Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering Barb Larson December 23, 2018

A mosaic on the exterior of the Faribault Chamber office honors employee Barb Larson, murdered there on December 23, 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I WISH I WASN’T WRITING this post. But I must. Today marks two years since Barb Larson was shot and killed by her ex-husband at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office. Richard Larson then turned the gun on, and killed, himself.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


This high-profile crime rocked my community. And raised awareness of domestic violence. Barb was a victim even before her death. A harassment restraining order was served on her ex the week he killed her. A piece of paper is just that, a piece of paper.


Inspirational and honoring words are embedded in the mosaic tile. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


The anniversary of Barb’s murder is a sobering reminder of domestic violence. But it is also a time to remember that we can all step up and do something about it. We can support, encourage and love those who are in abusive relationships. That includes all types of abuse, not just physical. We can direct them to professionals for help. In Faribault, HOPE Center offers help and hope. We can be there, listening. We can be a voice for victims. We can refuse to look the other way.


A portrait of Barb Larson by Faribault artist Dana Hanson. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


We can do this. For Barb. And for all the other Barbs who need us to care.

If you are in an abusive relationship and in immediate danger, call 911. Have a safety plan in place to leave your abuser. Please seek help. It is there. Locally or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Remembering 9/11 in Hastings, Minnesota September 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:59 PM
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TODAY, WHILE DRIVING THROUGH HASTINGS, I noted an American flag suspended across U.S. Highway 61 near the bridge that spans the Mississippi River connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Why is the flag there?” I asked Randy.

“September 11,” he said, and I had one of those moments when I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten the anniversary date of the terrorist attacks on our country.

To the people of Hastings, thank you for reminding me of a date, an attack, a part of history that I should always remember.


Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling



Thirty-two years together May 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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HOW DOES ONE define a love of 32 years?

My sister-in-law Vivian summarizes it well in a quote from Warren Hanson penned in an anniversary card my husband and I received yesterday.

“…as two souls become one spirit, with one heart, one history.”

Audrey and Randy, May 15, 1982

Audrey and Randy, May 15, 1982

Thirty-two years ago today, Randy and I began our married life together. It hasn’t always been easy. But life never is. Through joys and challenges, we have supported and loved one another. Yes, I’ve ranted and cried and he’s listened and held and reassured.

We’ve laughed.

We’ve danced in the living room, as recently as Sunday evening to a DVD concert selected because he knows how much I love Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.”

We pray together, for each other, our family, friends—so many in need.

He recently gave up a company dinner to attend a poetry reading in which I was participating.

I’ve tagged along to farm and car shows, then discovered why he finds them so interesting.

I worked beside him once for a few hours and learned I can’t do what he does. Nor can he do what I do. We appreciate each other and our talents.

On Sunday afternoons we sometimes hop in the van and journey along gravel roads and into small towns, pausing when the mood suits us. There’s no hurry to return home now with the kids gone and only us again.

Two. A couple. A pair. Just like we started, except closer now for the singular spirit, the one heart, the shared history.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Anniversary love May 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:24 AM
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My husband, Randy, and I exit St. John's Lutheran Church in Vesta following our May 15, 1982, wedding.

My husband, Randy, and I, pelted by rice, exit St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta following our May 15, 1982, wedding.

THIRTY-ONE. The number flits through my sleepy brain at 6:01 a.m. as my eyelids flicker and I begin to awaken on this May morning.

A cool breeze wafts through the open south window. Birds trill—the piercing voice of a cardinal, the methodical caw of a crow.

Traffic wheels by and a train rumbles blocks away.

I lie still, on my back, needing to get up and pee, but not wanting to disturb him. My husband. The man I married thirty-one years ago today.

I turn my head toward him, watch the gentle rise of his shoulders snugged beneath the polyester block quilt my Grandma Ida stitched for our wedding.

There is something comforting in lying here, watching him, knowing how much I love him. Still. After thirty-one years.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Some green bling to wow you on St. Patrick’s Day March 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:32 PM
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I AM A JEANS AND T-SHIRT kind of girl woman. Casual attire defines my wardrobe.

I dislike shopping, especially for clothes and jewelry, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially my next-youngest sister. She received my hand-me-downs when we were growing up. Fashion was not my forte, she will tell you.

She would be right. I want comfort and casual in clothes and if those clothes also happen to be fashionable, well then that’s a bonus.

The same goes for jewelry. I’m your basic wedding/engagement ring, earrings and wristwatch kind of accessorizing woman. Sometimes I’ll throw a necklace or scarf around my neck when I dress up. Typically those accessories have been given to me by the daughters who have considerable more fashion sense than me.

Likewise, my husband seems to possess a certain ability to choose jewelry that appeals to me. Just look at these earrings he gave me for our 30th wedding anniversary last May.

My “Sweet Romance” 30th anniversary earrings.

My mouth gaped when I saw all this sparkly bling in my favorite color, green. I was speechless for a moment as I viewed the “gems” (no, they are not “real”) which remind me of my mother’s vintage rhinestone earrings and necklaces. I love, love, love these earrings.

However, I have nothing fancy enough in my limited wardrobe to match their beauty. But I don’t care.

This morning after church I pulled on a green plaid flannel shirt and jeans. Then I slipped designer Shelley Cooper’s “Sweet Romance” earrings into my pierced ears and thought of my sweet husband who has a knack for mostly (there was that scented hot pad) choosing gifts I love.

And what’s not to love about Cooper’s jewelry line? According to her website, this Californian…

…is a jewelry artist, designer, historian, and businesswoman who has nurtured a love of antique jewelry into a flourishing design and manufacturing company that exquisitely produces the original collections of Sweet Romance. Her designs, derived from a life-long study of antique and vintage jewelry, radiate the authenticity and spirit of many eras of fashion history.

The collection’s legacy designs enfold stories and memoirs about jewelry, the women who inspired it, and the historical times that gave it expression. These storylines illuminate the lives and times of queens and consorts, fashion doyennes and socialites, vamps and starlets, dreamers and romantics, and our great-grandmothers.

I’m no queen or consort, fashion doyenne or socialite, vamp or starlet, or even a grandma. But I suppose, as a writer, I could be considered a dreamer and a romantic. And now I have the earrings to prove it.

FYI: This unofficial endorsement of Shelley Cooper’s “Sweet Romance” jewelry line was unsolicited and written solely because I love the earrings. My husband paid full retail price for the earrings purchased at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota and Ms. Cooper certainly does not know me, a mostly unfashionable Minnesota blogger.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


One year short of three decades May 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:52 PM
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ON THIS DATE 29 years ago, I married my sweetheart.

And, yes, May 15, 1982, was also opening weekend of fishing. And, yes, several guests did not attend because they chose to go fishing. Others were in the field.

Here our wedding guests are pelting us with rice as we exit St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta. (For those of you unfamiliar with Vesta, pull out your Minnesota map, focus on the southwestern corner of the state, zero in on State Highway 19 and you’ll find this small town between Redwood Falls and Marshall.)

In this church congregation (different building) where I was baptized and confirmed, Randy and I exchanged our wedding vows. (My glasses really were that gigantic and we really did look that young and skinny.)

During the reception at the community hall, we were whisked away for awhile to the municipal liquor store across the street. Then, later, after supper, we danced the night away with family and friends.

Today we celebrated by shopping at a home improvement store. Pretty pathetic, huh?

Not too worry, we’re also planning to dine out. And even if we weren’t, the most important part of every anniversary for the past two decades and nine years has been that I am with my husband.

I have one question, though: How did nearly 30 years pass so quickly?

© Text Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo by Williams Studio of RedwoodFalls