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Jardin de Vies: One man’s journey from Glenwood City to France

By LeAnn R. Ralph

GLENWOOD CITY  —  So how did a Glenwood City native end up as a French citizen living in the south of France in a house that is 450 years old with a lovely and charming woman who also happens to be a medical doctor and a classically trained pianist?

For Doug Rasmusson and his wife, Sylvie Grosjean-Rasmusson, it is the story of fate, love, and coincidences, ending in a life they describe as “paradise.”

Doug and Sylvie recently visited the Tribune Press Reporter office while they were in the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving with Doug’s family.

Doug Rasmusson graduated from Glenwood City High School in 1969 and is the son of Gale Rasmusson, who operated a bakery in Glenwood City for nearly 20 years.

Doug’s family moved to Glenwood City when he was about a year and a half old, just before his twin sisters were born.

Doug, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire and has lived in Eau Claire, Minneapolis, the Florida Keys, and Asheville, North Carolina, before moving to France, is a massage therapist and an aromatherapist. He first met Sylvie’s sister, an internationally renowned aromatherapist, at a convention.

“We met in St. Louis at an aromatherapy convention. We became friends there. Two years went by. We met at another aromatherapy convention. And on her 50th birthday, she invited me over (to France). The family was there. And that’s when I met Sylvie. And from there it’s history,” Doug said.

Sylvie and Doug have been together for 12 years and have been married for eight years.

Sylvie, in addition to being a medical doctor and a classically trained pianist, is a naturopathic doctor.

On the morning after her sister’s birthday party, Doug woke up and heard music coming from the courtyard.

Sylvie “brought a keyboard to her sister’s 50th birthday. She was playing. I woke up the next day after the party, and I heard music out in the courtyard, and I sat down next to her. She starts playing ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. And we started singing it together. And we hopelessly fell in love,” Doug explained.

Doug also is a musician and has played in a variety of bands over the years.

“My first band was here (in Glenwood City) with Terry Spaeth,” Doug noted.

Terry now lives in Switzerland, so “we’ll have to meet up over there,” he said.

Doug has three sisters: two (Sharon and Susan) are twins, and the youngest, Gayla, is 13 years younger.

The Rasmusson family moved to Glenwood City shortly before the twins were born in May of 1953.

“The twins were the first set of twins Dr. Allen (Limberg) delivered, so he didn’t charge my mother anything. Susie and Sharon were his first set of twins,” Doug said.


Sylvie’s keyboard has drum and bass on it, and Sylvie would play the tune with her right hand and the bass and drums with her left, and Doug would play the guitar and sing, and she would sing.

After a couple of years, Doug and Sylvie found another guitar player, and last year, they found another couple, in which the wife is a drummer and the husband is a bass player. The other guitar player’s wife runs the sound. So now Doug and Sylvie are part of band made up of three couples.

And that’s how The Goofballs came about.

“We all have other jobs. This is fun. People love us. We’re a fun band. We have fun on stage. It’s not like it’s a job. We’re called The Goofballs. My dad would say, ‘Oh he’s a goofball.’ Or ‘you’re a goofball.’ So we took the name and call ourselves The Goofballs,” Doug said.

“We’re bigger than the Beatles! They had only four, and we’re five,” he added.

The place where Doug and Sylvie live in Provence has 13 acres.

Last year, Doug built a stage.

“We play for our clients. And our friends. We played in Switzerland at the opening of her sister’s place with the same kind of thing – a spa and therapy,” he said.

Doug and Sylvie operate the Jardin de Vies (the Garden of Life) Wellness Center, a non-profit organization that helps people develop a healthy lifestyle through Naturopathy, massage, aromatherapy and nutrition.

“Last year (The Goofballs) did a Christmas concert at a bar. It was lots of fun. Lots of people. This year, we were going to do one, but by the time we get back, it’ll be too close to Christmas, and we’d like to have a couple of weeks,” Doug said.

The Goofballs play a variety of Rock n’ Roll, Country and Blues.

“It’s fun. We have a Facebook page. Just look up The Goofballs,” Doug said.

The Tribune Press Reporter took his advice.

You won’t want to miss their rendition of “Summertime Blues” featuring Crazy Legs Rasmusson and the cute and talented keyboard player, Summer Flower.


“Tell about your first job with your dad,” Sylvie said.

Sylvie speaks fluent English, so much so, that Doug says he is spoiled and has not had to learn as much French and speak his wife’s native language as often as he ought to.

“My first job was working with my dad when I was five. I would go to work with him. I worked with him until I was 15. Then I went to Ray Gehrig’s store on the corner,” Doug said.

Gale Rasmusson operated the bakery in Glenwood City and then purchased Hanson’s Bakery in Spring Valley in 1981 and operated it until his death in 2011. Along the way, Gale Rasmusson also operated and managed bakeries in Balsam Lake, Luck, Barron and Osseo.

“I told him when he was 63 or 64 that it was time to retire. And he said, ‘I’m not going to retire. I’m gonna die at this table.’ One hour after he was done with work, he had a heart attack and died. He worked 63 years as a baker. People from Glenwood used to go to Spring Valley to get his stuff. He was about the only free-standing bakery. Grocery stores have bakeries in the stores. A free-standing bakery is pretty rare. In France, of course, they’re on every corner,” Doug said.

