Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Marcy’s memorable obituary from southwestern Minnesota March 14, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

IN RECENT YEARS, I’VE TAKEN to reading obituaries printed in my local newspaper, the Faribault Daily News, and also online. That includes checking the obit listing on KLGR radio in Redwood Falls, the county seat of my hometown county. Extended family and many other people to whom I’m connected live in southwestern Minnesota.

I am of that age when the generation just ahead of me is passing at a rapid rate. That includes my mom, who died in January, and my father-in-law a year earlier. But young people also die, usually unexpectedly. That includes my cousin Randy, who died suddenly at the age of 50 just two days after my mom. And then a cousin’s 48-year-old stepson shortly thereafter.

It’s a lot, this death. And while death is difficult, it’s part of life and we will all some day face our earthly mortality. That’s reality.

Obituaries not only publicly inform us of deaths and funeral/burial details, but they also reveal information about the deceased. Most are written in a straightforward manner of factual life basics. Birth, marriage, education, occupation, interests, family. That sort of stuff.

Martha Schewe. (Photo source: Stephens Funeral Service)

But once in awhile I find a stand-out obit unlike any other. That would be the obituary of Martha Ann Schewe, 74, of Danube, who died March 4. “Marcy/Tractor Mimi/Pizza Grandma/Murphy” was, according to the record of her life, welcomed into heaven with a flyswatter and a hot plate of pierogi. And, yes, I had to Google pierogi, which is a Polish staple dumpling—dough wrapped around a savory or sweet filling and cooked in boiling water. That flyswatter and pierogi hook hooked me into reading the story of Marcy’s life.

And what a life it was. Pennsylvania-born, she eventually landed on a Minnesota farm with her native-born husband. Marcy met Jim at a dance in DC and they corresponded daily for 16 months while he was stationed overseas during the Vietnam War. He even mailed an engagement ring to her. That arrived on Friday the 13th. She waited a day to open the package.

I encourage you to click here and read Marcy’s obit in its entirety. It’s worth your time to read about this woman who was determined to leave rural life behind after a childhood of following “a heavily wooded, bear infested road to the bus stop, delivering milk from her parents’ dairy farm to the neighbors along the way.”

Love and life had a way with Marcy, who would grow to embrace farm life in southwestern Minnesota.

Details reveal a woman who loved family and life. But she disliked squirrels, even grumbled about them. There’s a whole lot more packed into her obituary. Please read it. Yes, I’m repeating that because you really need to read Marcy’s story (and the comments in her guestbook).

Marcy’s obit ends with this loving, humorous conclusion: Her fierce and vibrant spirit is carried on by her soulmate, her 5 children, 9 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, 7 siblings, a handful of hated squirrels, a menagerie of farm animals, and a whole wide world full of longtime friends, some of whom she hadn’t gotten around to meeting yet.

What a way to be remembered.

TELL ME: How would you like to be remembered? 

Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A creatively humorous message from Bridge Square Barbers March 3, 2022

Bridge Square Barbers, appropriately located at 15 Bridge Square across the street from Bridge Square in the heart of downtown Northfield, Minnesota, to the right in this stretch of businesses. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

WHENEVER I’M OUT AND ABOUT with my camera in a downtown business district, I notice details. In storefront windows. On doors. In building signage.

An unassuming sign banners the top of the building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

On a recent walk through Northfield, I spotted a typewritten sign at Bridge Square Barbers that caused me to erupt with laughter. And laughter is an expression of happiness that I need more than ever in this unsettled world.

The top part of the sign at Bridge Square Barbers. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I stood in front of that sign about business hours, read, laughed, then focused my lens.

This is iconic barbershop with a barber pole. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2021)

I love, and appreciate, this humorous approach by a barber unknown to me. Rather than post a straightforward notice of hours, this businessman crafted a memorable message to humor customers should they find the door locked. That’s creative. Smart. Excellent customer relations.

The bottom half of the humorous message at Bridge Square Barbers. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

However, I’m left wondering about “if all hell breaks out at home.” As a writer, my brain is drafting multiple stories, none of them probably true, but all prompted by the barber’s words. Does “all hell breaks out” involve children? Pets? Just life in general?

Hours posted on the front barbershop door, photographed through the exterior door. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Whatever the story, this writer and photographer appreciates when business owners show their personalities in creative messages like these. I notice. And I laugh. Well done, Bridge Square Barbers!

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cheers to the Norwegians of Nisswa October 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,
This sign marks the way to homes along Norway Lane, Nisswa, Minnesota.

I DON’T RECALL the precise wording of the signs. But the homemade notices posted in strategic high traffic areas in Nisswa proved catchy enough that Randy and I simply had to find the garage sale.

Unfamiliar with this central Minnesota community (we were staying at a nearby lake cabin), we relied on the signage (not GPS) to reach our destination along Norway Lane.

The official street signs.

Ah, yes, we Minnesotans are proud of our heritages and this street name proved that. I quickly spotted a second ethnic-themed sign for an intersecting street. Oslo Way.

We continued a short distance down Norway Lane until a handwritten sign on a mailbox alerted us to the garage sale location:

The humorous sign telling us we’d reached the garage sale.

Although there was no free beer (maybe because it was still early afternoon and not yet happy hour on this Friday), I found a snowsuit and light jacket for our 21-month-old grandson. I regret not purchasing the toy work bench playset for $10. My daughter later told me I should have bought it. Sigh.

Lesson learned. Trust your gut if you think you should buy something for your grandchild at a garage sale. If the parents don’t want it, they can always give it away.

And I learned one more thing. At least one person living along Norway Lane defies the stereotypical definition of Norwegians as reserved and stoic. Cheers!

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The power of a Turtle October 1, 2020

 

Leonardo, up close in Zimmerman, Minnesota.

 

THE SIGHT OF LEONARDO standing strong and tall at the wheel of a motorboat left me feeling simultaneously nostalgic and amused.

Amused because, well, who expects a fictional turtle piloting a parked boat in Zimmerman, Minnesota? The scene caused me to laugh. And, today more than ever during these unsettling and difficult times, I need laughter.

I need laughter to loosen muscles that are too often tight. A head that too often hurts from hearing too much hatred and rhetoric. I need this momentary visual escape from reality.

 

Figurines displayed at a past toy exhibit at the Steele County History Center, Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And so, as I photographed this cartoon character manning a stationery boat in a residential neighborhood, I also remembered how my daughters—children of the 80s— watched the superhero cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And embraced the four turtles named after Italian Renaissance artists. Leonardo. Michelangelo. Donatello. Raphael.

They played with Turtle figurines, sang the cartoon theme song, even celebrated a birthday with a home-crafted Turtle cake, although I no longer recall which character or which daughter.

The masked hero in the boat is Leonardo, the leader of the quartet and named for artist, engineer and scientist Leonardo da Vinci.

 

A design allowing actors to fly across a stage, included in the “Machines in Motion” exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

In 2012, I toured an exhibit, “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion,” at The History Museum at the Castle in Appleton, Wisconsin. To see a show originating in Florence, Italy, here in the Midwest was a gift. The exhibit featured 40 operating machines built from da Vinci designs. Amazing. (I encourage you to check out my photos and story about “Machines in Motion” by clicking here.)

 

One last look at the unusual “public art” in Zimmerman.

 

Now, eight years later, I am reminded of that museum exhibit. I am reminded, too, of my daughters, now grown into adulthood and one with children of her own. I am reminded also that, in the chaos and uncertainties of today, I can find a reason to laugh. Thank you, Zimmerman boater, for placing Leonardo inside your boat parked on your front lawn. You made me laugh.

TELL ME: What has caused you to laugh recently?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Don’t be an outlaw in Northfield: Protect the herd August 2, 2020

In the front display window of a downtown Northfield, Minnesota, business.

 

SUPERHEROES mask up.

 

The image represents the James-Younger Gang.

 

As do outlaws.

 

The reason the Rare Pair gives for wearing face masks.

 

And those who love others.

 

“Protect the herd” plays off the city’s “Cows, Colleges and Contentment” slogan. Northfield is home to Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges.

 

When I walked through downtown Northfield—the place of Cows, Colleges and Contentment—on Friday evening, I intentionally looked for signage on Minnesota’s new face mask mandate. This college city did not disappoint. I found signs ranging from serious to humorous.

