• Outside phote of Northwestern High School in Maple Wisconsin

The “legacy” of families and communities working together is the inheritance my grandparents, parents, and the Finnish immigrants who settled in Maple, WI gave to me.

My grandparents, Konsta and Mary, farmed 160 acres of red clay and tended to a herd of 15 to 20 dairy cows.  Konsta’s brother, Charlie, lived and worked with them.  One of Mary’s brothers, Willard, who was born with disabilities also lived with them and contributed to the well-being of a family working together.  They needed each other.

Grandmother Mary-1914 - Joyce LudkeMy grandparents needed help with the rigorous work of farming.   Charlie and Willard needed work and a home.  This deep sense of responsibility and commitment to each other is their “gift” to me.

After the chores were done, Willard would crank up the phonograph and the music from the open windows drifted across the homestead.  Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb serenaded us late into the warm summer evenings.

Willard learned to be a welder and made dustpans which he sold to supplement his income.   Willard’s love of country music and his dustpan that I still use are my “inheritance” from him.

Mary’s hands were never idle.  My grandmother loved to crochet, embroider, and quilt.  To supplement their income, Mary would use the old wooden loom to weave rags into rugs and sell them.  My grandmother’s quilt keeps me warm at night and her woolen rag rugs brighten the floors.  I cherish these “gifts” knowing the love and work that went into them.

As hard as Konsta worked, he always had a twinkle in his eye while he sang silly songs in Finnish and told stories of his youth. These are “gifts” I cherish.

Great-uncle, Charlie, was very quiet and didn’t have much to say.  His “gift” to me is the quiet strength we need.

Even though my grandparents were poor, they always had newspapers in the house.  They subscribed to the Superior Evening Telegram, The Duluth News Tribune, two Finnish newspapers, and The Cooperative Builder.  I learned at a very young age that literacy is a cherished “gift.”

Because the nearest high school was 25 miles away in Superior, Mary had to stop her education after eighth grade.  My grandfather attended elementary school in Finland before immigrating to Maple.  This was true for many of the people in Maple.

These hard-working immigrants valued education because they didn’t have the opportunity to pursue an education.  They wanted a better life for us, the next generation. They knew a public education for all children was the key to this better life.  They believed a democratic society required an educated populace. They knew their investment in  public education was essential.  They were so proud when Northwestern High School was finally built in Maple in 1950 with eight communities that were part of The Maple School District  pooling their manpower and resources.

Northwestern High School’s website states:

Football Stands“The greatest resource we have as a community, as a state, and as a nation, are our children. The greatest hope we have for our children is in their education.

The greatest measure of a society is how it cares for our children.  With the help of our entire community, we can accomplish great things both for and through our kids.”

The Maple School District will see a $200,000 cut for 2015-2016.  The “legacy” the party in control of Wisconsin leaves is the defunding of these community schools built with so much pride by the generations who came before us.  The devastation to our children and communities  that is being wrought by a party bent on destroying public education must be met with a fierce determination to do what is necessary to assure a free, public education is guaranteed to all children for generations to come. 

Suggestions as to what to do are listed here.  For more information on the devastating cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools.