It’s a new year, and since New Year’s Day fell on Thursday, my first entry will be a throwback Thursday picture and weekly journal blog entry combined, dedicated to a very special someone – my grandmother.
You see, this week is the 30th anniversary of my dear Grandma Hilda Ruud’s death on December 31, 1984. She died in her sleep that afternoon at the age of 79,
Hilda Evelyn Strand, born in Eveleth, Minnesota in 1905. She grew up there with a bevy of brothers and sisters, married Paul Ruud in 1925. She gave birth to three children – Gladys (my mother), Paul, and Dan. The Ruud family lived on a farm in Wolf, Minnesota, just a few miles west of Eveleth, where they ran a small dairy. I think it was in 1946 that they sold the farm and moved to 114 3rd Street in Parkville, Minnesota. Hilda became a widow in 1955. My family (Gladys and Chester Johnson and their kids Jean, Charlie (me) and Cheryl) moved in with Hilda shortly thereafter, intending to stay a few months – and we stayed a little longer – all the way to her death 29 years later. But this isn’t about the Johnson family.
Hilda was a gem of a lady. She was the kind who found good in every person she met, in every situation she experienced. She enjoyed her family – her own kids and their families, and her brothers and sisters. She enjoyed her friends and neighbors. She enjoyed her time at church, where she had more friends and family. She was totally dedicated as a mother, wife, aunt, grandparent, and friend.
There she is, performing some of her feats in the kitchen. She could put together some good meals for us, which often fell to her to do. Dad worked on the railroad, and mom would work as a registered nurse, so grandma took to feeding us kids – or at least getting supper started. She was also right up there with baking – she would conjure whatever baked goods were needed for whichever event – cookies, pies, cakes; and even into making jellies and jams. Those preservers would be made from the wild cranberries, blueberries or gooseberries she went and gathered herself out in the country side. At Christmas she would bake up the spritz cookies, the saffron bread, the cardamom bread, the rosettes, the lefse – and even though I never partook, she fired up the stove with my dad as they joined forces to produce the annual batch of lutefisk.
Like I said, she took care of us kids when mom and dad were at work. She knitted items for us, she repaired our clothes, she was there just to talk, to play games with, to enjoy, to serve as a role model. She was like having a third parent.
She had her own interests as well. She belonged to the community club of our small town, where she had a circle of friends – ladies who I later came to know so very well. That circle included Mae Thayer, Anne Norberg, Gladys Kujala, Ruth Dall, Bertha Harney and so many more whose names escape me at this time.
She was active at church in her ladies’ circle – more friends, and more duties which she did so gladly and so willingly. She would prepare communion, she would work weddings and funerals. And mostly, when I think of grandma and church, she was at my side, singing all those Lutheran hymns in her sweet voice.
And she had her hobbies. She spent at least one night at week down in Mrs. Lavalier’s basement, where she and her buddies would paint and prepare all kinds of ceramic items. There were vases, nativity sets, cheese trays, ornaments, and even tomtegubbes – all painted and fired right there. She made items for everyone – I still have a Charlie Brown statue, complete with the zig zag t-shirt painted and the look of ‘loser’ on his face. I also have a few nativity pieces and one of her tomtegubbes.
She also knitted and crocheted. Mittens, scarves, hats, anklets, booties – she did it all.
And she loved crosswords and word games . . . which explains a good deal of my own infatuation with those very same diversions. If she was sitting alone and the knitting needles were idle, the pencil was busy on the crossword books, and if there were folks in the house who wanted to play, the Scrabble board would come out with some highly competitive games with her sisters, sisters-in-law, with us kids, or any other person who would unwittingly fall to her pleas of ‘just one more round’.
She worked out of the house, too. Many of my friends will remember her as the lady in the kitchen of Parkville elementary school, serving up hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes or the simplest peanut butter sandwiches. She spent several summers working at Camp Warren, the boy scout camp just south of Eveleth – I think she again was kitchen staff. We would go visit her occasionally, or she would drive the fifteen miles home on her day off for a visit.
But still, her prime gift to all of us was herself. She gave all of us every bit of love she had – and every bit of laughter, and every bit of industry. She never put herself first – she saw the role of being servant. I wish my kids had had a chance to know her. I hope I bring them a little of what grandma instilled in me.
Thirty years later, I still miss her. Thanks Grandma.