 

More humor in a COVID-19 sign that relates to safe practices outdoors.

 

I especially welcomed those that made me laugh, something we all need in these days of living with COVID-19, when even leaving our homes sometimes seems like venturing into the Wild Wild West.

 

Site of the famous bank raid, now a museum.

 

Tour the museum and learn the story of the bank raid.

 

Northfield Historical Society face mask humor..

 

At the Northfield Historical Society, the historians draw on Northfield’s claim to fame—the defeat of the James-Younger Gang during an 1876 robbery of the First National Bank—to get across the mask mandate message. Please Don’t Be an Outlaw, states the message on museum doors.

 

A message posted on the front door of Antiques of Northfield.

 

At Antiques of Northfield, a personal note from Carole about the store’s temporary closure made me simultaneously laugh at her comment and then reflect. Too many of our seniors have died as a result of contracting COVID-19.

 

The sign on the door of The Contented Cow, a British style pub in downtown Northfield.

 

Some mask signs are more straightforward, like at The Contented Cow, with a please added to the request.

 

This Northfield business wants to stay open.

 

At a home furnishings and floor covering store, they want customers to mask up so businesses can stay open, as good a reason as any for masks.

 

The #1 reason to mask up.

 

I appreciate, too, the signage that states the clear and obvious scientific reason for wearing a face mask during a global pandemic: for our health & yours.

 

For those who forgot their masks… Note that a new Minnesota state law went into effect on August 1, raising the age to buy tobacco to 21. These signs were photographed on July 31.

 

At the tobacco shop, customers can even get a free mask inside the store.

 

Customers can’t possibly miss all the signage at this Northfield business.

 

Whatever it takes. We all need to get the message loud and clear that masks help stop the spread of this virus. Yeah, they’re uncomfortable and hot and diminish social interaction. But we can manage those minor inconveniences because, you know, this is something simple we can do to show our care for others and protect each other.

 

Just do it. Wearing a mask is required in indoor public places in Minnesota.

 

And masks are mandatory in Minnesota, along with 32 others states (as of this writing).

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Way to go, Wisconsin DNR March 28, 2020

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources image

 

IF EVER WE NEED LAUGHTER, it’s now. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources delivered this week with A CHEESY GUIDE TO KEEPING YOUR SOCIAL DISTANCE OUTDOORS.

The second daughter, who lives in Wisconsin, where a “Safer at Home” order is now in place, texted the graphic to me this morning. While reading this message, I laughed out loud. Repeatedly.

This additional info accompanied the guide posted on the DNR Facebook page:

Hey Cheeseheads! Wisconsin’s state parks and trails are open for you to OutWiGo and enjoy some fresh air. If you head out, we encourage you to stay close to home and within your community.

Social distance is key to slowing COVID-19. Stay at least 6 feet away from others – but don’t forget about the air fives!

Kudos to the creative who came up with this idea. I always appreciate a savvy and fun media campaign. Humor resonates with people. They remember. They talk about it.

The Facebook posting certainly has people talking in the comments section. And it’s not good. Seems people are flocking to state parks and not a lot of social distancing is happening. Wisconsin isn’t the only place with this problem. I’ve heard from friends about overcrowding issues at North Carolina state parks (now closed) and even in Minnesota.

You can only do so much, I suppose. Thank you, Wisconsin DNR, for doing your best and for making me laugh today.

 

In need of laughter, a few sort of humorous stories March 24, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The grandkids play hide-and-seek behind curtains, while in Grandma and Grandpa’s care. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2020.

 

THESE DAYS I FEEL like I’m on information overload regarding COVID-19. That’s no surprise given my journalism background. I need to be informed. It’s just the way I am.

In addition to the extra media reports I’m consuming, I’ve also reached out to my family more. My eldest daughter and her family live in the Twin Cities metro. My other daughter and her husband and my son live in Madison, Wisconsin. All in major metro areas with many cases of the coronavirus. Wisconsin is now under a shelter-in-place order. I expect that in Minnesota soon.

