Posts Tagged: inspired

Callista Susan Groff Wallmark

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice anyone ever gave me was when I was about 22 years old. I went to Sioux City and purchased a silver fox fur. When I got home with it, my father asked me how I had paid for it. I told him I planned to pay for it in installments. He told me to take it back and only purchase it when I had enough money to pay for it outright. This is advice young people today really benefit from hearing.

How about the worst?
When I was 50 years old someone told me to start smoking. I smoked for about 30 years.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pharmacist. I had a friend whose sister was a pharmacist.

What do/did you do?
My folks didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be a pharmacist. There were not a lot of women pharmacists at the time. Instead, I decided to pursue teaching. I attended Clarke College in Dubuque and Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) in Cedar Falls. I taught for about six years in Plymouth County and about four years in Remsen, Iowa. In 1932, I married a pharmacist. After moving a few times to follow his job, we finally decided to start our own drugstore in Ossian, Iowa. We ran a drugstore in Ossian until 1963 when we closed it.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
I would want my hairbrush, my toothbrush and my rosary with me. These are the things I use and need most in my life.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.
I’m not sure what words I would use to describe myself. Other people have described me as strong, classy, spiritual, and easy to get along with.

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

Name one thing you could not live without.
My family is something that I could not live without. I have three daughters, 16 grandchildren, 31 great grandchildren and nine great, great grandchildren. I enjoy spending time with them.

Multiple choice: tell us about…Your wedding day.
I met my husband, Cliff Wallmark, on a trip to Sycamore, Illinois while visiting a college friend of mine. We were married June 15, 1932. I was 25 years old. We were just coming out of the Depression. We were married on a Wednesday morning. Homegrown flowers decorated the altar. We entered the church in pairs. First, the maid of honor and the groom. Then my two bridesmaids, followed by me and the best man.  Following the ceremony my parents hosted a wedding breakfast in our honor. It was mostly immediate family in attendance. It was very different compared to weddings today.

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Robert (Bob) Hunt

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I have two: (1) Nothing will happen unless you make it happen (this was from my brother, Richard–he ended up being a millionaire). (2) When your expenses are greater than your income, don’t cut down on your expenses, increase your income (this was from a gangster who hung out in one of the bars on the corner of California St. & Hyde St in San Francisco–I don’t know how he ended up).

How about the worst?
Try snowboarding.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
In high school my teacher, Hazel Brazelton (who years later became my stepmother) asked me that question. I said I wanted to be like my father (he owned Hunt’s Variety Store in Decorah) and own my own business.

What do/did you do?
In a nutshell, I went to Coe College for about 1½ years on an athletic scholarship (I majored in football and track) , enlisted in the US Navy and was on submarines for the majority of my service, worked in various jobs until I purchased Hunt’s Variety (the business and the building) from my father in 1950, closed the business in 1970 and sold the building to Community 1st Bank, was Park-Rec. Director from 1970 to 1980, retired in 1981, have been a factory rep for park and playground equipment along with being a ski instructor since, am in the process of publishing my first and only book “We Were Pirates” about my time served in the navy during WWII.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
A bottle of whiskey, some mixed nuts, and possibly a beautiful blonde to keep me company.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.
Stubborn, adventurous, a talker, and sometimes crotchety.

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A hot fudge sundae (with a pina colada chaser)

Name one thing you could not live without.
People

Multiple choice: tell us about… Your wedding day.
My brother (and best man) borrowed my car to go fishing that day–needless to say he was late and kept my wife to be, Barb, and her bridesmaid waiting for their ride (us).

It was a mad dash to get to the Little Brown Church in Nashua, IA. where we said our “I dos” rather hastily, rang the bell, and went on our “married” way.

Your first job:
Salesman and truck driver for Coca Cola in Decorah

Your Favorite Memory:
Serving on a submarine during WWII in the Pacific

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Phyllis (Johnson) Leseth

Interviewed by Benji Nichols

(Benji’s note: It is impossible in one page to summarize the incredible depth of knowledge and love that Phyllis Leseth has for Decorah and the surrounding area. In a short two-hour chat with her, it became apparent that Phyllis should really be the subject of a book, not a single page, but we’ll do our best to represent her amazing accomplishments here!)

“My Mother always said I was one of the first babies born at the old hospital,” says Phyllis Leseth from the heart of her historic home on Rural Avenue in Decorah. Speaking with her, it is apparent that this charming woman has more stories than one can imagine. At 92, Phyllis speaks eloquently about her experiences being among the first group of women to attend Luther College (class of ’39) – where she earned a degree in English and History – and of being one of the first females to work on the Luther Newspaper & News Bureau. Through a fascinating life of teaching, writing (including a stint at the CR Gazette!), volunteering, and raising a family – it’s the history that she has thrived on throughout the decades. It is also timely to note that Phyllis was a part of the very first organizing committee for Nordic Fest in Decorah in 1966. At that time project leaders from the local J.C.’s including Jerry Aulwes, Mike Dahly, Harry Olson, Darrell Pierce and Gary Svenson enlisted the help of Vesterheim Director Marion Nelson and Phyllis Leseth to help launch the first annual Nordic Fest – which has since brought over 1.5 million visitors to Decorah over 43 years.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My Father was the youngest in a large family, and was a very self-made man. He had great respect for education and was the only one in his family to go to High School. He always had the feeling that you were only as good as your word. “Remember to always tell the truth, and if you ever promise to do something – do it.”

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up on Washington Street in Decorah we had a great bunch of neighbors and friends, and the schools and teachers were wonderful. I was lucky enough to attend Luther as one of the first female students – and with my interests in writing and history I think teaching seemed natural. I did teach for a short time in Western Iowa before I was married, and then went on to write for the Gazette amongst other things. (Phyllis also spent a short time working at Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids during The War.)

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Oh I would want a stack of books as I read all the time, and a GOOD pair of shoes. And I suppose I do love a good cake – nothing better!

Tell us about…
Your wedding day:

Hubert and I were married at Decorah Lutheran Church – the old church. All of our high school gang was there and I had five of my good friends as bridesmaids. I remember my dad walking me down the isle and stopping to ask me, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” He was joking of course – he had a wonderful sense of humor. Hubert worked for A&P in Decorah for many years and then went to the main offices in Des Moines and eventually we moved back to Decorah and he managed the office at Peter Johnson & Sons.

Your favorite memory:
I have so many wonderful memories of my life here in Decorah and beyond. I feel so blessed to have had such great parents  – they set very high standards for us. My mother was a graduate of the Northwestern School of Music and taught before she was married. She sang at many occasions around the area through her life. I give my parents a lot of credit for making education so important in our lives. I went to Luther as one of the first Women to do so, and during depression times, so it really is something else. My family, of course, has just been wonderful and both my daughters became teachers and are in Decorah. (Cam Ford, and Adrianne Coffeen.) I have also enjoyed volunteering at the Vesterheim Museum for many years – History is really my thing, and it has been for years –and it still is!

PHOTO NOTES:
Black & White: Phyllis Leseth with Marion Nelson (past Vesterheim Museum Director) and the Leseth’s Rosemaled ’56 Chevy. Laura Hoeg painted the original design and updated the date annually.

Color: Phyllis Leseth at home, Spring, 2009

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