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Monica's scary car-train crash

Activities this week at Fair Oaks Lodge included word games, ball games, and an afternoon of music with Bill and Elaine.

The story spotlight this week is on Monica Kempe who was born near Bluffton to Emanuel and Josephine Kempe. She had six sisters and three brothers. They moved here from Iowa along with their friends, the Langers.

Monica graduated from high school in Wadena. She drove a Model A Ford. Then, since the war was building up, she and a cousin went to work at an air base warehouse in Ogden, Utah. Each night they could hear wolves in the surrounding mountains howl. After three years and the end of the war she returned to Bluffton.

By now Monica's parents were gone, so she and her brother, Louie, came back to the family farm where they lived until they retired. Monica helped with the farm work, milking cows, cleaning barns, slopping pigs, anything that had to be done. She drove horses but was not expected to do field work. The job she hated most was picking rock. Where did they all come from, with a new crop every year.

Monica spent many evenings knitting. Not fancy stuff, but warm mittens, wool sox, things they could wear. After a day outside working, she was too tired by evening to do much reading, or anything else that didn't have to be done, like fancy embroidery.

Monica never hankered to get higher education. She knew it took hours of study to get a degree, because four of her sisters were teachers and one a nurse. She thinks teaching must be hard these days when kids can't be scolded or hit anymore. All of her siblings are retired.

Monica was watching TV when she saw President Kennedy shot. If she could be talked into taking a vacation, it might be to Italy. It sounds like an interesting country.

Was she in any accidents?

Yes, you bet she was. A big one. Pa was driving Monica and her sister to school that morning. He looked but didn't see a train bearing down on them until it was too late.

Well, when he put the car in reverse to try and back off the tracks, she stopped. Wouldn't you know it? He opened a car door yelling "Jump, girls!" The girls jumped, but it wasn't easy. Have you ever tried to jump out of the back seat of a two-door car looking an angry big black train engine in the face?

With no 911 to call and no ambulance, a neighbor loaded three badly injured victims in his car and headed for Wesley Hospital as fast as he could go.

The girls were black and blue from one end to the other with a collection of broken bones. Pa got it the worst and was in the hospital a few weeks after the girls could go home. Doctors Pierce and Grogan did a fine job of patching them up.

On his day off last week from working as a host at Wal-Mart, making sure customers at the north door have carts, Chester Luukinen and his wife, Marian, spent the day digging potatoes from their big patch.

Marian dug the spuds with a fork while Chester pick up and bagged all 900 pounds of them and loaded them in a cart.

Marian is 85 and Chester 89. They plan to finish the job on his day off this week.