BC: This book is dedicated in memory of my loving husband, Leo. ---All My Love, Mary December 2010
FC: Leo Mathew Rowekamp | My Husband--Your Dad Our Life
1: July 3, 1922 Grandma Rowekamp was busy preparing for a picnic for the Fourth of July--dressed chicken, backed goodies, boiled potatoes for salad. Her mother, Katherine Botzet, finished the reparations as Leo decided he would put in his appearance and become an Independence Baby! Leo had white hair, so his mother called him her "little firecracker" and his white hair was the wick! | 1925--3 yrs. old | 1925--Leo and Lucille
2: 1938 | 1931 | The Growing Up Years | As Leo grew, he was very active and got into a lot of trouble--not from being naughty on purpose, but because he was always questioning "what if". When Leo was five or six, he took a liking to the smell of gasoline. His mother had him all ready to go to a school picnic, and he went outside to the pump house and started sniffing the gas. When his mother called him to go to the picnic, he could hear her, but could not walk a straight line--no picnic! | Then there was the day when Leo and Lucille were playing outside while their dad milked the cows. They noticed the exhaust from the milking machine coming out of the pipe from the barn, so they put a board over the end and the machine would go "puff, puff, put, put" and almost stop. Unbeknownst to them, this caused the milkers to drop off the cows. Their dad came out and put their bottoms up to the hot exhaust pipe. They didn't do that again! | 1932 | 1931
3: Curiouser and curiouser... | Once Leo noticed the smoldering fire in the smoke house where ham and bacon were being smoked. He thought he could make a better fire than that--so he did! Soon the folks saw the flames through the smoke house door and rushed outside, grabbed the meat and threw it in buckets of water to cool it down. Leo always said, "If I got through the day without a spanking, something was wrong!" | When Leo was quite young, he drove the horses on the hay wagon. This was loose hay--not baled--and Uncle Andrew was loading the hay. When they were ready to go home with the load, they unhitched the loader and started home. The wagon tipped and Leo was buried under the hay. When he finally dug his way out, his Uncle Andrew was coming out of the nearby woods where he had gone to get a stick for a cane as he had hurt his ankle. I don't know where he thought Leo was! Leo was about eleven when he was helping his dad fix fence and a wire snapped and cut his left eyeball. At that time they had to keep him conscious while they put three stitches in his eye. He could not see very well out of that eye until he had cataract surgery when he was in his 70's. They smoothed out the scar, and he could see quite well. | 1932 | 1938
4: In the 30's Leo trapped gophers. The county paid three cents for streaked gophers and five cents for pocket gophers. His dad paid him double that amount. The money he earned was placed in a savings account. There were many weeks that Leo made more trapping gophers than the hired man earned working for Leo's dad. Due to the Depression of the 30's, Leo's parents could no longer afford a hired man, so Leo had to stay home to work, and he never went to high school. However, this didn't stop him from learning. Years later, he took a diesel engineering course by mail which got him a job driving diesel machines when the I-90 interstate was constructed. Leo even worked a night shift servicing the vehicles. Leo also took night classes on fertilizers, weed killers, farm accounting and even typing--which was a waste of time! He overhauled all the farm equipment and fixed cars and trucks. He did all of the plumbing and electrical work on the farm. When his work was inspected, he was told it was "a better job than was required." Some people talk about "dumb farmers". Leo definitely proved them wrong! | 1933--George, Leo and their Barred Rock Chickens
5: Leo and his cousin, Jim Flanagan, were good friends--not so sure about the "good" part! One time they decided to try different mixed drinks. Leo said it was the only time that he almost got drunk! Another time he and Jim put a loaded cigarette into Jim's dad's cigarette pack and waited for him to light it. However, Jim's dad was known for his temper and they soon got cold feet. Luckily, they managed to remove the cigarette before any harm was done! Unfortunately, Leo hadn't learned his lesson! At the country school's Christmas program, attended by all the neighbors, Leo put a loaded cigarette in Ed Fabian's pack. Right in the middle of the Nativity scene, it exploded! Ed sat there with the shredded cigarette in his mouth and said, "I'll be @#%@#!: Leo's mother almost disowned him! Leo loved to dance and often took his sister Lucille and her girlfriends to dances in Wyattville. Their Aunt Ethel and Uncle George owned the dance hall and there would be two dances a week. Leo would help sell tickets. Yes, he really loved to dance! | 1943--Jim Flanagan home from service!
