Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Farm Boy's Wife

In my visit with the Farm Boy we were joined by his wife Shirley, and she added much to the conversation.  She grew up near the Twin Cities, midway between Red Wing, MN, and Ellsworth, WI, where she attended high school.

(As an aside, you need to know that Ellsworth is the home of the Ellsworth Creamery, where the very finest cheese curds in the world are produced.  If you're ever in the area about 45 miles southeast of the Twin Cities some morning, stop at the creamery to buy the curds that are produced that day.  They will still be warm, and will squeak like crazy if you eat them as you continue on your way.  They're so good they're the official cheese curd of the Minnesota Twins!)

Returning to the story - Dan and Shirley met at Luther College.  She sang in the Nordic Choir and became a music teacher in the Twin Cities while Dan was a counselor in the same St Paul School system.  And when I mentioned my grandson is now having his final audition for the Nordic Choir, she grabbed pen and pencil and asked his name.

"Bryan," I said.  "And what's his last name," she asked.  I told her, not really understanding why she wanted to know, until it dawned on me that she would look his name up on the program when they went to Nordic Fest this year.  Luther Blue is apparently thicker than water.

Shirley knows of Lowell Gangstad, but since he was an upperclassman.he probably would not know her.  Or maybe he would . . .

As she has done throughout her career, Shirley continues to give voice and piano lessons, and I suspect the Birchwood, WI, area is blessed by her ability.  She laughed with pride as she told about some of her students, like the 60-year-old man who wanted voice lessons, the 65-year-old man who took piano lessons from her, and her very favorite - a 95-year-old woman who took piano lessons.

She was very proud of her oldest student, a woman who had considerable music knowledge and experience singing, but had never taken piano lessons as a youngster for lack of piano and money to buy the lessons.  When the woman mentioned she would have loved to have done so, Shirley offered - several times.  But the woman turned her down, until another lady mentioned to Shirley that the woman just didn't want anyone to know she was doing it, thinking some may make fun of her.

So Shirley suggested they do it quietly, privately, without telling anyone, and immediately the woman agreed. "She was excellent.  I knew she knew music, and sure enough by the third lesson she was playing music."  The lessons continued for a year until the woman was no longer able.  She lived to age 99 and Shirley sang at her funeral.

Shirley is a real gift to Birchwood, and I look forward to visiting with her and Dan in the near future.  Some people just bring a lot to the table.

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