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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published October 10 2010

Halgrimson: Gram fondly remembered for kindness

Today is my 70th birthday, and as I always do at that time of year, I’m looking back.

I’m remembering Mom and Dad and Gram and my brothers, Blair and Craig, and thinking how lucky I was to have had such a wonderful and loving family. It’s only my brothers and I who are left, and although I see them rarely, I know they are there.

But it is Gram who has been on my mind. When she died in 1968, a woman sent my mother a note telling of a kindness my grandmother, Petra Somo Krantz, had shown her more than 45 years earlier in her drugstore in Dazey, N.D.

Kindness was the essence of Gram.

Born on a farm in Norway, she came to this country on a ship, traveling alone as a young woman and then traveling to North Dakota by train. Her mother had helped plan the trip, which was a way to escape an arranged marriage. Gram settled in the Lisbon area, where her mother’s sister Johanna Vie worked – and lived – on a cook car feeding threshing crews.

Gram joined her, and when that work was finished, she got a job as a maid. Not liking the way she was treated, she came to Fargo and attended one of the early classes at St. Luke’s Nursing School, graduating in 1911.

One of Gram’s classmates at the school was Clemence Krantz. Through her, Gram met Clemence’s brother Martin Herman Krantz, a pharmacy graduate of North Dakota Agricultural College, now North Dakota State University. They married in 1913 and moved to Dazey, where my grandfather operated the drugstore.

In 1915, a son, stillborn, was born to them, and in 1917, my mother was born. Six months later, my grandfather died of typhoid fever. Gram, who had contracted the disease early in her nursing career, was spared. Gram operated the drugstore until 1929, when she and my mother moved to Fargo and Gram returned to nursing at the Fargo Clinic.

She retired in 1947 and came to live with us in our big old house on Broadway. We didn’t have many desserts before Gram came, but afterward the aroma of cookies, pies and occasional cakes filled the kitchen. She also made our bread, 10 to 12 beautiful loaves at a time.

As Gram grew older and her hands became knotted with arthritis, I was astounded at the power in her hands and arms when she kneaded the bread dough – and as she kneaded my back while I stretched out on our dining room table.

Her capable hands also knit many sweaters, caps and mittens for my brothers and me, as well as afghan blankets for family and friends. They still keep me warm.

Gram did not talk about her early life. But when I asked her why she hadn’t married again, she said she didn’t want a bad stepfather for Mom. She often called Mom “the kid,” which I thought was funny because I was the kid, not Mom.

I think often of her goodness and sweetness during the years she lived with us and remember her with a heart full of love.


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com