By Marilyn Brinkman
Josie (Stang) Meyer, 91, a longtime resident of St. Joseph, has a special devotion to the Holy Rosary. She believes it is a powerful prayer that puts things in perspective and allows us to see things as they really are. Praying the Rosary is a spiritual habit for her. An amazing thing happened when she was a young woman that brought about this realization.
Josie said all her brothers and one brother-in-law served in the military except her brother, Roman. The night before Roman was to leave for his tour, he decided he would join his friends for a farewell evening. Unfortunately, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him burned over 75 percent of his body. He spent time in the St. Cloud Hospital, but when healing did not occur, he was transported to the University of Minnesota Hospital. There, he received the care required to heal and recover. Healing was slow and painful, but doctors told the family that he had short occasions of peacefulness every day.
When they asked what time of day the peacefulness occurred, they were told around 7 p.m. which coincided with the time the family at home knelt to pray the Rosary for his recovery. Josie was convinced the Rosary helped him heal and her devotion was warranted.
Complete recovery took about three years.
Roman went on to marry and became the father of 11 children.
“More than anyone else in the family!” Josie smiled.
Josie is a small woman with a quick smile and cheerful disposition. She attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse, first in District Six, then District Seven. She said the family was moved to District Seven because that school was closer to their home and it had only two students. The Joseph and Lena Stang family added five new students.
“That’s why they wanted us there,” she whispered.
Josie had one classmate. Her favorite subject was geography because she liked learning about the world.
Toys were not plentiful when she was a child. The family shared one bicycle, but they enjoyed playing games, especially Monopoly, and, over the years, wore out three boards.
She grew up with nine siblings on the family farm in Sartell. “We didn’t have much but the whole family worked together to make a living on poor farmland. A big garden was our solution. We raised all kinds of vegetables and things and did a lot of preserving and canning. Everybody helped,” she said.
As her brothers left to serve their country, she became her father’s right-hand helper and worked in the fields and wherever help was needed—in the barn, the garden, and the home. “My dad took me out into a harvested oats field one day and taught me how to drive our old Ford truck. That was fun,” she said.
Josie explained that she wore her brother’s pants when she worked outside.
“Our clothes were hand-me-downs or were bought at Penney’s in St. Cloud.”
She learned to drive the tractor but loved horses. One horse named Sudsey—because he was always sweaty—was her favorite and she rode him bareback.
The Farm, Dancing and Volunteering
At a dance in St. Stephen, Josie met her future husband, Cyril Meyer. They were married on June 14, 1950, and farmed on 179 acres in southeast St. Joseph. Cyril had $100 for a down-payment on the farm they bought. His father loaned them the remainder.
“We were frugal, but we had the farm all paid off in nine years, free and clear!” she proudly proclaimed.
“We started with 17 dairy cows, but they were too expensive to raise so we sold them and raised pigs,” she said. “I liked working with the pigs. We took turns sitting with farrowing sows, sometimes all night long. I liked farming and being outside a lot of the time. I used to cut hay with a Farmall H tractor.”
For fun, Josie said, “Cyril and I enjoyed dancing, first with a group of 25 couples, then when our caller retired, we formed a group of 15 couples and called ourselves the Gad-Abouts. One year we made a float for the 4th of July parade and danced on a farm wagon. Our caller was in the car pulling the wagon. It was all in fun. Eventually, we joined a ballroom dancing group.”
Over the years, Josie began volunteering her services in many capacities. With the St. Gerard Mission Group, she patched and quilted numerous quilt tops sewed quilts for world missions. When that group disbanded, she sewed for Catholic Charities “for more than 50 years.” Later she became a valued quilter with the St. Joseph Quilters—from its beginning to the present, for over 30 years.
Josie ran the candy stand for the 4th of July festival for 10 years. Son Mike remembers they “made a ton of divinity at the farmhouse.” She continues to volunteer her time and talents in other capacities for the festival and other church organizations and functions.
Josie and Cyril raised nine children on the farm, now owned by son, Mike, and his wife Jeny. Five of the children live in the St. Joseph area. Over the years, they all helped to make the farm successful. For five years they added an acre of pickles (cucumbers) to their farm produce. The children aided in picking, sorting, and readying the cucumbers for a Minnesota cannery.
Josie continues to thrive and has a positive outlook on life, although she thinks the world is moving too fast these days.
She enjoys the camaraderie with her quilting group but recently, when she had health issues, she reduced the hours she worked with the group, so someone suggested she just come for lunch. She said, “Oh, no. If I don’t work, I don’t eat.”