Views from the Cab

By David Tollefson, Columnist

After celebrating Mother’s Day last May 8th, I got to thinking of my own Mom, who would have been 122 years old last March 7. She was born in the year 1900, so it was not hard to figure out how old she was.

She lived to the ripe old age of 88, after living eight years after our dad died in 1980.

From the archives of the Starbuck Times, her obituary appeared in the March 23, 1988 issue, as follows, in part:

Ruby Grace Olson was born March 7, 1900 in Onawa, Iowa, to parents Lawrence and Marit Naess Olson. After a time, the family moved to Cottonwood, Minnesota, where she was confirmed, and graduated from high school.

After graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead in the class of 1923, she spent some years teaching English and music at Hatton and Rugby, North Dakota, and Oklee and Ruthton, Minnesota. After this she spent a number of years working with her father in the Norwegian Lutheran Teachers’ Association.

In August, 1936, she was united in marriage to Alfred Tollefson. To this union four children were born: David of Starbuck, Luther of Rockville, Maryland, Grace (Harry) Meloeny of Steilacoom, Washington, and Ruthe (John) Enstad of Prior Lake, Minnesota. (Ruthe died in 2020.)

Two of Ruby’s treasures on earth were her family and her church. Among her activities at East Zion (rural Starbuck) through some 50 years of membership, were organist, choir director and Sunday School teacher. She also gave piano lessons to many area young people for many years. Ruby’s life could be summarized by this passage from Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

My cousin on my mom’s side of the family, Paul Olson, sort of our family historian, adds some information:

Ruby was the accompanist to the choral conductor at Concordia College, who later became the director of the Concordia College Concert Choir. In working with her father, Lawrence, in the Norwegian Lutheran Teachers Association, she helped with training and supporting parochial school teachers in Minnesota. It was through this organization that she met Alfred. Alfred’s sister, Thelma Tollefson, was involved with this group. She thus met Ruby and was instrumental in getting them together.

(As we say, the rest is history.)

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My dad and I sang for many years in the choir at East Zion under the directorship of my mother.

Mom was not active in the farm operation, but my dad had two boys to help with the 200- acre farm, with milk cows, pigs, chickens and sheep to keep the three of us guys busy. Speaking of milk cows, Mom did clean daily the cream separator parts. The cream was hauled to Starbuck Creamery, while the skim milk was fed to the pigs at that time.

Mom always had a big garden and was known for her lovely flower garden. She did a whole lot of canning in the summer and fall, which was stored in the cool cellar of the old farmhouse where we four kids were raised.

Since our parents were married in 1936, my mom did not experience the severe depression and drought of 1933-34. But growing up in Cottonwood, Minn., (a rural town an hour and a half south of here) I’m sure she was well aware of the trials and tribulations of those tough times.

Since I was the oldest of the kids, and as was indicated a few columns ago, my brother Luther had other interests and had little desire for farming. So I ended up with the farm. (But that changed later, as he seeks almost daily updates of what’s going on the old farm where he grew up.)

I guess I can credit my mom with my not unlimited ability to handle the English language, especially spelling. She might have been surprised to know that I have written a weekly column in this local newspaper, but I wonder if she wouldn’t have been happier if I had become a pastor (that was not to be…)

My brother Luther and sister Grace added a few comments:

“Mom never drove a car, but took driver’s training when Dad was no longer able to drive, and was determined to get her license. However, she gave up that goal because the process was so stressful.”

“We think Mom’s humility was a large part of her character. She truly believed pride was the worst of the 7 deadly sins. She never bragged about anything, nor tolerated bragging in her children. She never pointed out the disparity between her education level and Dad’s. We think she would have delighted in your success as a columnist, Dave, but might not have expressed that as pride!”

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By the way, sister Grace and our mom just happen to have reverse names –Ruby Grace Tollefson and Grace Ruby Meloeny!

Rest in peace, Mom, you’ll be forever in our hearts and thoughts.

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Please contact David Tollefson with thoughts or comments on this or future columns at: