May 7, 2007

Elderly Dassel couple's activity belies their ages

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The definition of retire, “To withdraw for rest, to go to bed, to remove from active service,” is nowhere near to describing Donald and Adeline Danielson of Dassel.

The Danielsons, both well into their 80s, keep so busy in their “retirement” at their farm a mile south of Dassel, it would tire a person half their ages.

Adeline needs to move around with a walker, and still has the energy to keep the house clean, and keep up with multiple hobbies, and her collection of 120 miniature tea sets.

Donald still mows the lawn at their five-acre place, as well as hoes and tills the garden, rakes the lawn, vacuums the house, and splits wood for their wood-burning stove in the basement, he said.

The couple, who have been married for 63 years, have a hobby they enjoy together, weaving wheat.

Their level of activity, despite their age, is not unusual for their families, Donald said. Their brothers and sisters, parents, and grandparents also lived active lives long, after most would have taken to the proverbial rocking chair on the porch.

Donald’s family lived about two miles south of Dassel, and Adeline’s family lived near Pigeon Lake. During the Great Depression, when Adeline was about 13 years old, her family moved to Grove City, where she graduated from high school, she said.

After she became a teacher, she taught school at Steelsville, another community near Dassel. Donald’s father was on the school board, and asked him to take Adeline’s $70-a month paycheck to her. That is how they met and fell in love, she said.

The Danielsons were married in what is now Trinity Lutheran Church in Grove City. They moved into their current location, what was once Donald’s grandparents’ house, and had three children. Their daughter, Kathleen Johnson, now lives in Anoka. They have two sons, Steven, who lives in North Carolina, and Brian, who lives in Buffalo.

The Danielsons also have six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The barn at the Danielsons’ farm held a maximum of 14 cows, so Donald farmed for the next 17 years at a farm in the Knapp area, north of Cokato, he said.

Adeline worked for the next 30 years at Richwell Furniture in Cokato. The company manufactured furniture. Adeline put her sewing talent to use, designing, cutting and sewing material for furniture, she said.

After farming in Knapp, Donald worked at Johnson’s Seeds for the next 20 years, where he did field work, as well as bagged and stacked corn, and delivered to dealers, he said.

“We love it here,” Adeline said about their hilltop farm. “Every tree you see here we planted.”

The Danielsons cooked their maple sap into syrup, and their strawberries, grapes and raspberries into jams and jellies, Adeline said.

Adeline still enjoys cross stitching, sews quilts, and paints ceramics. She was looking forward to being 65, when she could devote more time volunteering at school, like her sister, Dorothy Danielson, or go to garage sales, auctions and church functions.

Two years after she retired, though, she tripped and fell on some concrete, breaking her hip, which she categorized as the “end of fun.” It took a year to get the hip replacement done, and another year of battling a staph infection that developed at the site of the replacement.

Doctors finally took a couple inches of bone out of her leg to get rid of the infection. Now, one of her legs is shorter than the other. To keep her balance and move around, she uses a walker, she said.

“The dusting doesn’t get done as fast as it used to,” Adeline said.

The walker hasn’t affected her ability to make quilts, though. Adeline has won several blue ribbons for her quilts at the Meeker County Fair. She is currently piecing together a quilt for her great-granddaughter, who is graduating from high school.

Adeline also made baby quilts ready for future great-grandchildren. She keeps them in a trunk that belonged to the immigrant Danielsons when they came to America from Norway in the 19th Century. Adeline decorated the antique trunk with rosemaling.

Adeline used her upholstering experience from Richwell to make an extra-high chair cushion so she can get out of a chair easier. She also wrote a book, “My Yesterdays,” and illustrated it herself.

Donald still plants the garden with sweet corn, potatoes, and vegetables, and works outside with their son, Brian, when he comes to help with the heavy yard work.

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