When my family moved to Sidney in 1935, there was a popular radio character named Seth Parker. He was played by Phillip Lord who used his memories of his backwoods preacher grandfather to write radio programs full of fun, music, and an occasional sermon.
The program seemed to take place in Seth Parker’s home. A group of neighbors would come in for an evening of visiting and singing hymns. Among the characters who shared the microphone were Seth’s wife Ma Parker, and Lizzy, a girl who could recite the books of the Bible in under a minute. It became one of the most popular radio shows of that period.
My father, who was also a minister, loved the Seth Parker program. Each year he would put on a local version of it as a play at the church. He played the part of Seth Parker. My mother was Ma Parker. My sister Ruth got to be Lizzy because she actually could recite all the Bible’s books very quickly.
Among the other characters when we lived in Sidney were Methodist Church members who played the neighbors stopping by for an evening. One of them was Agnes Wilson.
Agnes was born in 1914 and grew up near Plankinton, in the middle of South Dakota on her parents’ farm. She loved the peacefulness of the flat land, and learned to work hard. In addition to crops, the family raised turkeys, chickens, and geese as well as cattle and horses. When she was old enough, Agnes went to a country school, then into Plankinton for high school.
At the age of 18 she married Clarence Wilson who was raised on a family farm north of Sidney. Clarence had come to a school near Plankinton as school superintendent where he met Agnes. After their marriage they returned to Sidney to live and work on the family farm.
My family moved to Sidney in 1935, and that’s when I got acquainted with Agnes. She was a lovely young woman, and we became very good friends. I thought she was one of the sweetest, gentlest, kindest people I’ve ever known, and the older she got, the sweeter and kinder and gentler she became.
She was what I would describe as a perfect farm wife. She knew all about gardens, canning vegetables, raising chickens, and whatever else she could do to keep the farm going. She had two children, Delores and Ron, and was very good with them, too.
I left Sidney after high school graduation in 1936 and did not see much of Agnes for a number of years. Her husband Clarence died at the age of 53 in 1959 of colon cancer and pneumoia.That’s when Agnes learned to drive a car and began looking for something she could do that would be fulfilling.
She discovered Esther Hall in Des Moines, a Methodist-owned facility that provided housing for young women coming into the city to work. In addition to keeping operations running smoothly, she provided understanding and support in her kind and caring way.
Occasionally she would drive down to visit her daughter Dee Glenn, who was living in Hamburg. My mother was living then at Wesley Acres, a Des Moines Methodist retirement home. She sometimes rode with Agnes to come and visit us in Sidney. During those drives, she and Agnes became even closer friends.
Agnes moved back to Sidney and worked at the care center here, bringing her kindness to those living there. She remained deeply involved in her community and church.
At age 95 she moved into the Morton Place retirement home in Nebraska City. This past October friends and family helped her celebrate her 100 birthday. Last week she passed away.
As I sat in the church during her funeral, many thoughts about her passed through my mind. I was touched again by what a gentle and loving soul she had been, and how many people she touched in her own quiet way.
I marveled at her entire century of life. Her obituary said she had died of natural causes. That made me think of an obituary I read one time about someone who had died due to “faulty parts and too much old.”
I smiled when I remembered all the way back to my first meeting with Agnes when she played the part of one of the neighbors in my father’s Seth Parker radio play at the church in 1936. For decades to come, Agnes was a neighbor for me and for many others, making life better for everyone around her.
Agnes became an excellent cook well known for her brownies, candy, and especially her cinnamon rolls. I am still checking with her family to see if any of her favorite recipes are still available. Meanwhile, I will share this favorite brownie recipe that I plan to compare with hers when it is available.
EVELYN’S FAVORITE TRIPLE BROWNIE
1 box chocolate pudding mix (the kind you cook)
1 regular-sized box chocolate cake mix
Nuts if desired
First, cook the pudding mix according to directions. When it has cooled slightly, add the dry cake mix. Mix very well until the cake mix is well incorporated with the pudding.
Pour into a 9 by 13 well buttered baking dish, sprinkle top with chocolate chips and nuts. Bake according to directions on cake mix box. Do not overbake. The top will still be shiny.
This is a heavy, cake-like brownie with a wonderful flavor.