I miss my family. My grandchildren, especially. But we are not seeing each other to protect one another. It’s the right thing to do. I expect many of you are in the same situation. I suggested to Randy that we drive to the metro and wave to the grandkids from outside their home. He thought I was joking. I was sort of serious.

For now I settle for updates from the daughter about Isabelle, almost four, and Isaac, just over a year old. Here’s a text she sent several days ago:

Yesterday the kids were pretending to go to the store to buy hand sanitizer. Izzy said, “Come on, Isaac, let’s go buy hand sanitizer.” And then they would carry their bottles around.

It’s funny. But yet it’s not.

From my Wisconsin daughter, I got this text the other evening:

John and I are going to get out of the house and go for our daily “apocalypse drive”…so strange to see barely any cars on a Friday night.

It’s funny. But yet it’s not. They are now without jobs.

Then there’s this idea from Brad, a native Minnesotan now living in the South, who suggested to me and some of his family members that we take up this activity to fill unexpected time at home:

Find your encyclopedia. Every day look up one of the Presidents, starting with George Washington. Was most interesting. Got through FDR.

One of his family members replied:

What’s an encyclopedia?

Now that’s funny.

#

IF YOU HAVE a personal humorous story to share, please do so in the comments section. I’m looking for stories from your life, not from a media report or other source. I need to laugh today.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mixed message December 3, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

 

AS A WORDSMITH, I’m especially drawn to signage, including this one spotted Sunday afternoon along Division Street in downtown Northfield.

I laughed given the falling snow, the snow banked on the front of the pick-up truck parked curbside and the mixed message sent.

Cacti are not warm and fuzzy, although the environment in which they grow is warm, even hot. I suppose that was the idea—to get us Minnesotans thinking about warmer places like Little Joy Coffee with its hot brew.

While the words and art seem especially mismatched to me, I noticed, photographed and remembered them. Thus, marketing accomplished.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota or North Dakota? November 1, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

 

TRAVELING ALONG INTERSTATE 90 in southeastern Minnesota about 10 miles from La Crosse, Wisconsin, I noticed this sign. And I laughed. I was nowhere near North Dakota. Yet this road sign appeared to indicate otherwise, seemingly directing motorists to North Dakota.

Dakota is a town of some 325 in Winona County, Minnesota just off I-90.

Signs can be simultaneously informative and confusing. I love when I spot such signage to break the monotony of a long road trip.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The unlucky leprechaun April 17, 2019

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2015.

 

NEARLY 40 YEARS after I left my first newspaper reporting job, I still receive The Gaylord Hub each week. The third-generation family-owned Hub holds a special spot in my heart. Here I initially put my journalism education to work, covering the southern Minnesota town of Gaylord and surrounding areas in Sibley County.

Part of my job included checking reports at the Sibley County Sheriff’s office where I sometimes had to push to access public records. Being young, a woman and the first full-time staff writer (outside of family) put me in the occasional challenging position of not being taken seriously. Locals quickly learned, though, that I would stand my ground and intimidation didn’t work with me. Jim Deis, the editor and publisher, always backed me up and for that I was grateful.

All that serious talk aside, I met plenty of wonderful folks who embraced my writing and photography. The diversity of my job ranged from writing a feature about current WCCO TV sports director Mike Max and his brother Marc’s sizable baseball card collection to covering massive church, school and chicken barn fires to filing through initial complaint reports.

But I don’t ever recall anything quite as unique or humorous as the story I read in the April 4 issue of The Hub under a column labeled Sibley County District Court. As I read the story aloud to my husband, I couldn’t stop laughing. Here’s the line that prompted my laughter:

According to court documents, the Sibley County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to Westgate Apartments in Gaylord at 3:55 a.m. on March 25 for a complaint of a man dressed as a leprechaun running up and down the halls and creating a disturbance.

My first questions: Why would a man dress as a leprechaun? It wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day. And what exactly does a leprechaun wear? Green clothes, hat, pointy shoes?

I read on that the responding deputy spotted a man “with something red on his head” driving a vehicle out of the parking lot. The driver took off but was eventually stopped, admitted to drinking and also driving with a canceled license. He’s now been charged with multiple crimes.

Randy listened without interruption. Then he offered this assessment: “Sounds like his luck ran out.” And that would be right.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling