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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published June 19 2011

Halgrimson: Fargo poet Stella Hohncke’s work is still studied

Fargo poet Stella Halsten Hohncke, died in 1989, but she is being remembered in the exhibit “Stella Revisited,” up now at Fargo’s Spirit Room, 111 Broadway.

The show will run through July 30 as part of the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival, which takes place June 24 and 25 at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

At a reception and gallery talk in the Spirit Room at 4 p.m. June 24, Nels Backman will discuss Hohncke’s poetry, and pamphlets of her poems will be distributed.

But we’ll get into a little bit of her history right now.

Stella Halsten was born in 1892 to Swedish immigrants on one of Cass County’s first homesteads, just north of Fargo.

In a story she wrote about growing up there, she tells of a cottonwood windbreak near their house and what a pretty place it was to live. She had a wooden yeast box as a doll carriage with a string tied to the box for transporting her many rag dolls.

Stella’s father raised wheat and pigs, and her mother kept chickens and turkeys. And they must have kept a cow because she remembered her mother churning butter. Stella added that there always seemed to be a lot of hard work.

Stella married Wilber K. Hohncke in 1918. They lived in Fargo with their four children, and Stella worked for several insurance companies.

But it was later in life when Stella focused on one of her passions.

According to Forum archives, Stella began winning awards for her poetry in 1942, after which she joined the Fargo branch of the National League of American Pen Women.

Later as chairman of the group, she compiled the work of North Dakota poets into a booklet. The cover of the publication was designed by local artist Ann Brown Bolin, and the book was sold throughout the state with the proceeds going to the polio fund.

Stella had already graduated from the Concordia Conservatory of Music and the Western School of Expression when at age 70 she received her high school diploma by taking correspondence courses from the North Dakota Division of Continuing Studies at Fargo.

She was asked to speak to her class at the graduation ceremonies She said, “I represent the membership of an age wherein one seeks an interest which makes living seem worthwhile. … The desire to learn is just as demanding at my age as in the young generation, for knowledge, when applied, cannot be lost. It must be shared, but it is always retained.”


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