Christmases Past – Berenschot remembers getting a bike

By Kelsie Hoitomt

GLENWOOD CITY – Leon Berenschot has placed a thumbprint on almost every part of Glenwood City from the properties he has owned, to the committees he has served on, to his American Family Insurance office.

Berenschot moved to Glenwood City in January of 1966 from Indiana where he worked as the president for Rippin Good Cookies Inc., which no longer is in business. He then took a job in a division of Coca-Cola, but was lured away by the Nestle company to work on the road.

While working over the road, he was stopped by two men driving a black Buick and dressed in suits who worked for American Family Insurance. The men asked him if he was interested in the insurance business, but Berenschot replied no.

However the men were persistent and they visited Berenschot’s home and offered him the opportunity to open an office in Glenwood City. The offer to be home and with his kids was too good to turn down, so open an office is what he did and where he worked for nearly 30 years.

In order to help make ends meet while building his agency, Berenschot also drove school bus and worked as a bartender at the Knapp House.

Berenschot, at 82 years old, has since retired from the agency, but is still a familiar face in the office alongside his son Lane.

“I am the mailman and I answer the phones when no one else is around,” chuckled Berenschot.

Berenschot does however take care of the business side of the car wash in town that is owned by himself and Lane as well.

Besides playing afternoon cards at the Boondocks, Berenschot also stays busy serving on the St. Croix County Health and Human Services board. He served on the county board for eight years and was president of the Wisconsin State University Extension for a year.

Within the community, he was also president of the golf club and helped to start Glen Hills Golf Club, he was also a part of the Chamber of Commerce and in the Lion’s Club to name a few.

Berenschot is a true business man on the outside, but he has a soft side for family on the inside.

He and his wife Marie married in 1986. Marie had three children of her own from a previous marriage and Leon had five children from his previous marriage. Their eight children have gifted Leon and Marie with 17 grandchildren and great-grandchildren all together.

Today as a family, Marie and Leon spend Christmas Eve together, exchanging gifts to one another and having a nice dinner along with going to church.

On Christmas Day they go to one of their children’s homes, since their house has become too small to hold everyone. They share a dinner together and the kids open presents.

Growing up, Leon spent Christmas at his home in Amery with his parents and brother and sister. They would all bundle up on Christmas Day and typically take a horse and sleigh down the road to his grandparents house where they opened a few presents and had a goose dinner.

“My grandparents raised geese on their farm so we always ate a cooked goose instead of a turkey, even if it was Thanksgiving,” shared Berenschot.

Berenschot said they didn’t get much for presents growing up besides socks or a scarf, but he remembers one gift in particular.

“I was 10 years old and next to the tree was a Hawthorne bicycle with a horn and a light on it. It came from Montgomery Ward, not sure how my parents afforded it, but it was there,” shared Berenschot.

For this upcoming Christmas, he says there are no plans set in stone yet but he assumes that he will share Christmas Eve with his wife and then head off to one of the kids on Christmas Day.