ANNA MARY HALVORSEN PETERSON
(My Mother’s Mother)
By LaRhea Nielson Twelves
My mother, Elda Peterson Nielson, and her mother, Anna Mary (Mary) Halvorson Peterson were very close. As a child I remember going with Mother in our Model “A” Ford to pick up Grandma and bring her to our house for Sunday dinner, no matter where she was living at the time. I also have fond memories of good times with Grandma’s brothers and sister and their families. Her sister, Martena (Aunt Teena) , and her family were living in Neola, out near Roosevelt in the Uintah Basin. Quite often we would take Grandma with us and drive out to visit them. It was always a fun trip and there were cousins to play with. I also remember many visits in Mapleton with her brother Andrew and his wife Aunt Mary. We would sit at her kitchen table where she always had a bowl of sugar cubes (they called them “sugar molies”) and Aunt Mary would serve me “Mormon coffee” (mostly sugar and milk with probably ½ teaspoon of coffee). It was always better if it was “saucered and blowed”. Mother never did drink coffee, but it was very difficult for some of the Danes to give up old customs. It was sort of a hospitable ritual. Uncle Tom and Aunt Em (Emma) lived in Spanish Fork and I loved to go over there. The Halvorson family members were always very pleasant, gracious hosts and fun to be with.
After a Sunday dinner at our home, Grandma would always say, “You serve such delicious dinners. You have such good food.” She loved to eat, and as she aged her ample short body was proof of it.
As I matured I began to realize that Grandma really had a hard life, but I do not remember her ever being depressed, sorry for herself, or complaining. She was fun to be with and had a cute sense of humor. We all loved to be around her.
Always before Memorial Day she would come to our house and Mother would get out the crepe paper and pipe cleaners and we would make flowers. After we wrapped the pipe cleaners with green crepe paper, we would make the flowers onto the stem. I particularly remember tulips and roses – all colors, but mostly red. Red seems to stand out in my mind. When they were finished Mother would dip them in melted paraffin wax. Crepe paper flowers were the forerunners to plastic flowers. Beautiful silk flowers followed them. Mother raised beautiful flowers in our yard, but we always helped Grandma make her special flowers until Mother [Elda] died. She was only forty seven years old. Her death was very hard on Grandma. Children are supposed to bury their parents. When it is reversed, it is devastating to parents.
I did not know my Grandfather Peterson. He died about two years before I was born. Money was always scarce for them. Grandfather had to have a leg amputated due to tuberculosis of the bone and he wore a peg (wooden) leg. He worked as custodian at the Mapleton Elementary School. Mother loved him dearly. She said he was a very kind and gentle man. Many times she said she had prayed that she would never have to suffer like he did. Her prayer was answered. It seems to me that I was told that Grandma took in laundry to supplement their income.
They had a nice small frame home they built on property in Mapleton that Grandpa Peterson’s father, Christian Peter Boel, gave them. I don’t know when Grandma gave her home to her only son, Uncle Roy (LeRoy Peterson); possibly when she married John Beckstrom and she moved into his home in Spanish Fork. He had a car when not many people owned such a luxury and courted her handsomely. He also had a nice home. I’m sure she must have thought her life would be good and perhaps easier. It turned out that he had a mean temper and was abusive. His neighbors said he beat his animals unmercifully.
I was probably four or five years old when Grandma called my father on the phone and asked him to come and get her. Dad went to Spanish Fork and brought her to our house. It wasn’t long until Mr. Beckstrom pulled his car up in front of our house. Mother saw him and she rushed Grandma and me into the bathroom and Grandma locked the door. I could hear Mr. Beckstrom hollering for “Mary”. He figured out that Grandma was in the bathroom, so he pounded on the door and kept hollering at her. Grandma was whispering to me to say that I was in there. I remember of being very frightened and I don’t suppose I was much help. Just then my father came home from wherever he had been and ordered Mr. Beckstrom out of our house and to never come back again. Grandma lived with us for a while. During this time my parents helped her get a divorce from him. I don’t know how long their marriage had lasted, but I’m sure their marriage and divorce are in the county records.
There were no Assisted Living Centers or Nursing Homes at that time. There was only the “Poor House”, which was located on Ironton Hill between Springville and Provo. My Aunt Harriet, Marcellus (Uncle Cell) Nielson’s wife, needed someone to take care of her father after her mother died. His name was Mr. Thorn, and he lived about three blocks north of our home. Grandma moved into his home and cared for him and his house until he died. This was not unusual in those days. After that Grandma’s brother, Uncle Tom, needed a caretaker for his father-in-law, who was a widower and lived on a farm in Palmyra. Grandma took care of Mr. Otteson for several years. I don’t really remember Mr. Thorn well, but I do remember riding with Mother in our Model “A” Ford on Sundays to Palmyra to bring Grandma and Mr. Otteson for dinner. My brothers and I loved having Grandma come, but Mr. Otteson was “such a bore”. He talked incessantly about the “Old Country” (Denmark) and we secretly wished that he were there. Now I think that if we had been smart we would have listened and asked questions. I'm sure we would have learned a lot about the land of our heritage.
After Mr. Otteson died Grandma moved back to Mapleton and lived in a trailer house in Uncle Roy’s back yard. Meanwhile I had married and was living in Alameda, California where my husband, a Navy fighter pilot, was stationed. It wasn’t too long, maybe a year or two when my father called me and said, “If you want to see Grandma Peterson alive, you had better come home soon. She is in the hospital with breast cancer that has invaded the pulmonary cavity and is not expected to live.” Our daughter, Valerie, was 18 months old. She and I flew home and stayed for two weeks.
Grandma was very weak, but was happy to see us, especially her first great grandchild. We had some precious visits and flew back to Alameda two weeks later. Grandma lasted another 10 days or so and died quietly in her sleep on April 19, 1947. She was 72 years old.