Posts Tagged: advice

Charlotte (Christopherson) Strinmoen

CharlotteStrinmoenInterview and photo by Ketel Paulsen

Charlotte (Christopherson) Strinmoen is as delightful a woman as they come. She met her first husband, American Carmen Christopherson, at a USO club after World War II and went through the difficulties of getting the permit to marry a foreigner and leave Germany’s tremendous devastation behind. Born in a village near Berlin, her father, a cooper and builder of all items of wood decided she would leave for more opportunities in the capital. Traveling across the ocean by a long, awful boat ride – and then across the US to Northeast Iowa (and a large waiting family!) couldn’t come quick enough. Born an only child who lost her mother when she was only one, Charlotte came to be among a very large Highlandville family, the Christophersons. When Carmen died in a car accident in 1960 she remarried Lloyd Strinmoen 3 years later, also of Highlandville. The most impressive aspect our talk was the depth of the despair from the war and the lack of materials to rebuild. Charlotte is a testament to loss, love and survival.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Take one day at a time. Without that I wouldn’t be here.

What did you want to be when you grew up and what did you want to do?

When I was small I wanted to be a teacher. At 16, I worked for an interior decorator who ended up accepting the job of camouflaging roofs against the enemy during the war. The job abruptly ended when his trucks were confiscated by the army for the war and his business was bombed twice. I ended up having a very interesting life anyway. My daughter was a teacher and my two granddaughters are now teachers.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence:

I’m a survivor. In 1945, by post-war agreement, the Russians were given Berlin. I’ll never forget when the Russians came to our house, our air raid shelter. We had no lights down there. Hitler’s bunker was not so very far from where I lived.

Tell us about: Your wedding:

I met my first husband in Berlin because he was stationed there. We were both invited to the USO club in Berlin. He was with the constabulary. It was very difficult to get the permit to marry an American. I was loaned a veil and I bought shoes from a secondhand store –we were married in December of 1947 and left Berlin to join an army troop transport ship for war brides. It was a trip that was supposed to take 9 days but instead the seas were so rough it took thirteen. All the men were abovedeck and the women down below were separated by nationality. Everyone was tossed and piled up on one another by the waves. I never want to go on a cruise. It was bad.

Your favorite memory:

Being able to be married in a half bombed out church in a dress made from the silk of an American parachute. It was even hard to find a church to get married in, one that wasn’t destroyed.

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


Lasting Memories:

There is one possession Charlotte is most proud of, a vase she won as a gift from her hometown’s land baron.

I carried that vase with me in every air raid. The vase was for a time lost in a suitcase when she and her husband also were separated but luckily it had the address in Highlandville on it. I still can see that suitcase, it was lost a week or more before it finally came. It stands high and beautiful in her home now. In Highlandville I learned very fast to live off the land. I had a big garden. We sold cucumbers to be able to buy baby clothes. Carmen worked for other farmers while Charlotte raised their 4 children.

Her German friends in Decorah are war survivors as well and they get together regularly. It’s a lasting joy of her life.

Probituary: A Notice of Life – Stephen Lensing

Intro and interview by granddaughter, Lisa Tupy
Originally published in the July/August 2008 Inspire(d)

The first memory I have of my grandpa is me sitting on his lap, in amazement, as he told me tall tales of how Pocahontas was his girlfriend, before he met Grandma of course! Still, even now, I can always count on my grandpa to make me laugh. I can sit and goof around with him like I would with my closest friends. He’s battled so many health issues and still he refuses to give into the bitterness of growing older. He continues to posses the spirit and determination of an adolescent!
(Photo below of Lensing with granddaughter, Lisa Tupy)

Best Advice?
Watch your spending. Save your money.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew I would be a farmer. I really just went on what fate handed me.

What do/did you do?
I was a Farmer. We raised crops, hogs, and had a dairy farm. After I graduated High School in 1946 I went to school in Omaha for a year for electronics. Then I was drafted into the Army for 2 years. I went through 16 weeks of infantry training and then another 8 weeks of advanced infantry school. I took air-born training for three weeks then was stationed with the 82nd air-born division in Fort, Bragg NC.

If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you want with you?
Water, food, and a sweet red-head! – my wife Arlene haha

If you could eat anything everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Date Pudding

Name one thing you could not live without?
It used to be fishing… some of my favorite memories are from trips to Northern Minnesota and Canada to fish. But now it would be the time that I get to spend and laugh with my grandkids

Mulitiple Choice…Wedding Day:
We got married at 8:30 in the morning! It had been a nice fall until that day and it was cold, rainy, and even snowed a little. It was October 6, 1953. We served dinner and supper then we had beer, whiskey, and pop for our guests. That night we had a dance at the Inwood with a country music band.

