Bernice Pederson on love

Published Oct 17th 2013

I met Ralph in high school. I was a senior, and he was a freshman, so I got a lot of ribbing for robbing the cradle.

He was from a farm, too; his mother died when he was a sophomore or junior in high school.

Ralph’s family was Swedish and Baptist; mine was Norwegian and Lutheran.

After high school, Ralph moved down to Rockford, Illinois because he had gotten a job there. He asked me to come down also, and when I did, I lived with a friend from high school.

Not too long afterwards, World War II started, and all the men joined the services.

Ralph joined the Navy.

He wanted to get married before he left, but we ended up not having time, which was why he then asked me to join him in Norfolk, Virginia once he returned from a tour.

We got married there on April 2 1944 when he returned. I was 22.

After I joined him in Virginia, I found a job at a dime store and then in an office. I wanted to stay busy while he was away, which was much of the time then.

When Ralph left on a destroyer, I went back to Wisconsin and stayed there for most of the war.

Ralph rarely talked about it [the war]. The destroyer he was on was attacked by a kamikaze pilot, and many of the people he served with died.

The only time he mentioned anything was when the children came home from school and asked him about it as part of their work on the war.

After I became pregnant with our first child, I came home to have the baby and stayed with my older sister and brother-in-law in Minneapolis.

Michael was two months old by the time Ralph was able to get home to see him.

We had three children. Michael, born in 1945; Constance, born in 1947; and Beverley, born in 1953.

After the war, we moved to Frederick, Wisconsin for our first full-time home together.

Ralph’s folks had a restaurant in Frederick and were determined that we, as the new family, would take over the running of it. We did, for a few years, and then we sold it.

We had a huge garden in Frederick, growing almost all the vegetables you can think of, plus things like strawberries.

I canned everything, so much that when we moved from Frederick to New Richmond and then from New Richmond to Roberts, I moved canned goods with us.

I loved canning and only stopped because we didn’t have the land to grow as much as we used to.

After we sold the restaurant, Ralph got a job with Thorp Finance in Frederick. It was that job that eventually led us to our move to New Richmond. He was transferred there as a manager in 1953, when Constance was in first grade.

We stayed in New Richmond until Constance was a senior in high school.

Ralph had become disillusioned with his work, so in his mid-40s, which was very unusual then, he quit his job.

The corporation told him that he was banned from working for any direct competitor within a certain radius for two years, so he got a job selling cars until a lawyer told him such constraints were illegal.

Then he got back into finance and managed the Roberts bank. He ended up buying it with three friends, and then became president of the Roberts State Bank.

After we moved to Roberts, we helped start a Lutheran church. At the time, there wasn’t one in Roberts, so we had to go to New Richmond.

So with the Jensons, we started meeting in the park building before eventually building a church where the current Cross Lutheran Church stands.

Ralph was president of the bank and a part-owner until he had a stroke at age 55 in 1978, after which he retired and eventually sold his part-interest in it.

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