Delores was a faithful, strong, hopeful, and tenacious wife, mother, and grandmother who inspired everyone (especially 4-H youth) she met to be curious, ask questions, learn something new each day, find your purpose, care for those around you, and use your God given talents to His Glory. She was quirky, knew how to laugh at herself and be creative.
Born during the Great Depression, the oldest of 4 (Phyllis, Wayne, and Shirley Ann) on November 2, 1930 to Wheeler and Darlene (Crist) Spain in Pine River, MN, Mom’s life was never easy, but she never complained. Instead, she adapted—learning to substitute almost any resource; especially recipe ingredients! She lived at her family’s Northstar Camp on Woman Lake near Hackensack until she was 9 when her family moved to Elk River. There while serving detention, she “painted” on the floor of the coat room with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich she found in another student’s lunch pail. Later she started the Super Duper Planners Club and was trusted by teachers and administrators to run errands and make the PA announcements. She graduated in 1949.
Like many families who found it hard to keep everyone fed, Mom was sent to work as a nanny while still attending Hanky High. She would recall this as a “blessing” because this family helped get her accepted into the College of Agriculture (present day University of Minnesota) in St. Paul. There she majored in Home Economics while working various jobs to pay for school (Honeywell, MN Lithograph, Federal Cartridge, Twin Cities Arsenal). Upon graduation, she became an Extension 4-H Club Agent for Sherburn and Scott Counties working with Bob Jacobs. She also joined Rural Youth where she met the love of her life and husband of 67 years, Guy Robert Bryson of Alden, MN. Once again, she courageously adapted—this time to life on a diversified livestock farm with 30 Holstein cross milk cows, Columbia sheep, purebred Hampshire hogs and Polled Hereford cattle; moving sows, sorting cattle, lambing ewes, delivering boars, going to fairs, doing the layout of sale catalogues and auction bills, and feeding the 400 people attending the sale. She helped with Pork Producer promotions and Farm Bureau Women’s groups. She worked at Church Lithograph and was a “scab” during the Wilson strike so Dad could buy farm machinery.
She became the mothering-aunt to Billy and Donny Bryson, Darrel Lee and Bradley Dean Sievert, and Linda and Ginny (Virginia) Spain while waiting for Nora (’63), Heidi (’66), and Guy (‘70) to come along. Mom met the 8 challenging years of Guy’s life with the grit, determination, and compassion of a mama bear protecting her cub---despite the endless hours of feeding, diapers (before disposables), physical therapy, and literal trials, she was not putting him in any home. No, Mom again saw all this as an opportunity to grow our faith, be thankful, and learn it was our responsibility to use our God-given talents because others may not be so blessed. She made sure her daughters set goals and made flow charts and filled calendars to help them take the steps necessary to achieve them. You could call her all hours of the day or night for help, advise, or just to plain keep you awake on your drive home from some activity or work (although reading recipes didn’t work well).
Mom worked at Canterbury Downs to ensure the farm survived the 1980s Farm Crisis. People there loved her and her “Norwegian donut seeds.”
The folks hosted several foreign exchange students from Finland, Japan, Denmark and Canada and stay into touch with many of them to this day. Later, they hosted farm tours to Europe. One trip had the hardboiled eggs she packed for lunch rolling back and forth in the aisle while we pretended not to know where they came from, another had her “wear it ‘til it’s worn out” pants literally disintegrating in eastern Europe. But always she had us shout off the number she’d given us as we passed through crowded areas to ensure no one got lost.
Mom was finally blessed with two grandchildren, Miranda Darlene and Bryson Robert, and they returned the twinkle to her aging blue eyes. She attended 99.9% of every dance competition and school activity they were involved in; doing the lion-share of the driving due to Dad’s macular degeneration. She taught them that garden zucchini and squash, which she almost always had bumper crop of, could be snuck into recipe if you’re persistent enough. She loved experimenting with food and we lovingly dubbed her cooking “Grandma Crazy Concoctions.” Sometimes they were awful but most of the time they were unique and delicious. For 13 years she enjoyed watching Bob and “the kids” ride the Black Hills trails at Nemo, SD.—she even rode Little Guy with us!
Later in life, her annual 3-Sister trips were crucial for reconnecting. The Cotswolds in England was her favorite.
Mom never complained about her health, despite heart by-pass, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. She fought back after stroke - building back her right side and teaching herself to speak and read again.
She was not a doting, cuddly Mom, but rather a feisty, fun Mom that looked at the world differently. She walked with confidence and peace. Confident as a child of GOD... and the fact that she looked like BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1948, and could iron shirts even better!
After a full day with great grand-niece and nephew, the two grandchildren, and family, Mom passed suddenly yet peacefully on Saturday, January 16th holding Dad’s hand.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her son Guy, her brother Wayne Spain, nephews Bill Pixler, Darrel Sievert, and Bill Bryson, and many beloved cousins and in-laws.
She is survived by husband Robert, daughters Nora (Doug) Felton and Heidi (Matt) Habben, grandchildren Miranda Darlene and Bryson Robert, sisters Phyllis Rathbun and ShirleyAnn Pixler, several nieces and nephews and their children, in-law Mavis Bryson, and cat Mystery.
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