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Bethesda and Lily

November 7, 2013

South Dakota – Monday, October 28

It was time to roll out of Beresford and start heading north. But I had one last donation to make, and for that I went to the Bethesda Nursing Home. Bethesda was founded back in 1914 by the pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran Church and it became the first nursing care facility in South Dakota. Sometime in the 1920s my paternal grandpa managed the place, and he met my grandma there, who was a teacher for the children’s home that was also part of the facility. My aunt recently stayed in Bethesda for almost a year before she passed away, so the donation is in her memory. I was happy to have my last South Dakota donation go to a place with old family ties.

Then I drove up to Sioux Falls – I wanted to do some walking in Falls Park, which is very rocky with numerous waterfalls. Tula and I got out and walked all around the falls, and one of the paths connected with the Big Sioux River Greenway, and we walked along the river through downtown and back out into the countryside. I put Tula back in the car and went to the observation tower where I had a good birdseye view of the Sioux Falls.  Altogether I walked 5 miles in Sioux Falls.

Then I headed northwest to Lily, which is the town that my maternal grandma grew up in. My grandma was one of 8 kids, and the son of her youngest brother (my mom’s first cousin) still farms the original Fossum land. Even though my grandma visited her family now and then as an adult, my mom never really had a chance to get to know her cousins or aunts or uncles, so she hasn’t met the cousins who are still in town. I knew I was going to be stopping by the little cemetery in Lily where lots of the extended family are buried, and I really wanted to see where the old Fossum farm was since I’d learned more about the family history back when I was visiting another one of my mom’s cousins in Massachusetts. So a couple days ago I had called these unknown people (Gary and Trudy) out of the blue, and explained who I was and why I would be passing through,  and they couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming, even with my unpredictable schedule. I spoke to Trudy a couple other times on the phone, and they were in the midst of harvesting corn, but she told me I was welcome to stop by any time, and then she invited me to spend the night even though they have never met me. I found their house and while Gary was finishing up with the harvesting for the day, Trudy and I walked to the old ghost town of Lily, and she told me what all the old buildings used to be. The church that my great-grandma was so involved in happened to be unlocked, so we stepped in and took a look around. Lily was a bustling little town in its day – my great-grandpa was a banker among other things, but over time people moved away and businesses closed, and there was a fire which destroyed at least one of the buildings, and by the 1960s or so, not many people were left in town. Today only 1 resident lives within the actual town limits, although a couple of the old homes have been bought by people who like to just come to town for the peace and quiet.

On the way back to their house, Trudy pointed out the site of the old Fossum “mansion” that had been built in 1908. Many decades later when the house was in need of major repairs, it was dismantled and everything that could be salvaged was used to build a new home on the farm just a short distance away. For me, it was wonderful to see all the farmland – my grandma used to tell stories about her pony, and growing up on the prairie, and to see the land she was talking about was a thrill. I met Trudy’s husband Gary, who is my mom’s cousin,  and we enjoyed a yummy dinner and then another cousin, Carol (and her husband Butch) came by, and we spent the evening looking at some old Fossum family photos. I was able to sit in an old chair and couch that had been in the original Fossum home – the wooden arms of the chairs were worn by generations of people sitting in them. Trudy figures my great-grandma spent a lot of time in that chair listening to the WWII news on the radio because her sons were scattered around serving their country. One of them was even part of a ski battalion, and was chosen to be part of the honor guard when the King of Norway returned to his country at the end of the war. So it was a wonderful family evening, and they made me – a total stranger – feel very welcome. And to top it all off, I slept in my great-grandma’s old brass bed.

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