The scene was the Minot State University swimming pool in September of 1978. As a freshman at Minot State, it was a requirement to take and pass basic swimming. Being true to their motto "We Serve," Minot State made sure all graduates would know how to swim. My class instructor was Bert Leidholt, and he entered the pool area looking like the master of health and fitness. He would have given Jack Lalanne a run for his money. He did not take out a juicer like Jack would have, but rather he removed his t-shirt and stood there in his swim trunks - the picture of perfect fitness. He then dived into the pool and began swimming about as if he were trying out for the Olympics. After this impressive demonstration, he sprang out of the pool and explained that soon all of us would be able to be a part of any swimming cabaret we desired.
I knew how to swim - or so I thought. When it came to swimming laps, I had about as much endurance as a cooked noodle. Now lap swimming was required to pass the class, and thank goodness there was a dear soul in the class by the name of Bret Taylor. Now Bret was a beautiful swimmer and swam the laps with ease. He noticed my need to improve and offered his help. Bret and I were both residents of Crane Hall, and this began a lifelong friendship. We practiced many evenings at the pool to improve my stroke. At one time we were practicing so often I felt as if Bret wanted me to become the second Mark Spitz! However, once he noticed me puffing and gasping for air, he realized passing the class would be my pinnacle.
I completed the class with success, but to this day Bret and I still share a good laugh at my winded final performance. He did have to smile as Coach Leidholt commented on my vast improvement.
Bret had located to Minot because his Dad, Bruce Taylor, was enlisted in the United States Air Force. Over time, I came to know much about the Minot Air Force Base life, and I had the delight of meeting Bret's mother, Norma. This is one of the fine pleasures of attending college; we expand our friendships and often learn about things we would not have had the chance to experience without these connections. Another interesting fact was that Bret and I, at that time, wore the exact same size of clothing. Once we realized this, we doubled our wardrobes!
While in college, Bret met Nancy Stai and on July 12, 1985, they were united in marriage at First Lutheran Church in Minot. Bret had selected his three college pals from Crane Hall to be his attendants: Bryan Johnsrud, Jerry Boatz and me. Bret was the first to get married out of our pack, and we enjoyed getting to know Nancy and her family. We were all welcomed with open arms into the home of Agnes Stai, Nancy's mother. Now Agnes was well acquainted with how to handle young men as she had raised three sons Jim, Russ and Jerry. She knew that young men always were interested in eating, and she was a gracious hostess who was never without baked goods. Agnes has worked at the Auto Dine. I first came to know her when she was employed at Bob and Jen's Donuts where Bret and I made frequent stops!
Agnes was most delighted with the wedding of her only daughter. She hosted the rehearsal supper in her cozy and well-kept backyard just east of First Lutheran. We had a repeat of this enjoyment - complete with more delicious salads - when Bret and Nancy opened their wedding gifts. Agnes and her trio of sisters, Esther, Thelma and Evey, were mainly responsible for the scrumptious foods which were enjoyed among the blooming geraniums in her yard.
This is a recipe that could have easily been at the Taylor Stai backyard parties. This has terrific flavor and also wonderful eye appeal with the bits of emerald green dashing about. I received this recipe from our aunt, Ethel Thompson.
6-8 large potatoes (cooked and mashed)
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup sour cream
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained extremely well
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (add the last five minutes)
Blend gently into the mashed potatoes the butter, salt, pepper, chopped chives, sour cream and spinach. Place this in a 2-quart greased casserole and bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Add the shredded cheese the last five minutes.
Here is another recipe that is easy and tasty to serve on the patio when friends are gathering. This is also another Thompson recipe given to us by our late uncle, Elner Thompson.
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 crushed clove of garlic (or you may use garlic powder)
1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs
Mix and make 1-inch balls. Bake on roasting pan rack or rimmed cookie sheet for 1 hour at 275 degrees. Put in casserole or chafing dish. Pour sauce and keep hot to serve with picks.
1 large can pineapple juice
1 large can tomato juice
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 crushed garlic buds (or powder)
Thicken with about 2/3 cup cornstarch mixed with enough water to make runny. This amount of sauce will accommodate at least 2 batches of meatballs. So there is no reason you are not inviting those distant relatives and neighbors from three blocks away to your patio party.
Upon entering Agnes' home I knew this was a woman who had a command on entertaining her family. She had taken one of her bedrooms and converted it to a lovely formal dining room complete with an elegant chandelier. She also had an appreciation for china teacups - another clue that she was truly warmhearted and very capable of handling hot-water situations.
Fast forward to September 20, 2013. We were guests at the wedding of Bret and Nancy's daughter, Lindsay, who was soon to become the wife of Nick Fredrich. Can this be possible? It seems like yesterday their daughters, Lindsay and Jacey, were being photographed at our studio with their dolls. Now we turned and found Lindsay, the beautiful bride, in the arm of her dad, Bret, descending the steps from the church. The Scandinavian Heritage Park was the perfect setting for this afternoon outdoor wedding.
Nancy's dad had passed away before her wedding, so she asked her oldest brother, Jim, to escort her down the aisle as a bride. Now, again, he escorted his sister down the aisle - this time as mother of the bride. Next came the ring bearer, Levon Stai. At Bret and Nancy's wedding, his father, Bradley, was the cute curly-haired ring bearer.
After the wedding, we motored to the reception. We drove past the former Minot Elks Lodge - now RSI - where Bret and Nancy had their reception. Remember - all guests had to be buzzed into the building just after they passed by the black and lavender tiles at the front entrance.
At Lindsay and Nick's reception, we became acquainted with Nick's family and enjoyed seeing his parents, Dawn and Jerry; his gifted sister, Amanda Crawford; and his twin brother, Doug. It is interesting to note that Nancy's sister-in-law, Diane (Engel) Stai is an art teacher at Bishop Ryan and now Lindsay's sister-in-law in an art teacher at Minot High School.
At one point in the evening, all couples were invited to the dance floor and as their years of celebrated marriage were announced, they had to leave the floor. The last two couples were Jim and Sandy (Krosbakken) Stai and Russ and Peggy (Amundson) Stai who each marked 40-plus years of marriage.
Friendships and family gatherings are one of the finest enjoyments of life. This evening reminded me that another generation is well on its way of creating lasting memories. In visiting with Nancy after the wedding she shared these words, "As Jim brought me down the aisle, he whispered to me 'Mom is here today.'" And he was correct. Agnes' legacy of family and caring lives on in her children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.