Edna Holmen, of McGrath, MN, died on Sunday, September 12th at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. She was 102 years young.
FUNERAL SERVICES will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Thursday, September 16th at Zion Lutheran Church in McGrath.
VISITATION will be two hours prior to the service – from 9:00-11:00 A.M. – on Thursday at the church
BURIAL will be at Pliny Cemetery in McGrath.
Edna Engel Charlotte Wilhemina Kellling Holmen died at the age of 102 on September 12, 2010, in Minneapolis at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. She was born March 20, 1908, in her mother’s parents’ farmhouse in Maxwell Township, Bremer County, Iowa, the second of eight children to Fred and Anna (Stumme) Kelling. She was a long-time resident of the McGrath, MN area from the ages of 5 to 96.
At the age of six weeks, she traveled with her mother and brother Joe to Hecla, SD, which was within “spitting distance” of the North Dakota border. The family lived there for five years. Between bad droughts and her father’s severe asthma, he moved the family to Jewett Township, Aitkin County, MN arriving February 13, 1913, taking residence in an abandoned log cabin until they built their own that fall.
Edna attended one-room schools through grade 8 with her brother Joe, graduating from the Williams School. She was happy to let Joe lead the way in the winter, since his long legs would break a trail through the snow for her. One of her many memories is how they would huddle together around the wood stove in the mornings because the teacher arrived at the same time as the students, at which time the fire was started. Although her brother was two years older than her (and had some schooling in South Dakota), Edna was placed in the same grade as Joe and expected to keep up. She eventually did, but not without a lot of hard work.
When she was younger, she and Joe would babysit the younger children while their parents hayed. Her younger brother LaVerne, in particular, told stories years later about how bossy his older sister was: “Keep your elbows off the table when eating.” LaVerne also boasted about how he would own his own farm one day, to which Edna replied, “The only dirt you’ll ever own is the dirt under your fingernails!”
Edna was a 4-H leader, and raised her own chickens and championship turkeys. She and Joe would also attend dances together in Malmo and Dad’s Corner. It was at these dances that they both met their future spouses.
She was married to the Norwegian bachelor farmer Martin Holmen on August 31, 1933, at the Kelling farm in Jewett Township, by an arch that she built herself. They tried to keep the wedding a secret, but once the neighbors saw the cars with Iowa tags heading to the farm, they figured out what was happening. Edna and Martin lived on a farm in White Pine Township for all of their married life (52 years), raising sheep, dairy and beef cattle, turkeys, and chickens. They also had five sons, although the oldest passed away from pneumonia when he was 5.
She was active in every aspect of her life. She was a foster parent for 30 years, a coordinator for the McGrath area minibus, a Ladies Aid officer, a member of the Malmo Grange, a TOPS member, Sunday School teacher, and a member of Zion Lutheran Church until her death. She also made use of the local Bookmobile–her regular patronage was to help show the importance of keeping it in operation.
An avid crafter recycler, she crocheted, knitted, tatted, quilted, and sewed until she was over 100. She sewed clothes for her sons until they were in high school, made mission quilts by the dozens, crocheted afghans to give away to her children and grandchildren, made banners of the Lord’s Prayer and other sacred scenes that hang at Zion Lutheran Church, tatted doilies and crosses, and presented family with ceramics. She was famous for finding other peoples’ trash and turning it into something useful. She kept a garden while still on her farm, grew flowers in her windows, and nursed plants even in her apartment at the Villages.
Edna believed that physical activity would help keep her young, and so still chopped her own wood until she moved out of her big farm house at the age of 82 and snowshoed into her 90’s. She also loved to go on outings, whether to play hooky from a Ladies Aid meeting with her friend Luella Danielson or to go on road trips to with her parents or brother Ed and his wife Lucille. (Stories of her two “outings” with Luella) She took longer trips to Montana to visit her son Bob’s family, with Ken Stumme (losing their luggage in the bus transfer) and her grandchildren Jeff, Brett, Jason, and Maren (this last being her first and only airplane ride at the age of 93; she never took the return trip because the attacks of September 11, 2001, kept the planes grounded.)
Her sense of humor stayed with her throughout her life. She entertained her guests with the exploding outhouse, “tacks” shelter, “tree” below zero, and continued with a neighbor at the Villages.
Edna was also highly devoted to her family. She attended school events for her sons, weddings, baptisms, confirmations for her children and grandchildren, and communicated with her siblings, children, and grandchildren via letter and telephone often. All of her grandchildren and a number of her great-grandchildren received quilts that she made.
She maintained her driver’s license until the age of 100, retaking and passing the exam after her one and only car accident at the age of 88. She lived on her own until shortly before her 97th birthday, except for the dogs that she had over the years.
She is preceded in death by son LaVerne, husband Martin, brothers Joe, Arnold, LaVerne, and Edward, and infant siblings Eldora and Christopher.
Edna is survived by sister Freda Asp (husband Harold), sons Ronnel, Ted (Norena), Bob (Andrea), Glenn (Leone), grandchildren Jeffrey, Paula, Diane, Fred, Brian, Kirsten, Maren, Jeff, Brett, and Jason, 12 great-grandchildren (Matt, Heather, Justin, Corbin, Kate, Kirstin, Zach, Elizabeth, Cody, Ashley, Jackson, Schuyler, Addison, Morgan.)
Funeral services were held on Thursday, September 16th at Zion Lutheran Church in McGrath, MN. Rev. Jim Parks officiated. Pallbearers were Edna’s grandchildren. Burial was at Pliny Cemetery in McGrath.