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Bob Lind, Published September 29 2012

Lind: Woman who held Norwegian heritage dear leaves legacy for family, friends

May 17 was a big day every year for Sophie Horpedahl. In honor of it being Syttende Mai (Norway’s independence day), she’d don her Norwegian outfit, hang a Norwegian flag by her door and hold a coffee party for people who’d come from far away for her Norwegian goodies, including lefse. Oh, could this woman make lefse!

Sophie died at the Eventide senior living community, Moorhead, shortly after her 99th birthday in 1991. Now her granddaughter, Diane Murr, of Wahpeton, N.D., sends along her story because she says her grandmother was “one in a million” and because of the many Norwegian immigrants in the Upper Midwest.

Sophie was one of them.

Expensive ticket

Sophie, one of 10 children, was born in 1892 in Norway. Some of her uncles and aunts had immigrated to Sisseton, S.D., and Sophie’s oldest brother, Axel, joined them there. Then, in 1915, he sent Sophie, 23, a $72 ticket so she could come, too.

She worked as a hired girl in Sisseton, and then did housework in Minneapolis, where she went to night school to learn English. This class, plus reading newspapers, allowed her to handle this new language well.

In spring 1918, Sophie joined a friend in working on a farm near Dilworth owned by that friend’s cousin, Lars Horpedahl.

Lars was single but not for long. This girl with the cute Norwegian accent was someone special. And that fall, Lars and Sophie were married.

A busy woman

The newlyweds bought a farm near Dilworth. Sophie worked alongside Lars shocking grain, putting up hay and caring for the cows and chickens. And they began having children: six of them.

The entire family was active in Concordia Lutheran Church and in Gunderson and Riverside school events. All of the kids eventually married, and Sophie and Lars’ first grandchild arrived in 1948.

In 1960, while he was doing what he loved to do – farming – Lars had a heart attack and died.

Sophie stayed on the farm and helped her son Harold keep it going. She had a few other things going, too. She was in a hobby club made up of neighboring women, she loved having company and she did all kinds of sewing: she made mittens for many people, and if someone asked for an afghan, it would be ready to go in a short time, despite the arthritis in her hands.

Always, there was her Norwegian cooking. Her granddaughter says she made the best flatbread, fattimand and lefse ever.

Many kids, lots of lefse

When her health began to fail in 1988, Sophie moved to Eventide. There she continued her hobbies, having visitors and, for sure, making lefse.

She had 22 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren, which gave her many opportunities to do something else she loved: cuddle a baby in her arms.

“I am proud of my Norwegian heritage because of all I learned from my grandma,” Diane writes of this woman who left a proud legacy for her family and many friends.


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