2013-07-16 Mom's Portraits 010 smaller
Born in Leader, SK, Canada

She was the third child of Lydia Treichel and Reinhold Krueger.  She grew up on farms in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.  She had an older sister named Iva, a brother named Lloyd, and a younger sister named Shirley.  She also has a baby sister named Pearl who only lived a few days.

Her mother was born in North Dakota and her father was born in Odessa, what is now Crimea.

 

Early years - Dog Pound and Olds, AB, Canada

The family lived a multiple farms.  Mom did all the outdoor chores - riding her horse Skimmer, driving tractor, carrying water into the house and out to the barn.

Mom went to school in a one-room schoolhouse that had one stove.  She loved to ride her horse but her father thought that one mile wasn't enough distance to justify taking the horse.  

She wrote a story about riding a horse-drawn sleigh to school Christmas celebration where they lit candles on the Christmas tree.  Real candles.  She said it only lasted for a few minutes but that there was nothing like real candles on a tree.

Mom had dreams of the world - of getting out.  She listened to boxing and opera on the radio.  She had a penpal from Nigeria.  She dreamed of going to the Philippines to be a missionary.

Somehow, her parents managed to get her into a high school in Edmonton, AB.  So off she went.

Below are two pieces she wrote about Christmas in Alberta, Canada; one in Dog Pound, the other in Olds.

Writing Group        12/3/10

Christmas at Dog Pound, by Lois Myhr

Do the memories I have of Christmas between the ages of five thru ten all belong to one Christmas? I doubt it, but I have only a few separate memories that all could have happened the same year.

What a winter wonderland. Often powdery white snow would gently fall covering everything. The yard, the fields, the buildings, the trees, the machinery sitting outside and even the very tops of fence posts would have a dollop of snow. It was so light and fluffy that even a small breeze would blow it off. And the temperatures were cold. I can only remember seeing a small bit of black dirt close to the house one year. All other years everything was covered with dazzling, sparkling white snow.

But it was the Christmas season and there was much to do. Our school always put on a Christmas concert, as it was called, with plays, recitations, skits and songs. As I recall, we had no class work, only practice for the concert for two or three weeks beforehand. The concert was held in the hall in Dog Pound, which was about two miles from the school and for the last three days we met at the hall to practice. It was all such fun.

I remember we had a play which included American Indians and I was one of the Indians (even with my red hair). We made costumes out of sandy colored gunny sacks. The top was fringed, then sparkling beads, sequins and various decorations were also added. I think much of the sewing was done at school. I, however, had a serious case of impetigo on my knee so that I was kept home from school. Finally, the teacher asked if I could come for practice. I remember we had to kneel at some point but the bandage was so thick on my knee I could hardly bend it. I did survive and the show went on.

When we went to the hall for practice we took our lunch and were there all day just like a regular school day. Finally, the nite of the big concert. Families came from far and wide. The roads were snow covered and there were no snowplows so most of the folks came  in horse-drawn sleighs. In winter farmers would replace the wheels on their wagons  with runners. We would then put benches or stools in the wagon to sit on, cover up with horse-hide blankets and off we would go. The horses would simply be tied up and left outside for the evening.

The air was crisp and cold. If it was a clear night with a full moon we could see a million stars twinkling in the sky. Sometimes the aurora borealis or northern lights would also dance in the sky for us. Because it was so cold, the snow would crunch and squeak as we moved over it. That was fun.

The kerosene lamps were lit. The tree was beautifully decorated. The hall was filled with all the families. It was show time for the children of Dog Pound School from first thru ninth grade. We remembered our lines, but if not, our teacher was in the background to prompt us. I wonder how in tune the songs were really sung, but sung they were. And the anticipation only grew as we waited for Santa Claus to arrive.

Finally, the familiar HO HO HO Merrrrry Christmas. I believe each student received some kind of gift and then a bag of goodies was given to every child there. This was a special treat. There would be an apple, an orange, and a variety of candy and nuts. A special treat because we seldom had any of these goodies except at Christmas time. Still excited though tired, we wished our friends Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and turned the horses toward home. We would not see our friends again until school started in the New Year.

There weren't many churches close by. The Lutheran Church that we attended was some fifteen miles away so I do not remember going to church at Christmas as long as we lived at Dog Pound. We also didn't have any relatives close by so our celebration was with just our family, Mom, Dad, Iva, Lloyd, my younger sister, Shirley and I. I knew nothing different, but the anticipation was still there.

All the excitement but I did have a problem. The words “He knows if you've been bad or good” in the song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” frightened me. I was so afraid Santa would look in the window and see that I wasn't being good enough. We had no blinds on the windows so I constantly watched for those eyes to be peering in, watching me. All I ever did see was the dark night looking in at me but it had quite a profound effect on me. Partly because we were in the ministry but perhaps more because of my childhood remembrance, Santa never came to our house when my children were small.  

Christmas eve we would go to bed as usual. When we woke up in the morning, there was a decorated tree with a present or two for each of us from Santa all around it. One year I got a lovely new doll. I was pleased, but I really liked the bright shiny red wagon better. I remember sitting in the wagon holding my new doll so had the best of both. I'm not sure whether the wagon was meant for all of us or specifically for my brother but I claimed it as much as I could.

It was probably another year that I got a small sized china tea set which even included knives and forks. That was a special present. What I learned the hard way was that the knives and forks were not meant for digging nuts out of their shells. I broke several pieces that way. I still have that tea set, broken pieces and all.

I know we had turkey and all the trimmings, but I especially remember the treat of having apples, oranges and nuts, which, as I said earlier, we only had at Christmas time.

Once or perhaps twice during the Christmas season we would have a special lighting of the candles on the tree. Not having electricity, real wax candles about four inches in length were put in special candle holders and very carefully placed on the tree. They had to be very straight up and down and not close to another branch. Then we all sat on chairs around the tree while Mom very carefully lit all the candles. We sat in awe, watching the flames dance. What a spectacular, reverent sight that lasted only a few minutes. To soon the candles were getting short and had to be blown out. What a fire hazard but beautiful sight while it lasted. I think we also sang a couple songs like Silent Night. It was a very special event.

I also remember that one year Iva, Shirley and I all had knit dresses. A skirt and top. Iva's was a red skirt with a red and white top. Shirley had the same in blue and white and mine was brown and yellow. Someone did a lot of knitting. I think Mom had someone knit them for us.

Otherwise life went on as usual. Chores had to be done morning and night. Animals fed, cows milked, eggs gathered, wood and coal brought in to keep the fires in the kitchen stove and heater going. Work was never done, but as a child it was all very special.      

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Writing Group      11/30/12

Christmas at Olds, by Lois Myhr

The same yet different. Christmas at Olds was very similiar to what it was at Dog Pound. Partily because of locality, partily because I was older. The season started out with the planning and practice for the secular Christmas Concert always held at our school. I believe every school, at least every rural one room school in Alberta had a special Christmas Concert with songs, plays, poems recited and other skits.

Unlike Dog Pound where we went to the community hall, at Cobourn school we held it at the school house. A stage was built across the front of the room and curtains made of sheets and or blankets were put up to enclose the stage. A wire was strung across the room to which blankets were somehow attached for the closing curtain. It always drooped because it was hard to stretch the wire tight enough.  There was little room for a backstage area and we all sat in the front row of the audience except when we had a part to play. A decorated tree sat on the main floor to one side of the stage. A few gifts were always under the tree as well as bags of goodies for all the children in attendance. We, of course, had no electricity so there were no colored lights on the tree and kerosene mantle lamps were used to light the room. As I recall, the desks were all moved aside and temporary benches were put up for the audience to sit on.

It was wonderful, exciting, scary and the much anticipated arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the program just added to the drama.  The excitment was palpable. Somehow he always managed to show up with his HO HO HO. He distributed the gifts under the tree, which, I believe,  were mostly gifts from Miss Morrison, our teacher, to the students. I still have a couple books like "The Bobsey Twins" etc that she gave me. I loved getting those books.

In the bag of goodies that each child got were some nuts, a variety of candy, possibly some chocolates, and hopefully both an apple and an orange. These were a real treat for us.  All winter we only saw apples and oranges at Christmas time.

I can remember going the two and a half miles to the concert in our horse drawn sleigh. I remember it being very cold and we, sitting in the sleigh, covered with a horse blanket. This was a tanned or cured horse hide, very heavy but also warm. A good wind breaker. The temperature was cold, but the moon shone brightly on the glittering snow. All was well, except perhaps for Dad who had to stand up front and face the weather in order to drive the horses. 

