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Farmington woman learned to love the life of a pastor's wife

Jeanne Trygstad has lived in Farmington since 1979, most recently at Trinty Terrace senior apartments.

Jeanne Trygstad took some convincing when the young man she'd been seeing asked her to be his wife.

He asked once, and she said no.

He asked a second time, and she turned him down again. He was going to be a pastor, she said, and Trygstad did not want to be a pastor's wife, a position that in those days came with expectations you would be active behind the scenes at the church, leading the ladies' aid or directing the choir.

"I didn't have those gifts," Trygstad said.

It was a conversation with her mother that changed Trygstad's mind. Her mother asked how she would feel seeing her sweetheart with someone else, and Trygstad decided she wouldn't like that much. So, when Gordon Trygstad proposed for a third time, Jeanne said yes.

Shortly after they were married, Gordon was called from Minnesota to start a Lutheran church in Bremerton, Wash., a suburb of Seattle with a strong Navy presence. This was during the later days of World War II, and the city was packed.

"When we got there, we couldn't find anyplace to live," Trygstad said. "We were homeless for a while."

The couple, then about 25, eventually found a home to rent, and they went about building a church. They bought a Quonset hut that had served as a Navy chapel and outfitted it with pews and a dais.

"We thought that we had a Cathedral," Trygstad said. "The only problem we had with that was it rained a lot out there."

Rain rattling on the hut's metal roof made it hard to hear inside.

The couple kept busy. And, of course, Trygstad took on many of the jobs expected of a preacher's wife. She put out bulletins and served as the church secretary. Gordon was janitor as well as preacher.

The church was self-supporting within three years, and around that time Gordon was called to Vancouver, British Columbia, to a church that served primarily a population of recently-arrived Norwegian fishermen.

The couple stayed in Vancouver for three years. Their second child, a son, was born there. Then they moved to Oregon, where they founded another church. It was there they finally had the chance to put down some roots. They stayed in the Portland suburb they served for 14 years.

"I think our kids consider that where they grew up," Trygstad said.

Of all the places she lived, it might also have been Trygstad's favorite. She loved the weather and the environment there. It's also where she had the most time to make friends.

The couple couldn't stay put forever, though. From Oregon they moved to a parish in Wisconsin. They wanted to be closer to family after Jeanne's father died and Gordon's father had gotten sick.

It was their job to unite two congregations that had a falling out in 1917 and hadn't gotten along since. They had some success, uniting the two churches' Sunday schools and some other groups. But they couldn't fix everything.

"We could never get the ladies together," Trygstad said.

After 15 years of trying to bring unity, the couple came to Farmington, where Gordon served as pastor of Farmington Lutheran Church. He started at the church in 1979, and retired in 1993.

It was in Farmington where the couple bought their first house. Until that point they had lived in rented homes and parsonages.

There was nothing fancy about the house, a little place at the corner of Seventh and Spruce streets, but it was nice to finally have a home, Trygstad said.

All in all, Trygstad enjoyed the life of a pastor's wife. She liked the opportunity it gave her to interact with people, though she didn't always like feeling like she was in the public eye.

In the end, she's glad she finally said yes.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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