Once Upon a Farm: Edna Baron’s Story

In an effort to introduce you to some of the unique residents at Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis, we are taking a cue from Humans of Minneapolis with Humans of Augustana Care. This story was written by Rebekah Otto, as told to her by our resident Edna Baron. We hope you enjoy reading our stories.


Edna Baron is one of the most genuinely kind women you will ever meet. Throughout our interview, she took the time to encourage me. She bubbles over with life wherever she goes.

Throughout her life Edna experienced various challenges, from a strenuous childhood, to a son suffering from brain damage. Yet as Edna relived her memories she was quick to remain positive and add, “I have lived a good life.” She has not allowed hardship to steal her joy. Despite conflict she has found ways to blossom.

Edna is a loving mother and proud grandmother. She enjoys her time at Augustana Care, and continues to build friendships with those around her. The following is a snapshot of Edna’s life.

I began life in 1925, in Woverton, Minnesota, in the Red River Valley. I was the fifth of eight children, the fourth girl born to Arthur and Mable Ness. Our family lived on a farm three miles from town. We usually had a few horses, 10 plus cows and 40-50 chickens. Across the road and near us were farms belonging to my grandparents and six uncles. My three brothers worked on the farm with my father, plowing, planting, tending the animals, and all the outside work.

A doctor used to come out with “the bag,” and all the kids were born that way. Fortunately, we didn’t cause any big problems. I loved living on the farm. We had cows and we had quite a few horses to work the land, and about 120 acres of property; sometimes we would rent more. We had a lot of corn and potatoes and greens and meat and barley. We worked hard!

I did a lot of herding cows, but I never could milk cows. It was up to us kids to take them out, so we’d take them to the ditches and grass. We kept very busy. We were farm girls, and I learned to cook for large groups. My mom had a very large garden and whatever she did she did well! She had us kids pretty much trained on how to accomplish things and we worked in the garden too. My sisters and I toted pails of water and brought in the vegetables, so mom could prepare them for winter.

My dad was an alcoholic. But I had such a strong mother that she just let him go do his thing and didn’t argue. My mother eventually got cancer but lived to be 96.

Mama was such a good cook and just good at everything. She sewed all our clothes. For Confirmation, all my girlfriends were getting new dresses, and I sort of wanted one. Mom ordered one from the Sears catalog, but my dad said “Send it back”, so mom made one. I still have the picture of me with my girlfriends at Catechism. I looked just as good as the rest of them, but at that time I felt very jealous that I didn’t get to keep that catalogue dress. When I look at the picture it’s a story to me every time.

Back then it was really popular to go dancing. That was basically the only thing to do then so I went to a lot of barn dances. When I was 16 we went to a barn dance in a place that was a union hall. That’s where I went with my first boyfriend.

I was in 4-H and I had chickens showing at the fair. I was standing in one line and this young man kept looking at me. He came over and asked if he could have my name and address. He said he’d like to take me to a dance. I gave it to him but didn’t think I’d hear anything more. Sure enough, the next dance that came along I get a letter, no phones back then. He lived about three miles straight south of us on a farm. He wrote down that he planned on coming and picking me up that Saturday. Of course, no phones so I couldn’t call him back!

My mother told my dad. My dad said, “She’s only 16. She’s gonna come home with an apron full of babies!” He was very upset, so they decided that I couldn’t go unless my sister went with me. She was three years older. The time came and this young man comes to the door and I said that I couldn’t go on this unless Joyce could go with me. He had some sort of look on his face and he said his brother was out in the car. He was going to go talk to him. In the meantime, my mom, sister, and I, were all collaborating inside. He went out to the car and told his brother. Well, his brother was on his way to pick up another girl. He decided he wouldn’t pick up that girl, and take my sister whom he had never met. It worked out quite well. They ended up going steady and eventually getting married! I was engaged to mine, and I had moved to Minneapolis. But then, I don’t know, he went out with a school teacher, and he got her pregnant. He was trying to pick me up and we were going to run away. I said, “No. That is your responsibility. Marry her.” It was hard. Anyway, that was the end of that. In the meantime, I had met a Swedish guy, he was really nice. He was in the Navy. When he came home I dated him.

My sister was lonesome, meanwhile, and she asked me to come down to visit. Then she begged me to stay and quit school.  At the time, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. I had two years of high school left. Anyway, I quit and didn’t think it was serious at the time. I still managed to get really good jobs. I worked at the MN Specialty shop, where my sister and I made puff tents with an auto sewing machine. We made tents for the Army during WWII.  We kept very busy there. I was on a bar tacking machine, and I enjoyed it. We learned a lot and we had wonderful friends there. One of those friends introduced me to my future husband who was in the Army Air Force at the time.

After working at a variety of jobs and recovering from a serious illness, I decided to try and be a telephone operator. I applied for work at Northwestern Bell. At that time, no one could call long distance without an operator. It was an opportunity for brief conversations about faraway places. I was 18 years old. I got the job and I worked at Northwestern Bell for 20 years. I started out as an information operator. They’d call up and ask for a number and I’d look it up in the book. We had to be really fast. Those conversations fueled my imagination and desire to travel. I had lots of friends there and still have those friendships.

I had three girls and one boy. My son passed away. He was wanting to be in the movies. He was quite fun. He was artistic. He made jewelry. Anyway, he was working at a jewelry store, until he suffered a traumatic event. He had brain damage, and he was never normal after that. He never held down a job, because of his inability.

I worked part time, whatever hours I wanted, because by this time I had three kids that I was raising and then we got the fourth one. I worked split hours, but usually only four hours a day. As the kids got older I worked three or four days a week. That was really perfect, because I could do my responsibilities at home too.  I worked for the telephone company on and off until the equipment was so modernized that they didn’t need operators. One night when I was working at the boards they took all of us out one at a time. They said I could retire because I had more than enough time in. As of that night I retired, but I didn’t want to retire, so I found another job.

I started working at a dress shop, it was called “Measure Up.” It was fairly close to home and it was a new shop. I stayed there for about a year or so. Then I started selling sewing machines. I worked in a shop just showing people the machines. Then I retired.

I have 3 daughters, and they are all artistic. One is a hairdresser, and the other one works on highways. She likes working outdoors. She uses big machines and is out on the highways. She likes what she does. My older daughter is involved in the arts, travels a lot. I have eight great-grandkids they’re all very precious. My kids and I all get along very well. I am very fortunate.

One daughter lives in Wisconsin, and my granddaughter lives there also. They have horses, chickens, and all that kind of stuff. They live on a farm. They are all ambitious grandkids, and they all have good parents. They’re all very dedicated parents. The children are awfully lucky.

I travelled quite a bit. I’ve been to Panama, Mexico, and Florida. I’ve been to a lot of the states, mostly because when my husband was working in San Francisco I took the train. He bought a car when it was time to come home. My mother was staying with our four kids at the time. We went down to California and then went up to New Orleans, and then back to Minnesota.

My husband died in 1987 and my son died in 2009. My neighbor helped me with my son, and became a friend. In 2009, I moved into Augustana Care with my second life-companion, Earl McNeal. Earl was named the “best tuba player in Minnesota” and played in many bands and orchestras throughout Minnesota. We were together nearly 20 years, when he passed 3 years ago. He was a good guy.

When I was with Earl he played in the Orchestra and I went to those concerts, but he also took me dancing. That’s where he took me the first time. That’s how I met every one of my men, dancing!

I retired in 1985. I have been a life-long learner and have enjoyed my opportunity to meet so many new and interesting people here at Augustana Care. There are very nice people here. A lot of things have happened since I moved in here, but I keep making more friends. There are so many genuinely nice people.