Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Gratitude from a Minnesota flood survivor January 14, 2011

YESTERDAY I APPROVED a comment submitted by Tina Marlowe on my November 12, 2010, post, “An update from flood-ravaged Hammond & Floodfest 2010.”

Maybe you read the comment from this woman who survived the September flooding of tiny Hammond in southeastern Minnesota. Tina and her family fled their flooded home and lived in a hotel, then a rental house in Rochester, before returning to Hammond shortly after Christmas.

In case you missed Tina’s heartfelt comment, I am republishing it here because you need to read the words of this flood survivor. She writes with touching honesty, depth and emotion.

A child's toy lies among the tires and other rubble at a collection point in Hammond when I visited the small Wabasha County town along the Zumbro River some 2 1/2 weeks after the September flood. Seeing that child's discarded toy among all the flood debris depicted, for me, the personal side of this natural disaster.

You’ll hear more from Tina in the future. She sent me a four-page e-mail in response to additional questions I asked. Her answers will move you to tears. Once I’ve sorted through her missive—and that could take a week or three—I’ll publish Tina’s complete story in a series of installments.

But for now, read this portion of Tina’s story:

I AM THE DEAR FRIEND that Katie spoke of. My name is Tina. I am happy to report that my family: my father and mother-in-laws to be; my fiancé, Micheal; and my children, Cassandra and Christian, moved back into our home in Hammond the weekend of New Year’s Eve. We tried desperately to get back in by Christmas, but a couple of our snow storms and other glitches set us back a few days. But we are home, finally.

It has been a long, hard road to get here, and it is simply amazing how far we have come in such a relatively short amount of time. We are lucky, so very, very lucky. We are the third or so family home so far. But it is comforting to look out the window and see the contractors in our neighbors’ houses!

I know now what they don’t quite realize yet. Their homes are going to be beautiful once again, and most likely better than they were before! I cannot even describe the emotions of coming home to a beautifully rebuilt home, after all we have been through.

It would have never been possible, though, without the hard work, generosity, and compassion of all of our neighbors. Not just our neighbors in Hammond, Zumbro Falls, Mazeppa, Millville, Elgin, Plainview and Rochester, but also our neighbors in Rushford and Winona area who know all too well the nightmare we are going through, our neighbors from Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Iowa, and reaches farther than anyone will ever know.

From our school districts, to church groups, to motorcycle clubs, teen-agers, retirees, sentence-to-serve program…. the diversity of mid-westerners that rallied around us and embraced us and fed us and clothed us and held us and cried with us, and wiped our tears and told us we would be ok…

It has all been a truly amazing demonstration of humanity…. indescribable. I am very proud to live in such a wonderful place, and eternally grateful to each and every person who has already, and those who are still to come, for all of your help. There is still a lot, I mean a lot, of work left to be done, and I know that with such wonderful people surrounding us that it will be done.

Thank you and God Bless You All – The Mann Family

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Gallery show for 92-year-old artist opens tonight

The artist, Rhody Yule

TONIGHT MARKS A MOMENTOUS occasion for my friend Rhody Yule.

Tonight his first-ever art gallery exhibit opens in The Carlander Family Gallery at the Paradise Center for the Arts in downtown Faribault.

Maybe to most artists, this would not be a big deal. But, when you’re 92, like Rhody, and have been quietly painting for 76 years, it’s a very big deal to put your art out there for all to see in a gallery setting.

During the past six months, as I’ve worked to make this show happen, I’ve met many times with Rhody. Every time we’ve talked, he’s humbly downplayed his talent. That’s just Rhody—a gentle man who prefers not to be the center of attention.

Yet, tonight, along with Adam Kuehnel, a watercolor artist about 60 years his junior and who is exhibiting in another gallery, Rhody will receive the public recognition he deserves for his oil paintings.

I’m glad this night has finally arrived because, more than once, Rhody joked, “I might die before then (the art show).”

I always responded: “Don’t you dare!”

Then he would smile and laugh. Truth be told, though, I worried.

But tonight, ah, tonight we’ll celebrate as “A Lifetime of Art: The Rhody Yule Collection” opens with an artists’ reception from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

 

For decades, most of Rhody's paintings were stored in this trailerhouse behind his rural home. (He has since moved.) The roof leaked and some of his art was damaged.

One of Rhody's rural landscapes, among several now exhibited at the Paradise.

Rhody specializes in portraits and religious paintings like this one of Christ, which he calls "Misery."

Rhody's exhibit also features several of his sketchbooks, including this drawing.

FYI: The exhibit runs through February 26. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling