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Grand Forks woman stays active after long life on the farm

Juhl knits and crochets scarves when she has time. Between church, appointments, puzzles and baking bread, she maintains an active schedule. Photo by John Brose/Special to the Herald
 As the smell of homemade bread fills her Parkwood Place apartment, 86-year-old Betty Juhl prepares a space on her kitchen counter for the arrival of loaves from the hot oven. “I never buy bread,” she says. “I’ve always made my own, because I know exactly what’s in it. Istarted making my own bread back on the farm.”

 Juhl decided a few years ago that she and her husband, Ralph, were tired of driving to Grand Forks in the snow and ice for church and weekly visits to the clinic from the farm on the outskirts of Drayton. After contemplating renting an apartment in the area for ease of getting to and from appointments, Juhl’s husband resisted keeping another household in the city. But that didn’t stop her from getting what she wanted.


 “We were only going to stay for the winter, so I got an apartment and didn’t tell him,” she says.


 And their lives at Parkwood Place began. Soon the couple was keeping busy in town during the winter, seeing family and friends and attending more church functions, and the apartment became a permanent residence. Their son Jerry now helps maintain the farmhouse in the winter, and the farmland has since been rented to area farmers.


 In the summer, Juhl travels back to her farm and keeps it in working order, cooking bread and even planting in her garden.


 “In the summer, I plant a lot of flowers and veggies,” she says. “I take care of the gardening, the lawn-mowing, and I even cook for my son.”


 At the height of their farming career, Juhl and her husband worked as a team in the fields as they harvested and drove trucks to deliver beets.


 A hard-working woman, Juhl was never one to be kept away from her responsibilities. One year, while preparing her truck the day before the start of the harvest season, Juhl fell from the cab, broke some bones and wore acast until the season was over


 “I couldn’t be out of commission while the season went on,” she says. “I had to keep up with it, because it had to be done. So I had people bring me lunch and dinner and I just lived in that truck for a while.”


 Gone are the days when she drove her own combine, tractor and truck during harvest, but Juhl wouldn’t trade it for a comfy recliner. “I heard sitting isn’t good for you, so I like to stay as busy as possible,” she says.


Busy in the city


 Since Ralph’s passing in October, Juhl has maintained a high level of activity, even with her failing eyesight.


 “I don’t drive anymore,” she says. “But I really don’t need to with the available transportation here, and there’s also so much to do that I’m never bored.”


 Daily, Juhl walks the halls of the third floor, greeting staff and friends as she makes her way to the stairs to get to the activities room on the first floor. “It’s good to associate with people,” she says. “Even if I don’t know them.”


 Certainly, her friendly disposition and calming smile would make it difficult for even the grumpiest person to pass up a conversation with such a kind character.


 Juhl is always up for givinga go to whatever is on the schedule. From making desserts to creating floral arrangements, the possibilities are endless in the building’s activities center, and the end results are always eaten, shared or used for an added touch of flare in Juhl’s living room.


 A long-time member of Seventh-Day Adventist church, she has held numerous positions within the church from treasurer and bulletin writer to Sunday school teacher. Juhl is still active in the community and handles the collections for each service.


 “When you get to my age, you leave all the rest of that stuff for the younger people,” she says modestly, though it’s clear she still maintains the busy schedule she has held for so many years.


 In between filing taxes and taking care of her housework, Juhl wanders down the hall to the puzzle tables, where she and a friend master 300- to 1,000-piece puzzles each day.


 “Sometimes, we complete the puzzles so quickly that the woman who gives them to us teases us that she can’t keep up with supplying them,” Juhl says. “We leave the finished ones out for a few days just so everyone can see that we completed them. We’re pretty good.”


 But in between puzzles, church, appointments and various activities, Juhl puts her knitting and crocheting first. She has made a name for herself with her colorful scarves that she creates in her down time. Though she is quite successful, simply by fulfilling orders through word-of-mouth, she advertises her scarves on a sign just outside her apartment door.


 “I just sent a bunch of scarves off to family and friends,” she says. “But I don’t stop there, I also make baby blankets and things. It’s just a nice calm activity to do when I can.”


 With a full schedule and endless opportunities, Juhl wouldn’t have it any other way. “Take advantage of everything you can,” she recommends to those looking for her secret to a youthful life. “Don’t sit — enjoy the things around you.”