School 04

Gladys Astrid (Granlund) Hendrickson

June 10, 1921 ~ June 27, 2020 (age 99)

Obituary

Remembrance by Dakota Rudesill, grandson, of Columbus, OH:

We have lost a sweet soul: our mater familia, my maternal grandmother, Gladys Granlund Hendrickson.

She had such a great life, did so much good in her life, and was key to good lives for so many of us. It is therefore hard to capture well in a few words and images her 99 years of living her Norwegian-American Dream. I’ll do my best.

Gladys was born on the Arctic Circle in Norway in 1921, on a mountainside within sight of a glacier. Her father Lars Peter Bong Granlund was a strapping blue-eyed man, six and a half feet tall, by all accounts of keen intellect and generous spirit. Her mother, Astrid, was a short, sparkly, gentle woman, plainly descended from the Sami, the native people of northern Scandinavia. Gladys was the second of four children.

As a toddler, when Norway was a poor country and its people were on the move, Gladys and her family immigrated to the United States. Originally bound from Ellis Island to Seattle, they settled instead with others from their part of Norway in Fort Ransom, ND. It was a small immigrant community, sheltered in a deep river valley cut into the high plains. They had very little but Gladys describes a wonderful childhood of tree climbing, regular trips to the small library, helping her mother learn English, and music lessons with her father. Despite their newness to America, poverty, the Great Depression, and a world war, Gladys and her siblings went to college and were quickly launched on their way in the world. Young Gladys taught in a tiny prairie school, where she met Vernon Hendrickson, another teacher. A few years later, they married in Florida in spring 1945 as World War II and Vernon’s Navy enlistment were wrapping up.

For the next 35 years, Gladys and Vernon – a meteorologist, civil servant, and farmer – lived mainly in Fargo, ND, spending parts of the summer at Vernon’s family farm in North Dakota and a lake place in Minnesota. Gladys and Vernon raised and sent to college two children, Dawn and Loel. Gladys completed her Master’s degree, and taught second grade at Jefferson Elementary. So many of her former students regard her as the best teacher they ever had. Her commitment to every student, to developing each student’s individual strengths, together with her deep compassion for refugees and the poor and others at society's edges, have been inspirations to me and so many others.

In 1980 she and Vernon moved to Turtle Lake, MN, where they lived for the rest of their lives in the hilltop house she designed. It has one deck for the sunrise in the east, and another for the sunset in the west, overlooking the lake. The kitchen she put upstairs so she would have a panoramic view as she kept us fed, drank endless cups of coffee, and prepared to teach her second grade and Norwegian language classes. Along the way she was elected the first woman to head of her Lutheran congregation, and the first female President of the Sons of Norway lodge.

For eight happy summers in our childhood, my cousins Aquila and Josie and I lived with Gladys and Vernon on Hendrickson Hill. Gladys took us swimming in the lake twice a day, and trained us in the use and love of the library of reference books that were never far from the table: encyclopedias, atlases, bird guides, and dictionaries from half a dozen languages. We enjoyed the outdoor work, and had the run of the nearby forest, meadows, and the lake. We were loved and free. In important ways, those summers at what a family friend called “Hendrickson University” helped all three of us on our ways in the world. My cousins and I are so grateful that Gladys got to see her six great-grandchildren enjoying the lake during recent summers and Christmases. Kate, River, Vega, Ari, Raven, and Peri got a taste of the idyllic and unforgettable Turtle Lake life that meant so much to us.

Vernon lived at Turtle Lake for 26 years, until his death at age 95. Gladys lived there for 40 years, until her death at age 99. That is how she wanted her retirement life to be, and she got her wish, resisting many well-meaning suggestions over the years that she move to Fargo. Until the last couple years, she did outdoor physical work nearly every day, all year round. She gardened, raked the leaves, shoveled snow, and did the half-mile walk up and down the hill every day to get the mail. She had the same bird-like quickness, energy, and enthusiasm at 65, 75, 85, and 95.

That timeless quality of Gladys’s makes it so hard to think about the world without her. A century of making a difference for those around her leaves such a gap in our hearts now that she’s gone. So many of us are so grateful for her kindness and generosity. I wasn’t nearby when she died in her sleep early Thursday morning, but I am so very glad that the last words Kate and I said to her a few days ago were wishes of love.

 

Remembrance by Scott Granlund, nephew, of Seattle, WA:

My marvelous aunt, Gladys, has slipped away. Oh, you should have met her, she had a truly fabulous attitude towards life and nature, all good things. She was in continuous support of her extended family, but also of the little birds that came again and again to her feeders and the tree frogs that spent time near her mailbox. Born in Langvassgrenda, Norway, 1921, she lived in or nearby Fargo ND for many decades, teaching the Norwegian language at Fargo's Sons of Norway Hall until the age of 96. I first got to know Gladys at family picnics held at the "Auto Park" in Fort Ransom, ND, the little village that my grandparents lived in. She was a vivacious person who in her later years seemed to live on many cups of coffee each day, and the beauty of her surroundings. She'd reached the age of 99 a couple weeks ago, I thought for sure she'd make 100.

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