6: Girlfriends were never a problem for Leo. He went out with many and even got engaged for a few weeks with a girl from Wisconsin. Thank goodness, it wasn't meant to be! In early May 1946, I met Leo at a rollerskating party planned by the Rural Catholic Youth Group at the Rec in Lewiston. He claims it was "love at first sight"! It took me a while longer. We began dating, but when Grandma Speltz heard about it, she said we were too closely related as my mother and Leo's mother were first cousins. Leo and I hadn't known each other growing up as we rarely got together with my mother's side of the family after she died. However, when I was three and my mother was still alive, Leo remembers being at our home on the Schell farm for dinner. He remembers playing with my brother Chuck's train and seeing a little kid running around. But Leo said girls weren't interesting at that time--so much for love at first sight! | 1946--Mary's High School Graduation | Due to Grandma Speltz's concerns, we called it quits. But two years later, we both helped with a Rural Youth play and Leo asked me out "for old time's sake". We went to see Sammy Kay's Band in Rochester and then the trouble began. Leo was no longer satisfied by what Grandma had said, so he went to see his parish priest, Fr. Enreight. This priest sent Leo to the diocesan marriage | 1945
7: counselor who sent him to speak with a genetics doctor at the Mayo Clinic. This doctor gave Leo a letter for Grandma Speltz stating that second cousins were one generation over the danger mark for genetic problems, Fr. Enreight gave us permission to continue dating, Leo showed the letter to Grandma and all was okay. Of course, she liked Leo anyway as he always wore a white shirt and tie when he took me out! After a wonderful summer of companionship, Leo told me that he always felt so good after being on a date with me--almost like going to church. What a compliment! I sort of knew what he meant. When I was with him, I always felt at ease--never afraid of saying something he would take the wrong way. There were no off-color remarks from him; never a swear word. All my life with Leo, I never heard him swear. He said it was a waste of time--if you want God's help, you don't damn Him! I had found my good, Catholic farmer--just as I had prayed! On October 25th, (much to my surprise--so soon!) Leo asked me to marry him. I knew I wanted to say "YES!", but I was a junior at St. Teresa's College, and I had promised Aunt Jessie that I would stay with her for a year before I got married as a "thank you" for taking my mother's place. So I made Leo wait for my "yes". | The Engagement Story...to be continued | 1947
8: The Engagement Story (continued) | Until this time, I would not let any of my dates kiss me. I said I only wanted to kiss one man in my life and that would be the one I married. The night that Leo proposed, he took my hand and kissed my palm, closed my fingers over his kiss and told me he wanted it back soon. A week later, I said "YES!", quit school and stayed home with Aunt Jessie. I never regretted that decision. On November 13, 1948, Leo and I went to a movie. Before we went in, he reached over and took a box out of the car's glove compartment. It was my very beautiful diamond engagement ring! Leo had bought it with the money he had earned catching gophers over the years. Now it was time to set a wedding date, and we chose September 14, 1949. This was the anniversary of my parent's and grandparent's weddings. It was a Wednesday... It was a beautiful day. The wedding was set at 9:00 AM--early because, at that time, Catholics fasted from midnight until Mass. I came downstairs in my wedding dress into the living room, and I heard my Grandma Speltz and my dad talking. Grandma said, "Yes, Raymond, today we have to be alone." I began crying, but remembered that remark all my life, thinking that if every couple would realize that some day one of them might be alone and saying the same thing, they would try harder to keep their marriage special. "It takes three to get married". Always trust in God. Not trying to see what you can get from a marriage, but what you can give to it.
9: The Wedding!
