Lynn Koenig, the crazy neighbor lady, is a very special woman who was just recently moved into the nursing home located in Valley City, ND. She is short, standing 5’1” but don’t let her small size fool you. Lynn is spontaneous, witty, and full of laughter.

    For their first assignment of the semester, I do not always get grandparents’ stories from my composition students.  
    This week’s story, by Myla Lewis, is about an older woman who was close to Myla's family.  Eventually it was going to happen but sometimes my students' grandparents are younger than me. I prefer older grandparents stories that show a more challenging era when things were not as easy.
    Myla’s neighbor went through some difficult things and yet survived.  Next week, you will read a story written by a student whose grandfather survived a civil war in Liberia and fortunately came to the U.S. to regroup with his family. Maybe we need to know more and learn from stories of how people prevailed in the face of hardship instead of how some people believe they deserve certain benefits and perks in life.  
    In any case, my students are showing the positive side of things and very much appreciate the older people in their lives. We have some great students at UMC; at least I know I do in this class of 17 first year composition students.

– Kristina Gray
UMC Composition
instructor

Myla Lewis

    Lynn Koenig, the crazy neighbor lady, is a very special woman who was just recently moved into the nursing home located in Valley City, ND. She is short, standing 5’1” but don’t let her small size fool you. Lynn is spontaneous, witty, and full of laughter.

    She would on purpose clumsily walk out of the door while welcoming in anyone who stopped by. I grew up with Lynn, where our houses stood ten feet apart. My brother and I would always sneak over to her house so we could play cards and listen to her talk instead of doing our farm chores.

    While we played cards, she would tell us about her childhood. She grew up on a farm outside of Lake Park, MN where she attended a one room school house until she was in middle school. The girls always wore dresses or long skirts to school. “I walked to school every day because there was no school bus. In the winter, I would slip snow pants on under my dress and started walking.” Lynn stated, “If I was lucky, one of the families that had a vehicle would see me and pull over.”

    She would always get picked on by her siblings on the way to school, but she never let that bother her.      

   Once arriving to school, the teacher would make sure everyone had clean hands. If they had a speck of dirt under their fingernails, they would have to wash their hands in a bowl of cold water in the back of the room. Lynn rarely had clean hands because she would get dirty everyday caring for animals.

    Lynn lovingly cared for all of the animals on her family farm. She would help with birthing, feed, water, and butcher them. One day Lynn told me, “People are nicer to others when they show compassion for other living creatures.”

    She would always treat the animals with great respect. She would feel bad for them at times and slip the barn cats most of her food. No animal was ever hungry when she was around. Lynn was also very active in her local 4-H club where she showed exhibits in different categories. Lynn even went to the Minnesota State Fair when she won Grand Champion with her homemade jam. From 4-H, she learned to reuse and recycle everything. “It’s not garbage until you can’t fix it with duct tape anymore.”  Lynn never got tired of the farm life, but she also lived the life of the party.

    Starting in high school, she attended every social event her parents would allow her to go to. As she grew, her crazy spirit grew stronger within her. She was one of the first in her family to graduate from high school. She also went on to college to become a nurse, because she loved helping others. “I loved what I did, but I wish I could have had more options.” As a girl in those days, she only had a few choices between nursing and teaching in which she could attend college.

    After graduating from nursing school, she was married to Bob Koenig in 1961 and they lived in North Dakota. They had a houseful of one girl and four boys. Lynn and Bob also adopted a handicapped girl with Down’s syndrome. Her husband drove truck as a career and served in the National Guard for over twenty years. Lynn worked hard every day as a full time mom and nurse. She would get the kids up for school, give them a hug, kiss, and tell them “study hard!”

    After she got the kids ready for school, she would then walk to work. Lynn had a driver’s license, but she hated driving. She only drove a few times and that was when her kids missed the school bus. All of the kids enjoyed coming home from school to eat their mother’s baked goods.

    Lynn was an excellent baker, but a terrible cook. Lynn did all of her baking once every month. Her kids said that was the best day to come home after school, when Lynn baked everything you could possibly imagine. She even made her boys learn. She told them, “You must learn how to bake and cook in case you marry someone who can’t.”     

    Of course her boys would always cause trouble in the neighborhood so she would make them deliver her baked goods to the neighbors as an apology for their behavior. Lynn would give her guests something to eat and also passed on her passion for baking to her grandchildren and friends. She shared her baking within the church as well.

    Lynn is a very godly women sharing God’s grace with everyone. She would help bake the goodies for after the worship service. She would attend church every Sunday and drag her family with her. She would say, “God has a plan” and in fact, one of her sons became a minister.

    All of her children graduated from high school. Her one son, Lance, joined the military but was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. After the terrible incident, it was her goal to show appreciation to other families who had lost a family member in the same manner. Lynn started attending motorcycle runs asking people, “Will you be my chauffeur to the party?” She agreed to attend memorial services in Washington DC as well as other benefits. She loved going to all of the events, but attending these would bring back memories of the tragic death of her own son. She never recovered from his being gone, but she still would have a smile on her face with a love for life.

    After hearing all of the events in Lynn’s life, it is right to say that she is an inspiration to others. She touches the community by sharing her stories of her past. Lynn always has a smile on her face and is willing to help. She has delighted others with the gifts God gave her such as baking and her strength after going through life’s troubling trials.

    For her, “God has a plan,” just like she always told others.