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Repnow: Recalling with great regard the patterns of Pat

By Staff | Nov 7, 2014

It was Robert Louis Stevenson who once said, “The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.” This was how the late Patricia Gustafson lived her life. I came to know Pat when I married Jan and became well acquainted with the compelling teaching staff at the Wolford Pubic School. From the beginning of our friendship, Pat and I just hit it off. I was visiting the school and had some time on my hands so I strolled into the library and started reading. In walked Pat – she quickly observed I was looking at “Living Biographies of Great Composers” by Henry Thomas and Dana Lee Thomas. Her words were “Now that book is a great read.” During the passage of friendship, we discussed many authors. I also had the pleasure of hearing Pat recite various poems with great persuasion. She was always on the lookout for a book with descriptive writing as she realized those hold high favor with me.

Pat was an intellect and well groomed in many areas – but especially literature. She, perhaps to some folks, may have had “an edge.” However, that quick judgment of her personality on their account simply robbed them of getting to know that she truly was a deep book of knowledge. She once mentioned to me that “If you are not pleasing to yourself, the chances are that you are not pleasing to anyone else.” She took this to heart and over the years applied this to reading into the depths of good literature; listening to and playing fine music; being a mindful steward of the land; as well as a caring wife and mother, friend, and neighbor. There was never a time in our conversations that I was bored, and each time I walked away from our visit with a piqued curiosity about an author, song, word, tree, but most repeatedly, poetry.

After 23 years, she had retired from being the librarian in the Rugby School System. She could have easily taken a position of resting and relaxing to please herself. She, however, went back to being a librarian when she observed that the Wolford School needed one. She remained there as an active librarian – keeping up her credentials until she was age 83. She cruised the Wolford halls – not in outdated polyester, but with hip shoes. When “Titanic styled” vests were popular, she wore one. She adored being part of the Wolford School and took time to attend games, concerts, and always the graduation ceremony. It was plain to see that being an active part of the Wolford School was a great source of happiness to her. There was no need for a time share in the Bahamas! She was getting plenty of joy from the green and gold of the Wolford tradition where students and learning come first. It was fitting that at her retirement party, the student body ranging from kindergarten class to seniors sang to her under the direction of music instructor, David Halvorson, “You Lift Me Up”.

She was well seasoned to the theory of pressing on. She had gone on to earn her Library Science Degree in 1981. Prior to this, she completed an Associate of Science Degree and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education–graduating each time summa cum laude. She continued to make herself a better person by molding her character and improving her mind– which in turn she passed on to the students.

A couple of years ago, we were invited to tour the unique tree farm that is present on her land. She had a great variety of trees – actually a mini forest, which she enjoyed immensely. She described how the trees were dressed uniquely for each season here in North Dakota. She stepped about the trees greeting them as if they were relatives at a reunion–calling all of them by name and pointing out the shape and texture of their foliage. We stopped at a Catalpa tree, which had caught my attention. I was unaware that one could even survive in our cold climate. Pat beamed – it was evident this was a favorite. It was easy to see she understood the beauty of being still, and her farm provided this opportunity for it was a place that was peaceful, beautiful, and allowed her to deepen her thoughts. She treasured the heritage of her farm.

Just last week, this quote was listed on her funeral pamphlet. “Patricia was ever thankful to God for allowing her family to live on the farm she considered ‘next to heaven.'”

Reverend Bonnie Weaver’s sermon for Pat’s funeral service was uplifting. She shared with her sons, Kent and Creighton, that “the death of a Mom is always difficult, whether it is expected or not, whether it is a blessing or sudden. We wish we could keep our Mom always beside us, in good health and sharing their wisdom our whole lives. Just because Pat is no longer a phone call away or a visit away, that doesn’t mean her role of being your mother is over. She will continue to be with you and beside you.” Pastor Bonnie also mentioned the profound and wonderful conversations she enjoyed with Pat for “she was intelligent and had an analytical mind. Her faith was very important to her and she read the Bible frequently.”

Pat knew that there was no casting a shadow on the sunrise that she had often witnessed from her east library window as licks of light were cast on cattails and a row of mailboxes. So too was her understanding of the love that her Lord had for her. The shadow of cancer would not separate them. It was as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “the best things are nearest.”

Pat was an apple lover. This is a cake that I enjoyed while living in Massachusetts. It was served at the Sweetheart Tea House on the Mohawk Trail located in Shelburne Falls. The currants, along with the sauce, present themselves like royal duchesses. Not to be outdone, the other ingredients consider themselves to be debutantes. It is up to your taste buds to decide which one showers you with the most adoration.

Fresh Bursting Apple Cake

(with optional buttermilk sauce)

1 cup fresh unpeeled apples

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

teaspoon salt

teaspoon soda

teaspoon allspice

1 egg slightly beaten

1 stick melted butter

cup currants

cup chopped nuts

Chop apples into small pieces into a large bowl. Add the sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. Sift flour, then add salt, soda, cinnamon and allspice and sift again; set aside. Add egg and melted butter to apples and blend together with wooden spoon. Add flour. Dredge currants and nuts in some flour so they won’t sink in batter, then add to apples. Place into greased and floured 9x13x2 pan. Bake for the first 15 minutes at 365 degrees and lower to 350 degrees for an additional 40 minutes.

Cooked Buttermilk Sauce

1 cup sugar

cup buttermilk

teaspoon soda

1 tablespoon (white) corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place sugar, buttermilk, soda and syrup into heavy sauce pan and cook for seven minutes over medium heat and stirring often. Add vanilla. Pour over hot cake let settle and then serve.

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