Walnut Genealogy Society member Arlene Sievers was born May 6, 1923 on the family farm seven miles southeast of Avoca. Her parents were Harry and Lena (Gustafsen) Wiese. Her older sister, Eleanor, and younger sister, Clara are both deceased.
Rural schools played a big part in Arlene’s life. She attended one; she taught in two; she even lived in one.
Arlene and her older sister started country school together, walking a total of 3 miles daily from home to school and back. Their dad would take them to school in a pony cart only if it was pouring down rain. Arlene attributes her age and living so long to all those miles she walked when she was young.
She attended high school in Avoca, Iowa and took Normal Training classes, so she could become a teacher. As there were no school buses, she and her sister shared an apartment in town during the week and went home on the weekends. Arlene and Eleanor both graduated with the class of 1940. She is the last survivor from their class.
After graduation, Arlene taught at two different country schools, one being the Krummel School southwest of Avoca. She had no car, so she was still walking to and from school every day. One day she told the kids that she would not be returning in the fall, because she had taken another job. The kids all made her promise to stay overnight at each of their homes before she left. And she did! She recalled that while she was staying overnight with the Hoepner family, their new baby brother arrived that same night!
World War II made an impact on everyone, and all wanted to do their part to help the war effort. Arlene relinquished her teaching job to her married sister Eleanor and joined the workforce by going to Lincoln, Nebraska for a year to work in the Western Electric plant. Her job was winding coils for radios for the servicemen overseas.
When the war ended, Arlene married Dale Sievers who had just returned from serving in the army in Europe. Dale was one of ten children born to Walt and Tracie ((Feldman) Sievers of Walnut. During the early years of their marriage, Dale and Arlene lived in a remodeled country school house southwest of Walnut, the same school Dale had attended as a boy. Here they had two children, Roger and Sandy.
Dale and Arlene farmed for many years near Walnut and Avoca, and eventually they bought her parents’ family farm outside Avoca where they milked dairy cows and raised cattle, hogs, and row crops. Their son, Roger, took over the farming when Dale retired. Now Arlene’s grandsons, Ryan and Chris, are doing the farming.
Arlene always had a large vegetable garden for canning and freezing. The pantry shelves were full of homemade dill and sweet pickles. She also loved tending several large flower beds around the house.
Arlene was a wonderful cook and took pride in her baking and her delicious homemade meals. Her butterhorn rolls were always a family favorite. Arlene fondly remembers the huge meals she would make for the men who came to shell corn or bale hay. Looking back, she says she enjoyed every minute of all the baking and cooking. Over the years, Arlene has made hundreds of batches of English toffee as Christmas and Valentine’s gifts for friends, neighbors, and even local business owners.
She found time to volunteer at the United Church of Avoca as a teacher of both Sunday School and Bible School and to serve many years as superintendent for both. The annual Church bazaar was a great place to show off her baking skills!
Arlene has always been very resourceful. She learned her sewing skills at an early age. During the Depression it was very hard to get new clothes, but Arlene and her sisters had a unique source. Their Great-Aunt Emma worked as a housekeeper for a movie star, George Bancroft, in Hollywood, California. Bancroft had one daughter, and as this daughter outgrew her old dresses and coats, the great-aunt would mail them in a package to Arlene and her sisters. Because she could sew, Arlene would remake the clothes to fit them all.
Today, Arlene looks forward to phone calls and visits from her family. She especially enjoys visits from her grandsons Chris Petersen, Ryan and his wife Claire Petersen, and their sons Tucker and Charlie. She has many cousins, nieces, and nephews in the area who stop by occasionally.
Arlene celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, May 6, 2023 at the Avoca Specialty Care in Avoca, sharing birthday cake and ice cream with her immediate family.