12: Ferry to Coney Island and Shops | Leo and I had a one-of-kind, 16-day honeymoon. We went to Chicago, up to Canada, through Niagara Falls, Pennsylvania and New York City where we hired a cab driver on his day off to tour us all around the city, seeing Ellis Island, Boardwalk and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
13: Pool at the new Capitol and Indian Lookout | We went on to Washington DC, the White House, Mount Vernon, Gettysburg, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and elsewhere before heading back to Des Moines, Iowa to visit Aunt Olive and Uncle Joe. Here we climbed to the top of the state Capitol and visited a grotto before heading home. It was a wonderful time!
14: Married Life and Home Sweet Home | After our honeymoon, we moved into the upper floor of Leo's parent's home on the farm in Lewiston. We had three rooms upstairs--a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Leo's brother, Eugene, and the hired man shared the remaining upstairs bedroom. Our kitchen wasn't completed when we moved in, so we ate downstairs with the rest of the family. It wasn't a perfect set up, but we were in love, so it worked! We had asked Leo's folks for permission to build a small house on the farm, but they wouldn't allow it. | Nine months and two days after our wedding, we happily had our baby boy, James Leo. Leo became a father two days before Father's Day and he was so proud! I remember I had Grandpa Schell buy a big flashlight for Jim to give his daddy for Father's Day. Almost a year after Jim was born, Eugene and Dorothy were married. Uh-oh! Where would they live?
15: As I was soon to have another baby, Leo's folks told Leo that we could build a house if we could construct if for under $5,000. Leo set to work on the house! In the meantime, our living room furniture was pushed into our kitchen, the hired man got the living room and Eugene and Dorothy got the big bedroom. We were back to living in the one bedroom, and we all shared our meals downstairs. The first thing to be done was to remove a big walnut tree stump where the house would be located. Leo decided to use dynamite (which he was not too familiar with) to remove the stump. He set the blast, and the stump flew over the main house and hatchery and landed near the barn. Leo said the stump sounded like an airplane propeller going through the air! He also learned to put the powder on the opposite side of where you wanted the stump to go. Leo went up north to get wholesale lumber and hired a man who did construction to get the project going. However, there was only $500 in outside labor. Leo did all the wiring and plumbing for the 24' x 30', story and a half house. On the main floor, there was a small kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, bathroom and closets everywhere we could fit them. We did not finish the upstairs until much later. The floors were linoleum, and we did it for under $5,000--right on budget and doing much of the work at night. Years later, we finished the upstairs with two more bedrooms with built-in cupboards and drawers under the eaves and a very tiny bathroom. We moved into the new house the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 1951. What a happy day! I remember we had Mrs. Grass's soup and bread that first meal, but it seemed like we had quite a feast! Eugene and Dorothy took over our old rooms in the main house, and we could all breathe easier! Amazing as it may seem, we all survived quite well and still spoke to one another!
16: And then there were four! | Mary Lee Rowekamp Born July 1, 1951 | November 1951 | Before we moved into our new house, we welcomed our first daughter, Mary Lee, who soon became Daddy's girl. As she grew older, she was helpful, spiteful at times, but still very loving and capable. As the oldest girl, she had many responsibilities in a family of 13 kids!
17: Our next addition was John Raymond who was born on Christmas Day, 1952. He arrived with the deepest dimples I ever saw on a baby, and he still has them! John was, and is, our quiet one with a heart of gold. | June 1952 | Helen Marie was born on May 15, 1954--another beautiful baby to be proud of! She was cute as a button with blonde curly hair and a smile that melted any heart. | Christmas 1954
18: Betty Jean's birthday is on June 5, 1957. She was a honey and a Mommy's baby. Her favorite question was, "But why"? She was the worrier of the family. She definitely outgrew that! | September 1956 | Rose Ann was born on January 31, 1956. She was a very excitable baby. Rose Ann would hold her breath until she passed out. Thank goodness she got over that! | Christmas 1957
19: Donna May's birthday is 5-13- 1960. She was the cut-up of the crew as a baby and young child. All I have to do to prove my point is look at the family picture album! | September 1959 | Dorothy Jane was born on 9-15-1958, and Leo was happy to get the "new baby" instead of the "hand- me-down" when Betty Jean refused to give up Mommy's lap! | November 1961
20: Next was Teresa Lynn on November 20, 1961. She was a little sweetheart with a big smile and a soft heart. | September 1964 | June 1962 | Pauline Louise came along on June 24, 1963. She fit in with our growing family just fine. She was usually slow to scrap and willing to agree.
21: Joe was an easy-going baby who had a grin from early on that gets him out of trouble! | After seven girls in a row, Dr. Hawk thought we threw away the blueprint for boys! Joseph George was born on September 14, 1964, our anniversary. | Joan Susan, our little blonde curly head, was born on January 16, 1966. Needless to say with so many big sisters, she was a little spoiled! | It's a BOY!!! | March 1966 | Summer 1965
22: Be careful what you ask God for. He usually gives you more than you ask if He approves! Three years after our prayed-for dozen kids, we had Catherine Rae on Valentine's Day, 1969. When the family came to the hospital to see her, the nurse brought her to the window of the nursery, and John said, "I hoped that one was ours!" Another spoiled, but well-loved baby! You may wonder why I'm writing about each of you when I'm writing about Dad. It is because you were Dad's life. He loved each of you so much and would have done anything for any one of you, as I'm sure you know. He was so proud of our great family, and I am too!
23: Love | May 1967 | November 1960 | July 1956 | September 1977
24: All this writing and I haven't even mentioned 4-H or our animals! What a big part 4-H had in our lives! Not just the learning part, but the neighborhood togetherness. The county and state fairs were big projects with Leo usually hauling cattle up and back to the fair. I remember one year after the kids got their checks from the county fair, they pooled their money and had my diamond engagement ring reset as it had worn through. Another time they used their funds to plan a big surprise 25th wedding anniversary party for us and, under Mary Lee's direction, saved money in a savings account to send Leo and me to Hawaii--a place Leo had always wanted to go. Is it any wonder why Leo and I are so proud of our new generation?!? Now for the pets--both large and small! One year Leo caught a baby rabbit when he was cutting hay and brought it home for the kids. Peter became a winter house rabbit for two years. One spring before Easter, the kids went to the sales barn with Leo and came home with a big white rabbit which they named "Happy" as it was so close to Easter...cost Dad 50 cents. I think it was Rose Ann who went with Dad to deliver some chickens and came home with a rat terrier, Tiny. He became a permanent pet for many years. | Simple fun!
25: It seemed like our home was known as the one with the family who loved animals as many dogs and cats seemed to be dropped off here. At one time, we had about 40 cats! Then there were our ponies and horses--all 15 of them. Cookie, King and Duchess were a few of them--they were all dearly loved. Our dogs were Pal, Prince, Tipper, Jeannie, Boppy and Brownie to name a few. And of course, Max, our house dog for 14 years. We inherited all our dogs from one place or another. We now had a horse path around the big house, plus baseball to the east, volleyball in the front yard, horse shoe near the driveway and a big round stock tank for swimming. The hatchery had been turned into a game room with 4x4 painted on the floor in one room and a pool table standing in the other. The hatchery was a good place for 4-H meetings and card parties. Mary Lee and Helen both had their wedding receptions there. Many times on Sundays we would all pack into our station wagon and go on a drive to see where this road would take us. Quite often we had a picnic lunch, and at least once every spring we would do down to the valley to get watercress. One time Pauline thought the cress was grass and tried walking on it! We would have a picnic lunch and the kids would go wading in the larger creek. The kids weren't supposed to get wet, but they always did. This became an annual affair, and even after some of the kids were married, we would go down to the creek. What a great day!
26: Through the years, our farming style changed. We closed the hatchery as large flocks were becoming common, and the farmers with small flocks that we serviced had moved dairy calves into the chicken houses as this was more profitable. We still had 3,500 laying hens, but as time went on, we went into a small beef herd first and then into a dairy herd. We changed our barn into a California-style parlor with 12 stanchions. The kids were happy, as they said, "Cows have much more personality than chickens!" | Leo and I bought the 100 acre farm north of the home farm as Grandpa Rowekamp was not ready to sell us his farm, and we needed more income. If worst came to worst, we would move there, farm the 100 acres, have a few cows and Leo would get an outside job. When we had ten children, Leo's folks finally sold us the home farm, but remained living in the big house for three more years. For the first three years of running the farm on our own, we had two years of heavy hail and one year of severe drought. What a way to start out! At the time that the folks moved to Winona, we had eleven kids living in our 24' x 30' home! When the folks moved, the kids took it upon themselves to move their bedrooms into the big house. What a fun time they had! As the years passed, the farm east of ours came up for sale, and we bought it. We now had 445 beautiful acres! It was this same year that Leo's knee was smashed by a cow. He was in therapy and on crutches for over five months. Thank goodness for our sons and daughters who always pitched in and helped so well! | The Farm of a Lifetime...
27: Soon after, the farm crisis hit the nation. Our farm operation had been valued at $1,000,003. A year and a half later, we couldn't sell it for $450,000. Our equity was gone. We were forced to sell the cattle when prices were low. Interest rates on the farm had risen to 22%. We rented the farm out for a few years to try to make ends meet, but eventually we lost it and had to auction it off July 1985. It was a hard time, but Leo accepted it as God's will. He reasoned that we had a great farm to raise our family on, and it was wonderful. We had a great life. As we left the farm after a lifetime, we had $5,000 and a handful of bills, but the greatest family anyone could hope for! | It was some time later that our two double-story chicken coops (now holding heifers) caught on fire. We think it was caused by a dust explosion as there was no live electricity in the building. To get the cattle out of the coops, John took the loader tractor and tore out the back of the coop saving all but one heifer. The kids grabbed the little calves and brought them into the hatchery for safety. The result of the fire was the building of a new modern calf barn. | The next farm improvement was to replace our original barn which had been converted into a dairy parlor and calf pens. The dairy standards had changed, and if we wanted to continue selling Grade A milk, we had to upgrade the facilities. John and Leo did most of the designing for the 80 cow tie stall barn, feeding barn and silos. When the new set up was completed, we bought 30 new cows to add to our existing herd and started milking in the new barn and it was great! | ...The Lifetime of a Farm
28: Several years after losing the farm, we realized that it was a blessing in disguise. We had moved into an apartment in Lewiston, bought the old laundromat, and set up our woodworking and saw sharpening business. We took our work to many craft shows, and feel that we have some of our work in every state of the union. Of course, our kids were our best customers! We now had time to go to daily Mass, deliver Meals on Wheels to shut-ins and become caretakers at St. Rose of Lima Church. We were always too busy to do these things before. And, of course, we could visit our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We now had 38 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren! Leo had many choice sayings to share with our family such as, "Always tell the truth. Then you never have to try very hard to remember what you said." "No deal is a good deal unless it's a fair deal." "It's what you are on the inside that counts." | Fourth of July, 2008 | June 2000
29: I don't think anyone could have had a better husband than I did. No one dared to say anything against me, or they were in trouble if Leo heard about it. Whenever he was hospitalized for something or another, he would always tell the nurses what a great wife he had. "Everybody should be so lucky", he would say. Upon learning of this after the first few times, when I would come to visit, I'd tell the nurses, "You thought I'd have wings to hear Leo talk, didn't you?" Talking back to Mom and Dad was never an option. Complaining to Mom about Dad or to Dad about Mom was also a no-no. Mom and Dad always stuck together. It made life so much simpler. The rosary was a big part of our lives, and from the beginning, our whole family went to Mass and any extra services every week. Leo had a rule that there was no eating or toys during church services as we went to church to talk to God. Jim was the hardest to convince of these rules. However, train the first child, and the next are easier. This goes for many things in life. | Making Memories | 1955--Lake Mille Lacs | 1955--Lake Mille Lacs | 2008
30: As the kids--boys and girls--were able to help more with chores, milking, etc., Leo took on part-time jobs for extra income. As I already mentioned, he worked on I-90 for two years, worked full- and part-time at the St. Charles Welding Shop, worked for Tony Speltz on silo unloaders and farm work and drove a school bus after the kids had graduated--something that still shocks our kids! But he loved it! Over the years, Leo did so many other things as well. Being president of the Legion of Mary for nine years for the eastern half of the Winona Diocese was quite an honor, and he did so well at it. He was also president of the Farmers Union, a school board member, Soil Conservation Committee member, FFA board member, a charter member of SEMCAC, serving on the board for 27 years, charter member of the Lewiston Lions Club and its last surviving original member. When Leo died, the Lion's Club made and donated six picnic tables to the Lewiston Park in his name. He received a 40-year award from the DFL, but we parted company with the party over the abortion issue. He helped begin Land Stewardship in Winona County. Leo served on the LSP State Board for years and served on the National Board. Leo was also on the State Poultry Board. | 1973--New Parlor | 2007 | 2007
31: I've written about a few samples of our lives together, but enough to tell you of the happy life that we had. Even the struggles only drew us closer together as a family. In 2006, I noticed Leo having problems. He always loved talking to people who came to the shop, but now he avoided it. I noticed how he would re-measure projects many times and still make mistakes. He began having headaches, stomach aches, nervous legs, etc. One day Fr. Marreddy stopped at the shop and told us that we had spent all of our lives working, now it was time to sell the shop and have time for ourselves. Much to my surprise and relief, Leo agreed. After the shop was sold, Leo set up a little wood shop in our apartment garage, but he was never able to use it. His dementia was taking hold. Heart problems increased and he ended up in the hospital, but the doctors advised against surgery in Leo's case. From this time on, he had few good days and I could never leave him alone. Confusion continued and he would want to go check on the cows, afraid that the pipes would freeze or they needed hay. Every morning after breakfast, we would pray the rosary and I'd read prayers. This was his best time; he would relax and often go to sleep in his chair. | July 2008 | May 2009
32: Leo was 87 years old and 10 days when he passed away. We had been married 59 years and 10 months. | Following Easter 2009, it was decided that Leo would move to The Villa in Lewiston. Needless to say, this wasn't what I wanted, but Leo's needs were greater than I could provide for him at home. To see a man with Leo's talents and personality steadily decline was hard to witness. The man who once could do everything, could now do nothing and felt so miserable most of the time. It was so hard leaving him there, and one night he said to me, "If I could only sleep with you one more night." One of the family, usually Helen or Donna May, stayed with me all of the time now. We knew Leo's time was near. He often laid with his eyes closed and unaware of his surroundings, but making the Sign of the Cross or mouthing the words to Our Father or Hail Mary. Leo once again received the Last Rites from Fr. Mareddy. At 12:35 AM in the early morning hours of July 14th, Helen was with Leo and called me to come to the Villa. When I got there, Leo had his eyes open and looked right into mine. I prayed with him and told him it was okay to go to Heaven and see Mary Lee and Jim, but that he should keep a spot for me. Slowly his breathing stopped, and the words, "Welcome, my good and faithful servant. Now enter into My Kingdom" went through my mind. Leo was gone, and I closed his eyes. At that moment, I was so envious of him. Leo was given what we all want. One of the last notes that Leo wrote to himself was, "Ask God for His help every day. Every day!" This Leo did until the moment he died.
33: Leo's funeral was held on July 18th, and all the kids, grandkids and great grandchildren were present. Although very difficult for us who loved him so much, the day was just what Leo always said a funeral should be--a celebration of a life--his life. More plentiful than the tears were the stories and laughter shared by family and friends who were a living testament to the wealth that was Leo's life. A better legacy would be impossible to find...and I know that he was grinning down at us. I miss him. The special way that Leo always said "Mary". Never honey or sweetheart--always his special "Mary". I miss the way he always looked for me across a room or the feel of his hand in mine at Mass, his body next to mine at night. Or even his straightening of my bra straps as I got dressed. Two months short of our 60th anniversary, and now "I am alone". The strange part is that ever since Leo died, I have never felt alone. I wake up at night feeling him next to me. I feel his presence with me always. I am never lonely and love silence. I love the quiet with my own memories. | You, Dear Lord, brought us together in the Sacrament of Marriage. May the love which we shared on earth, find its ultimate meaning in the joy of Heaven and our reunion with You. Amen
34: Leo Rowekamp July 4, 1922- July 14, 2009 A Well-Spent Life