Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 21, 2005

Glenna Lehrke: walked one hour to school and back

By Heidi Stutelberg

Born in a farm home in 1923 southwest of New Germany, Glenna Lehrke grew up with parents who “truly taught her to always be good and kind to others.”

Her dad insisted the family go to church every Sunday. Lehrke recalls learning German prayers, which she still remembers.

At the age of 7, Lehrke attended District 77 public school until the fourth grade.

She’d walk three miles with her brother to and from school. In the winter though, they would get a ride from four local farmers on a milk truck or a horse-pulled sleigh as they took turns hauling milk to the creamery.

If the weather was bad, she would stay with her grandparents in town.

Growing up on a farm meant helping with the chores. Lehrke started milking cows when she was nine years old.

A typical day for Lehrke would be to leave home at 8 a.m. for a one-hour walk to school. Classes lasted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Then ,she would walk back home and feed the chickens and pick the eggs before supper.

After supper, she helped with the dishes and finally went out to the barn to help milk the cows.

During harvest season, Lehrke shocked grain. She would hand-husk corn, shocking the stalks and helping with hauling them back home for stacking.

Lehrke attended Lutheran school for grades five through seven and returned to public school to graduate from the eighth grade.

Growing up with no electricity until she was 15, Lehrke described how she and her best friend played together. In the summer, they played with their dolls, and also played ball and hide-and-seek with other children. In the winter, they went sledding on the hills by the river at their neighbor’s farm.

For church activities, Lehrke sang in the choir and was a member of Walter League at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

While in Walter League, she was a main actor in three different plays performed for the public as fundraisers.

In the summer, her family would sometimes go into town to the outdoor movies on a Friday night.

When she was 16, Lehrke, along with friends, her brother, or cousins, would go to dances in New Germany in the old pavilion.

Tickets were 15 cents a piece or 25 cents a couple. That was where she met her husband, Les, who was from Young America.

They later married and helped her dad farm for two years, also farming on their own near Winsted for three years.

In 1947, Lehke’s dad bought the Goede farm for them. Lehrke and her husband gradually built a house, several barns, silos, and a hen house.

Their first two sons, Lynis and Ronald were 7 and 3 when they first moved onto the farm. A few years later, Lyle, their third son, completed the family.

Lerke’s husband was in a serious auto accident in 1954, which hospitalized him from April to September with a broken pelvis and other internal injuries.

“With God’s help and all our prayers, he recovered really good,” she said. The older boys helped with chores and even fed out 65 hogs to market. “They were really good boys,” Lehrke commented.

From 1960 to the early ‘80s, she made more than 150 cakes for weddings and all occasions. Lehrke also made wedding cakes for two of her grandsons’ weddings.

The Lehrkes farmed until 1986, and built their present home in 1988.

She has continued to be quite busy.

In 1987, she started serving as a senior companion, which involves helping other seniors by taking them to the clinic, bank, and grocery shopping.

She will also read to the legally blind, and often she reads prayers to them. Lehrke finds that “helping people is most rewarding.”

Last fall, she traveled to Duluth to celebrate the senior companion program’s 30th anniversary. She was honored with a certificate and a pin for her 17 years of service.

She also had fun as an extra in the “Herman USA” movie filmed at New Germany.

Along with everything else, Lehrke has found the time to write a social column for three local papers for 26 years as well.

Between Lehrke’s three sons, their family has been blessed with 10 grandchildren and 16 great-children.

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