Roses of remembrance

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Connie Halvorson shows off the nearly 60 years worth of roses from her late husband, Roger. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

People often appreciate roses for their beauty, their scent, the gesture of love they symbolize. But for Connie Halvorson, the beauty isn’t just in the bloom, which has long since crinkled and crunched, its color and scent fading. It’s the memories—nearly 60 years worth.

Connie met her late husband, Roger, in Oct. 1954, when he was going to Upper Iowa University and she was a student at Fayette High School.

“He was my practice teacher. That’s how we met,” Connie recalled. For them, it truly was love at first sight. “We decided on our second date that we were going to get married.”

They did so on Dec. 27, 1955. Every year since, Connie made a habit of collecting the roses Roger gave her.

“I’m a keeper, and there were so many good memories,” she explained. “I would hang them upside down and let them dry, then stuck the flowers in a brown paper grocery sack. There were 10 grocery bags at the end. They just kept adding up.”

When Roger passed in November, Connie made the decision to turn the roses into potpourri, further preserving the memories.

“I’d been thinking about it for years as I was saving them. After he died, I knew there wouldn’t be anymore,” she said wistfully, “so I thought I’d make them up and enjoy them.”

The first step involved laying out the flowers on a dining room table in the cabin next door to her home in Marquette. Most of collection is red roses, although some other colors are included, too.

“Some little ones are from my bridal bouquet and some are also from the 70th birthday bouquet from my brothers and sisters,” Connie said. “Some red ones are from [Roger’s] casket. I gave him 58 red roses for the number of years we were married.”

A few lilies were also tossed in, paying homage to one of his favorite flowers.

“He liked lilies and hibiscus,” she said, “so we’ll keep his flower garden going.”

Once the dried flowers were laid out, Connie spritzed them with rose and apple cinnamon scents. From there, they’ll be distributed into airtight containers and given as gifts. Each of her and Roger’s four children received some of the potpourri for Christmas.

“It makes me happy,” Connie said, knowing that through the potpourri, a part of Roger will be with her, their family and many others.

Connie said she hopes others might consider collecting their flowers as a way to hold onto memories.

“Time goes by so fast,” she said. 

One piece of advice Connie was willing to share for other couples is to always “treat each other kindly.”

“We had no serious arguments,” she said of her and Roger’s marriage. “I always told my kids to put the other person first and you’ll never have any problems. That’s what we did.”

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