Reminiscences About Jerusalem Artichoke Leads To Reunion With 107-year-old Chorister


In a recent column in Agweek, I wrote a column about Jerusalem artichokes. I had written stories about American Energy Farming Systems, a company that sold them in the 1982 when I worked as the farm reporter for the Worthington Daily Globe. The story led to a threatened lawsuit, which – when the artichoke executives got in trouble with the law – turned into a job offer at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Seventeen years later, I took a job at Agweek, a part of the Grand Forks Herald, which is now owned by Forum Communications Co. (As is the Worthington Daily Globe.)

The theme of my column was about how religion and business don’t always mix. As the column went, I discussed how my first boss Paul Gruchow, sang in the First Lutheran Church choir. He’d be pleased if I’d chose to sing in his Lutheran choir, rather than going across town to the other Lutheran church. So I had a bit of a mix of business and religion in my life, too.

A couple of weeks ago, a farming acquaintance of mine (the woman makes excellent fruit pies) told me that I had a Worthington connection in North Dakota. Jane’s aunt, Iris, had sung in my choir back in the early 1980s, and did I remember her?

I said I did remember Iris.

Jane informed me that Iris, who was single and worked as a librarian in Worthington when I knew her in the 1980s, had retired to Grand Forks in 1990. A few years ago Iris had a fall and broke her hip, so moved to a nursing home in a rural town.. Iris is 107 and would be turning 108 in August, Jane said. I said I’d make a point to visit her if I got anywhere near.

And so I did.

Iris is delightful to visit with. Her mind is mostly sharp and a charming visitor. She has remarkable recall on the characters in that old choir, and the church. Iris visited for more than an hour, accompanied by Jane. She seemed remarkably young – maybe 100, 90, 80 or even 70.

She made me remember things when I was young – 50, 40, 30, or 20.

Later, Jane, would tell me that if she could be assured she could age as gracefully as Iris that she’d gladly live to 108. You don’t hear that every day but it was a refreshing thought. Delightful.



2 Responses

    1. ag-at-large

      Yes, artichokes were promoted in part because of their use as a food — something like a water chestnut, as I recall. All of the promotion and expansion of the crop came before there was any discernable market for them, however. Iris remembered the Jerusalem artichoke fiasco, by the way.

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