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Lest we forget our forefathers

Growing up as an only child on a Corliss Township farm, playmates were--literally--few and far between for Jean (Matz) Rosen. But she had the best possible playmate and mentor: Her mother, Pansy Matz, an educated, well-read school teacher who fos...

Growing up as an only child on a Corliss Township farm, playmates were--literally--few and far between for Jean (Matz) Rosen.

But she had the best possible playmate and mentor: Her mother, Pansy Matz, an educated, well-read school teacher who fostered her daughters quest for knowledge.

I could read and write before I even started school, said Jean Rosen, 79, who continues her mothers quest to gather and share knowledge. A lifelong resident of the Corliss area, Rosen has now self published her second book: Lest We Forget: A tribute to our forefathers who paved the paths we travel, which is loaded with local history and charming personal stories about life in the last century. Her first book, Living on the Edge of the Big Forest is more geographically focused to the Pine Lakes area and Corliss.

Her second work is broader in scope, taking in much of East Otter Tail--interspersed with personal reflections of how global news affected small town folks. From two World Wars, to rural electrification to the Great Depression, Rosens book brings local context to national and international strife. But there is also plenty of fun in Rosens books. Growing up Lutheran is one chapter. Kittens, catbirds, cattails and pussy-willows is a chapter dedicated to life on a small farm by someone who lived it.

I didnt want the books to be dry, I wanted to spark memories, said Rosen.

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Perhaps more importantly, she hopes she can inspire others to record local and family history.

Rosen has publishing and writing background, having worked as a regional editor for a Lutheran publication for nearly 20 years.

But writing books was a new challenge that Jean took on when the children were all through high school and on to college.

I turned 50, and wondered what I had done with my life, she laughed.

In the beginning, her writing was for her children and grandchildren. But as the research continued and the information piled up, she envisioned a book that would appeal to a broader readership, beyond her family.

The research is sort of like pulling on a thread...one topic leads to another, you keep on pulling--and soon, the whole hem is gone, she chuckled.

Her two local history books dont continue much further than the 1950s. At a point, it really isnt history....it will be somebody elses turn to continue from there, said Rosen, who said she is challenging the next generation.

Reading and writing is also therapeutic. Crippled with arthritis and fibromyalgia, Jean gets around--but slowly, and with a cane.

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I cant really do a lot physically, so it could get depressing if I didnt keep my mind on something else.

The inspiration to write is rooted deep with her country schoolteacher mother Pansy Matz. At one time, there were four one-room schools in Corliss Township--situated at each corner of the township. Pansy taught at the Butler, Pine Lake and Gorman school.

I was seven years old when my mother got cancer. She taught right up until she was too sick, said Jean. She was my companion and playmate...And I was her nurse as she was dying from cancer.

A 12 year roller coaster is how Rosen described those years that her mother struggled. She was in remission long enough to see me graduate.

In the book, Rosen writes in spite of some ethnic opinions that married women belonged at home barefoot and pregnant, mom went back to teaching during the Great Depression in order to...save the farm from foreclosure.

There are few as qualified as Jean when it comes to chronicling rural life in the first half of the 20th century. Not only did she grow up on the farm--she married a farm fellow in the neighborhood: Arnold. They raised five children on their Corliss dairy farm, which Arnold and Jean operated until his retirement in 1980.

Like most family farms today, the legacy was not passed on to the next generation. All five of the Rosen children graduated from Perham High School and left farm life behind them.

Daughter Shirley (Rosen) Dorrheim is a financial consultant in Fargo. Daughter Joanne Rosen is a family counselor in Syracuse, New York, and daughter Diandra Bronson is a geneticist and researcher, working in Washington, D.C.

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Son Ronald is with the audio-visual department at University of Minnesota-Morris; and son Ron is an electronic engineer.

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