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Bob Lind, Published December 23 2013

Lind: 91-year-old remembers North Dakota Christmases

Going to town to get nuts, Christmas candy and oranges (a special treat) was one of the Christmas traditions Virginia Wilder remembers.

Virginia was born in 1922 to Wilhelm and Roseline Marr, wheat farmers near New England, N.D. Today she lives in Lodi, Calif., and is 91, but looks and acts as though she were 60, according to family members who sent in information about this peppy woman affectionately known as Aunt Ginny.

Ginny was the fourth of six children, all of whom looked forward each year to the family Christmas events.

Sometimes the family bought a real Christmas tree, but they usually could afford only an artificial one, on which they’d string popcorn and colored paper made into chains using homemade glue.

The tree went up around Dec. 17, which was the birthday of Ginny’s sister Janet, now 86, of St. Louis, who, with Ginny, are the only two of the six siblings still living.

Candles on the tree were lit Christmas Eve. But in later years, they had a strand of eight electric lights powered by a car battery.

Christmas dinner always was turkey. But one year they went to another family’s home for the dinner, which was special because that family had indoor plumbing.

Feeding the crew

Ginny’s mom was known for her cooking. But she had lots of experience, cooking for eight people every day, plus 15 hired men at harvest time.

Ginny did her share of the chores, including gathering eggs and chopping the heads off chickens and plucking their feathers.

She lived in town in a $5-per-month rented room when she was in New England High School because it was too difficult getting to and from the farm.

Eventually Ginny went to business school, worked in Minneapolis, then became a stewardess for United Airlines, on which, on her first flight, she became airsick. “But then I had a little talk with myself, and I never did get sick again,” she says.

But something better happened on one flight. She met a pilot named Dick Wilder, from Louisiana. A year later, they were married.

Big orchard

Dr. Lynn Marr, a Fargo dentist, is the son of Ginny’s late brother Willis.

Lynn says that after World War II, many Midwesterners settled in the Lodi area, including all but one of the Marr siblings.

Last summer, Lynn and his sister, Pat, went to Lodi for a family reunion hosted by their Aunt Ginny. “I can attest to the vibrancy of Aunt Ginny,” Lynn says, “as she hosted over 40 people and led us on a fast-paced walk around her orchard, over dikes and through neighboring vineyards.”

That orchard includes many trees – pecan, orange, apple, peach, and a whole lot more. Ginny’s husband took care of it, with Ginny helping, but after he died in 1995, Ginny has maintained it herself.

One family member asked her if she climbed a ladder to thin and pick the fruit. Well, Ginny said, “I’m not supposed to be up on the ladder …” and then jumped up and left the room. So you know ...

When someone asked her if she had chickens on her place, she almost snorted with laughter, then said “No.”

The family assumes Aunt Ginny got her fill of chickens while growing up on the farm in North Dakota; the farm where many precious family memories were made each Christmas.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com