A visit with Gladys Pekkarinen

Gladys Pekkarinen is pictured at the family farm in Markham.

An era came to an end with the passing from this earthly life of Gladys Pekkarinen, a resident of the Markham community for many decades. I had the good fortune to visit with her a few weeks before she died at age 101.

Such a delightful soul she was. She had welcomed me into her room at the White Community health facility with a hearty greeting of “Come on in!” Her son Ron had said his mother knew all about the Wirtanen Pioneer Farm, as she and husband Alvin were caretakers of Eli’s farm when Eli was no longer able to do his farm tasks.

She always reminded me of my mother. They were of the same generation, Gladys born in 1918, mine born in 1910. They had the same work ethic. Gladys Pekkarinen worked hard, helping her husband Alvin with the farming and raising their three children, Ron, Linda and Karen. Her obituary read, “Gladys and Alvin took great pleasure in being caretakers of the Wirtanen Farm. She was a devoted mother and wife, and helped maintain the family dairy farm. She enjoyed reading, gardening, picking blueberries, crocheting, and baking... Gladys will be remembered as a natural caretaker who loved her family and friends dearly.”

Her funeral was attended by people of all ages, for she touched so very many lives. Pastor John Dietz gave a beautiful homily at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Palo, where Gladys was a member. Jean Korpi and Jeannine Saari sang a lovely rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” a favorite hymn of Gladys. When the service was over, everyone packed the dining room for a turkey dinner, a favorite meal of Gladys. It was a happy time honoring this woman who had lived her 101 years to the fullest. And surely there was a note of sadness, at the ending of the Gladys era.

Her daughter Karen Secola of Britt called me the other day and told me the family had gone to the collect Gladys’ belongings from her room. It was hard for her, Karen said, and I empathized. The staff and the residents are friendly and welcoming, but it’s oh, so hard to go back, for there’s an aching emptiness... as in the Emily Dickinson poem that reads, “The Bustle in a House

The Morning after Death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted opon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart

And putting Love away

We shall not want to use again

Until Eternity –”

Farewell, dear Gladys.

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