Gladys Rebecca Parke

I haven’t written much about my father’s mother, Gladys Rebecca Parke. This hasn’t been a deliberate omission on my part. The truth is that there isn’t much of a written record by or about her. If she kept a diary or journal of her activities, I haven’t seen it. Since she lived many hundreds of miles away for the entirety of our lives, we didn’t see her more than a couple times a year. I don’t believe I ever spoke to her on the phone or corresponded with her by letter.

Gladys Rebecca Parke

I did write about the Parke family in an earlier post “My great uncle Leroy survived a tornado”, but that was about the family home in  South Dakota and Gladys’s brother, not her.

The lineage of her father, William Ulysses Parke, was Scottish/Irish and the earliest mention of our family’s Parke ancestors in the United States is the birth of Gladys’s great-great grandfather, William Parke, in North Carolina in 1769. From there her branch of the Parke’s moved ever northward through Kentucky, then Missouri and Iowa, and eventually ended in southeastern South Dakota. Glady’s middle name, Rebecca, honors her paternal grandmother, Rebecca Leah Hart who was born in Ohio.

The family of Gladys’s mother, Helena (Hettie) Redfield, also began its life in the United States on the east coast in the 18th century, but further north in New England. Their westward trajectory went from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania to Iowa to South Dakota. Hettie’s brother, Leonard Lee Redfield, was the first in the family to stake a claim in South Dakota. I wrote about the journey that he and his young family made from Buchanan County, Iowa to Lincoln County, South Dakota in an earlier post titled “300 Miles in a Covered Wagon”. Shortly after Leonard and Molly settled on their farm, his mother, Ruth Newberry Redfield, made the same journey with her two youngest children (including Gladys’s mother who was eight years old at the time) and staked her claim right next to Leonard’s. Eventually, the Redfield clan would have four farms in Lincoln Township, about 12 miles from the small city of Canton.

Gladys was born in 1898 in the little town of Beresford, not far from her family’s farm along the banks of Saddle Creek. She went to a country school until she was 15 and then went to high school in Canton. She graduated in 1917.

Gladys and Blanche Parke with friends c. 1915

In the fall of 1917, Gladys began additional studies at Augustana College (also in Canton) the same year that her future husband, Ragnvald Bergeson, was a senior. Ragnvald went off to war in the summer of 1918 and Gladys continued at Augustana. I don’t know whether the two of them socialized together at Augustana, but it was a small school so I’m certain that they would have been acquainted with each other.

I also don’t know whether Gladys graduated in the spring of 1919 or simply finished enough schooling to attain her teaching certification, but that was her last year at Augustana. In the fall she began teaching in a public school in Grant Township in Lincoln County. According to the 1920 Federal Census, she was a boarder with a Dutch immigrant family that year.

Ragnvald returned from his service in World War I in the summer of 1919. I’m not sure exactly when he and Gladys reconnected or where, but I have a picture of Ragnvald with the entire family at the Parke home in Canton in 1921. He was going to school at South Dakota State University in Brookings, not far from Canton. Gladys and Ragnvald were married in 1924 and set up housekeeping in Chicago where Ragnvald was already employed.

Gladys and Ragnvald were on the move regularly in the summer and fall. They returned to South Dakota at least twice a year to visit Gladys’s three siblings, Blanche Parke Westby, Elsie Parke Bergh and Leroy Lowell Parke, all of whom remained in South Dakota raising their families. From the pictures I’ve seen, the fall trips often involved pheasant hunting for Ragnvald.

Other times they visited friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin and took day trips around Illinois. Their activities included church and school picnics, Boy Scout field trips and fishing expeditions with their boys, Robert, Harold, and Norman. Occasionally, they hosted visitors and family from Norway.

In 1941 Gladys and Ragnvald took a cross country trip to visit Ragnvald’s sister, Olufina Andvik and her family in Seattle, Washington. Ragnvald’s brother Olav and sister-in-law Lilly accompanied them. I don’t know what the plan was for their three sons while they were gone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were “farmed out”. (My Dad had things to say about that phenomenon in his life, but that’s another story!)

Both Gladys and her sister Elsie had sons who enlisted in the military during World War II. My father joined the Army Air Corps and served stateside and Elsie’s son Dwight, joined the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater. Dwight and Elsie visited the Bergesons in Chicago in June of 1943 and my Dad came home on leave later that summer after basic training. Both mothers look happy and proud in the photos below, although I imagine they were a bit nervous as well.

Uncle Olav’s mother, Malena Duesund, died in 1950. (Olav and Ragnvald’s father remarried after Ragnvald’s mother died in 1898.) The foursome that toured the western United States nine years earlier now made a pilgrimage to Norway to pay their respects and visit the brothers’ childhood home for the first time in nearly 30 years. It was Gladys’s one and only visit to Norway. I imagine it was also the first time that she flew in an airplane. It turned out to be the last time the boys would see their father, Berge Duesund, alive.

For Gladys and Ragnvald, the 1950s and early 60s were full of marriages and budding careers for their sons, and the births of their 12 grandchildren. Many visits were made in both directions between Minnesota and Chicago during that time.

Gladys and Ragnvald retired in 1960 and moved to Dunedin, Florida where they built a new house and learned to love the constant sunshine. Their forays out into the wider world didn’t stop with the move, but certainly occurred less frequently during the last decade of their lives.

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