Tell us a little bit about your family life…
After the army, I came back to Northeast Iowa and Married my red-head sweetheart Arlene. We raised ten children together—6 girls and 4 boys. And we found out the girls were easier to raise than the boys! Both my wife Arlene and I came from a family of 10 so we couldn’t stop till we hit that magic number! I could write a book on all the crazy and funny things the kids have tried to get away with growing up!

What are some hardships you’ve faced in your life?
The worst thing that I ever happened to me was having open-heart surgery a couple weeks ago. They replaced my aorta valve. It’s been a hard time to overcome and recover. About 4 years ago I became one of the first people to use a stimulator for chest pain.

I went to school in Festina as a kid. In second grade my whole family came down with Scarlet Fever. We had to bring a nurse into the house to take care of us all. I will always remember how scary it was since I was just a little kid.

Probituary: Bev (Halverson) Christen

 Interview by friend Elly Lensch

There are a few special people in the world who light up any room or hall they enter with rays of sunshine on a gloomy day. Bev Christen is one of those people. Bev is always so pleasantly positive, you can’t help but love her the instant you meet her. And every time after that, she will remember you and probably make your day by just saying hi with a smile. She does this so successfully because her smile and welcome are authentic. Her life is less about quantity and so much more about quality. What Bev gives back is priceless.

bev christenWhat’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My grandmother and mother instilled in me some really great advice: work hard (they came from farming backgrounds), do the best job you can, and be kind and considerate to everyone.

How about the worst advice?

Have one more cookie. Have one more roll. See, I like to eat, so that’s probably the worst advice or suggestion anyone could have given to me.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I thought about nursing, but as long back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a secretary.

bev christen on far leftWhat do/did you do?

I got married in 1958 while I was working at the Decorah Superintendent of Schools, and then I was a stay-at-home mom when the kids were small. I lived away from Decorah for 10 years and really enjoyed getting to know all the people and teachers elsewhere, but my husband, Elliott’s, job brought us back to NE Iowa in 1970. I had suggested he take the Waverly job, so I would be able to visit Decorah when the kids were out of school or on breaks, but he took the Decorah job! (Which ended up just fine, it’s just, I didn’t have anywhere to visit then!) Then I got the last and longest job I had, which was 27 years as the front desk secretary at NEIA Behavioral Health. A job I LOVED! I retired in 1999 from that job and have kept going ever since with volunteering, travelling, bridge, and coffee club. (Bev’s the one on the far left in the picture at left.)

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

• Good supply of food, water and Diet Coke or Pepsi.

• Television – I do like my television; it’s a good source of entertainment. Nothing specific, but I do like detective shows.

• Some kind of project to do to help someone with something.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

If there’s a job to be done, I want it done two weeks ago (that makes me a little OCD I guess).

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

Something sweet… I like most anything sweet and like to have my sweet in the morning, but I would want to be able to have my sweet every day.

Name one thing you could not live without.

My family, extended included, and my friends.

Recall a favorite memory.

So many good memories, it’s hard to just pick one. I was born in the house on the farm, and was two years old when we moved into town. I’m the middle sister, and am a graduate of the Decorah Class of 1956 (the best class!). I was a cheerleader because I was a busy body who always liked to stay active. I was Homecoming Queen, which I wasn’t happy about that day because I could not cheerlead that game. We had an end-of-August wedding. It was an evening wedding as they all were back then, and had a nice little honeymoon up north of the cities. We have wonderful kids and their spouses, and a great grandson who has brought us a lot of joy and who we got to see because he went to Luther. I love my church and enjoy volunteering there. I am enjoying retirement, bus trips, loved travelling to the East Coast and had the experience of driving to see my previous boss in the fall through the northeastern states. Just beautiful. The best thing that has happened to me overall is the volunteering I do. I volunteer for the Winneshiek Medical Center Auxiliary, the Chamber, and Aase Haugen Homes. To be able to bring joy to other people and fill someone else’s life is priceless. We’re really blessed here in Decorah. Very lucky to be here and have all the activities, attractions, and arts at our disposal. And to have Family Table coffee time. Keep going as long as you can.

Bev’s Words to Live By:

Spend time with those you love.
Cherish your grandparents.
Have fun.
Do what you can for others to the best of your ability.
A smile and hello go a long way.