakota farming landscape is so beautiful all along the way north on Interstate 29. It stays that way after you turn west on Highway 5 then north again on Highway 32. Be prepared for a whole new picturesque and wooded scene when you enter the Pembina Gorge.

Showings of Smokey Joe’s Café continue at 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, and 6 p.m. Saturdays through July 30. Call (701) 549-3600 for tickets.

As for Gemini, summer would not be complete without our day at Frost Fire with Richard and LoAnn.

Until Soon

Grandchildren remember Grandma

It’s a beautiful thing when someone who’s been gone for years always is fondly remembered. Especially on her birthday.

On this day, July 1, that someone is my mother who was and remains dearly loved by her 11 grandchildren. Mom died at the age of 98. Today she would have been 109.

The memory messages concerning Freda Hall began flitting from state to state this morning about 8:30. It started with Lynda in Illinois who emailed Freda’s other 10 grandchildren saying:

“Remembering Grandma on her birthday and thanking God for the blessings of family and the faith that has been passed down through ours.”

Lynda’s message went to Florida, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Soon we all (including my brothers and me) received this message from Sue in Montana:

“Yes, it is an incredible blessing for me to have grown up living so close to Grandma and having vivid memories of her throughout my childhood. Whether it be watching grandma at the table knead bread in the big bowl on her lap, the smell of her caramel rolls baking, cutting apples and making pies or watching her stab the box of cereal on the top shelf of the cupboard with a large butcher knife! We were so fortunate to have such amazing role models.”

We chuckle as we recall how Mom would stab a cereal box on the top shelf because, being a shorty, that was the only way she could capture it and bring it down.

Then came this message from Myrna in Mandan:

“I remember our choke cherry juice days. Grandma always said that we needed to grind the pits and then squeeze the juice because that’s what would give the juice the great almondy flavor!   Everyone working together made it a fun day.”

Our son, Troy, agrees: “My best memory was making choke cherry jam with Grandma and all the cousins.  For me, her best line was, “Doesn’t anybody just serve meat and potatoes any more?” – spoken at my birthday dinner at the Emporium of Jazz, a New Orleans style (cajun) restaurant in Mendota, MN.”

Then came this from Steve: “I remember spending lots of time with Grandma and Grandpa prior to my first days in school. I remember walking out to the shop with Grandpa after lunch one day. Before leaving the house, Grandpa got a lengthy earful from Grandma about a variety of topics. His replies to her were “Yes”, and “OK”.

Steve continues: “She was pretty harsh with him, so as we were walking out I asked him if everything was OK. (I was 5 and feeling bad for him) He said, ‘Oh yes, everything is OK. Sometimes it’s important for Grandma to be right, so I let her.’ Then he smiled at me, letting me know that everything was OK. Bottom line, Grandma was very strong willed and a very tough lady . . . which I always greatly respected her for; She needed to be in her life. And Grandpa . . . he was very kind, and he wanted a happy Grandma.  This was a very good memory for me, along with the pork chops, potatoes, milk gravy and kraut that he had dozens of times for lunch.”

July 1 is special for another reason. One grandson, Chuck, was born on her birthday, which tickled Grandma to no end.

Each summer all 11 grandchildren, some now in their 50s, would gather at the family farm in north central North Dakota to visit their grandparents, Freda and LeRoy Hall. It’s where their bond began and remains strong to this day even though they are hundreds of miles apart. My dad, LeRoy, was loved every bit as much as Grandma was. He died in 1988 at the age of 85.

1961 photo of Freda and LeRoy Hall

“I remember Grandma having a fake glass ice cube with a fly in it that she would put in someone’s glass thinking she was so sneaky,” our son Dean said. “I also remember when we had our basset hound Henry. She loved Henry and called him Hank. One day when we were visiting he had gotten out of the house and she looked out the front window and just said, “Hank’s heading East. Looks like he’s going home.”

Dean and his family visited us in East Grand Forks this past weekend. He spotted his grandmother’s old white, worn and weathered prayer book that I keep on the dresser in the guest bedroom. He was moved by the things his grandmother had kept and pressed between the pages. He also found the evening prayers she faithfully prayed to be priceless.

From Kirsten in Florida came this: “One thing I always think of when I think of Grandma is that her hands were always so shiny. I guess because of the oil from the bread she seemed to always be making.  I remember too how she used to get so many birthday cards and how much she liked that and knew how many she got. And, her expression, ‘Oh! Forevermore!.’ ”

As for me, to commemorate my Mom’s birthday, I wound the carousel music box that once was hers and listened to the song “Memory,” which she loved. Hence, I could not help but sing along:

Midnight – Not a sound from the pavement. Has the moon lost her memory. She is smiling alone. In the lamplight, the withered leaves collect at my feet, and the wind begins to moan. Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

Yes, life was beautiful when she was with us and remembering her helps to keep it that way.

