Celebrate grandparentsNational Grandparent’s Day was founded to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes and to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide.
By: Echo Press staff, Alexandria Echo Press
National Grandparent’s Day was founded to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes and to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide.
It has grown to be a special day for all to celebrate the roles grandparents play in the family unit.
Don’t forget to honor your grandparents on National Grandparents Day, Sunday, September 12.
Following, some local residents share a few thoughts, feelings and memories about their grandparents.
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From the time she was a little girl, Jaci Curtis of Osakis wanted to do something special for her grandma, Doris. That idea included a red convertible.
The recent college graduate remembers vividly how Grandma Doris would take her to auxiliary meetings at the nursing home, making little Jaci feel so grown up.
She also enjoyed going to visit the great-grandmas and great-aunts at their homes.
One day, Jaci came up with a grand story that when she turned 16 she was going to buy a little red convertible so she could pick up Grandma and her wheelchair at the nursing home and go for Sunday drives around the lake.
Since neither has gotten their “wheels” yet, Jaci has the pleasure of visiting her grandma, who is now 76, at home, where she walks around just fine.
Jaci also recalls special moments watching cartoons and going to horse auctions with her Grandpa Leon. Jaci kept busy all the way to Sisseton, South Dakota playing with the bag full of toy horses her mom packed. Once there, Grandpa shared stories of the horses he had growing up and how farming had changed.
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Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels has many fond memories of his grandparents – Albert and Christine Wyffels and Julius and Margaret DeMeyer.
He shared stories about all of them, but one he will never forget is when his maternal grandparents moved in with his family. His grandfather, Julius DeMeyer, was dying from heart disease and needed to be cared for. Wyffels said despite being sick, he was always a positive man.
“My grandpa was just a child at heart. I never heard him swear and he was always happy,” he said.
Wyffels remembers his grandpa always having candy in his pocket and when he would give it to his grandkids, he would tell them, “This is just between me and you,” recalled Wyffels.
“I also remember when my brothers and I would rub our feet on the carpet and then touch our grandpa and it would give him a shock,” said Wyffels. “He would just laugh and let us keep doing it.”
Wyffels described his Grandpa DeMeyer as “someone who just loved you – no matter what.”
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Eleven-year-old Alexis Habberstad of Alexandria is thankful for all of her family members, but wrote the following about what makes one grandma extra special:
“I am so grateful for my family and if you put all our memories in a lifetime, they would reach forever. I have many family members I love but I am going to tell you about one special grandparent.
Her name is Irene Baron. I am very glad to have someone so special and caring in my life, which I know a lot of kids don’t get to experience. She is such a kind person and extremely fun to be around. She is very honest and is someone I can talk to when I’m not feeling my best.
She often takes time off from her busy schedule to spend time with her grandchildren. One of the things we always do at her house is go to a little ice cream shop in town. My grandma always treats us to a cone. We’ve made a lot of memories there.
I enjoy being around my grandparents and I know everyone else does, too. This Grandparents Day, I would like all grandparents to know they’re appreciated!”
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Maria Lund of Brandon was fortunate to have four grandparents play a large role in her growing up years.
“My grandparents have been a big part of my life,” she said.
In April, she experienced the heartache of losing one of those special people when her grandfather, Bill Lund, passed away at age 79.
Known by Maria as “Big G,” her grandpa was always quick with a pun or a tease.
Bill and his wife, Marlene, farmed for many years before moving off the farm so their son, Larry and his wife, Mary (Maria’s parents) could take over the operation.
Bill was far from done farming, however. According to Maria, he was there every morning to help with fieldwork, usually staying all day.
Maria says what she admired most about her grandpa was his calm spirit.
“Time was never an issue with him,” she said. “He took his sweet old time with whatever he was doing.
“He didn’t get worked up about stuff, either. I never really saw him upset. If things got crazy he’d just shake his head and go about his business.”
While she’s sad her grandpa won’t be at her October wedding, she’s thankful for all the memories of him.
“Grandparents can have a big impact on a child,” she said. “He sure did.”
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Tom Obert doesn’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny anymore. But because of his grandpa, Chester Obert, he still thinks there are white buffaloes in his yard.
“He always had these white buffalo stories for us,” said Obert, an Alexandria resident. “He pulled that white buffalo story on us all the time. We fell for it every time.”
Obert describes his grandpa as a hard-working family man who drove an ice cream truck in North Minneapolis. He was one of the original teamsters and an avid rose gardener.
And Chester was silly.
“He had this screen porch on his house. My brothers and I would sleep there,” Obert recalled. “Grandpa would get up early to water the roses and we would hear him giggling. Then he would squirt us with the hose. I got my silliness from him.”
More than a sense of humor, Tom credits Chester for instilling in him his strong political beliefs and his democratic values. Chester always believed that you should take care of people and care about people.
And perhaps one of the greatest lessons Tom ever learned from his feisty grandpa was that sometimes, there are some things that just aren’t suitable for print.
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Denine Arana’s grandmother, Geneva Rhinefield, gave her what she needed the most – love.
Denine, of Alexandria, was abused mentally and physically by her mother. It was her grandmother’s unwavering and unconditional love that saw her through the rough times.
“Her loving treatment of me was the exact opposite of my mother’s treatment of me,” Denine said.
Geneva, now 82, talked to her granddaughter and listened to her. She told her she was pretty when she was made to feel ugly. She made her feel smart when she was called stupid. She complimented and pointed out her good qualities.
Geneva was a gentle touch in a harsh world. She patiently sat beside her granddaughter and taught her to knit. She remembered Denine’s favorite foods and made them especially for her.
Denine’s favorite memory was of summer vacations to the ocean. She remembers playing in the water with her brother, looking back at the beach and seeing her grandmother there – happy because her granddaughter was happy. And Denine knew she’d always be there.
“She was loving and giving and compassionate and selfless and a nurturer,” Denine said. “And in that she taught me those things. She is the strongest and best person I know. She loved me and I knew it.”
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Mark Meuwissen, accounting instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, shared some memories of Grandma Ada Bettendorf, otherwise known as Grandma B.
When Mark was about 9 years old, Grandma B. would stay at his home often. She was sick at the time and made trips back and forth from their home to the University of Minnesota.
“She claimed to be the first person in Minnesota to have an artificial heart valve,” said Mark.
When she would spend the night, she would sleep on the bottom bunk while Mark slept on the top.
They would talk for hours and she would share stories.
One story Mark recalls was when his grandmother was making rhubarb wine and a dirty work boot fell into the tub. She didn’t want to throw the wine away but she couldn’t get herself to taste it either.
“She figured it was pretty good though, because she submitted it and won a blue ribbon at the county fair,” said Mark.
She always did well at the fair. One year she submitted three pies with three different names and won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
“Seems she got ribbons for everything at that fair,” said Meuwissen.
“We could talk for hours because we were pals, best pals,” he concluded.
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Alexandria School District 206 Superintendent Terry Quist has fond memories of his grandfather, Orning Quist.
He was an avid duck hunter and many of Quist’s memories of him center around hunting with his grandfather, his dad and his brother.
“On the Saturday before the duck opening, our ritual would be to spend the day at our hunting camp getting decoys, blind and boat ready for the season,” Quist noted. “Over the course of the day, my grandfather would entertain us with hunting stories, even some that were true. As I recall those days, I realize that he was also teaching me about the importance of family and shared memories.”
“My relationship with my grandfather was very special and unique,” he added. “It is like having a guardian angel looking over my shoulder giving timely advice and little pearls of wisdom.
“I was fortunate to have a connection with my grandfather that has given me great memories for a lifetime.”
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Even though they didn’t always see eye to eye – or eye to thigh – Jody Hanson, Echo Press publisher, had a special relationship with her Grandma Timm.
This grandma made all of her clothing, including a cheerleading uniform of questionable skirt length. Hanson recalled cupping her fingers to make her fingertips shorter – and Grandma Timm gave her an especially hard time.
“It only took about a yard of fabric to make my mini skirts,” Hanson said. “She suggested I grow my arms longer.”
From the cheerleading uniform to prom dresses and later her wedding dress, grandma always took the time to be sure her granddaughter looked perfect.
Hanson still has that maroon and gold cheer outfit, yet the most memorable creation from her grandmother’s hands was a Cabbage Patch doll.
Hanson’s daughter, Stephanie, loved that doll with all her heart, carrying it everywhere.
When the family cleaned out its house for a move, Hanson thought maybe the doll was ready for Cabbage Patch heaven, but her daughter disagreed. Somehow, the doll didn’t make the move.
To this day, Hanson said Stephanie, now 30, has not forgiven her for the loss.
“It was the homeliest thing, but she loved it,” Hanson said. “I don’t know what happened to it. Really, I don’t.”
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Pat Koch, biology instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, says a highlight of her childhood was when her family took their monthly 70-mile trip to her grandparents’ (Louis and Frances Stepina) for a Sunday dinner and an afternoon of playing cards.
Pat’s memories of her grandmother include cooking and humor.
Her grandmother had been a cook in Hungary and though she owned an electric stove, she preferred to use a corn cob cooking stove. This gave her Czech and Hungarian dishes a special smoked flavor.
At her grandmother’s youngest son’s wedding that took place in the Kochs’ backyard, Pat handed out rice for guests to throw at the newlywed couple. When she approached her grandmother with the rice, her grandmother proudly displayed a handful of rotten gooseberries she had picked.
“I don’t need does, I vill trow dees!” her grandmother replied in her broken English. Pat did not trust her grandmother’s humor so she kept her occupied while the rest of the guests threw rice.
Pat said, “My fondest memories of my grandparents were their unconditional love and patience with me. Although they felt they did not have much to give, they provided me with the greatest gift of all – their unconditional time. I miss them very much.”