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103-year-old Blessum dies, leaves legacy

By Staff | Oct 3, 2014


Kermit Blessum, a legendary farmer, carpenter, artist and nature lover, died from natural causes at the age of 103 on Sept. 27.

Born Nov. 17, 1910, Blessum lived through a quickly changing world, where he seemed to stay a step ahead of evolving technology and practices of agriculture. He farmed until he was 87 years old. Blessum will be remembered by family members for his caring nature and quick wit. Blessum was an avid woodworker, creating many pieces of furniture and other displays that can be found in churches and buildings around the area. He developed an immense display of North Dakota agates and crafted many pieces of jewelry.

“He taught us how to live and how to die,” said Bette Chalmers, one of Blessum’s four daughters. “He meant the world to me. … Daddy would come in late from the field, but he always made time for us. He loved his four daughters so much and still does.”

Chalmers was weary from a long week in preparation for her father’s funeral, held Thursday at First Lutheran Church, but gushed with admiration for her father Wednesday evening. Within minutes, she began pouring her heart with stories and memories of Blessum – the third child of Hans and Bessie Blessum’s to live into the 100s.

Blessum and wife, Fern (Rohrer) Blessum also had son, Roger, who didn’t live past infancy.

“I remember when I was younger and daddy would take time for a fishing trip real early,” Chalmers said. “He always came up and kissed all his girls goodbye.”

It wasn’t any different in the moments before his death. Blessum lost much of his hearing.

“I said, ‘Dad, it’s Bette,’ to his ear,” she said. “He brightened up and said, Bet!’ He really brightened up when he saw Bud (Bette’s husband) and had to shake his hand.”

Bud Chalmers began farming after an earlier career in financial business and began learning how to farm with Kermit – in his 80s – as a teacher.

“He was always kind to people and animals,” Bud Chalmers said. “He lived a very full life. When you think of 103 and the changes he went through. Every 10 years there’s major changes to agriculture with crops and machinery. I know I’m gonna miss him. He was like a father to me.”

Fern Blessum died in 1983 and Kermit Blessum married Helen Cornell in 1985. She died in 1995.

Describing him as a true gentleman, Bette Chalmers said the family has been flooded with words of appreciation and admiration for her father.

“Everything was please and thank you, even the day he died,” Bette Chalmers said.

Blessum developed some of his own farm machinery, raised cattle and had an egg operation with thousands of chickens on his rural Rugby farm. He had an affinity for the earth, evidenced through rows of evergreens he planted along the highway east of the farm. Blessum and his brothers were avid carpenters and created loads of furniture, wood boxes, chests, and pieces that can be found at First Lutheran Church, where he was active.

“Kermit and my dad Mel Blessum, who passed away at 102, besides being wonderful farmers, they had to be the best carpenters,” said Glory Monson, a niece. “They had another connection with the earth. Kermit loved rocks. He made polished jewelry. He made anything out of wood. They were artists as much as farmers. They were very family-oriented.”

Said Bette Chalmers: “Like the minister said at the church, all you have to do is look around and see what Kermit’s hands made.”

Blessum enjoyed cutting and polishing rocks and fashioned many pieces into jewelry, which he worked with into his 90s. Blessum had two sisters that lived into their 90s.

The Blessum family was one of the first in the county to own a combine and Kermit took after his father in curiosity and knowledge of farm equipment. Bud Chalmers recalls having to tear down machinery for repair and Blessum being able to remember where everything went without the aid of manuals or notes.

“He had a talent for getting work done even if he had to make a machine,” Bud Chalmers said. “He said, ‘I know, I’ll remember.’ “

Blessum was a cancer survivor and supporter of Relay for Life. Bette Chalmers said he wanted to walk in Relay when he was 100 years old, so family helped the “quiet man” for short distance on the track.

Bette Chalmers said her father was quick-witted.

“Dad was a joker ’til the last day,” she said. “He always had some kind of quip.”

Blessum is survived by his sister Inez Thorstenson, 102.

“He was a very dear brother,” Thorstenson said. “He could tell you a lot of interesting things and if I needed something fixed at the house one of (the brothers) was right there.”

Thorstenson remembers her brothers eagerly followed their father into farming despite having to give up school after the eighth-grade. She said there are so many memories of the family working hard, but enjoying time together.

“When a big circus would come to Minot that would be our Sunday,” Thorstenson said. “Everybody would have to get up and do things and then we’d have to get back to milk the cows.”

Blessum is also survived by his four daughters, 11 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

“We’re all getting older and here’s dad,” Bette Chalmers said. “He’s gone, but he’s not gone. … but it was time. He wanted to go home to heaven and be home with mom and baby Roger.”

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