These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Look Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
September 24, 2023
I’ll share one more teacher’s story during this month of the start of school. I recently had a nice visit with Sonia
Foster and her daughter Milly Prachar at Sonia’s new apartment at Oak Crest in Roseau. We started with a
little introduction to each other, with me remembering that her husband George had helped build the house I
grew up in at Pinecreek. I told Sonia that even as a girl of 9 or 10 I remembered that I thought George was a
good-looking guy. She smiled in agreement.
Sonia’s parents were Joe and Esther Christianson. She grew up on their farm near Badger with 4 siblings. She
graduated in 1956 from Badger High School and went on to Moorhead State College for Teacher’s Training.
Her sister had gone to Concordia for Home Economics, but Moorhead offered teaching degrees and that was
Sonia’s choice for her career. At that time you could take three years of college and then summer session
before starting teaching the 4 th year. Then one more summer of college classes got her a Bachelor’s Degree.
She taught in Greenbush that 4 th year and the next year, too.
She met George Foster at a dance in 1959 when he was home on leave from Maryland where he was in the
service. They enjoyed each other’s company and exchanged Christmas cards that year. More letters followed,
and when he got out of the service the next spring, their relationship continued and by July they were
engaged. They got married just after Christmas in 1960. Her 5 th grade students had to get used to a new name
for their teacher when they came back from Christmas vacation.
George and Sonia moved to a farm north of the Roseau River in Duxby and nine months later, their daughter
Melinda was born. Sonia stayed home that winter and George went trapping during the day. There was no
running water in their house, so no plumbing, but they were young and made the best of it. When summer
came, Sonia said they felt the need for some additional income, and she suggested to George that she could
teach again. She called the Warroad School, knowing they were looking for a third-grade teacher. She and
baby Milly moved to Warroad and lived in a house, but it was cold, and they moved into an apartment above a
store. Milly stayed with someone nearby during the day. George had been keeping up with farm work, but
when winter came, he moved to Warroad to be with his family and got a job at a gas station, and later started
doing floor finishing.
Two years after Milly was born, Sonja and George had a son, and when school was out, their family of four
moved back to the farm in Duxby, and she started teaching at the Badger School. They got a babysitter who
came out to the farm for the two kids, but when winter hit, the roads to Duxby could be hard to get through.
In January, Sonia and Milly and baby Matt moved in with her mom and dad on the Christianson farm.
Grandma Christianson cared for the kids while Sonia and George worked. They had floods at the Duxby farm
two years in a row, so George decided they’d move into Badger to an upstairs apartment. She was teaching 5 th
grade. George was farming and helping George Rasmusson with building projects, including the house I
mentioned earlier where I grew up.
Then in the late 1960s, her parents moved into town and George and Sonia bought her dad’s farm. George
had more farm work to do there. Sonia had a new baby girl in December of 1972 that they named Margaret.
She was colicky for her first 4 months, and Sonia remembers that she was a very determined baby, always
wanting to do things like crawling and walking earlier than she was able to, so often got frustrated. Sonia
stayed home with Margaret the rest of that school year. She went back to Badger School in 1973 and worked
until 1999 when she retired.
Somewhere during those years, she had switched to teaching 2 nd grade. She had all the usual duties of
elementary teachers, often in conjunction with the 1 st and 3 rd grade teachers when it came to programs. They
each had their specialties. Sonia’s was the music portion. One time while preparing for the Christmas program,
Sonia was helping move a big heavy piano when one of the wheels bent and fell off, and the weight of the
piano fell right on her foot. That shocking moment caused one of the little kids to faint, which led to a fall and
a broken tooth. Luckily, everyone survived that traumatic moment with no further disasters.
Her daughter Milly was old enough to come to her mom’s classroom after school and help her with bulletin
boards and jobs like pounding chalk dust out of the erasers. There was always plenty to do. Mrs. Foster had 2
students in her 5 th grade classroom who would’ve been given Special Ed help in these days, but all things had
to be handled in the regular classrooms then by the regular teachers. It just added a little bit of extra planning
to her days. She had to plan art projects, too, often asking Milly to be her “guinea pig” to try a potential
activity. Milly admitted having little aptitude for art, but Mrs. Foster knew that if Milly could accomplish the
project, the younger kids would also be able to. Milly remembered her mom having the kids make angels for
Christmas using Reader’s Digest magazines, strategically folding the pages to fashion a gown, then putting a
small Styrofoam ball on top for a head with fluffy cotton for hair. They all had to be spray painted gold, so
Sonia took them to the Industrial Arts room and sprayed them where there was proper ventilation.
Teachers hear all sorts of stories from their little students. She remembered one little 2 nd grader looking very
tired all day and she asked him if he was feeling ok. He said he hadn’t slept very well the night before because
“Mom and Dad were jumping on the bed all night.” Parent-Teacher conferences were that evening after
school so she had to maintain her composure while she met with them after that innocent disclosure.
Sonia taught long enough to teach some of the next generation of her first students. She retired in 1999. That
fall she accepted a job as a sub for the music teacher who was taking maternity leave, later doing some
volunteer work helping little kids with reading in day care centers around Badger, and then in the school. She
and George enjoyed taking trips with the Northern Neighbors travel group, but soon another family need
came up that Sonia answered.
She mentioned that her youngest daughter Margaret had taken a Spanish class in high school. Then their
family hosted a Spanish exchange student at their farm. Margaret went on to take a semester of college at
Pamplona, Spain, followed by student teaching at Stuttgart, Germany. Margaret made several trips to Europe.
Then her sister Milly joined her on another trip during which they visited 4 European countries. Margaret was
working as a teacher herself in Indiana when strange symptoms started appearing. She went to a doctor in
Roseau and was told she had a form of leukemia. It quickly took over her life, keeping her in the hospital In
Fargo for quite a while. Sonia stayed in an apartment in Moorhead where she could be with Margaret while
she had treatment at Roger Maris Center. Margaret had a bone marrow transplant in Rochester which gave
her a little more time, but the cancer came back, and she died at age 28 only 11 months after being diagnosed.
Sonia said she had always wanted to be a teacher. Her mother taught in country schools, living with families.
Sonia said that her father was a self-educated man, only getting to finish 8th grade in school, as was common
for his generation. His own mother had died young, and all the 10 children grew up living with their father.
She credits her father for making sure all 5 of his own children got their college degrees. It was a great legacy
that continues to be a good influence on the world.
Thanks, Sonia and Milly, for helping me with this story.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.