Updated: Nov 24, 2020
There are so many things for which I am thankful, but it is by the relationships in my life that I have been most blessed. This month as we focus more on gratitude and thanksgiving, I have been thinking about four of the people who have shaped my life immensely–that is my grandparents. Although, I would love to write about each of them, since tomorrow is the anniversary of my Grandma Nolan's birthday I will take some time to honor her life today.
Grandma Nolan, was born on November 24, 1910, in Baron, Wisconsin. Her parents, Adam and Anna (Scharpen) Petts named their youngest daughter Leoma Victoria. She spent her childhood and early adult years in and around the communities of Baron and Ridgeland, Wisconsin, where she met and fell in love with a young Irish man named Glenn Joseph Nolan. It was fitting that the two married on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1933.
Five years later, they welcomed their only child, Sharon Kathleen–who was destined to become my mother–into the world. The young family lived in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area for a number of years, until they moved to Bloomington, Minnesota in 1954. I was born four years later, the first of their two granddaughters and one grandson to enter into their family. From the beginning my grandparents adored me and many of my earliest childhood memories were of times spent with them.
Those memories almost always centered around weekend and holiday get togethers, and I can still picture our family seated around the formal dining room table just off the kitchen of their beautiful 2 bedroom house. My grandma had style and class. She knew how to set a table beautifully and fill it with all sorts of delicious foods. I loved everything Grandma cooked, but my favorite was her roast beef. I don’t know why, but no matter how hard I try, my roasts never taste as good as hers.
I can still see the single bed in their guest room where I always slept when I spent the night, which was often since we only lived miles apart. Above the bed was a picture of Jesus praying, and I remember bedtime prayers with Grandma, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” which so many of us grew up praying.
Their home was just a few blocks from the Met Stadium (where the Mall of America now stands in its place). They weren’t baseball fans, so we didn’t ever go to a game there together, but I do remember many years when we watched the 4th of July fireworks over the stadium from their front yard. I remember swinging on the lawn swing with Grandma, just talking and talking and feeling loved by her.
Memories also included trips to the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado when I was seven. The next two summers, we toured the Canadian North Shore of Lake Superior, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and took several boat excursions on the Great Lakes, all the while enjoying dining in fancy restaurants. There is no denying I loved being spoiled by my grandparents!
Of my two grandmothers, I always did think of Grandma Nolan as the “worldly” one. She was the one that dressed stylishly, and followed the fashion trends. She like to see that I did too. I always knew that if my mom said no to something I wanted, Grandma would get it for me. Like the time she bought me my first high-healed (1 inch) white slip-on dress shoes when my mom said I was too young. She also bought me my first pair of panty hose, against my mother’s wishes, and pretty dresses and outfits, too.
Grandpa had a dance band, so perhaps my most favorite childhood memories were drinking Shirley Temples and dancing with Grandma at the Chart House, where Grandpa played the drums on many a weekend.
Time and space doesn’t allow me to even touch on the memories from my junior high and high school days and into my early adulthood. That will have to wait for another time. However, I did want to share that many years later, after both her husband and daughter had passed away, Grandma came to live with me for a couple of years, in 1991.
Grandma was absolutely the best—always smiling, always caring and compassionate, with quick wit and a little bit of spice. Having her come to live with us was one of the best decisions we ever made, for sure. She had spoiled me so much as a little girl, and now it was my turn to spoil her. I loved taking care of her and doing little things for her. Occasionally, when our family went out to dinner, she would ask us to bring her back her favorite–liver and onions. That was like heaven to her. She really was the easiest person in the universe to get along with. Though during her time living with us I learned some of the incredibly difficult circumstances she had lived through, I marveled at the fact that she never let any of it make her bitter or complaining. She was truly a classy lady in every way!
I should also mention my kids loved the fact that they could get hugs and love from Grandma multiple times a day, and she loved it when they came in to show her their latest school work or told her about what they had learned that day. They also got to enjoy having a grandma who spoiled them like I was spoiled. They, along with our miniature schnauzer Prince Valiant, whom she was very fond of, were often the beneficiary of little treats she stashed in her room to offer them whenever they came in for a visit. I can’t help but chuckle when I recall how at the very first hearing of the music announcing the arrival of the ice cream truck to our street, Grandma could be counted on to dole out coins to each of the kids so they could buy treats for them all.
Grandma moved from Rapid City back to Minnesota, where she lived with my younger sister and her family for a couple of years before entering into an assisted living and then the nursing home. During those years, even though I lived far away, I was able to get a few good visits in with her before she passed away, on September 17, 2005, at the age of 94 years, nine months and 23 days.
Amazingly enough, in God’s wisdom and providence, he saw fit to allow us one final visit with Grandma just one week before she died. During that memorable visit, she was able to meet her first two great-great grandchildren, Justin Lee Roth, and Skye Maree Christenson. Five generation pictures were also taken. What a blessed memory, for us all! (I miss you Grandma! Can’t wait to see you again some day!)
Photos at top of the page are of Leoma Nolan at various seasons of her life.
Above Left: Grandma Nolan is pictured with her great-great grandson, Justin, held by her great granddaughter Tasha (Prentice) Roth, granddaughter Vicki (Ackerson) Prentice, and son-in-law, Cecil Ackerson.
Above Right: Leoma with her great-great granddaughter, Skye Maree Christenson, great granddaughter, Cassi (Christenson) Rieck, granddaughter Jacki (Ackerson) Christenson, and son-in-law, Cecil Ackerson.