Until Soon

Mike’s in the Mustang, Denny’s in the Dodge

Jim and I aren’t the only antiques on the premises. We live in our house, of course, but the other aged among us reside in the garage. They are a 1967 metallic blue Mustang convertible (white top), and a 1950 maroon Dodge Coronet. We enjoy the cars immensely, but perhaps not even as much as our grandchildren do. The old cars light up their visits like the sparks that fly up from the fire pit.

The Dodge came with us when we moved here from Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1975. It had 8,000 original miles when we bought it and today, only 15,000 original. It is like a flawless gemstone.

The Mustang we bought about 1979 from a young man from Warren, Minn., who needed the money for his last year of college. We don’t recall his name and wonder where he is today.

This past weekend granddaughter, Elyn, grandson, Ethan, and son Troy, came to see us while their mom/wife, Sheri, was in Florida for a wedding. So, of course, we tooled around in the old cars.

Mike’s Pizza in East Grand Forks, has been a family favorite since our sons, Troy and Dean, were still at home and since the grandbabies got their teeth, that tradition has continued. So, on Friday night we went to Mike’s in the Mustang.

Everybody in our family also loves Denny’s Restaurant, so bright and early Saturday morning we piled in the Dodge and headed for Denny’s. The drive over there was as sweet as the maple syrup on our pancakes. Just so you know, the rest of the time we ate at home!

Beyond the jaunts around our towns, we had a lovely time together playing Catch Phrase and the 5-deck card game, Hand and Foot. We biked to O’Leary Park to watch Elyn, Ethan and Troy perform as American Ninja Warriors on obstacle courses. We worked briefly on a 750 piece puzzle, made two batches of Rice Krispie bars and went to a movie at River City Cinema.

Did I mention we all love that place too? Every time our families visit we never fail to take in a movie.

This time it was “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Although animated, I highly recommend it for adults as well as children. The story began with the first dragon movie titled, “How to Train Your Dragon.”

A synopsis:

It’s been 5 years since Hiccup and Toothless united the dragons and Vikings of Berk. Now, they spend their time charting the island’s unmapped territories. During one of their adventures, they discover a secret cave that houses hundreds of wild dragons –and a mysterious dragon rider who turns out to be Hiccup’s long-lost mother.

Several solid ground messages are woven into the story – things like the love and importance of family and protecting the peace.

Examples:

Astrid, who puts a hand over Hiccup’s heart says, “What you’re searching for is in here.”

When Hiccup’s mother removes her helmet he asks, “Should I know you?” She answers, “No. You were only a babe. But a mother never forgets.”

And, I had to reach for a slip of paper and a pen to write this one down so as to never forget: “A man who kills without reason cannot be reasoned with.”

Elyn, 11, adored every moment of the movie. Ethan, 9, loved the immense action, but one part he could have done without. “There was kissing,” he said.

Last week is a wonderful memory and now we prepare for our other family of four to arrive on Wednesday. Without a doubt we’ll be tooling around in the aged among us who reside in the garage. If you spot us, be sure to holler out a “Hey.”

Until Soon

Remembering my dad on Father’s Day and always,

Have you ever noticed that time tends to evaporate much like the morning dew? Come back with me, if you will, to 1987. I was a staff writer at the Grand Forks Herald at the time and that year, for Father’s Day, I didn’t go to my dad, he came to me. At age 83, he climbed the stairs to the Herald’s second floor news room where photographer Vickie Kettlewell captured us in this precious moment. I had ready a column to go with that picture.

I’d like to share that feature with you again, these 27 years later. At the end, watch for an addition and another photo.

Let’s begin:

NEWBURG, N.D. – Two of us call him Dad. The other two call him Pa. Eleven call him Grandpa and one special lady calls him Lee, or “LeRoy,” if she really wants his attention. That’s his wife, Freda. They’ve been together 56 years.

But, to all, including two great-grandchildren, LeRoy Hall holds a special place in our hearts, more so than ever in this, the 83rd year of his life. I don’t know how it’s possible, but he grows dearer and more appreciated each Father’s Day. We all want him to know that.

I was the baby, and I liked that position in the lineup. There were advantages to being the youngest. You got to go along with Dad to meetings while everyone else was in school. One, in particular, I have never forgotten. It was the day we went to Bottineau, N.D., to a Farmer’s Union meeting.

I must have been about 5 years old when we made the 30-mile trip in the red 1947 Chevrolet truck. It was the day I had my first spelling lesson: C-H-E-V-R-O-L-E-T. Dad would say the letters and I would repeat them. I remember sitting on the floor, under the dash, looking up at him as he taught me to spell that big word. It was a cozy little spot to sit.

But there’s another reason to remember that day. At the meeting, Dad was having coffee with cream and sugar. It smelled rather good so I asked for some. I got it. But after drinking it, I got sick and we had to stop alongside the road on the way home. To this day, whenever I smell the aroma of sweetened, creamed coffee, I think of that day 40 years ago.

I drink my coffee black.

My dad had a dream when he was a young man. He grew up on a farm near Russell, N.D., about four miles from another farm he thought was beautiful. The other farm had a tree-lined driveway. You would turn in off the road and enter the yard through a tunnel of trees. He could picture himself living there one day.

That dream came true in 1928 when he, then a bachelor, bought the farm. It included five quarters of land. He and my mother were married in 1930.

Dad remembers well 1932 when there was no crop. The man he bought the farm from came to collect a payment. They had no money to give him. Dad is still thankful for the man’s patience.

“We had a landlord who didn’t foreclose,” Dad said. “He patted me on the back and said, “Stay with it and you’ll be all right.”

And stay with it they did. Through faith and frugality, they had the land paid for by 1945.

When I stop to think, I sometimes wonder if we really know what hard work is. Today, Dad remembers how much hard work farming was. But he loved working hard. “I wouldn’t have ever wanted to do anything else,” he says. The hardest part for him has been slowing down.

On that same land, in the coal black dirt of the garden along the tree-lined driveway, is where all 11 grandchildren gathered every summer when they were small. Not only were they cousins, they became wonderful friends. We parents would see them only when they were hungry and came in the house with dirt-smudged faces.

The seven grandsons and four granddaughters are all grown up, but have a special bond with each other that began with Grandpa, Grandma and the earth.

Mom and Dad still live on the farm in the home they built in 1950. It sits at the end of the lane. There were times after they retired when they wondered if they should move to town. But I don’t think they ever could have left the place they loved. They were too firmly attached to all they had built together.

My brothers and their spouses, David and Margaret Hall and Myrlin and Shirley Hall, live nearby. My sister and her husband, Lori and Bob Duesenberg, live in St. Louis, Mo.

Mom and Dad along with the home place are the ties that bind us all. When I visit and turn in the lane that has since been replanted, I know what John Denver meant when he sang, “Sometimes this ol’ farm feels like a long-lost friend. Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”

__________________________________________________

Now the addendum:

Dad and Mom have been gone for years, but the home place is alive and well right down to the tree lined driveway. The yard always has been beautiful and with the addition of playground equipment it resembles a park. My favorite nephew, Thomas “Tom” LeRoy Hall, his wife Jodi and their three children, Alayna, Anna and Luke are living life to the fullest not only in the house but on the very spot my dad fell in love with in 1928. Tom farms the land with another of my favorite nephew’s, Mike Hall, who is Tom’s cousin. Here Tom and his family are perched on a restored 1950s Super M Farmall tractor.

Blest be the cycle of life.

Until Soon

 

Sunday Taco bar benefit for Mick Peppard

Mick Peppard 

In the quietness of the renal dialysis room at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, Mick Peppard is telling me of the ups and downs and goings on of his illness when suddenly he pauses. An immense smile lights up his face as we hear the strains of a soft lullaby over the intercom.

“A baby was just born,” Mick says. “Every time you hear that song, a baby has been born.”

Mick has heard the lullaby a lot – during his three times a week three-to- four hour dialysis sessions and during his recent one month hospital stay. It’s beautiful to see that something as simple as a lullaby and the thought of new life brings him joy amidst his own uncertainly.

“Every once in a while there has to be a setback,” said Mick, who was back in the hospital again this week. “I don’t know why, but I’m going to keep fighting. I’ll never quit fighting. I have too much to live for.”

In July of 2011, Mick, who has lived in Grand Forks all his life, was diagnosed with IGA Nephropia, a progressive kidney disease which has landed him in the hospital many times over the past three years. He learned he was born with this disease and would have it the rest of his life.

Mick was hospitalized 10 times the first year and three times since. He was released from Altru just two weeks ago after being there a solid month. Through it all, his faith has stood the test of time.

“It’s obviously a testament to my faith,” Mick said. “History shows in the Bible that Christians were constantly tested to see how strong their faith was. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I believe He has a plan for me.”

