Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Mom's legacy lives on


Mother. A mother is a foundation, a base. And I and my siblings had one of the best.

Since our mother, Olga Torkelson, passed on to her heavenly home on February 8, I have been thinking about all that she has been to us and all of her accomplishments in her 92 years.

There were many listed in her obituary, but they only touched on all that her life meant to us and to everyone who knew her.

As Melva and I prepared photo boards to have on display at the visitation and the funeral, it occurred to me that we had the skills to create those boards because of what Mom had taught us. That was only one small example.

I think back to the days when Mom was in the Part-Time Homemakers Club in the Denham area. The club was an extension of the University of Minnesota, and she learned many skills through the club.

She could rewire a lamp and make lampshades. I remembered that I had learned that wiring skill from her when I replaced a faulty socket in a lamp just a few years ago.

As we were growing up, there was the usual sewing, cooking, baking, gardening, washing clothes and ironing skills that she taught us. When the National Farmers Organization was on strike to try and get higher prices for their milk, Mom made large batches of butter from the milk in the Maytag wringer washer. We all helped press the excess liquid out of the butter that formed after being agitated in the washer.

Back in the days when she raised chickens, boxes of baby chicks would be brought by the mailman. My parents would raise them in the spring in the south enclosed porch under a brooder.

When they were near maturity, Mom would perform surgery and remove glands so that the chickens would be neutered. That took courage. The chickens would grow to be large as turkeys, and she would butcher them and sell them to customers. She had her own little business.

Later, hormone pills were available, she no longer had to do surgery on the chickens.

With four kids — at the time — who needed dental work, Mom reupholstered furniture for the waiting room at the dental office to help pay those dental bills. She later reupholstered furniture for our home. She also made slipcovers for the sofa and chair, without a pattern, and refinished furniture.

On my 15th birthday, Mom asked me to come outside and get into the driver’s seat of the family car. She taught me how to drive. She didn’t get to drive very often after that.

Mom was a lifelong learner and had many interests. It wasn’t until years later that I found out Mom didn’t learn many of her skills until she was married. She learned to sew right along with us when we were in 4-H. She had a stepmother and nine siblings, and her stepmother didn’t have time to teach the girls how to sew. She was a baker, and Mom learned the practical skills of baking and cooking from her.

In the early 1980s, Mom and three of her sisters went on a tour of the Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Dad was of Norwegian descent, and Mom said that she felt that she was seeing Norway, with all of its rocks and waterfalls, for Dad.

In Finland, the sisters broke away from the tour to visit with cousins. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Having always wanted to travel, I told Mom that the next time that she went, I was going with her.

Five years later, Mom and I went to Germany to visit my brother, Leon, who was stationed there in the Army. He was not able to come home for Christmas that year.

I was always surprised when Mom talked about the European people and their languages. She knew many details. It was knowledge that didn’t come from books.

Mom was a leader. She often said that she had been president of every organization that she had been involved in. She would explain that people recognized that she knew how to put two words together.

Her last stint as president was at the senior high-rise building. She was president of the residents’ group and had to deal with issues that weren’t pleasant. But, in so doing, she stood up for herself and the others. Those situations strengthened her.

Mom was a pillar of the church. She started out as a Sunday school teacher but held every position available in the church over time. She once served on the Board of Deacons, something that wasn’t common for women in those days.

Each of us five siblings has had a good foundation because of our parents, both Mom and Dad. And each of us has developed a skill that carries on their skills.

I am the writer, family historian and upholsterer; Melva has carried on Mom’s Sunday services at the nursing home and church work; Edna is the financier; Leon is an officer at CIP and has purchased and improved the family farm; and Jean is a professional driver. In addition to those skills, all of us have a multitude of talents learned from our parents, especially Mom. I still hear her reciting driving rules when I drive.

Mom lived a good, long life. Her legacy is in all of us children, and that is passed down to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And her legacy is in all of the lives that she touched wherever she lived and whatever she was involved with. She bloomed where she was planted, and we are all the better for having known her.


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