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February 19, 2002

February experienced Americans

By Ted Stone, Managing Editor

Mayor Don Osborne and Dee Myerchin, director of the Golden Link, presented the February, 2002, Experienced American Award to Willard and Grace Reitmeier Friday at a reception and ceremony at the Golden Link in Crookston.

The Reitmeiers, who farmed north of Crookston until they retired and moved to the city in 1976, have been married for 60 years. Willard grew up on the family farm, which has remained in the Reitmeier family for more than 100 years.

Grace grew up on a farm, too, although the family bought a house and moved to nearby Fosston when she was in the fifth-grade. After high school, Grace took teacher training in Bemidji and then taught in several rural schools, including the Cottonwood Shelter School near Crookston, where she met Willard, who had younger brothers who attended the school at that time.

The couple married in 1941 and just after Willard started to farm in 1942 he was drafted. He spent the next three and a half years in the Army Air Corps, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic in England, France and Germany. Grace returned to Fosston where she worked in the Gambles store until Willard returned to the United States in 1945.

By the following year the couple was farming again. "We really had to hustle," Willard says. "I was 30 years-old when I came home and needed to make up for lost time. It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off."

"It was nothing like it is now," Grace says of farming in the early days. The couple had a mixed farm in the early years of their marriage, milking cows, raising hogs and chickens in addition to growing grain.

"It was tough living in those days. No electricity. No plumbing," Grace says. Electricity came to the farm in 1947 and she says she can remember the electrical appliances that were first bought for the household the following Christmas.

Rural roads were poor at that time, which made traveling even short distances hard.

"But do you know," Grace said, "there was more social life back then than now. Nobody visits neighbors like that anymore. They all go to town."

After the Reitmeiers retired they bought a condominium in Crookston and a place where they spent, until recent years, the summer on Lake of the Woods. Grace said they always had a lot of guests from Crookston who would come up there to visit.

Over the years the Reitmeiers have been involved, at one time or another, in their church and several organizations, including 4-H, the American Legion, the VFW, PTA, and homemakers. For a number of years the couple volunteered at the Polk County Museum, Grace inside at the front desk, Willard outside doing yard work and other chores around the buildings.

The Golden Link and the City of Crookston present the Experienced American Award every month.

Reitmeiers are November Experienced Americans

By Natalie Ostgaard, News Editor
Crookston Daily Times

Barb and Mike Reitmeier received the City of Crookston and Golden Link Senior Center's Experienced American Award at a reception Friday at the Golden Link.

The couple married Sept. 26, 1953. Barb said the two met in 1948, at the roller rink in Crookston. "Back then, that was the only place for young people to congregate," she said. "You could skate two and a half hours for 36 cents."

Barb, whose maiden name is Preisen, was born and raised in Crookston. Because her mother didn't have much money, she said, the family rented several different houses during her childhood.

"I still like to drive by some of these houses," she said, "to see how they look now and bring back memories."

She graduated from Central High School in 1950. Through the years, Barb said she's worked for various businesses in town including Northwestern Bell Telephone, the Crookston Times and handling publicity for the Red River Valley Winter Shows. She's also been the assistant organist for Our Savior's Lutheran Church and now plays for Grace Lutheran Church.

Numerous activities keep Barb on the go. For fun, she likes to bowl and is secretary of the Women's Bowling Association and the Nite Star league and traveling league. She belongs to the Homemaker's Home Council, which she said has taken some interesting trips.

She said being a board member of the Riverview Healthcare Auxiliary and volunteering at the hospital's Limited Edition Gift Shop are very rewarding.

Barb also serves on several boards and committees including Polk County Zoning and Planning, the Polk County Cancer board and as treasurer of Meals on Wheels. She previously served on the school board.

Mike's given name is Irwin but he said he prefers to be called Mike. He was born and raised in Lowell Township near Fisher in Polk County. He said he attended a country school and then went on to Fisher High School where he was manager of the Fisher Flyers basketball team. Mike graduated from Fisher in 1949.

After their marriage Mike and Barb moved into the house Mike was born in. They've lived there ever since. A lifelong farmer, Mike continued farming a third of the family land when they were first married, Barb said.

Mike joined the U. S. Army in 1954 and served until 1956. He started out as a heavy equipment operator, he said, and then became a radio operator. The majority of his military time, he said, was spent in Germany.

After his return from the service, Mike said he farmed with his brother Ernest until Ernest retired. Now he farms with his son, Michael, and Ernest's son Paul.

Mike said he was president of the Farmers Union Oil Company for 12 years until the company merged with Mid-Valley Grain. He was a member of the Crookston Conservation Club for several years and served on the Farmers Home Administration. He is currently involved with the American Crystal Truck Haul board.

During the off-farming season, Mike said he enjoys hunting and fishing.

The farm is and always has been a family business, said Mike. While he and his son do the dirty work, he said, Barb keeps the books and helps out on the farm during busy times. Barb said she used to drive truck during combining, but quit doing that.

"The trucks have gotten big and are made more complicated now," she said. "Plus, I'm way too old to learn to drive them."

Both Barb and Mike are active members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church. She is the financial secretary for Lutheran Evening Devotions and taught Sunday school and Bible school. He served on the church board.

In addition to their son, Michael, the Reitmeiers have two other children. Lori lives in East Grand Forks with her husband Randy Wolff and MariBeth who lives in Fargo. The Reitmeiers have three grandchildren.