Plenty worth remembering in 86 years of lifeNorman Russell is a little fuzzy on a few of the details of his life. After 86 years, there’s a lot to keep track of. Ask him about his life after high school and he’ll think for a while, then talk about working in dry cleaning for a couple of years. But details are hard to come by.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Norman Russell is a little fuzzy on a few of the details of his life. After 86 years, there’s a lot to keep track of.
Ask him about his life after high school and he’ll think for a while, then talk about working in dry cleaning for a couple of years. But details are hard to come by.
Other memories, though, come more quickly to mind. Things like growing up on a farm east of Canton, a city about 30 miles from LaCrosse in southeastern Minnesota.
“We had cattle. We had pigs. We had chickens,” said Russell, who has lived since June in Farmington’s Trinity Care Center. “Just an ordinary farm. I had a pony. I’d take and ride that pony clear across the river. My dog Gyp would go with me.”
It was Russell’s job to bring the cattle back to the farm, and Gyp was a big part of getting things done. Russell would tell the dog to go get the cows, and Gyp would round them. up.
“He was a wonderful dog,” Russell said. Russell was the youngest of three children. Growing up he would walk the two or three miles each day to the country school he attended. If there was a lot of snow his father might hitch up the horses to give him a ride. Otherwise, his feet were the only option.
“Me and a buddy would walk,” Russell said. “Sometimes we would run.”
Russell loved to bowl, though he was never especially good at it. And he was a lifelong fisherman. He’d fish for trout often in the Iowa River. That wasn’t all he’d catch, though.
“Sometimes I’d catch big suckers,” he said.
Then there was that post-high school time. Russell lived in Rochester for a while. He and his wife moved to Minneapolis in 1950. He continued to work in dry cleaning.
“I think we’d heard something about Minneapolis,” he said. “We decided to move there and see what we could do.”
That first meeting with his wife is one of the memories that is still clear in Russell’s mind. The details come quickly. He was at a dance, he said.
“I remember this girl come up to me and says, ‘Hi there!’ I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t think I know you.’”
They got to know each other, though. And they got to like each other.
“She was straightforward most of the time,” he said. “She’s just an all-around nice girl. A farm girl, I might add. She was born and raised on a farm just like I was.”
Russell and his wife raised three children, two daughters and a son. His wife died 10 years ago of stomach cancer.
Russell’s younger daughter lives in Lakeville. His son lives in Texas and his older daughter in northern Minnesota.
Russell is settling into his new home in Farmington. The shelf in front of his window is lined with stuffed animals he won playing Bingo at Trinity. The koi in the pond outside his room remind him of those suckers he used to catch.