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Sand Creek columnist retiring after 30 years

By LeAnn R. Ralph

SAND CREEK — After 30 years of writing the weekly Sand Creek news column, Swanhild Rasmussen is putting the cap on her pen and is moving to Maryland to live with her daughter.

The column has been known as “Sand Creek Chatter” in the Colfax Messenger but also has been published in the Chetek Alert and the Bloomer Advance.

In fact, the column started first with the Chetek and the Bloomer newspapers before also being published in the Messenger.

“I always thought it was fun to read different columns about different people. And when you start out, it’s kind of fun to have your name in the paper … I never dreamed I would do it this long,” Swanhild said.

The column was really a work-in-progress all week long, and whenever she would hear an interesting news item, she would write it down.

“Sometimes I would have to call people. I always joked that Norwegians like to have their name in the paper, but they have to be coaxed into giving the news,” said Rasmussen, who has lived in Sand Creek for most of her 90 years.

The Sand Creek Chatter column typically contained anywhere from 15 to 20 news items, such as weddings, bridal or baby showers, birthday parties, graduations, anniversaries, school events, confirmations, visitors at neighbors, neighbors back from vacation, illnesses, accidents and surgeries.

One woman from Sand Creek who passed away at the age of 97 used to regularly call Swanhild with news.

“It was so cute. She’d call and say, ‘well, I have a few items for you.’ Then I would write down her ‘items,’” she said.

Other people liked to see their children’s or grandchildren’s names in the newspaper, Rasmussen noted.

As is true of newspapers in general, some weeks there was more news than other weeks.

In the beginning, Swanhild would deliver the news to the newspapers.

“My husband used to call it ‘making the midnight run,’” Swanhild recalled.

In recent years, the columns have been submitted by e-mail.

Colfax

Swanhild Rasmussen’s maiden name was Noer.

The daughter of Sophus Noer, she attended high school at Colfax for two years and high school at Chetek for two years, graduating from Chetek in 1941.

“I remember when I was in high school in Colfax, the Colfax High School band played for the fair every year, and we got 50 cents a day to play. And then we had money to spend at the fair. You could get a ride for ten cents then, or buy a treat. And we liked to watch the acrobats,” Swanhild recalled.

While she was attending school, Swanhild would walk to her grandmother’s house (Mrs. Ole — Olava — Sundby) to eat a lunch that she had brought from home.

“My mother thought my grandmother shouldn’t have to make something for me to eat,” she said.

Her grandmother lived on High Street, and along the way, Swanhild would stop to visit with an aunt and several other people she knew.

“I don’t know why I did all those social calls, but I did them on the way back to school, and just for a few minutes at each place,” she said.

Tragedy and fate

When Swanhild was a very young woman, she was engaged to be married to a man who was in the Air Force in World War II and was a tail gunner.

“He was killed during a training flight,” she said.

But even though her fiancé was gone, Swanhild stayed in touch with his family over the years.

After ten years had gone by, she received notification one day that her would-have-been father-in-law had died.

“So I thought maybe I should go to the funeral,” she said.

The funeral was in William’s Bay in the southern part of the state, and her fiancé’s cousin had brought his mother and two sisters to the funeral.

“We corresponded after that, and we were married the next year,” Swanhild said.

His name was Carl Rasmussen, “and I thought that was special. I never dreamed I would marry the first one’s cousin,” she said.

College

Right after high school, Swanhild planned to attend college at Eau Claire and wanted to be a nurse.

Instead, her mother thought she should go to the Eau Claire State Teachers College.

“So that’s what I did. My first teaching job was in Cameron, and I stayed there two years,” Swanhild said.

Then she landed a teaching job in Eau Claire at a school in the ninth ward.

“I was there for a week, and I don’t know why, but then I was transferred to a school called Longfellow, and I taught there for ten years,” she said.

Unfortunately, when Swanhild was married, that was the end of teaching in Eau Claire.

“When you got married, in those days, you didn’t teach anymore,” she said.

After their marriage, Swanhild and Carl lived in Iowa for about year. Carl was originally from Iowa.

And then they bought the family farm in Sand Creek.

Although Swanhild did not teach school after her marriage, she did teach Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. She also was active in the church and participated in Ladies’ Aid, a mission group, and Bible study.

The church the Rasmussens belonged to was Zion Lutheran, which later merged with Our Saviors Lutheran just across the Red Cedar River.

Later on, they joined Faith Lutheran at Running Valley.

Swanhild currently is a member at the Independent Bible Church and participates in Bible Study every week.

While she lived on the farm, Swanhild grew a garden and canned and froze vegetables. She raised strawberries every year, too.

“I made jam, and I froze strawberries in those little white boxes. The strawberries were handy to have when you had company in the summer. You could serve them with ice cream,” Swanhild said.

Carl Rasmussen died at the age of 69, but Swanhild stayed on the farm until six years ago, when she moved to the Morningside Apartments in Sand Creek.

Swanhild Rasmussen will be moving to Maryland May 31 to live with her daughter and son-in-law.