September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Dairy farm girl grows up to be children's author

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

WATERVILLE, Iowa - Looking back at her childhood on her family's dairy farm, children's author Mary Evanson Bleckwehl said, "My parents were hard workers and taught us strong work ethics."
Hard work and talent have come together for Bleckwehl, who is a published children's author. About a year ago, she published a children's book titled "Henry! You're late again!"
Bleckwehl grew up in Allamakee County. Her family's farm was near Elon, between Waukon and Waterville. She now resides in Northfield, Minn.
"I see everything as a 'story' including the struggles and joys of farming," said Bleckwehl.  "I wish I could rewind the clock and sit under the pine trees on a hot summer day eating 4:00 p.m. lunch with my family and record the conversations and get them all down in a book. The chapters would never end..."
She has been appearing at book signings, school visits and other events since the book was dubbed. In December, she had the unique opportunity to visit Waterville Elementary, where she first learned to read.
"Ever since my book came out a year ago, I've been thinking about this day," said the former teacher and school administrator.
Bleckwehls didn't just talk to the students at Waterville Elementary and St. Pat's about her book and her journey as an author, she also enthusiastically promotes literacy, her love of stories and using imagination to write.
Her author description on even talks about her farm roots: "As a child growing up on a dairy farm in northeast Iowa, Mary Evanson Bleckwehl loved school and had nightmares about not getting up in time to make the bus. She did make it to school every day and has now created Henry, an imaginative first grader who is in a predicament every morning as his family just can't seem to get him to school on time.
"Using years of teaching experience and stories from school children she taught, Mary has created a touching tale that will resonate with every child from three to 93; one that reminds our inner soul that there are things out of our control. Mary is a wife, mother and former elementary school teacher who still finds her way into the classroom every week as a volunteer and substitute teacher."
Growing up, the Evanson family milked about 30 cows and also had some hogs.
Bleckwehl is one of eight children of Helen and the late Melbourne Evanson. Her siblings are Shirley, Phyllis, Sandy, Jim, Dave, Nancy and Steve. Her sisters Sandy (Bob) Reinke and Phyllis (Bob) Waters, both of New Albin, were dairy farmers. Several of her siblings are still involved with agriculture.
Although she as been in the area many times to visit family, she had not been back inside Waterville school since she graduated from sixth grade in the late 1960s.
She continued, "I wanted to share this with students who attend school there now and make sure they understand that they can become anything they want if they work hard. Perhaps someday they will return and share their accomplishments with the next generation of students. One of them might be the one who cures cancer or becomes the president or returns to teach in Waterville."
"I am so excited to be able to share with the students the idea that when they dream big and make good choices, they can be whatever they dream."
"Learning to read and write is a gift that I get to open again and again, every day," she said.
She recalls learning how to knit riding on the bus from their farm to school as well as playing cards a lot, especially euchre, on those daily rides.
She attended Waldorf College for two years and then went onto to Wartburg. During her junior year of college, Bleckwehl had to pick a major. She started thinking about what type of job would allow her to live anywhere she wanted and met her personal values. She realized teaching would be a good fit. "Education has made all the difference to me in the way of opportunities and I wanted to return that gift to others," she said.
Her first job in Manchester, Iowa, was teaching sixth grade. She has also taught fifth, fourth and first grades. After that first year in Manchester, Bleckwehl went on to the college level, serving as Director of Academic Support Services at a college out east, and later at Wartburg. She moved to Northfield, Minn. 22 years ago, and began teaching elementary school again. 
"That is part of the message I want to give to the students too," she said. "That sometimes when things come up that you can't control, they can seem like a bummer... but sometimes you can take advantage of unexpected glitches."
All of the characters in the story are named after her great-nieces and great-nephews. The story is not based on them, but rather the characters are named in their honor. The exception is the antagonist in the story, the school secretary, Miss Timberlane.
Together with her husband, she has raised a daughter and two sons, who are now in their 20s.
Brian Barber of Duluth, Minn. illustrated the book. His artwork has been used in magazines, newspapers, books and advertising.[[In-content Ad]]


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



24 25 26 27 28 29 30
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.