County museum hosts Lake Park Lutheran Cemetery Walk
As the sun was beginning to set over western Becker County on Wednesday, with the intense summer heat giving way to cooling breezes, the Becker County Museum held its second and final Cemetery Walk of the season at the Lake Park Lutheran Church Cemetery.
About 40 people came to the cemetery, located just off County Highway 7 north of Lake Park, to hear stories from a cast of 24 local actors, each tasked with telling the histories of some of the cemetery's most interesting residents.
One particularly colorful past resident of Lake Park, Myrtle Himrum, was portrayed by Luanie Warling. Once known for her championship-winning dairy cows during her days in Becker County 4-H, she eventually went on to run her own registered Holstein business between Lake Park and Audubon, before retiring and selling the herd in 1987.
"I had plenty (of cows) to take care of, and they were wonderful," Warling said, in character as Himrum. "But my favorite was Woodville Bess, who won the Red River Valley Dairy Association Championships for three years in a row. She was a good girl."
Himram bought her first heifer when she was just 18.
"That's when it all started," she said. "People thought I was absolutely crazy. A heifer cost $125 — that was a lot of money back then."
Himrum was also proud of Princess Lochland Snowboots. "This little girl produced 1,436 pounds of butter fat and 31,700 pounds of milk. She became the highest producing cow in the nation. When she was 19, she died, and a little part of me died with her... I took her to a taxidermist, and had her mounted and hung on my wall so I could see and talk with her every day."
Another lifelong resident of Lake Park, Ernest Jordahl, is also buried at the cemetery. "I've always loved Lake Park," said his portrayer, Naomi Berntson, noting that Ernest had run the Jordahl grocery store in Lake Park along with his brothers, Carl and Leonard, for many years. Started by their father, Edward Jordahl, the business continued for more than 94 years, eventually passing hands to Ernest's granddaughter, Mrs. Gerals Erlien.
"The store isn't there anymore," said Berntson, noting that it used to be located where the Glass Lady studio now sits.
Another cemetery walk stop was that of the grave of Guri Adamson, portrayed by Michelle Fjeld — her great great great granddaughter.
Guri, who was born and raised in Norway, lived most of her life there before emigrating to the United States at age 75, after her husband's death.
Many of the other historic figures featured in Wednesday's cemetery walk were also portrayed by their descendants — but not all. Lake Park Lutheran Pastor Stan Kwecian was tapped to play the role of Hans Grafslund, a Norwegian immigrant who spent most of his life in Minnesota after his family moved to the United States when he was just 12 years old.
After his father moved the family to Lake Park, Grafslund and his brother worked on the family farm until the family opened a meat market in town.
"My father saw a guy selling meat for what he thought was too cheap, so he decided to start a slaughterhouse and meat market of his own," said Kwecian, in character as Grafslund. "He made a good living."
But the elder Grafslund quickly became bored enough to decide to start a hotel as well. Construction of the Lake Park Hotel was eventually halted by a lack of funding, so it stood empty until the Grafslund brothers made enough money in their father's meat market to pay for the hotel's completion.
"My brother kept the meat market and I took over the hotel," he said. Like their father, however, he found himself in need of a new challenge once the hotel began running smoothly, and eventually served as Lake Park's mayor for eight years, and also became a Becker County sheriff's deputy for many years as well.
In addition to telling their stories and answering questions in character, many Cemetery Walk participants were also filmed for a future program on local public access television station, TV-3.
Cemetery Walk Cast
Pastor Bob Bergeson: Pam Bergeson
Delores Lystrom: Peg Ullrich
Gustav Handegaard: Bailey Johnson
Myrtle Himrum: Luanie Warling
Inez Olson: Karen Nesuis
Julia Amdahl: Mary Lewis
Guri Adamson: Michelle Fjeld
Bertina Herfindahl: Susan Herfindahl
August Anderson: Charlie Anderson
Ernest Jordahl: Naomi Berntson
Hans Grafsland: Stan Kwecian
Bergithe Pederson: Joan Sorenson
Johanne Berg: Karen Erickson
William Zachariason: Keith Zachariason
Ole Olson Strom: Charlie Strom
Clarence & Agnes Davis: Leland & Marita Erickson
Milton Ekern: Bill Hill
Christ and Julia Johanson: Anita Hill and Michelle Peterson
Ruby Patrick: Sharon Leendersten
Children's Home residents: Gracie, Keela & Chloe Johnson