For Momma - Memorial Slide Show (Turn Playlist Music off before watching)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Willow Valley

Traveling on a gravel road always gives me a sense of home. I think the feeling comes from my youth when the sound of the gravel hitting the underside of the car meant we were close to Grandma's house. On a recent visit to Minnesota my husband and I traveled down a similar road to visit the graves of his grandparents, Victor and Lizzie Paavola. Just a short distance from the intersection of Township Highway and the old Chisholm Road in Willow Valley is where you will find The Willow Valley Cemetery. Nestled in the woods it's a quiet and peaceful place. There are no large statues or marble monuments, just the simple headstones of those that rest there.

As we walked towards Victor and Lizzie's graves I noticed some very unusual mushrooms. Living in a dry climate we only see your basic brown or beige colored variety. These mushrooms reminded me of something you would see in a fairy tale. In fact, when we got home and I downloaded my photo's something totally unexpected appeared. There under a mushroom, that reminded me of an umbrella, was an angel praying.

(OK – I know you don't believe me – and yes I did manipulate the photo.)

Victor, who was born in 1877, emigrated to the US from Finland with his wife, Lizzie. They raised 11 children in a two room house in the back woods of Willow Valley. They never had electricity running water or indoor plumbing. What a challenge it must have been to clear out the timber that was so thick you could barely swing and ax without hitting another tree. Not to mention dealing with bugs so thick you couldn't help but breath them in. And winters of 40ยบ below 0 with only the wood you chopped to keep your babies warm. It certainly makes you wonder what on earth would make them want to live in such wilderness. But, they owned their land and like most immigrants that was everything to them. During the depression Victor went to work for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) digging ditches along the roads . Sleeping in the ditches at night in the damp and cold ended up crippling him to where he had to use two canes to get around. Neither of them ever learned English, but, living in a Finish community they never really had to. Victor and Lizzie had 40 grandchildren and they called them “gimpy-fadde” (crippled old man) and MuMu (old lady). Of their 11 children 5 were boys. All of their sons enlisted in the service and fought in the European theater during WWII. All five sons returned home safe and unharmed.


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