School was now out until after New Years and Christmas preparations continued at home. Baking, and cooking, and gifts either made or bought had to be wrapped. Mom always made fruit cake, which was made weeks before and then wrapped in wine soaked clothes. Cookies of various sorts were baked and hidden away. Special bread and rolls were made shortly before the big day. I especially remember the apple and poppy seed rolls which were rolled up like cinnamon rolls. 

I don't remember many decorations except red and green streamers twisted and then strung from corner to corner in the living room, then attached to the ceiling with a red tissue bell.

Since we belonged to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, we, of course, had a very special Christmas Eve program. The Christmas Story would be enacted in pagentry and song by the children with goodies also distributed to all the children at the end. Yummy! More of the same treats. As I recall, we usually got there even though we lived fifteen miles away.

When we got home we would have some treats and then off to bed. Now at home the tree still wasn't up and decorated. Mom would stay up half the night and decorate it, so, Santa brought us a tree. I still think about how tired she must have been and we didn't get the fun of decorating.  Oh well..........

Christmas Day in the morning we found the toys Santa brought but then chores had to be done. Chores done, house straightened up, Christmas dinner started with turkey in the oven, it was now time to open wrapped presents. A little time to enjoy all that excitment but then it was time to shift into high gear and get dinner on the table with all the goodies that smelled so delicious.  And no sooner had we eaten well, when it was once again time to go do chores. But the delightful surprises, the yummy food, the special treats of nuts, home made candy, tangerines, apples and maybe even ice cream still lingered all around us as we said goodnight. 

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Concordia College, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Mom was the first in her family to go away to high school.  She joined everything - sang in the choir, walked to (and watched) outdoor hockey games.  She played hardball baseball.  She was a pitcher.  She was elected Carnival Queen.  She went canoing on mountain streams, even though she didn't swim.  She went on a 100 mile bike ride.  She went camping.  She applied and was accepted to Concordia College in Seward, NE where she hoped to become a teacher.

She felt her parents couldn't afford to put her though college, so she started working instead.  

In the meantime, she met a young American from Minnesota named Julius Myhr who was doing a vicarage in Calgary.  He returned to the US to complete his final year of the seminary in St. Louis.  Mom moved to Calgary to work.

Working girl - Calgary and Minneapolis

Mom worked for an accounting firm in Calgary.  She liked the office and her co-workers.  She received encouragement from the manager. She often wondered what would have happened to her life if she had stayed there.  

A year later, the seminary sent Dad on another vicarage.  This time, mom moved to Minneapolis, MN in the US and lived with Grandma and Grandpa Myhr.  She was still working and made friends with many of Dad's classmates and spouses, many of whom became the godparents of us children.  

Mom always said that year was very lonely.  She couldn't wait for it to be finished so they could finally be together.


 

Married a Yank and moved to Winnipeg

Finally, mom and dad were married in 1955 and moved to Winnipeg, MB Canada.  They had a daughter, Joanna (b. 1956), soon after.  

Crossed the border - moved to Carlos, MN, USA

In 1958, Mom and Dad moved south from Winnepeg, Canada to Carlos, MN USA. They had a second daughter named Mary Ellen (b. 1959) who was born in the nearby town called Parker's Prairie, MN, because that's where the hospital was!

They were there for about two years when Dad received a "call" to a small town outside of Duluth called Twig. 

Duluth, MN (well, Twig)

In 1960, Mom and Dad moved to Twig, MN; just outside Duluth.  They stayed for less than two years.

Elbow Lake, MN

In 1962, Dad accepted a "call" to Christ Lutheran Church in Elbow Lake, MN. Mom and Dad had three sons: Stephen (b. 1963), David (b. 1966), and Peter (b. 1968).

The family lived in Elbow Lake from 1962 until 1974.  This was home for the girls and mostly for Steve.  

Mom made sure all the kids had every opportunity that she hadn't had.  We always allowed us to get books from the scholastic book club.  We were in band and choir.  Our parents bought us a piano and stereo and the house was always filled with music.  Mary Ellen wanted to play flute like her big sister and was told she had to pick a different instrument so we could have a family band.

Mom also had us in 4-H - we learned how to sew and (kind of) how to cook (mom was the outside girl, so the kitchen wasn't her favorite venue).

Mom was ahead of her time.  She never expected to be a homemaker.  She always dreamed big and while she enjoyed doing things with her kids, she was profoundly unfulfilled with the everyday duties of housewifery.

As a minister's wife, she felt unable to socialize as much as she would have liked.  She had some friends in town but most of her friends were elsewhere.

