12 Sep A Tale of Two Homes
Roald, Anne and Mary Lokken gave a very generous gift for the purchase and restoration of the Larson House in memory of their mother, Crystal Lokken. Their reasons for this gift to the McFarland Historical Society are straightforward. Their mother was an active board member of the society, a driving force behind the effort to preserve the Larson house and they felt that she had intended to make a large donation before her untimely death. But there is more to this story. It begins in the tiny Village of McFarland many years ago and involves another early house on the main street of McFarland.
Back in 1900, Ole and Mary Nelson bought a simple, two-story frame house that had been built in 1861. It was just a stone’s throw from William McFarland’s home, built by the community founder in 1858, and a little farther to the South was a lovely Victorian- style home built in 1898 for E.N. Edwards. That structure must have seemed very modern to Ole and Mary as they moved into their home that was nearly 40 years old.
The Nelsons had three children. One died in infancy, a son died in World War I, and only daughter Dorothy survived to marry (Chester Helmke). In 1943, Dorothy found it necessary to divorce her husband and she moved into her parent’s home on Main Street where she raised her four daughters mainly on her own. As adults, those daughters all became highly educated, traveled extensively, and raised families of their own. One of the twin daughters was Crystal Helmke Lokken.
Some of our mature readers will remember Dorothy Helmke’s column in the McFarland Community Life, predecessor to the Thistle. Some of our mature readers will also remember attending McFarland Schools with the Helmke twins, Crystal (then called “Carol”) and Corrine, and their older sister, Delores, and Audrey, the youngest.
Roald explained that his grandmother Dorothy and mother Crystal always thought of the “Larson House” (purchased by John Larson in 1911) as the height of elegance whereas their own home was like a simple farm house in comparison. The Larsons were well-respected and affluent members of the community.
Crystal married a Lutheran minister, Sigurd Lokken, and they moved to Berkeley, California, where he was campus pastor of the University of California at Berkeley. After their three children were older, Crystal earned an MA in art education and started teaching in the public schools about 1964. The year after Sigurd died in 1991, she retired and devoted more time to her many interests, such as Norwegian folk dancing, painting, traveling, researching Viking history, family genealogy, gardening, and church activities. But always, she dreamed of moving back to her home, her real home in McFarland.
When Dorothy Helmke died, the family decided not to sell her home and rented it out for many years. In 2006, Crystal bought out the rest of the family and came to live again in the home of her childhood. The house was in rough shape by then, and Crystal set to work in restoring, remodeling and updating the home. She made sure that the majority of the home was preserved and had her contractor add a bedroom, bath, garage and new insulation and siding. Crystal became an active member of the McFarland Lutheran Church and a board member of the McFarland Historical Society.
Perhaps it was Crystal’s memory of the lovely Larson House in its prime that motivated her to urge her fellow board members to purchase and restore this landmark in the center of the Village. After Crystal’s death on March 15, 2010, her children found all sorts of information, articles and posters about the Larson House that Crystal had been working on. She had even written members of the family to solicit funds for a large donation in memory of their mother and grandmother Dorothy.
Roald, Anne and Mary were in complete agreement that their mother’s home should not be sold since the family history and ties to this property were much too deep with six generations of family members living in the house from time to time. They also agreed that a generous donation to the Larson House was in order. Roald, an engineer living in Texas, Anne, a symphonic viola musician living in Italy, and Mary, a translator also living in Italy, made a pilgrimage to the family home this month to attend to estate matters. Crystal and Sigurd had encouraged their children to learn and explore, which they all did, and yet, they all yearn for their “real” home, which continues to be the simple farm-style house on Main Street in McFarland. Over the years it had always been their anchor and their source of pleasant memories. The house itself was abused for years but lovingly restored and now proudly displays the plaque from the McFarland Historical Society proclaiming it one of the earliest homes in the Village.
In contrast, the Larson House that for most of its history was lovingly maintained, became vacant after Bertha Larson died in 1988 and has suffered greatly. The exterior of the once pristine Victorian home has fallen into disrepair. What was once a beauty to behold is now an eyesore. No wonder so many in this community want to see thatchange. Thanks to Crystal’s children for their $10,000 donation towards this worthy project.