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'Golden Pens': Area senior citizen creative writing group goes to press with new book

Four of the Golden Pens senior citizen creative writing group had a book-signing event recently, at Ma's Little Red Barn. The group published a collection of writings-just in time for holiday gift giving, they are quick to note. From left, Gail Schroer, Bob Riestenberg, Elizabeth Hoar and Clara Helvig.

Limericks, poems, memoirs, tidbits of history and odes to coffee-these are but a few of the works of the Golden Pens.

And now, the work of these Perham senior citizen authors is collected in book form-and is available for holiday gift-giving. Eight writers are featured: Gail Schroer, Bob Riestenberg, Elizabeth Hoar, Clara Helvig, Gene Collins, John Knight, Lorna Anderson, and the late Evelyn Berger.

Contained in the pages of a 47-page booklet of wordsmanship, "Senior Reflections," are stories of life, love and death.

The first "Miss Perham," Evelyn Berger, a lady who last year died at 97 with the same vim and vigor she possessed when she wore the crown back during the Great Depression, was a Golden Pen-and the book is dedicated to her. Proceeds from the sale of the books will go to the American Cancer Society in her memory next year during the Relay for Life.

Excerpts from Evelyn's memoirs, which she had penned to the half-way point when colon cancer took her in 2008, include references to the Berger farm-a virtual island surrounded by McDonald, Big McDonald and Berger Lakes. When her husband passed away at an early age, she returned to college, got her teaching degree and taught for 25 years.

The creative writing group begins with an exercise called "ten-minute writing." Someone in the group picks a topic and, with pens in hand, the group writes for ten minutes.

"Sometimes we are unable to completely finish our thoughts. It makes for interesting reading. After we read our compositions and comment on each, we move on to the lesson for the week," according to the notes in the "Senior Reflections" book.

Most of the Golden Pens have been published in one form or another during their lives-be it newspapers, books, collections of prose and poetry and periodicals.

Clara Helvig has self-published five books.

"Mostly, I write about my children, my grandchildren...children and grandchildren...children and grand..." she said, her voice trailing off with a laugh.

The Golden Pens are hoping the "Senior Reflections" book will sell as a last minute Christmas gift item.

The books are available at Ma's Little Red Barn.

'Senior Reflections' writers have varied backgrounds

Lorna Anderson, has lived in Minnesota her whole life; Perham the last 10 years. She attended school in Appleton, MN and graduated from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, with a major in Home Economics. She taught for two years in Gonvik, MN and two years in Bellingham, MN before starting a family with husband Glen. They farmed and Glen served 18 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She is a member of Lake Region Writers, a group that meets at the Perham Library the first Thursday of each month. Lorna has assisted publishing a translation of "History of Norwegian Settlements," a book written by Hjalmar Holand in 1908. Another, published with a friend in 1987, is "Norway to America, Genealogy and Settlement History Guide." Lorna also wrote a 450 page family history of her father's family and a family memoir (Anderson/Holen).

Gene Collins was born in Mason City, Iowa. Her grandparents were missionaries in Chili for part of their lives. Both of Gene's parents were teachers. Gene also followed the teaching tradition after finishing school at Iowa State University where she met her husband-to-be, Ralph. During their life together, they raised three sons. Ralph joined the Navy in 1940 and served until 1945. Gene and Ralph seemed to need more fulfillment, so they joined the Peace Corps and served in the Fiji Islands as village supervisors.

Clara Weigel Helvig's formative years were spent in south central North Dakota, on a farm south of Napoleon. She is the second child of seven and attended a one-room school with two members in her class. Clara attended St. Francis High School, in Little Falls, 400 miles from home. It was a wonderfully positive experience. After high school, she graduated from the LPN school in Dickinson, ND and worked in five North Dakota hospitals in several different capacities, including being a surgical instrument nurse. She was the mother of six very active children. After 32 years, life changed, and she moved to Perham, MN. Her writing has been published in publications and as her memoirs.

Elizabeth (Bea) Hoar was born December 29, 1933, in Rapid City, SD, where she spent part of her childhood. She moved to Nebraska when she was ten years old. She graduated from high school in Walthill, NE and advanced her education in Nebraska, South and North Dakota. She met Donald Hoar for the first time in the City Park of Walthill. They had four children-three boys and a girl. When asked what brought them to live in Perham, Bea replied "the lakes." She and Don have lived in many other places in the Midwest. She worked in Social Services much of her life in Norfolk, NE, Clear Lake, SD and Finlay, ND. Don worked for the Rural Electric Cooperative in both South and North Dakota. She says her habits include voicing her opinion and morning coffee. She also loves to travel.

John V. Knight was born on June 23, 1925, and raised in Glasgow, MT, the fifth of seven sons. At age 18 he entered the Army and served for 26 months in World War II in Europe. John spent a year at home after returning from the Army. Hethen entered Concordia College in Moorhead, graduating in 1951. First he taught in Twin Valley, MN and then for 25 years in Perham. He married Marge Jacobson in 1952 and they raised two sons. They built a home on Little Pine Lake and "lived happily ever after," as John puts it. John writes a column for the Perham newspaper. John's hobbies are carving, hunting and fishing. He is a member of the Perham Lion's organization and is noted for his volunteer work. He often sings at nursing homes in the Lakes country. John wrote and published his memoir, "One of Seven," and is published in a book published by The Golden Pens, called "Take Ten."

Robert (Bob) Riestenberg has been in agriculture all his life in and around Perham, always searching for innovations in farming. Bob completed his memoirs a couple of years ago and is now working on research for a new book about round barns, now almost extinct in this country. Other interests of Bob's are playing the saxophone, gardening, traveling, and visiting local "round tables" of the area cafes, where many of the ills of the world are discussed at length. He and his wife, Babe (she was the baby of her family) have been married over 60 years and have seven children. Bob's got a million stories and loves to share them in his inimitable style.

Gail Schroer, class instructor, is the mother of seven, grandmother of 16, and step-great-grandmother of 5. She lives in Ottertail, on Otter Tail Lake, with her husband of 52 years, Jerry. A freelance writer, she wrote for a time for a newspaper in our area and has had a chapter included in a book called "From Eulogy To Joy," published by Capital Books, Inc. This is a book that strives to show how grief can be overcome. She has had some poems published as well. Gail has work published in several anthologies put out by Penpushers Press, of Lehigh Acres, FL.