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Let’s Cook: A Tribute to my Aunt Doris

By Chuck Repnow - | Nov 28, 2020

There are certain people who touch the lives of those they know in a unique and lasting way. Spending time with them brings us joy, contentment and inspiration. This was certainly true of my Aunt Doris Repnow, who passed away November 20, 2020. She was a kind and caring person who did her part to make this world a better place. Doris was married to my dad’s brother, Burnell. I can remember at a very early age of having a fondness for her and wanting to be around her. She had a huge smile, enjoyed a good laugh and embraced kids with love. Her nourishing combination won my heart and many others, too.

My Grandpa Repnow had five sons. They all had fair skin, blue eyes and red hair. Each one of them married a brunette. Aunt Doris, in addition to her winning smile, she was blessed with beautiful deep complexion, and stunning brown eyes – she looked like a model. She would never admit to this, but in a room full of people, she caught your eye. There are many pictures of her when she was young, and they reveal her keen eye for style. She often sewed many of her garments – a handy skill that she learned from an excellent seamstress, her mother Ida.

I think is fair to say that people who sew have a knack for color, fabric and texture. Several years ago, when Doris moved to assisted living, I was privileged to receive several lovely dresses that she made. This was a gift from her daughters, Cheryl, Cristyl and Charlene. They figured since I enjoyed keeping family pictures, why not add a few dresses to the archives! They were correct and one of my very favorites is a black summer dress that she made. It features a side zipper, fitted waist, and a full skirt adorned with deep red roses. I can see her wearing this with great panache while spending a Sunday afternoon with the relatives.

Doris sewed not only for herself but for her daughters and nieces as well. When observing the carefully selected fabrics for these garments, you could say it was a tapestry of love. At one time, much to the dismay of her daughters, she sewed them matching dresses. (Parents do sign a contact before leaving the hospital committing to do this.) Doris held strong and even made them wear the dresses while on a vacation no less. When the day was done, the dresses were placed in a paper bag and set in the car near another paper bag that was trash. Someone looking for starter material for an evening fire grabbed the bags and used them for kindle to start the fire. Doris learned of this the next day upon shifting through the ashes when she discovered three little zippers. She knew that nothing could be done so she remained silent, but she treasured that image of her three daughters in matching dresses.

Doris was a long-time school secretary at North Hill School. She was beloved by faculty, staff and students alike. Myrna Demers, who taught 3rd and 4th grade at North Hill School for many years, knew Doris well. Here are a few of her reflections that she recently shared. “Doris was like a second mother to me; she was a fine listener and often offered words of wisdom. She had the most beautiful brown eyes and stunning complexion. She always looked classic. She was delightful to be around and always prepared. Her thoughtful manner brought a well-earned grace to her position. After we both retired, we often got together for lunch it was a friendship that was lasting.”

Paul Sannes, Funeral Director at Goetz Funeral Home in Washburn, and former North Hill Student had this to say about Doris. “I knew Doris not only as the school secretary but as a family friend. She was a big huge teddy bear at the school and that meant that any kid could visit with her about a concern, happy moment or a misunderstanding. When I turned 18, I returned to the school to vote, and Doris was at the door to welcome me for this purpose. I will never forget that gesture.”

There was not a tear that Doris could not dry at a North Hill School, and it is easy to see why her practical manner fit well into this position. Students remember her loving guard for them and how she could brighten a day. She may have looked like a classic pump behind the desk, but she had the power to be a running sneaker if need be.

There are so many things that I will forever remember about Aunt Doris. She often told me that I should have been hers – I looked like Burnell, and my name started with a C just like their daughters. That always made me smile and feel good. When she came through the door at Grandpa Repnow’s house, the first thing she and Grandpa did was to share a little dance. It made for a merry entrance always. She purchased a yellow sofa, and I thought that was way cool. Now, when I think about it, she was a Turtle Lake Trojan – why not have a sofa that reminded her of the school colors, yellow and black! No need to play it safe with neutral tones for her-besides, it looked very chic with her round modern coffee table.

She had a willing heart to share family joys and her eyes would light up when she talked about her grandchildren and family. Burnell brought a twinkle to her eye; she first noticed him at the grocery store in Turtle Lake. They were good to and for each other. Burnell knew he had a sweetheart, and it was easy for many others to realize that she was a sweetheart too. These memories and so many others will stay with me. I’m grateful to have known such a special person that I had the honor of calling Aunt Doris.

The featured recipe is one that Doris gave my mom, and it was a Christmas tradition at our home. Doris told me that she had received this recipe for one of her pals in Flickertail Homemakers. After this is baked, it can be presented on a tray with a knife. It breaks away like popcorn cake and the dates make it so delicious.

Christmas Goody Cake

1 lb. dates pitted and chopped

1 1/4 lb. pound of mixed nuts

1/2 lb. candied pineapple

3/4 lb. coconut

1/2 lb. of candied cherries red and green

1 can of Eagle Brand Milk

Cut fruit in smaller pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add nuts and coconut and pour milk over mix and blend well. Pack in loaf pans which have been lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool well before removing from pans. Can be frozen. This makes two loaf pans or several smaller ones.

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