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home : columns : dave fjeld
September 30, 2020

7/29/2020 2:21:00 PM
Preserving their stories
Earlier this month I had the privilege of talking with Bob and Marian Schoper about their family farm earning Century Farm recognition.
Bob's family ownership of the farm, as well as some stories and history about the farm and his parents and grandparents who ran it, is pretty well documented. Indeed, it was a sometimes delightful and sometimes heartbreaking trip back in time as they shared the story.
However, at one point in our conversation about the farm, Bob shared that he was just 11 years old when his grandfather, Henry Schoper, died. Henry was the first Schoper to own what is now the Schoper Century Farm.
He wished so badly he would have asked his grandfather some questions about his coming to the United States in 1900 at age 21 and about farming in his early days.
Of course, at that age, boys are more concerned about playing in the hay mow, fishing or maybe playing a little baseball - as they should be. Asking questions of his grandfather he wished he could ask now never crossed his mind.
It's something he regrets today.
"If I could turn back the clock and do anything, I would have really liked to ask him, 'Why did you go from being a butcher to raising livestock?'  " Bob says.
You see, Henry Schoper initially worked at, then bought in 1905, the City Meat Market in Jeffers. He ran the butcher shop until selling it to Henry Wessel and Gottlieb Schaal in 1919.
With that money from the sale of the meat market, he bought a farm - a farm that now has been handed down from father-to-son for what will be the third time when Bob completes the harvest this fall. Bob and his wife, Marian, will move into full-time retirement, while their son, Mike, takes over the farm operations.
Back to the "butcher-to-raising livestock" question. Bob has another question he wishes he could ask his grandfather. While running the butcher shop, his grandfather opened a satellite shop in Storden. Bob says that was a very odd move, considering that Jeffers was largely a German settlement and Storden was largely a Norwegian settlement.
Bob queries, with a chuckle, "What made a German from Jeffers think he could open a store in Norwegian Storden? I guess it worked out."
These are questions Bob will never have the answer to. However, he and his wife, Marian, are not going to make the same mistake for their grandchildren. They have made every effort to provide answers to questions their grandchildren may want to ask after their grandchildren have grown and have become curious - and after Bob and Marian have left this earth.
How, you ask? By "writing" their own books - but not in the conventional way most books are written.
As a Christmas gift, the Schopers' daughter-in-law, Nikki, gave Bob and Marian an online book writing project through
"Storyworth would send (email)us a question every week for 52 weeks," Bob explains. "If you just said, 'Would you write a book?' Well, you're never going to do that. But, you do it like, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.'  "
And that's how Bob and Marian wrote a book of their life history. Each week Storyworth sent them a question that asked them to not only answer it but perhaps share a story connected with the answer.
After 52 weeks, their questions, answers and even photos were put together into hardbound book form.
Not only do Bob and Marian have a copy of their books, but they had additional copies printed for their children and grandchildren.
More details are available on the website. I checked out the price for getting the process started and its just a $100 investment. I'm sure there's an additional cost for having additional copies printed, but it's a pretty great idea for the person who doesn't want their stories to go to the grave with them.
It's a great opportunity to make sure the stories live on through the generations.
So, if you're thinking Christmas in July, put this on your parents' or grandparents' gift list.

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