On paper our parents appear to be perfectly compatible.  They both love sports and were good athletes.  They both love the Boston Pops.  They are both very interested in politics and current events.  They both sing choral music and took piano lessons.  They both like to go biking and camping.  Match.com would have put them together.  However, their profound incompatibilities were taking their toll.
 

Omaha, NE - early years

In 1973, the family moved to Omaha.  The church had a year-long program for pastor's families that were struggling.  Mom and Dad went to counseling most days. The girls went once a week and the boys went about once a month.

This was a stressful time.  How does a young woman raised in the church divorce a minister?  In a foreign country?  With no friends or familiy to support her?  With 5 children, the youngest of whom is age 6, a diabetic, and needs to be monitored for insulin reactions?

Finally, after years of fretting, praying, stewing, thinking, at the end of the program she made the decision to end the marriage.


 

Omaha - single parent

So there she was, alone with five children, a high school degree, a city she didn't know well, with no immediate family within 1,500 miles.  It was 1974 and I don't think mom had ever heard of Helen Reddy.  But Helen had nothing on my mom.  

Mom did everything to put food on the table, from handing out cheese samples at Westroads or putting ad circulars in plastic bags on doorknobs to providing home health care - she did what was necessary.

At the same time, she knew that these were just stopgaps - she knew she needed to do more... She looked at everything, and given that she couldn't work a 9 to 5 job, she felt that sales was the only occupation that offered her the opportunity to earn more than minimum wage.  She got her real estate license, and then found out that it would be a  year before you could count on enough income to survive.  Scratch that.  

She got her commodities trading license, her securities license, and her insurance licenses in every state.  

Mom never made a lot of money. Her clients tended to be little old widows who had never written a check and didn't know what to do with their funds.  Mom always steered them to the right product which usually didn't earn her a lot of money.  They always had nice talks though.  :)

It's hard being a single parent.  Especially without any money. 

Empty nesting - Living together

In 1987, Mom's youngest child, Pete, was a senior in high school.  Joanna and Mary Ellen decided to move back to Omaha so all the kids could live together while everyone figured out theri next steps, so for one year, Mom and five adult kids shared a four bedroom house in southwest Omaha.  Yes, it was cramped, however we developed bonds that could not have existed in any other way.

After one year together, we all split up into apartments.  Joanna and Dave, Pete and Mary Ellen shared apartments; Steve moved with friends, and Mom moved into a condo with the intention that she never move again.  It was across the street from the grocery store, convenient to the interstate, had a garage, and was on one floor, so if she lost her vision or ability to walk she could still get around.

We all treasure that year of living together. 

Health and wellness

Mom was finally freed from day to day child rearing and finally had the time and energy to explore.  She became interested in health and wellness.  I think that's when we started hearing about a Japanese company called Nikken that had a lot of products we'd never really heard of.  Magnet necklaces, water purifiers, ceramic fibers.  Comforters with both magnets AND ceramic fibers.

As I write this, I am wearing the Nikken thermal underwear that mom gave us for Christmas so many years ago.  We all have them.  And we all still wear them.  We are still using her water filters, her comforters, and other products.

Mom also became involved with other companies with health and wellness products - Melaluca is another one.

She believed in the products and was proud to represent them, but perhaps more importantly, she loved the communities.  She made good friends in all of her ventures and has held many people close, all these years.

Exploration

Mom had always been very curious about everything, but as she had more time, she began to branch out even beyond health and wellness.  She joined a geneology group, a computer group, a writing group.  She was on her neighborhood watch committee (look out George Zimmerman).  She had a community garden.  She was on the Minnesota Transplant Party Committee and was on the scholarship committee for many years - taking her responsibility of giving out a college scholarship to the right person extremely seriously.

These last years were wonderful for mom.  She's finally had a chance to try a lot of different things and was always up for a new adventure with someone. She's made new friends and kept old ones.  The saddest part of losing her is that she was still exploring, searching, and on the move to experience as much as she could.  

It is wonderful to have an 82 year old mother who writes and googles and likes to go road tripping and knows that Microsoft isn't going to support XP after March.

We want more.  And, so did she.  But, there it is.  She will be missed.

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This memorial is administered by:

Steve Myhr
John Arrison
Joanna Myhr-Arrison
Mary Ellen Myhr
Pete Myhr
Lori Myhr
ICE Clark

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