April 18, 2012 by Gina
My paternal grandmother, Loretta (nee McKenny) Warren, passed away on Thursday night. She was 93 years old and until 6 months ago, lived on her own in a three-bedroom apartment. She was born and raised in a small town in southwestern Minnesota. Grandma Loretta had four sisters and three brothers – she was the baby of the family and at 93, she outlived them all.
I don’t know much about my grandmother’s childhood or even young adulthood. As a child, you don’t even realize your grandparents had a childhood and then I moved across the country and overseas during my early adulthood so I wasn’t home often to hear those stories when I would have wanted them most. I do know that both of her parents died in 1935 when she was only 16 years old. Soon after their death, she courageously moved to the Twin Cities and went to business school. In 1940, she married my grandpa, Winthrop William Warren and they moved onto the Warren family farm near Chandler, Minnesota.
In 1943, my father Tom was born and five years later, my Uncle Tim was born. They raised their two boys on the farm, raising pigs, cows and a multitude of crops. Now that I have two small boys of my own, I can imagine all the joy, chaos and craziness my dad and Tim got into despite my grandma’s best effort to keep them in line!
I have terrific memories of spending time at my grandparents’ farm and many of those memories obviously include my grandma. I loved being in her kitchen with her. As the rest of our family is, Grandma Warren was pretty small and so when she remodeled her kitchen she had the countertops lowered so that it fit her height perfectly. She whizzed around the kitchen, especially baking pies, like so many women of her generation. She and I would pack up lunch for grandpa and walk or drive it out to the field where he’d be waiting for us. Meanwhile, my brother Jeff and cousin, Chad would be painting their white picket fence. We also “walked the beans” many summers ridding the fields of weeds or the previous years’ corn stalk sprouting up through the soy beans planted this year. I still can’t believe they trusted small children with machetes!
I loved rummaging through my grandma’s junk drawer in the kitchen – I must have rearranged that draw about 100 times in my lifetime. There were always so many exciting things in there – old buttons, my dad’s championship basketball pin with a picture of his whole team, pens, notepads – you name it, it was in that drawer. Grandma would also occasionally slip me, my brother and cousins money telling us not to breathe a word to grandpa. We never did tell him but somehow, I’m sure he knew. She’d let us count all the change in the change jar and then have us divvy it up equally among us. We thought that was the coolest thing and it kept us kids occupied for hours!
To me, the farm was a magical place with a few nooks and crannies that scared or amazed me. The floors were uneven and creaked, the basement was small and weird and I hated going down there to get anything out of the freezer. But it was a place filled with history and generations of memories – something I realized even at a very young age.
One of the best memories I have of my grandma was when she and my brother came to visit me while I was living in Germany. I asked her where she wanted to go and she said Italy and Paris. So, she and Jeff headed off to Paris for a few days by themselves, we toured many places in Germany (and the beer she drank was as tall as she was!) and then headed to Venice. I’ll never forget the look on her face as the gondolier sang to her as we rode in a true Venetian gondola through the famous canals. It was joyous and we had such a great time during those days together!
My grandma was an independent, loving, smart, generous and sharp woman even until the day she died. She was joking with her physician even a week before her death despite feeling tired and miserable. She touched many lives during her life, most importantly mine and those of our family. She is loved and missed by all of us.