Grandma Roers makes homemade gifts for every member of her family

Every gift comes with a special personalized tag from Grandma Roers. Photo by Rachel Barduson

Handmade gifts are the only kind of gifts Geneva Roers, of Alexandria, gives her family. And with four adult children, three step-children, seven grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one more due in February 2020, she’s got her hands full. Geneva Roers said, “That’s a total of 35 children, covering three generations.” Make that four generations with “Grandma Roers,” matriarch.

This is a story that is all about love in a season of giving.

As we approach our Christmas holiday, Grandma Roers is ready. She has prepared the gifts and now she is ready to wrap each one with tender loving care. As tradition continues, everyone in the family is getting something handmade from Grandma Roers.

This legacy of gift-giving started as each child and later, each grandchild, was given a handmade baby quilt. And now they each get one when they get married. Some get at bridal showers.

“If they like a certain one I am working on, I give it to them. So far I have made 63 quilts total,” Geneva explained, adding, “I have some in storage, waiting to be delivered.”

Each unique gift takes precious time which makes each one even more precious. Each one is a gift of a lifetime.

And what an interesting life Geneva Roers has lived so far! Geneva Roers has lived her entire 95 years in the Douglas County area.  When visiting with Geneva you are bound to get the gift of local history spoken with first-hand knowledge. Born near Holmes City, her folks were Frank and Anna Kvitek. They moved to her great-grandfather’s farm when Geneva was two years old and lived there until she was 11 years old, when the family moved to Brandon. She went to country school and high school, graduating from Brandon. After high school, Geneva headed to Glenwood Normal School teacher’s training, after which she taught school for two years.

Meanwhile Geneva’s mom and dad had purchased a farm near Brandon with a house that had two halves, each half complete with living quarters. Geneva explained, “Mom said I could have the right-half bedroom and that’s where I lived when I started teaching.”

Realizing she needed a new bedroom set for her bedroom, Geneva used her first teaching paycheck to buy herself this needed item. Low and behold, she went to Anderson’s Furniture Store in Alexandria and met Carl Roers, who was a salesman. He called her soon after and asked her to a dance.

“Carl always said that he sold a bedroom set that ended up costing HIM money.”  It was a standing joke, but the love of dancing set up their first date and they continued to dance a lifetime together.

“We had the same booth at the Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood for 27 years. In those 27 years we only missed two dances, one was a Holy Saturday, the night before Easter, and the other was one New Year’s Eve when we were both sick with the flu. We saw all the Big Bands, Harry James, Cliff Keys, Lawrence Welk, and Guy Lombardo.”

The couple began their married life in a rented apartment. “We rented from the man who was known as the ‘popcorn man,’ who had his place two doors down from today’s Traveler’s Inn.” Through their married life, Carl and Geneva moved, built and settled in new dwellings every 6 or 11 years. “I guess you could say our lucky numbers were six and 11 because we moved every six or eleven years. Carl would keep his eye on property and come and say, ‘What do you think about…’ and we’d move and build, and settle in.

“For our first home we saved up $1,000 for the down payment to buy in the ‘Jacobson Addition’ on the road to St. Mary’s Cemetery. We bought it from Hiram Jacobson and Ervin Krienke in 1949 for $2,000. We borrowed $1,000 from the bank and every month we paid back on that loan, $10.97, until the loan was paid up.”

One of her favorite spots was the property they developed north of Alexandria known as Carneva Acres. As with every property they developed, they did it all on their own, saving and building and growing. Carl started at Anderson’s Furniture Store as a delivery and appliance man. 

Geneva Roers shows some of the wall hangings she will be giving as gifts to her family this year. Photo by Rachel Barduson

“He also dug graves by hand while he worked in the furniture store. Can you imagine? In the furniture store he learned about appliances and soon he was a salesman. Gradually he started waiting on people in the store, taught himself how to read blueprints, and managed the floor covering department. He worked for Anderson’s for 35 years.”

The family began to grow after Carl and Geneva married in 1945 and their children include Beverly, Paul, Neil and Brenda. Geneva’s beloved Carl passed away in 2004 and Geneva lived in a townhouse in Alexandria before moving into Grand Arbor in 2012.

Throughout her life with Carl and beyond, Geneva has used her creative abilities in building a loving home and had a steady hand with her ideas and ease in making handmade gifts. She explained that her mother taught her how to quilt.

How does Geneva come up with a different handmade gift idea every Christmas? “One year it was place mats and centerpieces, another year it was wall hangings. I’ve made picture albums for everyone, quilts, and Christmas tree skirts. One year it was stockings for everyone. My folks were of Czech nationality so I make Kolaches and ethnic Christmas bread for my children. I’ve written Carl and my biographies and I have done the genealogy for both my mom and dad, going back nine generations for my mother’s side of the family. Then I started Carl’s family genealogy, both for his mother and father. Carl and I enjoyed visiting with many relatives I had never met before.”

Those visits and the correspondence that resulted enabled Geneva to compile family history…a gift of a lifetime. Her father, Frank, was the oldest in a family of 14. Her mother, Anna, the youngest, in a family of 14. Family history, reflection and precious memories, now recorded. No idle hands here.  And no lack of ideas for what comes next.

This year Geneva is giving her family member’s sequined wall-hangings and the great-grandchildren are getting birthstone tree ornaments. All of the gifts are ready to be wrapped. On the back of each wall hanging is a label which says, “Made especially for you by Grandma Roers.” And grandma has carefully chosen which wall hanging “fits” each personality the best. Only grandma knows who’s getting what and it’ll be a secret until the unwrapping begins…     

There’s nothing like a handmade gift made especially for you, by someone who loves you. Geneva Roers keeps on giving…extending her hand with great creativity and love. She’s already planning for Christmas 2020. “I’ll think of something,” she smiled.

There is no doubt about that.