Beata. What a beautiful name, one I’d never heard before scrolling through a recent list of obituaries from my home region of southwestern Minnesota. I wanted, needed, to learn more about this 98-year-old woman with the Latin-derived (beatus) name meaning “blessed.”
A well-written obituary provides not only basic factual information of birth, life and death, but also enough personal details to tell a story. Beata’s obit speaks to a strong woman born 98 years ago in the Sandager family home in Swedes Forest Township in the northern most part of Redwood County.
Even the township name titles a story—of the Scandinavian immigrants who started settling this area just south of the Minnesota River in 1867. Norwegians, mostly, and Swedes and Danes (like Beata’s Danish-born grandfather, Nils H. Sandager). Knute and Erick and Thor and Ole and Torkel and Turi and Gunhild and Ingeborg… And Beata Ellen’s Norwegian grandmothers, Beret and Ellen, after whom she is named.
History runs deep here, all the way back across the ocean. Family history held importance for Beata, who died on February 11 and will be buried today at Rock Dell Cemetery in Swedes Forest Township. This township, this land, this place, it was hers. Beata’s home since her December 27, 1924, birth.
She left only briefly, heading to college in Moorhead in 1942 before returning in 1943 when her father died. Beata was just 18. But her mother, Barbra, and brother Nels needed her help on the family farm. Six years later she would marry Lloyd Sampson, also a farmer. After only 11 years of marriage, Beata was widowed at age 35, her husband dead from cancer.
What strength it must have taken for this young woman and mother of two to endure first the death of her father and then her husband. I’d like to think she had a strong support system of friends and family and neighbors rallying around. A community of people who cared. Knowing rural southwestern Minnesota as I do, I expect that’s true.
Yet, “after a couple years in their big, cold house, Beata and her children (Coral Beth and Joel Loren) moved to live with her mom and brother.” Recognizing the importance of immediate family love and support, of understanding that she needed family near, shows strength, too.
But there’s more, much more, to Beata’s story. In 1979, she became the first woman elected to office in Swedes Forest Township. It took 107 years for a woman to gain an elected seat on the township board. While that seems unfathomable in today’s world, it’s absolutely believable for that time period. Beata served for 24 years as treasurer of Swedes Forest Township.
She followed in the footsteps of her grandfather Nils H. Sandager, who also left a legacy of public service. He was elected township treasurer 12 times and also held the offices of town chair, supervisor and constable for a total of 19 years.
Beata’s local involvement stretches beyond township government. She was active, too, in the Lutheran churches she attended—Rock Dell and Grace. And she found time for the other aspects of life that held her heart—living in the country, the outdoors, flowers, bird watching, family history, family, children, puzzles…and pretty dishes. Yes, this strong strong woman who made history in Swedes Forest Township, who was there for her family, loved pretty dishes. And that, too, says a lot about a woman whose name means “blessed.”
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Sources: Beata Sampson’s obituary and The History of Redwood County, Minnesota (Volume 1) online
Just beautiful, Audrey. You added the historical context to this woman’s life story. I enjoyed getting to know Beata.
Thank you, Bernadette. I love discovering individuals like Beata with unexpected stories.
I worked in the kitchen for Beatas funeral today. She was a wonderful person. I also went to that country school and Rock Dell Church so this blog brings back memories. I am blessed to have known her.
Iylene, thank you for serving at Beata’s funeral today and for sharing that she was a wonderful person. As I was writing this post, I thought of you and your family since Swedes Forest Township is your home area. It’s such a beautiful place.
what a lovely name origin and personal story. a strong woman, indeed
Yes, and sharing Beata’s story was an honor. So glad her name drew me in to learn more about her.
What a nice tribute to Beata. I find a lot of inspiration from reading obituaries, and always think how wonderful it would be if we knew all these stories about people while they were alive.
That’s a really good point, if only we took the time to hear these stories while people were still living. I think we’re all guilty of not asking.
She led an amazing life. A fitting name for a beautiful woman.
I agree on both counts.
What a wonderful article. I knew Beata my entire life as I grew up in Belview.
Wendy, how wonderful that you knew Beata. Thank you for appreciating her and the post I wrote about her.
She was loved sooooo much… thank u sooooo much!!!! Aunt Beata was one of a kind. You should reach out to her daughter Coral Sampson… MUCH more history is attached to my lovely Aunt Beata.
Dorinda, my condolences to you upon the loss of your beloved Aunt Beata. She was clearly much-loved. I hope that you, her family, with write down those stories.