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In Memory of Edna Martin


October 31, 1922 - March 24, 2019

Edna Martin, a lifelong resident of the Frederic area, died on Sunday, March 24,  at Traditions of Frederic. She was 96 years old. She was born Edna Magdalene Paulsen on Oct. 31, 1922, to Paul V. and Karen Skow Paulsen on the family farm south of Frederic. Her father had emigrated from Denmark as a child and her mother was a first generation Danish American. The youngest of their seven children, she was baptized and raised in the Lutheran faith at St. Peter’s Church, North Luck. 

Edna attended the rural Lincoln School through eighth grade and graduated from Frederic High School in 1941. She excelled academically and especially enjoyed her bookkeeping classes with R.P. Glynn. She wanted to be an accountant, but higher education wasn’t a possibility as the country was emerging from the Great Depression. After a year at home helping her parents with their strawberry and raspberry truck farm, she moved to St. Paul to work at Swift and Co., where her job was to scrape fat from hog skins for lard making. During periodic layoffs she did day work in Twin Cities homes. 

In 1943 she followed her sister Thora into the War Department’s Cadet Nurses Corps at Ancker Hospital in St. Paul.  On May 20, 1944, she married her high school sweetheart, Alex Martin, at Bethesda Lutheran Church in South St. Paul while Alex was on leave from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago. Late in 1944, a year and a half into her nurse’s training, she and two other student nurses contracted tuberculosis from a patient, and she spent all of 1945 in a sanitarium on the Ancker Hospital grounds. Penicillin was newly available but was being diverted to the war effort, so civilian TB patients were treated with bed rest. One of her fellow students died of the disease but Edna recovered fully.

After the war she and Alex made their home in a cottage on her parents’ farm (later the Willard Lane place) and then rented the Lundgren farm between Frederic and Lewis (later the Lenz place). They had three children, Michael Roy, born in 1949, Kathleen Marie, born in 1952, and Pauline Ann (for Edna’s high school nickname, Polly), born in 1955. In 1956 they bought Elm Glen Farm between Luck and Frederic from their friends Doris and Harvey Berquist, and Edna lived there for the next 51 years. (It’s now the home of her grandson, Ian Karl, and his family.)

Edna was a dedicated mother who worked hard to give her children advantages she had not had. In the mid 1960s, realizing they would need to supplement Alex’s income from farming and construction in order to send Mike to college, she took a job as a nursing assistant at the new Frederic Nursing Home (now Traditions of Frederic). Because Alex didn’t want her to sacrifice time with the children, she worked the overnight shift for many years so she could see them off to school in the morning and be there when they came home in the afternoon.

Edna worked at the nursing home for more than 30 years, a good number of them as activities director. She formed a special bond with resident Helen Malmberg and on Helen’s behalf organized the area’s first multiple sclerosis support group. She also made lifelong friendships with coworkers including Anne Wallace, Mildred Overbey, Minnie Grimh, Margie Hunt, Ruth Ann Thiel and Abbie Larsen. She was an exceptionally good and highly competitive Scrabble player, and with Minnie founded the Frederic Scrabble Club. (It meets at 1 p.m. Mondays at Sunrise Apartments; all are welcome.) Through Scrabble she made more great friends including Colleen Draxler.

In 1985, Alex had a devastating stroke, but thanks to his perseverance and her diligent care, he had 11 more years of active life. In 1990 the Frederic Community Association recognized her lifetime of caregiving and Alex’s devotion to the Paul G. Johnson American Legion Post by naming them Citizens of the Year.  After retiring from the nursing home Edna was recruited to work with The Haven, a day program for dementia patients throughout Polk County, where she formed another lifelong friendship with its director, Elsie Goosen.  She worked until she was 85. After leaving the family farm, she spent 11 happy years at Sunrise Apartments in Frederic, moving to Traditions in May 2018.

Edna had many dear friends, but her closest bonds were with her sisters, Lillian Miller, Marie Peterson Richter, Clara Brown Waldo and Thora Framsted. They formed a matriarchy that held together the extended Paulsen family. Edna was predeceased by her husband; her parents; her sisters; her brothers, Richard Paulsen and Gilbert Paulsen; and nephews and nieces Donald Peterson, Frances Rode, Morris Peterson, Curtiss Peterson, LeRoy Miller, Gary Paulsen, Duane Paulsen and Bonnie Romano.

She is survived by her children, Mike (Priscilla), a Lutheran minister, of East Lansing, Mich.; Kathy (John Dorschner), a journalist, of Miami Shores, Fla.; and Polly (Roger Dorsey), a nurse, of Lake Tomahawk, Wis.; grandchildren Elka Karl (Peter Spoerl), Berkeley, Calif.; Elly Karl (Hunter Johnson), Princeton, N.J.; Ian Karl (Emily Fawver), Frederic; Chris Martin (Sur Thi Ngoc Diep), Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam; Dave Martin (Katrina), Charlotte, Mich.; Jeff Martin (Kate Lesker), Arlington, Va.; Andrew Dorschner (Jillian Walker), New York, N.Y.; Dr. Peter Dorschner (Dr. Emily Cetrone), Boston, Mass.; and Grace Dorsey and Forrest Dorsey, Lake Tomahawk; great grandchildren Kayleigh Martin, Lucas Martin, Uli Spoerl, Soren Karl, Alden Karl and Maren Edith Magdalene Johnson; and many nieces and nephews.

In Edna’s later years, glaucoma and macular degeneration took most of her vision, but she handled that loss with fortitude and grace. The family is grateful for the loving care she received at Traditions of Frederic and from St. Croix Hospice. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Frederic, and Interfaith Caregivers of Polk County.

Her funeral will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at Pilgrim with Pastor Roger Pittman officiating. Visitation will be one hour prior at the church. She will be laid to rest beside Alex at Maple Grove Cemetery, Frederic. The family has entrusted arrangements to Rowe Funeral Homes.


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