Posts Categorized: Probits

Probituary: A notice of life! Imogene Macal

Imogene Macal – Interviewed by Inspire(d)’s Benji Nichols • Originally published in the Winter 2018-19 Inspire(d)

Imogene (Moellers) Macal grew up on Silver Spring dairy farm just outside of Ossian, Iowa. She and her three siblings went to school and church at St. Francis de Sales in Ossian, and graduated high school in 1944. Imogene worked full time at Klisert’s store in Ossian, and then in Waterloo for a year before coming back to the Decorah area and marrying her husband Roy. The couple, from their young years on, loved to dance at local dances and ballrooms like the Inwood in Spillville, and Matter’s Ballroom near Decorah.

It wasn’t until they were raising their family of five kids (Lynn, Christy, Marlene, Joe, and Mary) in Decorah, with Roy driving a fuel truck, that Imogene started working in the kitchen of St. Benedict’s School – a job that she would hold for decades.

“We fed anywhere from 200-300 kids when I started, and I did much of the baking and such,” says Imogene. Many St. Bens students fondly remember her from lunchtime, and she says the job “was just ideal” for her.

Later in life, Imogene took up several varieties of needlework (including Hardanger embroidery) volunteering at St. Benedict’s Church in Decorah, and playing bridge twice a month. Her bridge group began with eight friends rounded up by Jo Tierney, who had a book on how to play. Regular phone calls to Jo’s sister in Oklahoma during games for advice helped the group keep playing! Imogene’s late husband, Roy, also worked at ACE Hardware for 13 years where he was well known to customers, and the couple were regulars at dances across the region.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up on a dairy farm, and delivered bottled milk with my Uncle. Later I enjoyed working at Klisert’s in Ossian, but I knew I always wanted to have a family.

What do/did you do?

I met Roy at a dance at the Inwood Ballroom – although we had gone to high school together. After we were married, we had five kids, and I worked at St. Benedict’s school in the kitchen – I was there for over 40 years.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

“We loved to dance – I think I wore out quite a few shoes dancing!”

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

We always had a big garden, and my Mom was a great cook – we grew everything we ate, and meals were always meat, potatoes, but also some type of vegetable – and a homemade desert! We always had a homemade pie, or cookies, or a cake.

Multiple choice: tell us about…

Your wedding day.

Roy and I got engaged on Easter Sunday, we were invited to a friend’s for Easter dinner. Roy gave me a ride home, and gave me the ring in the car – I was so thrilled – when I got out I walked the wrong way down the lane! We were married at (St. Francis) de Sales in May of 1948 – we had a reception at the house and then held a dance (of course!) at the Inwood Ballroom after.

Your first job.

I helped my Uncle Arnold (Timp), deliver bottled milk throughout the area, even receiving the nickname of  “Speedy”, while riding on the running boards and running bottles of milk to doorsteps.

Your favorite memory.

We loved to dance, and Spillville (The Inwood) was always a popular spot – as well as Matter’s Ballroom. We spent a lot of Sunday afternoons on the dance floor.

Probituary – A Notice of Life: Eleanor & Tilford ‘Tip’ Bagstad

Interview by Benji Nichols • Originally published in the Spring 2018 Inspire(d)

Eleanor and Tip Bagstad were both born on Norwegian-speaking farmsteads in the coulees of Vernon County. Eleanor recalls the farm life, tending nine acres of tobacco, playing piano, as well as playing “teacher” with her eight siblings. Tip grew up in Timber Coulee, and farmed his whole life, in addition to “two or three other jobs… always”. Tip also ski-jumped as a youngster, including a trip to the National Jr. Ski Jump Competition in the early 1950s. At age 48, Tip picked up the fiddle and started learning old time tunes by ear. Eleanor played piano most of her life, and family friend Beatrice Olson, a retired dairy farmer, also happened to be an accomplished accordion player. The trio started playing in 1982, after being invited to play at a Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center meeting. A small article was written in the local paper, asking “Could it be, ‘The Norskedalen Trio’?”

The trio went on to play all over the upper Midwest for three decades, including Westby Syttenda Mai, many trips to Nordic Fest in Decorah, community dances in La Crosse, and The Yankton Old Time Fiddlers festival. The group was invited to perform at the 1998 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. and the Wisconsin Folklife Festival in Madison, WI. They contributed several tracks to the album Deep Polka: Dance Music from the Midwest, put out by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and also produced their own albums.

Tip also took up Acanthus and chip carving later in life. He was awarded a gold medal in carving at Vesterheim Museum’s National Exhibition of folk art in 2000. The couple has two daughters, Bonnie and Kimberly, who are both accomplished in regional health care fields. Eleanor and Tip’s 62 years of marriage are a testament to hard work and the courage to take on new challenges at every step of life.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
– My Dad always used to say that it isn’t always what you make in the year, its what you have left at the end of it.

Eleanor – We were always told from home to be friendly when you meet people.

Tip – It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!

What did you want to be when you grew up? What do/did you do?
– I always knew I wanted to teach. When we were little we’d all play school, and I always liked to be the teacher! After normal school, I went on to teach at 5 of the country schools in Vernon County, and played and taught piano too.

