Mary Josephine (Dick) Urseth

Mary Josephine (Dick) UrsethOur family had a choice to write an obituary or let you read about our Mom in her own words. She had such an impact on the community, we thought you might like to read words she had written. Being a teacher for over 50 years, she’s read so many of your words, we thought you might like to read hers. We hope you enjoy!

The third child of Ruby (Hallquist) and Lawrence Dick, I felt very special being named after my two grandmothers. I was the first girl in the family with Harold and Jim as older brothers.

Being girls, however, didn’t exclude my younger sister, Beverly, and me from having to pitch in with the chores, both inside and out! We didn’t especially like milking cows, and feeding pigs was no fun either, as we had to run for our lives once we put their food in the trough!

Family members all worked together and as soon as you were able to balance on a (one-legged) milk stool, you became one of the “crew”.

Along came younger brothers Gerald “Jerry” and Lawrence Jr. “Lawrencey”, aka Larry. Larry was the only one, perhaps, who got out of some of the chores as he usually had a choice of either working outside or practicing his music – which one would you have chosen?

Anyway, it certainly paid off as Larry touched so many lives with his music. Larry and I both enjoyed playing the piano, organ, and the accordion. He is greatly missed, being taken from us in 2004.

A special memory I have of Grandma Mary and Grandpa Phil was when Grandpa Phil went fishing. One of the grandchildren would always stay with Grandma Mary to keep her company. How I loved it when it was me. I especially enjoyed when she went down in the basement and brought up home-canned food!

On the farm, when we couldn’t walk to school due to the snow, we would ride in a sleigh pulled by horses. When the Elliott High School closed in 1947, Beverly and I finished our high school in Lisbon, staying with Great Aunt Anna during the winter months. Aunt Anna was a great cook and we had dessert at every meal!

Another sister, Jeanne Kathleen was born Dec 20, 1941. She was born with a heart condition and was 1 year, 1 month old when she was called to become a little angel in Heaven.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. There were no job opportunities for “milk maids” after the “milking machine” became popular!

So, my dad told both my sister and me that we would be teachers – and the boys, farmers. Like the dutiful kids that we were – that’s what we became.

I went to Concordia College, a private Lutheran college in 1949. After graduating, I taught in the little Red School house by the farm. Bev would teach there the following year. I think that was so the family could protect us one more year from the “outside world”. It was a challenge having my younger brother, 3 cousins, one niece, plus 4 other children, not related.

Church was always important to our family. I was teaching Bible School in the Englevale school house when I was interviewed for a teaching job in the “big” city of Wyndmere, N.D. And then I was off and running. I taught second grade and remember the times that Jim would come and get me for the weekends in our airplane landing in the snowy fields. How priviledged I felt!

In 1956, I married Cliff Urseth, a journalist from Grand Forks, N.D. We lived in Montana, Minnesota, and North Dakota before moving to California in 1968. We divorced in 1999 after 42 years of marriage. Tami, our oldest, lives in Ridgecrest with husband Bob and daughter Erica. Mark lives in Arizona with Frances and their 3 children, Rhett, Marley, and Brennen. Daughter Michelle also lives in Ridgecrest with husband Scott and their three children, Ryan, Sydney, and Chad. And, Janelle and husband Fred, also in Ridgecrest with their daughter, Blair, and their beloved son, Evan, in Heaven.

I retired from teaching in 1993, having taught for 40 years! But, I guess that I couldn’t listen to those school bells and the children laughing on their way to school without getting the feeling that I needed to be there, too. I have been substituting ever since. I think the day that the children start calling me “Grandma” is the day that I will finally RETIRE!

My North Dakota and California communities have always meant so much to me. Thinking back, my family (wherever we lived) never missed a summer in North Dakota/Minnesota! Thanks to all of you for the great memories!

Funeral services will be held Thursday, June 8, at 10:30 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church. A reception immediately following will take place at Carriage Inn. In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for donations in Mary Jo’s name to the Evan Etoch Memorial Foundation.

— Submitted by the family of Mary Josephine Urseth

Story First Published: 2017-06-02