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Kermit Blessum turns 100 on Nov. 17

November 12, 2010
By Edie Wurgler

Although his 100th birthday is not until this coming Wednesday, November 17, Kermit Blessum has been celebrating for months. His daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces have come to visit at various times to wish him many more years of good health and happiness.

Kermit, who still lives by himself on his farm just outside of Rugby, was born in 1910 on another farm 8 1/2 miles southeast of town. As a boy of ten he moved to his present farmstead with his parents and siblings. At that time a lone cottonwood tree stood on the property to welcome the Hans and Bessie Blessum family.

"It didn't look very good," Kermit said, "so Dad took it down." But in its place the Blessums planted hundreds of trees, and, later, when Kermit took over the farm he added more, including two nearly mile-long rows of evergreens which line both sides of Highway 2.

"I like all kinds of trees," he says, but he has a special fondness for lilacs, and had wonderful specimens of American elm until Dutch elm disease killed them. He recently took them all down, determined to not leave a mess for his children or grandchildren to clean up. Now he's concerned his green ash might be the next variety to succumb to an invader, the emerald ash borer.

Kermit remembers spending long days in the field when he was growing up. "Those were the horse and buggy days," he said. "You bet there was a lot of hard work, but it kept us out of trouble." "Us" included three brothers, Casper, Mel and Lloyd, and three sisters, Helen, Gladys and Inez.

He married Fern Rohrer December 17, 1941. They had four daughters, Sharon Blessum, Bette Chalmers, Wanda Sattler and Brenda Demontigny. A son, Roger, died shortly after birth. Fern passed away April 6, 1983. Kermit later married Helen Blessum, who is also deceased.

When Kermit farmed on his own he raised mostly wheat, oats and barley. "In later years I added corn," he said. He also raised purebred Hereford cattle.

Long days and hard work haven't seemed to have any ill effects on Kermit's health, much less his longevity. He does nearly all of his cooking and cleaning. In the summer he mows his large lawn and waters his trees and shrubs. Winter finds him feeding birds and deer in his yard. He still drives his car regularly.

"I read a lot," he said. "I have very good eyesight, but my hearing isn't so good."

But most of his time is spent on his hobbies, primarily working with rock and wood. He puts in hours nearly every day in his workshop, a short walk from his house, sawing, sanding, grinding, polishing--making functional pieces of art for family and friends. "I call my hobbies therapy," Kermit said. "It keeps your mind and body going."

Kermit is a lover of nature, finding beauty in rocks, fields and animals. He sees nature scenes in the rocks he cuts and polishes--everything from a strikingly realistic mountain landscape to a row of trees on the flat prairie. He points out one polished agate, a dead ringer for Casper the Ghost. Black walnut is his favorite wood, but he has made many beautiful pieces out of lowly caragana.

His home is filled with his creations--china and curio cabinets, clocks of both wood and stone, toys, baby cradles. He has made countless jewelry items of agate or other gemstones. All his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren own pieces of his handiwork.

To culminate the months of celebrating, Kermit's daughters are having a card shower to observe their father's birthday. There will also be a cake in his honor at the coffee hour following services at First Lutheran Church tomorrow, November 14.

Kermit doesn't spend much time looking backward, preferring to anticipate more productive and creative days in the future. "I like to keep busy," he says.

And likening himself to a classic car whose odometer is approaching 100,000 miles, he quips, with a twinkle in his eye, "I'll soon be ready to start over."



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