Kyle and Mick Peppard

Kyle Peppard, Mick’s wife of 13 years, has taken him to ER in the middle of the night. “With all he’s gone through, I’m grateful I still have him,” she said. “We are really blessed with a wonderful Christian family and a wonderful church family. We couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be around at a time like this.”

There’s yet another family standing with the Peppard’s. It’s Kyle’s work family at Paradiso on South Washington Street. Among them Sia Anvarinia, general manager; Mike Cassanelli, manager, and other co-workers.

This Sunday (May 18) from noon to 2 p.m., Paradiso is doing a benefit for Mick in the form of a taco bar at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1710 Cherry Street, Grand Forks. All free-will offering proceeds will help the Peppard’s with medical bills. The benefit also is supported by Thrivent Financial.

IGA Nephropia has attacked Mick’s heart, lungs, kidneys and aorta. He also has had to deal with blood clots, blood infections and pneumonia. Mick has been to the Mayo Clinic and was told that what is being done for him at Altru is exactly what they would do for him at Mayo.

For several years, Mick operated Red River Decorators in Grand Forks. He has not been able to work much of late and just recently closed his business. He also was a part-time bus driver for the University of North Dakota and had been driving school bus for East Grand Forks Public Schools until his April hospitalization.

Kyle sits in front of me in church choir and Mick right behind me. His wittiness makes rehearsals so fun. Choir is on hiatus for the summer. Hopefully he’ll be back among the boys in the back row this fall.

Do come to enjoy Paradiso’s delicious taco bar for Mick and Kyle. That’s from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Immanuel.

Until Soon

A road trip is good solitude time

I don’t recall what I was researching, but sometime ago I came across a line from “Solitude,” by Henry David Thoreau, that caught my attention. It did so because I can totally relate

Thoreau’s quote is: I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Those words re-enter my mind every time I’m on a road trip, unaccompanied, which happened again recently. I love aloneness especially when I’m heading west on North Dakota Highway 2 toward the middle of the state and beyond.

This time my destination was Bottineau, N.D., where I would attend a banquet commemorating the 22-year existence and the culmination of the North Dakota Chapter of the Orphan Grain Train. OGT is a Christian volunteer network that ships donated food, clothing, medical and other needed items to people in 61 different countries including the USA.

As I travel, there are so many memoires along Highway 2, of people I’ve written about over the years from Larimore, Niagara, Michigan, Lakota, Devils Lake and Leeds. Some I know are gone and in my aloneness I remember each one fondly.

At Rugby, I turned north on Highway 3 and in a matter of miles, west again on Highway 60, to angle on up toward Bottineau.

Willow City is on this road (60) and as I see it in the distance, I glance at the clock. I have time to turn in. This is one little hamlet with special memories.

I came here as a child with my parents to visit my mom’s Aunt Rosie and her husband, Chris Melhoff. That was eons ago, but I was convinced I could find their house and I sure enough did. It’s down at the end lonely (main) street beyond a church that holds not such fond memories for me. I found that, too, and remember the Sunday, as a child, I fell down its flight of stairs all the way to the basement. No broken bones, just a severely bruised ego.

I moseyed on and soon came to Aunt Rosie’s house on the left. It’s just as I remember it and I could almost see her standing on the porch in her white apron that protected her navy blue dress with lace collar. Oh, how she loved to have kinfolk come for a visit.

The house is empty and in amazingly good condition. I’m told others have lived in it over the years. Most recently it was a gift shop called Willow Tree.

Willow City is special to me for another reason. Just prior to this trip, I received word that a former roommate of mine, Judy Phelps Murphy, who grew up at Willow City, had died in Castle Rock, Colo. As I drove the streets of Willow City, I wondered when Judy had last been here. And in my quietness I missed her.

I spotted another building on Willow City’s main street that looked familiar. This is what remains of a hardware store that was owned and operated by more of my mother’s relatives named Kitzman. I was once a wide-eyed child on the other side of these windows because of the millions of things lining the cluttered shelves.

But mostly Willow City floods me with memories of Aunt Rosie, who has also become special to our son, Dean, and his wife, Jyl, even though they never met her.

When Aunt Rosie died, my mother was given her wedding ring. When Dean was about to propose to Jyl, my mother said, “I wonder if Dean would like Aunt Rosie’s ring to give to Jyl.?” Who could turn that down?

The proposal took place in the solitude a wheat field just outside East Grand Forks. These two have now been married for 23 years and Jyl never takes the ring off. Somewhere along the line we started researching yet again only to learn that Aunt Rosie died the year Dean was born. And without even realizing it, Dean and Jyl gave their oldest daughter Rose for a middle name.

And in my solitude, I call my first born granddaughter, “Rosie.”

Until Soon

 

A Sweet Trio — God, Girlfriends & Chocolate

The long serving table was heavy laden with hors d’oeuvres and desserts divine. After picking up our wedge of veggie pizza, chips, sauce and baby sausages, we speared chunks of strawberries, pineapple and angel cake with fondue sticks and poked them into the free fall of warm, satiny chocolate flowing from a fountain. Not yet to the end of the food line, there was a huge assortment of desserts to choose from.

Mini massages and paraffin wax hand treatments were offered and the room was filled with the wonderful music of Anna Larson and Roxanne Hagen. Finally, a talk by Gaye Lindfors, author and speaker from Vadnais Heights, Minn., put “Ladies Night,” over the top.

Char Holy, who chairs the Compassion in Action group at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, East Grand Forks, said this was their first time hosting an event such as this. As an observer and participant, I say, right down to the round tables covered with lace, it could not have been improved upon.

When I heard about this night whose theme was, “God, Girlfriends and Chocolate,” I knew I wanted to go. It sounded like something I needed. Then LoAnn Stallmo, my friend and neighbor called, and invited me as it was taking place at her church.

So there I was on Thursday night, in a room with a hundred or so other women. Arriving, I knew many, leaving I knew even more.

For starters, Roxanne and Anna played and sang a song titled, “Chocolate.” It’s always so good to see Roxanne. She was my two sons’ first music teacher at the former Crestwood Elementary School. She’s on the right below.

This was my first meeting of Anna, who is marketing director at Good Samaritan Heritage Grove. She has the voice and the aura of an angel.

Their first song, “Chocolate,” is from 1989 and written by Kirby Shaw. Wish I could, but I can’t include word-for-word lyrics because of copyright laws. I will say this: the song speaks of the many faces of chocolate, which we now hear is good for us. An example: mousse, Rocky Road, Black Forest, a Chip, a Kiss, M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces.

Speaker Gaye Lindfors was born and raised in Climax, Minn., the daughter of Joyce and the late George Nornes. Check out her website: Gaye@SignificantSolutionsInc.com.

Gaye broke down her theme, “God, Girlfriends and Chocolate,” for us. That’s also the title of her book.

In a nutshell her message is: God gives us our hope when we search for and find Him in His word, when we lock arms with our girlfriends, they give us encouragement, and the chocolate in our lives is all the good things going on around us which we oftentimes don’t stop to savor: our health, our work, our leisure time, our families, the sunshine, the rain, spring, flowers, riding bike on our beautiful paths.

Gaye stressed that we may have things we keep even from our girlfriends, but “we have no secrets from God.” Things that keep us from living a chocolate filled life are: not forgiving ourselves for things that happened in the past, not trusting God for the future and not living in the present. “If I’m not trusting God for the future,” she said. “I’m saying I’m smarter than He is.”

She also spoke of two sure ways to destroy a friendship: One she coined, “compare-i-tis. We lose sight of our own worth when we compare ourselves to someone else,” Gaye stated. The other way of destroying a friendship is through gossip. Gossip not only hurts the one gossiped about, but in the end the one spreading it.

Gaye also spoke about fear. “There is enough bad stuff going on that we don’t need to create our own fear,” she said. “Jesus never worried. He just trusted God.”

There were lots of door prizes including potted flowers, and Roxanne and Anna capped off our evening with the song, “In the Sweet By and By,” They moved many, including me, to tears.

To Char Holy and the Compassion in Action group I say with gratefulness, kuddos and Hershey kisses to you!

Until Soon

Pastor Harvey Hoiberg retires from Kongsvinger

There has been great joy in his journey – from Pekin, N.D., to the pulpit — with several whistle stops along the way.

Pastor Harvey Hoiberg, 91, had a 35-year railroad career before he began serving Kongsvinger Lutheran Church in 1997. Now, he’s retiring yet again.

Sunday Pastor Hoiberg will preach his farewell sermon after having served Kongsvinger for nearly 17 years, He’s the longest serving pastor there in the church’s 134-year history. Pastor Hoiberg’s theme is, “The Joy of Being a Christian.”

Kongsvinger sits beautifully along Polk County 22 between East Grand Forks and Oslo, Minn. The community is invited to attend the service and to stay for dinner to be served from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., there will be a program honoring Pastor Hoiberg, and Donna, his beloved helpmeet of 67 years.

It was such a pleasure to visit with the Hoibergs in the quietness of Kongsvinger’s sanctuary. My story of their joyful journey will be in Sunday’s Grand Forks Herald.

Until Soon