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Mother’s Day Salute to Wanda Brekken

Enjoy this article submitted to the Crookston Times and KROX by the Albert and Wanda Brekken Family.  During the month of May, The SUMMIT Assisted Living is highlighting tenants who have children/grandchildren who work at Benedictine.


Wanda Brekken was born Wanda Irene Pester in 1920 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  She was the youngest of six children born to Henry and Elizabeth Pester.  Wanda had three older sisters, Marion, Margaret and Dorothy, and two older brothers, Harlan and Charles.  She spent her early years on a farm in Johnstown ND and grew up in the depression.  She didn’t have a lot of clothes and didn’t get “hand-me-downs” from her sisters as the clothes were worn out by the time, she could fit into them.  The family moved to Crookston around 1929 and lived just east of Crookston on Highway #2 where the road curves.  In the early days, the highway was only two lanes, and the location became infamous as “Pester’s Curve” because of all the vehicles that would miss the curve and crash in the night.


Wanda graduated for Crookston Central High School in 1938.  She was active in 4-H and met Albert though those activities.  Her older sister Dorothy married Albert’s brother Romould. So, sisters got married to brothers when Wanda married Albert on her birthday Nov 30th, 1939.  As a result, there were a bunch of double first cousin kids hanging about.  Albert and Wanda started their married life on the farm just south of Crookston.   Their first farm horsepower were two Belgian draft horses.  In their early years Wanda raised chickens and the farm also had sheep, pigs and milk cows which Albert milked by hand.  Electricity was very late coming to their farm because they were “too close” to the city for REA and since they were officially “in the country”,  Otter Tail Power would not service them.  It was early 1950’s before they got electricity and indoor plumbing.  Until then, one of the problems was that the “out house” would frequently get “tipped over” in the dark on Halloween.  That problem was solved when the outhouse was slide back from the hole so that the still unidentified culprits would not see it in the dark and fall in.


Wanda had a large garden and did a lot of canning to help feed their 12 children:  Roger, Marcella, Dennis, David, Curtis, Gregory, Mark, Philip, Vincent, Gerald, Christine and Michelle. As you might expect, she had to be quite an organized woman to care for the children as well as feed the crews during harvest.  Growing up, Wanda learned to play the piano.  She and Albert liked to sing. Occasionally, in the evening, she would play the piano and she and Albert would sing the old songs from the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.  She and Albert were active in the Cathedral Church choir for many, many years. To this day, she has a love for “classical music”. She was the official score and record keeper for Albert’s softball team, the Deuces and is an avid Twins baseball fan and still scores their games, keeping track of hits, runs, errors, etc.


Before computers, Wanda would frequently send out “family letters’ to her widespread family using a typewriter and carbon copies.  The kids often joked that if you hadn’t sent an input letter to Mom you would get the last and most faint of the 12 carbon copies.  While she enjoyed travel, she didn’t get to do much.  One eventful trip involved her and Dorothy going to the cities to visit Dorothy’s grandchildren.  One of the highlights was that they got to go to a Twins game.  On the way home, the car was making a funny noise.  They didn’t know what it was and decided they would stop under an overpass until the figured it out.  It turned out one of them had forgotten to buckle their seat belt.  She still enjoys getting out and “checking the fields” and seeing the action in the fields with the equipment noise and smell of fresh turned dirt.  When they see her, the grandsons now farming the land will stop and come over and talk to “The Boss”.


Wanda enjoys playing card games,  two of her favorites are smear and bridge.  When she and Dorothy were bridge partners, “lookout!!”.  She also likes to play scrabble.  For a while she would play scrabble on the computer remotely with some of her distant grandchildren.  Occasionally there would be a delay in the kids getting their move back to her, they would remind her “Grandma – we have jobs you know”.


A son, Curtis, passed away in 1991 and another son, Gerald died in 2014.  Albert passed away in 2001 after a stay at Villa St. Vincent.  When asked when she started to feel old, her response was she didn’t start to feel “old” until her kids started to retire!!  Wanda turned 100 years old this past November 30th.  Because of Covid there was no party.  A few of the local children and grandchildren gathered outside the glass Summit entrance doors and sang to her, a very “bittersweet” event.


As time has gone on, the Albert and Wanda Brekken family has grown to roughly 175 members spanning five generations, we have a standing tradition to reunions on the farm every three years in July. 2021 was to be one of those years, however with Covid we will shoot for 2022.


One of the best things about Wanda living in Crookston is that she has many children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even great-great grandchildren who are able to stop by and visit. Granddaughter Teresa Persson (Brekken) (Culinary Services and former Sr. Claudia Legacy Recipient) along with her daughter Ashley Melsa (Persson) (Volunteer Coordinator who is in the same role as her Grandma Bev) are both employees of Benedictine Living Community. During the shutdown our family was so thankful to have them on the “inside”, as we called it. We are thankful for all of the amazing staff, and the care that is given to a woman we love dearly.


Some of the highlights of her living at The Summit: “Peace in Christ” music video that was completed for the 2020 Nursing home week and showcased on Mother’s Day with her granddaughter Teresa Persson and great granddaughters Ashley & Kalie Normandin (Persson).  Her 100th birthday socially distanced birth party!

Though we did ask her what she envisioned for her 100th birthday and she replied, “all of my family gathered at the farm, kids running around, card games in the kitchen, ordering Happy Joes Pizza, something similar to our reunion.”


They say, “There is no role in life that is more essential than that of motherhood.” —Elder M. Russell Ballard.  We are thankful for all of the amazing, strong, successful mothers within our family and in this world. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day- The Albert & Wanda Brekken Family