Listen to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member
Recorded January 2021
January 3, 10, 17, 24, &, 31, 2021:
Listen to the rest of Jean’s stories, January 31 story concludes the history. Roseau County Museum recently received a copy of the autobiography of Jean Duncan Robinson Haugtvedt from one of her daughters, Marlys Olson. It’s very well-written and interesting. I’ll read some parts of it to you, and hope it inspires you to write your own family story. Then share yours with the Museum, too, so future historians will have access to it. Jean called her story “The Canadian Transplant”.
January 31, 2021: I’ve read much of Jean Robinson Haugtvedt’s story to you over the past couple of months. As last week’s story ended, Jean’s husband Glenn Robinson had died. Jean had been married for 15 years and had 5 daughters at home to care for. They all had to pitch in to make ends meet. Linda and Marlys became carriers for the Grand Forks Herald. That got the girls out of bed early in the morning in all kinds of weather to deliver the paper before school. They were very enterprising young ladies. They earned enough money to buy each of them a bicycle, which made their work easier. Ruth and Jean did some babysitting. When all the girls were in school, Jean took a job as a clerk at Melvin Halvorson’s dry goods store in Badger.
Jean was lonesome and wished for someone to share the load of a single mother. Alfred Haugtvedt, a friend from before her marriage, came to visit. He farmed with his brother Emil in Pencer. She had spent a lot of time with his sister Irene when they were young, and their mother Mrs. Pete Syverson, was a dear friend. Jean invited them all for dinner and they had a pleasant reunion. Alfred continued to visit Jean until she told him she was not sure she could ever marry again. Some time later she reconsidered that decision when a bachelor who lived in the neighborhood and was prone to imbibing too much, got lost and ended up with his face against her kitchen window. She worried for the safety of her girls.
In the meantime, Alfred’s brother had died, so he was lonesome, too, and started visiting again in 1959. He offered to drive Jean and Lila to Grand Forks for orthodontist appointments. He took the whole family out to his farm for visits and Jean was happy to become reacquainted with his family. Alfred proposed marriage, and after a visit to their pastor, she accepted his proposal. They decided to get married the day before Lila’s checkup at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. They thought they could have a private wedding with only relatives in attendance, but some of the ladies of the church heard about it and decided they would serve lunch after the wedding. It turned out to be not such a private wedding after all. Lila went with Alfred and Jean to Minneapolis, and the other girls stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Robinson. The newlyweds visited Alfred’s sister in Minneapolis, then his sister in Duluth and another in Cloquet.
When they got back home, the family moved out to Alfred’s farm in Pencer. Ruth was going to be a senior so it meant changing schools for her last year. The other girls would go to school in Roseau and Malung. They weren’t happy about the long school bus rides every morning and evening. The adjustment was hard for everyone, probably most difficult for Alfred, who had gone from being a bachelor for fifty years to being a husband and stepfather. Alfred started building an addition onto the house, followed by repairs to the roof so the upstairs could be used by the girls as their bedroom.
Things got better over time, and Alfred’s mom visited often and became Grandma Syverson to the girls and was much loved. Jean became active in the church and PTA and the girls grew up and were married one by one. With an empty nest, Jean decided to find employment in Roseau. She tried several things, eventually working at Marvins when Alfred started working there. They did some traveling through western states and Canada. Jean even got to meet a sister in British Columbia who had been adopted when their mother died after her birth. Jean had kept in touch with her by mail over the years but it was the first visit they had in person.
Alfred and Jean celebrated 25 years of marriage, but he had some small strokes and was unable to do many of the things he had always enjoyed. They sold their home and moved to an apartment in Karlstad. A year later Alfred was moved to the Memorial Nursing Home in Hallock. He suffered a major stroke 6 months later. Following his funeral, he was buried under a large oak tree in the Badger City Cemetery. Jean said he was a good kind husband and friend to her. Soon after he died, Jean moved to North Star Apartments and lived there nearly 20 years.
She enjoyed more travels with her children. She ended her autobiography with the hopes that her daughters would write their own stories. She said she thanks God every day for His bountiful blessings.
Jean lived to be 94 years old, and was survived by 4 daughters, 11 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
Thank you to for letting us share the history of our county with your listeners.