As a caretaker, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to care for my mother at home, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following stories highlight a handful of the people in the area who have stories displaying hope, family and community. May we continue to do the best we can, stay safe and continue to remember we will get through this and we will do so together.

Happy Birthday, Marcella!

Marcella Gulsvig poses with balloons and flowers she received for her 90th birthday. Contributed photo

Marcella Gulsvig resides at Eventide in Moorhead. Her last adventure outside the apartment complex was March 14. She has called Moorhead home for approximately 65 years. She spent over 20 years working at Concordia College in Moorhead. She also spent a brief time as a substitute teacher.

Marcella’s birthday was March 26. This year Marcella and her family planned a big open house at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead.  Marcella was excited, anticipating the day that she could celebrate her special day with friends and family. The open house was scheduled for April 4, but due to the unexpected events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to postpone the celebration.

Marcella’s family knew she was disappointed about postponing the open house and they were equally as disappointed. Because the decision to cancel the open house was made early, the family had time to make a birthday announcement in a local paper. Because of that announcement, Marcella has received approximately 200 cards and over 25 phone calls.   

“One of the best surprises was receiving a card from three people that were in my third grade class when I taught at Elbow Lake (Minn.) in 1951.”

She has received cards from people who represent many different parts of her life. When speaking about the cards, she laughingly said, “It’s been fun. Really fun!” Marcella was shocked that her family was able to pull off a birthday celebration of cards and calls, but the fun didn’t end there. Her family had a few more surprises planned for her birthday.  One of her sons lives outside the area. He called her and sent flowers. Later that day, her daughter, Penny Bergau called and told her she had left something for her by the back door of Eventide. She took off, armed with cell phone in hand, setting out to find her surprise. As she walked through the glass hallway, she wondered why there was a small group of people gathered outside and then she realized it was her family. About 10 family members made a surprise visit. Because she had her cell phone with her, they were able to call and sing “Happy Birthday,” as she watched them out the glass windows and door. They also brought flowers, gifts, balloons and a piece of birthday cake.  When commenting on the surprise, her daughter, Penny said, “I told everyone we had to do something special for her.”

Marcella was stunned that her family pulled off such a nice surprise. She even received a flower arrangement from family in Norway.  She’s truly amazed at the number of people that have taken time to contact her with birthday wishes. She’s extremely grateful to everyone who helped make her birthday special. She commented that she appreciated the kindness of the residents and staff at Eventide as well.  She’s looking forward, in hopes that the open house can be rescheduled soon. I asked Marcella if she was disappointed that the party was postponed and she explained she knew it was what had to be done.

“My birthday celebration was really different, but I absolutely loved every minute of it,” she said.

When commenting on her mom’s birthday surprise Penny said, “Her surprise birthday celebration turned out to be a very special day for a very special lady.”

Fargo woman assists with community effort to make masks for those in need

Masks that Becky Anderson made for those in need – Contributed photos. Contributed photo

Becky Anderson, of Fargo, is a long-time area crafter. She’s been sewing and quilting most of her life. When her quilting group stopped meeting due to COVID-19, she started working on quilt tops from home. However, as calls from the community came for assistance in making masks, she’s jumped on board. She explained she was able to start right up making masks, as she had a lot of excess fabric and other supplies on hand.

“The mask project has been really nice, because it has been a large community effort. Pretty much everyone that sews has been making masks,” she said.

Becky has made 74 masks thus far. She sent 31 to her sister in Southern California. Her sister is a registered nurse and is sharing them with friends. Becky is Vice President of the Bethany Homes Auxiliary. She made a few masks and sent them over with a friend. They told her if she had more, they would take them, so several of the masks were sent to Bethany.

Becky has been involved with many volunteer and mission projects over years, so she didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to be a part of a community wide effort to create masks for those in need.

Moorhead residents decorate window with a message of world-wide hope

Jordyn’s and Katarina’s window message “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Photo by Lisa Ridder

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many area residents are decorating their windows with hearts and messages, displaying gratitude, support and hope. 

Jordyn Berger and Katarina Domitrovich live in Moorhead. The roommates were included in an online group, started by local people trying to spread a world-wide message of hearts.  The group started small and has grown to over half a million people. The two loved the idea of showing hope and a sense of community during this uncertain time. Katarina said, “We saw pictures from all over the country – even the world-and wanted to be a part of this.” Both women have people they love in other parts of the world and they wanted to tie that in with their window message, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”

“We just hope it brings joy, hope and connection to anyone who sees it-in Moorhead and beyond!” she said.

Area family waiting to be able to have mom back at family gatherings

Olive Olstad is a life-long resident of North Dakota. She spent most of her adult life in Valley City, North Dakota. She has lived in Fargo for the last several years and is currently residing at Bethany in Fargo.  Moving to Fargo put her closer to her three daughters, Jan in Fargo, Myrna in West Fargo and Edie in Mendota Heights. This is a very tight knit family, bonded by love and respect for each other, admiration for all their mother has accomplished and a love of baking, cooking and decorating.  Although her family can send cards and leave things for her at the front desk, they have not been able to visit or take her to their homes, since March 9. They are also able to talk to her on the phone. She calls her daughter, Jan every night after her evening meal.

Olive Olstad Christmas 2019 making frosting flowers. Contributed photo

Olive and her family love to gather together.  Family events and celebrations are planned around her presence. She is a centenarian, who up until a few years ago was baking cakes and goodies every chance she got. Olive was often found taking bake goods to the coffee group at her former apartment complex. Cooking, baking and decorating have long been a part of Olive’s life, something she’s shared and passed on to her family. She loves to share her love for cooking and baking by sharing recipes and sharing tips she’s learned over the years. She loves gathering with family, assisting any way she can with preparations for family celebrations. She loves sharing her memories and taking her friends and family through a personal journey of history as she tells of her many experiences.

As Easter has passed and Mother’s Day quickly approaches, they, like many families, are uncertain as to when they will be able to include her at a gathering again. They all understand having to be apart, but Jan said, “It’s hard, she’s such a social person and so involved with the family.”  Olive loves visiting with others. Her daughter noted that in spite of the many things she’s been through in her life, she’s a very positive spirit. Her positive attitude has remained strong even during the pandemic. The family is looking forward to when she will be able to join them again for family gatherings and participate in activities. For now, they admire her for how well she does and for how well she seems to be doing through all the uncertainties associated for COVID-19. If they can’t be together for Mother’s Day, one thing is for certain they will include her any other way they can.