Gale Rasmusson died at the age of 81.

“My dad, even at the Spring Valley bakery, he was in there with his hands, mixing. And it wasn’t a mix. He weighed out everything he put in there. And they are still using his recipes. Larry Shepard who worked with my dad for a long time is still working over there. He worked for my dad in Glenwood and over in Spring Valley too,” Doug said.

Gale Rasmusson came from a family of 13, and Doug’s mother, Norma Jean, came from a large family as well with eight or nine children.

“On my mother’s side, I’m part English and French. On my dad’s side, I’m German and Norwegian. We’re next door to Germany, so I’ve got to check that out. And we’ve been invited to Norway by some people we taught. I’ll hit all my countries. I’ve already been to England,” Doug said.

“Good European blood,” Sylvie said.

“I’m right at home over there. I’ll be there the rest of my life. Back and forth,” Doug said.

Jardin de Vies

“When we met, we didn’t know where to put our suitcases. We were back and forth for two years. We came to this house (in Provence) when my brother had a New Year’s Eve party. (We found out) the other people were leaving. In the morning I said, ‘do you want to live in France?’” Sylvie said.

“Our house is 450 years old. You can’t find anything like that here. Big old stone walls that wide (several feet thick). In the summer, you don’t need air conditioning. In the winter, we use a wood stove. It’s a beautiful place. Lavender fields. Olive trees. Vineyards all around. It’s paradise to us,” Doug said.

“We thought we’d stay for one year. And then if we stayed longer, we’d need a massage room for him, and a seminar room for me,” Sylvie said.

Which is how the Rasmussons came to develop Jardin de Vies, where guests can enjoy massage, body wraps, facial and body massage cupping, aromatherapy treatments and naturopathy consultations. On the property, guests can also enjoy the exercise room, the swimming pool, and they can visit the surrounding countryside by walking, biking or driving.

Doug and Sylvie teach other therapists as well.

“You know how the Beatles started out in what looked like a cave? We have one of those too where we play our music. It was a wine cellar at one time. We moved the wine,” Doug said.

Doug held up his hands. “For me, this is my job. I can go anyplace. To become a doctor here in the States, it would be a lot of work for her to go through. It was easier for me to move.”

“And the opportunity for him, to come into another country,” Sylvie said.

Doug said he did not know any French when he met Sylvie. Not beyond the basics, anyway. Bonjour. Oui. No. Merci beaucoup.

“I went to school for a while. I had to have 200 hours for me to stay there. She spoils me and speaks too much English to me. But there are days when she’ll look at me and say, ‘I’m tired. You need to speak French all day,’” Doug said.

“We found a lot of Franco-American and English friends. They all speak English,” Sylvie said.

Small world

The man who owns Doug and Sylvie’s favorite restaurant in France, as it turned out, has an almost eerie sort of parallel connection to Doug’s experiences.

“He lived in Minneapolis for a year, and that’s how he got to the Florida Keys. I was with a band. Pierre worked at the Uptown Restaurant in Minneapolis, not far from where I lived. I went to the Florida Keys twice with the band. The second time I said, ‘I’m not coming home.’ It was twenty below here, and 75 there. I started working at the club where we played at this resort, at the same time my friend Pierre was working at the other resort this club owned. Then we go to this small little village in France and meet up with him – his wife is American. He met her (in Florida),” Doug said.

“We were talking one night. He said, ‘I worked in Minneapolis and I worked here and here.’ And I said, ‘I was there at that time.’ He said he worked at Little Palm Island in Florida Keys. And I worked at (a neighboring resort). And we meet up. We were at the same place at the same time (before). But we had to meet up in France. It’s one of those weird stories,” Doug said.

American tour

Doug came back to the states two weeks earlier than Sylvie and was in San Diego at the Optimum Health Institute.

The Institute, Doug said, is a place where people with ailments such as cancer and diabetes detox and go for natural therapies.

The Rasmussons will be in the States until December 8.

After Thanksgiving, they planned to fly into Charlotte, North Carolina, and then go to Asheville. From there they planned to drive to the Florida Keyes.

Along the way, they were going to visit friends, family, and business partners.

The weather in the south of France is milder than it is around here, Doug noted.

In the winter, he said, the temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

And while it does snow, it does not necessarily snow every year.

Last year, it did not snow, but the year before, there was about six inches of snow, Doug said.

The snow “only lasts for a day or two. The weather in the summer is up in the 80s and 90s, like Wisconsin,” he said.

Sylvie works in a hospital one week out of the month that is six hours away from their home and does telecommuting the rest of time.

“Up there (near the hospital) it looks just like Wisconsin. Rolling hills and the cows,” Doug said.

The south of France tends to be sunny most of the time as well, unlike Wisconsin where November can often be cloudy most of the month.

On the day of the interview, Doug and Sylvie were headed to the Cady Cheese factory to get some Wisconsin cheese curds.

Doug said he also buys aged Wisconsin cheddar for his friends in France, who as it turns out, are quite fond of it — much to the delight of a boy from Wisconsin who now makes his home in France.

To find out more about Jardin de Vies, visit