Ryberg celebrates 100 with family and friends.
Life has been a journey for Annabelle Waldner Ryberg who turned 100 years old this year on March 13. She was born in Kappa, Illinois, lived on a farm near Hector, was a country school teacher, worked at a nursing home in Fairfax, served as a school board member, loved cooking, gardening, crocheting, quilting, spent time raising three children, and has 13 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and one gr. Great-grandchild, with a few more on the way. When asked about her birthday, her comment was “If it were me, I would forget about it. There are too many obstacles in my way.” She currently is living in the Buffalo Lake Health Care Center where she has been since 2008. Because of her arthritis she gets around to various activities at the care center via a wheelchair. She celebrated two birthday parties. The first was a cake and coffee party at the Buffalo Lake Health Care Center on her birthday, Tuesday, March 13. The second party was put together by her grandchildren. They held an open house on Saturday, March 17 at Swedlanda Lutheran Church south of Hector. She was an active member of Swedlanda Church — taught Sunday School, was part of the Ladies Aid and Dorcas Circle where she made quilts and did crocheting. Her journey began in Kappa, Illinois where she was born on that day in 1912. She was the oldest of three children for Rudolf and Lutie Louise (Crowe) Waldner — she had two brothers, Gene and Donald, who have both passed away. Their dad, Rudolf, in March of 1918, traveled to Minnesota when he bought a farm in Martinsburg Township near Hector. Annabelle was six years old at the time and traveled by train with her two brothers, mother and grandfather, Henry Waldner, to Minnesota where they connected with Rudolf and made the Hector farm their home. Her grandfather, Henry, came to America from Schniedermule, Germany in 1882 and died at the Hector farm home August 26, 1935. Henry’s wife (Annabelle’s grandmother) Minnia Waldner died Aug. 23, 1934 in Hudson, McLean, Illinois. Annabelle enrolled for eight years at the Country School District 83 in Renville County in 1918. In 1926 she entered the Hector High School and graduated four years later in 1930 with 26 classmates: Ralph Anderson, Pearl Bishop, Harold Butler, Harold Carlson, Leonard Carlson, Virginia Carlson, Donald Corson, Marjorie Dahlgren, Lelah Duehn, Theodore Garske, Lloyd Hawes, Francis Herrmann, Mae Johnson, Russel Johnson, Audrey Kelly, Lillian Lundstrom, Edward Morrill, Gwendolyn Peterson, Ethel Raitz, Norman Raitz, Wilton Rosenquist, Clarence Sjogren, Lyle Torbenson, Ferne Twedt, Catherine Wenz, and Hazel Wulkan. Following high school graduation she went to Normal Teacher Training School in Glencoe and received her teaching certificate on July 1, 1931. Her teaching career started in 1931 at District 125 in Renville County. Teaching at a country school wasn’t an easy job as Annabelle looks back on her teaching career at District 125 in Renville County from 1931 to 1934. Not only did she have to teach 28 children in grades 1 thru 6 in a log school house, she said she “also had to do all the cleaning, build fires to stay warm, do the cooking and wash the blackboards first thing in the morning. There was one little boy, who helped me wash the blackboards,” she said. Back then marriage and bearing children, it was rumored, was frowned upon for women teachers. So in 1933 when she married Chester Walfrid Ryberg, she put her teaching on hold at the country school. They moved on a farm owned by Chester’s cousin, Gust Ryberg, located south of Hector. They lived there until 1939. Then, Chester, Annabelle and Gust moved to Chester’s parents’ farm in Palmyra Township. Chester and Annabelle had four children, Howard, Gail, Lowell and Lavonne. Lowell died in infancy. During World War II, in 1942, Annabelle was on the District 91 School Board and she became involved with rationing out stamps for food and other things. With the onset of World War II and going through the great depression, numerous challenges confronted the American people. The government found it necessary to ration food, gas, and even clothing during that time. Americans were asked to conserve on everything. With not a single person unaffected by the war, rationing meant sacrifices for all. When the Fairfax Community Home was built in 1965, Annabelle was asked to be the cook, so at the age of 47 she went to work and worked there for about 15 years. Her granddaughter Brenda said, “as a kid, I really looked forward to when it was my turn to go the Nursing Home with her in the morning to work. We got up very, very early and headed to Fairfax. I think that’s where I learned how to peel potatoes, sure did a lot of them each time I went. After breakfast was served and probably cleaned up, she made me go rest awhile as she planned for the next meal. It was hard to do that as I was so excited to be with her, but I tried anyway — worried I might not get to go along again.” “Later in years, as an adult, I really enjoyed quilting with her. She taught me many things about the art. From the big quilting frame that took the entire room to a smaller 2-person version years later. We shared stencils, patterns, ideas, and certainly had some great conversation. I still enjoy quilting, and I love showing her what I’ve been working on as she still enjoys seeing it and talking about it too,” Brenda said. Annabelle’s father, Rudolf, passed away on Friday, November 13, 1970 at the Renville County Hospital and was buried at the Hector Village Cemetery. On November 16, 1976, her husband, Chester, 69, died after suffering a severe heart attack several days earlier. He was the son of immigrant parents, Carl Johan Ryberg and his wife Albertine (nee Anderson), both of Hallandslan, Sweden, who had come to America in the late 1800s. Annabelle continued to live on the farm. In 2008 she moved to the Buffalo Lake Health Care Center. A favorite memory of granddaughter, Jaylene: “In 1981, I decided to move to San Francisco and loaded up my car to make the trip. At the last minute (upon my father’s insistence), grandma agreed to go along with me. So we took our time driving west along Interstate 80 — with me driving and grandma crocheting away while listening to the Iranian hostage situation. When we got to San Francisco we went out to a Chinese restaurant with beautiful plates on the table and she ordered chicken feet which I thought was a mistake on her part but she loved them! She was great company and a good sport about going along. And that was just the first of her many visits out to see me on the West Coast.” Her granddaughter, Kay Horrmann, says her favorite memory of grandma is her teaching her to make bread. “We have baked a lot of loaves together. I get to hear a lot of old stories as we bake. On her 100th birthday, I would like her to know how blessed I feel about having a grandmother for 52 years.” Brenda said “I am honored to have a grandma for so many years — when many kids do not know theirs. She is a wonderful grandma.” Another granddaughter, Jaylene said, “ She often says she hasn’t done anything noteworthy in her life like inventing something or winning a contest but I think she has lived a life that has positively affected so many people not only in her family but also her community through her caring and sharing. That is a life well lived and a great contribution to this world.” It’s been a century of many challenges for Annabelle but from an early age she loved to cook, hosting family gatherings, incorporating many traditional Scandinavian foods and sharing her great baked goods with family and friends. She also enjoys spending time with her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they in turn are good to her.