Sacred Heart woman has themed rooms representing countries, cultures across the globe

Guests staying at the home of Laurel Dikken outside of Sacred Heart may soon feel like they are in Spain, Norway, Italy or any other number of countries.

That’s because Dikken, 85, has turned each room inside her home into a different country or theme.

Laurel Dikken in one of the bedrooms decorated in a “Western” theme. Photo by Scott Thoma

“I love traveling and I love collecting things,” she said, matter-of-factly. “So I started putting things that I collected from different places in each room.”

While some people are “hoarders” that collect things and their home ends up cluttered and a mess, Dikken is so adept at organizing items that she could write a “How-to” book on it. She might just as well; she’s done just about everything else.

“I wanted to be an airline stewardess or a secretary,” she said. “I went to school and took the airline courses and graduated. But then I found out that you had to be five-foot, two-inches or taller.”

Dikken stood one-half inch shy of her dream. But that didn’t stop her from traveling.

When Dikken’s late husband, Hank, came home on furlough from serving during the Korean War in 1952, they were married and spent three months in California.

Hank then went off to Korea to fight for his country and Laurel returned to live with her parents in Belview where she grew up and graduated in a class of 18. She worked as a secretary at the nearby school in Echo.

When Hank returned home from the war, the Dikkens farmed near Sacred Heart. Besides farming, Hank also did custom work and had a gravel business from his own gravel pit.

“The gravel pit is now a private lake we call Lake Henry,” said Laurel. “It’s stocked with northerns, walleyes, sunfish and crappies.”

The lake is 38 feet deep and the shoreline is large and sandy.

“My kids and grandkids come here a lot,” Laurel said. “And we have a lot of friends visit because it’s so peaceful here.”

She has also hosted a group of visiting people from Norway at Lake Henry.

Hank, who died on Jan. 1, 2004, and Laurel have three children: Cathy Dolan, who lives in Annandale, Jeff of Renville and David of Minneapolis, as well as 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

“Hank and I motor-homed, flew, bussed, sailed and rode Harleys through every state except Alaska,” she remarked. “And we went to 15 different countries. We went with groups of people a lot of times. Even on our honeymoon, there were 40 people who went along to France, Italy and Austria.”

The first trip the Dikkens took together was to Hawaii.

One of the bedrooms in Dikken’s house is decorated in an “Early Attic” theme. Photo by Scott Thoma

“Hank bought a combine and they had a contest where you could win a trip to Hawaii,” Laurel explained. “And he won the trip.”

And the last trip they took together was to Norway, just three months before he died of cancer.

With Hank having been gone now for 15 years, Laurel drives alone to Arizona each winter and still travels abroad with friends and/or family on occasion while a house-sitter takes care of her home outside Sacred Heart.

Her home is filled not only with memories of the trips she took with her husband and others, but also information about her heritage.

“I did my DNA test and I found out that I’m 99 percent Scandinavian and one percent Istanbul, Turkey,” she said, smiling.

Dikken’s organizational skills also are showcased by her various genealogy binders that date all the way back to 300 A.D. Each binder is exceptionally thick and well organized with information and photos about each ancestor.

“I probably have 40 or 50 books, maybe more,” she laughed.

Dikken belongs to three different Norwegian lags; Nordland, Hardanger and Numedal. She is a genealogist for America in two different parts of Norway. And she has been the editor of the newsletter Hardanger Hilsen since 1996. She still gives talks (around 70 to date) on Norwegian culture in several different states.

“I like to keep busy,” she said, while cutting a piece of lemon bundt cake she made that morning in her Norway kitchen. “I’ve always been an active person.”

If the expression “staying busy keeps you young” holds true, then Dikken is just an infant. But at 85 years old, she has more on her plate than an entire football team at a buffet.

Through the years, Dikken has taught piano, organ and accordion to over 50 students per week for over 50 years; has been organist for four different churches in Minnesota and Arizona for over 50 years; and directed choirs in the four churches.

“Our own choir that I directed in our church had 63 members,” said Dikken. “And we were called the Singing Farmers.”

She has written, directed and performed in five Vaudeville shows with over 300 cast members. She belongs or has belonged to several different clubs and organizations such as the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of Norway, Civic Club, Hardanger Embroidery Club, Tuesday morning Bible Club (“every Tuesday morning since 1974”), Ladies Aid and much more.

Dikken used to operate three ceramic studios, taught ceramic classes, and gave ceramic seminars around the country. And she is a talented painter. Some of her ceramics and paintings show up in various places throughout her home.

Since she likes to travel, collect things, and is very organized, it makes sense that Dikken decorates each room in her home in a different way.

For instance, her kitchen is blue with a Norwegian reflection of items she has collected in her many travels there.

“I’ve traveled to Norway six times from top to bottom,” she said.

Dikken in her Norway-themed kitchen. Photo by Scott Thoma

Dikken’s bathroom is decorated with an Italian/Greece theme, the dining room is Germany, Austria and England related; her living room is France, the master bedroom is Spain, the hallway is Israel, the breezeway is Asian American, the music room is Early American, and the utility room is Dutch.

Upon entering the music room, Dikken immediately seats herself at a piano and begins playing to make her guests get the feel of the Early American theme she created.

There is also one bedroom with a western theme depicting both cowboys and Native Americans that includes many items she collected while snowbirding in Phoenix, Ariz.

Another bedroom she named “Early Attic” and includes antiquated items from her family such as her great grandfather’s rocking chair, the crutch her grandmother used after breaking her hip in 1918, an old organ, family photos and more.

Each room is constructed in such a way that a guest feels as though they are walking through a well-organized museum.

And while she has a love for collecting things, she insists that friends are the most important things anyone can collect.