Tip – Well, my brother and I did construction work for several years, building many tobacco sheds and such. I hauled milk in the coulee for a few years when we were first married. I later took a job leading up habitat restoration crews for the Wisconsin DNR. For 17 years I led crews to restore trout habitat. Our crew helped create the LUNKERS structure, and several trout stream restoration ideas. I also always had cattle on the farm.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Well, probably food and water. Maybe our instruments!

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
We like lutefisk and lefse, but not every day! We enjoy if for special occasions though. And we’ve often had good trout to eat over the years.

Tell us about…

Your wedding day:
We were married June 2, 1956 at Coon Valley Norwegian Lutheran church. We had 600 people at the reception as we both had a lot of relatives. It was an afternoon wedding, and of course at that time there was no dance, as it wasn’t allowed – we just had a big reception in the church and then everyone went home.

Your First Job:
We’ve both done many things, but both of our families raised tobacco. Eleanor’s family had nine kids, and nine acres of tobacco, which is a lot of tobacco. It was a big job, growing, tending, and harvesting. And then there was the work in the tobacco houses – Bekkedal, Lorillard, King Edward – we did that for years.

Your favorite memory:
We’ve been fortunate to travel to Norway three times. Our daughters came along as well, and they spoke Norwegian because that’s all their grandparents spoke. And of course playing music all over the Midwest for 30 years – so many great people.

Probituary: Ernest M. Corson

Probituary: Ernest M. Corson, interviewed by daughter Charlene Selbee
Originally published in the Summer 2017 Inspire(d), Ernest passed away August 20, 2017 at the age of 102. Our condolences to Ernest’s family and friends.

Ernest Corson was born to Melvin and Emma Corson on May 29, 1915 on the “Skunk Farm” in Hesper, Iowa. He was joined in later years by his brothers Norman and Manford, and It was during his youth that he first met Charlotte, his wife -to-be, at family get-togethers. The couple would eventually grow their family to 6 kids; Denny, Lynda, Doug, Dalton, Forrest, and Charlene. Ernest graduated from Mabel High School, and attended Normal School in Preston, MN to become a teacher. (? Include?where he was the only boy in the class!)

Enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941, he was judged too old to fly planes at the age of 26 so he entered radio school and graduated two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He served during WWII at locations throughout Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, including volunteering for the invasion of Attu. He was diverted to the nearby island of Shemya and participated in the building of a top secret Air Force base during extreme arctic conditions. After World War II, Ernest and his brother Norman opened a radio repair shop in Mable, MN before re-enlisting.

Charlotte and Ernest were married Nov. 7, 1946, in Montana. Two deployments to England soon followed, family in tow – where the family spent a total of 6 years. Retiring after 20 years of service in the USAF, they returned to the family farm near Hesper. In 1967 Ernest became the manager for the Mabel Cooperative Telephone Co. where he used his skills to update the regional phone system. He continued to help on the family farm until the age of 93 and joined his wife Charlotte at the Aase Haugen Home in Decorah before their 66 years together came to an end in 2012. A life member of the Mabel Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Mabel, Ernest was surprised as a part of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to Washington DC in Arpil 2013. Several members of his family joined him in Washington where they toured the memorials before returning to Eastern Iowa.

1. What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My dad and mom gave a lot of advice. Like “Don’t hunt anything unless you want to kill it.” Mouse or rat included. Why harm it if is not harming anything. Also, on longevity, “Lots of grass cutting. Don’t use a rototiller. Lots of hoeing by hand. I always had a big garden.” The secret for a long marriage? Always have fun together, and take your kids with you wherever you go.

2. How about the worst?

No bad advice – listen to what people had to say.

3. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 6 years old I had a plan, I was interested in being a teacher.

4. What do/did you do?

I had many odd jobs like pin setter at the Mabel bowling alley, and was a 1st – 8th grade teacher after high school. Enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and went to radio school. After WWII we ran a radio repair shop in Mabel, was manager at the Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company, and farmer on the Young family farm outside of Hesper.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

I’ve been many places – and food and water are the most important things. Water is the most important. People don’t even know how important is. Water is more important than food.

6. If you eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Good food. My Dad was a sharp shooter and hunter – we always had food on the table from the big garden and good meat!

7. Name one thing you could not live without.

Water. Some people take it for granted but I don’t. No food or water – you won’t live very long. I’ve seen guys who were prisoners of war – in the Sahara Desert 1942, they got home and said water was most important. You can go without food for 2 or 3 days but can’t go very long without water.

8. Multiple choice: tell us about… Your first job.

I taught at South Fork in Fillmore County, MN. All eight grades in a one room school house – an they didn’t complain. Kids had to walk 1 mile to school, but I only walked a ¼ mile. I had to light a fire every morning before school at 9am – we let out at 4pm in time to go home and do chores. Some kids’ parents came from Norway or Germany and spoke no English, but it wasn’t hard to teach English. Spelling was a favorite – they were good at that. Memories include getting to the school in a cutter or sleigh in Winter and snowball fights. The Christmas program – so crowded that parents who came late had to stand. Having an apple or orange for lunch, and playing pump pump pull away outside during recess.