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Creative hands, a loving heart and a lifetime of memories

Hulda Rossum has been writing for most of her life, and almost always has a pencil and pad by her bed in case she wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea for a poem. (Echo Press photo by Caroline Roers)

In the past 92 years, 16 presidents have been through office, more than three major wars have taken place, and a Great Depression crippled the nation.

While some people only read about these life changing events, 92-year-old Hulda Rossum of Brandon has lived them.

"I guess I've lived so long by just eating right and not smoking or drinking, but I am so thankful that even at my age I have no aches or pains," she said.

Hulda lives in Brandon with her husband, Charlie.

"I thank God every day that I can be here with him now. His mind is fading every day," she said. "Charlie and I have made it through so much, and we still tell each other that we love one another every day."

Though times have been hard in the past, the couple has much more support than one another - they have an entourage which includes four children, 14 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, and 23 great-great-grandchildren. Hulda sends every one of them birthday cards.

"I am so thankful and blessed to have every single one of them," she said.


Known as one of the most devastating times in U.S. history, the Great Depression shook much of the U.S. in the 1930s.

"I was born in 1921. I lived in poverty the entire time I was growing up," Hulda recalled.

Though dinners were often beans, lunches consisted of pancakes and her siblings and she wrote with stub pencils at school, the family made the most of what they had.

"Because we didn't have store-bought toys, we made toys ourselves. My mother would make us beanie bags and my brothers made sling shots," she said. "It bothers me now when things are thrown away. The Depression really made us not wasteful and made us make good use of what we had."

For Hulda's family, sometimes they had little more than one another.

"In 1931 our house burnt down when we were at school. No one was hurt during the fire but the only thing that survived was a stove, a trunk and the clothes on our backs."

After the fire, Hulda's family lived in tents for some time. It wasn't until President Roosevelt started the Works Progress Administration in 1935 that her dad had a steady job again.

"I don't think poverty was a bad thing because you appreciated things more when they did improve," she said.


Unlike many children growing up in the Depression, Hulda and her siblings were fortunate enough to attend school.

After graduating 8th grade at age 13, she took two years off to work and started high school at age 15. Four years later, she graduated from a school in Evansville.

"I worked all through my schooling," she said. "At the time, there were seven of us children so my father sometimes had a hard time getting us food."

Hulda primarily took care of children and often had to move 20 miles away from her parents to do so.

"Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep. I was so young and missed my family, especially my sisters," she recalled.

Unbeknownst to her, one of the children she took care of was Dennis Lund, who would one day marry her daughter.

"I sure hadn't an idea I would have a daughter marry him when I was changing his diapers!" she said.


When Hulda was living in Evansville and her parents were in New York Mills, she found she had no means of transportation to visit them for Christmas or Thanksgiving - so she hired Charlie to drive her.

Though the two did talk, she never thought anything else of their encounters.

"But then, I was roller skating one day and someone tripped me so I grabbed onto the white sleeveless sweater that the boy in front of me was wearing. I practically choked him because I pulled down so hard," Hulda exclaimed. "When he turned around I saw that it was Charlie and I was so embarrassed."

The couple was married July 4, 1940; they have been happily married for 72 years.

"We really just love one another," Hulda said.

Charlie worked as a railroad operator so the couple moved around a lot.

"I think I counted once that I have moved 22 times in my lifetime," Hulda said. "I got to see a lot of places and meet a lot of people."

Because they moved so often, Hulda's father built them a trailer to live in with a sink, fold down table, roll away bed, and two closets over the wheels. They lived there until their second child was born.

The couple has two sons and two daughters - Carol, Lynn, Gene and Colleen.

"I love being a mom and teaching my children what I have learned, like not to be wasteful, but it was hard sometimes," she said.

Though the Depression and living away from family at a young age was difficult, they were nothing compared to what she had to face later in life.

"I know I have been through a lot in my life, but I think the hardest thing I have ever had to live through was being with my daughter the last few days before she passed away from primary liver cancer at the age of 48," she recalled. "I still miss her."


With 92 years of experiences and a flourishing heart, Hulda loves to help people, and she does this through words.

"I think writing is a God given talent - a gift," she said. "But I think I mostly love to write because I want to help people with my poems."

Hulda's poems, usually only 10 or 20 lines long, portray anecdotes and lessons from her life.

Though she still loves to write and always keeps a pencil and pad by her bed in case she thinks of something, she doesn't write as much as she used to because she is sleeping better at night.

"Years ago, I would wake up in the middle of the night or think of ideas while I was trying to sleep. This is where I wrote most of my poems," she said.

While she has been writing most of her life, she didn't begin painting until her kids left home.

"My art I inherited from my mother. She had always liked to paint pictures," she recalled.

Hulda paints whatever inspires her - usually flowers and landscapes. She also enjoys doing pottery and ceramics.


One of the more dramatic changes Hulda has seen during her life is technology.

"When I was younger there were still telephones, but the telephones were connected to one another so you would have to wait your turn to use it. And everyone had a specific ring, like some people had long, short, short, and another person would have short, long, short, so anyone could listen to the line and people knew whose ring it was so they knew who was talking," she explained. "It's so different with cell phones and iPods now and things that I don't understand."

Though many things are different, some things in Hulda's life haven't changed.

"There have been a lot of changes over the years, some were good, and some were bad. But some things haven't changed, like the love I have for my husband and family and my faith in God," she said.


Hulda Rossum will speak at the Brandon Historical Center during the Brandon Summer Fest on Saturday, August 4 from 1 to 2 p.m.

Along with a presentation, coffee and cookies, many of Hulda's poems will be on display.

For more information call Chris Krokowski (320) 834-4505 or Janet Nelson (320) 834-4401.