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Sunspots - Orville Koosman 11-2-13


Orville Koosmann of Hancock began woodcarving in 1972 when he finished the inside of his family home near Appelton. He is pictured here with the grandfather clock he made for his wife, Darlene.

There is an unmistakable fragrance of fresh-cut wood, and sawdust covers the floor of the shop where Orville Koosmann sculpts dollhouses for his granddaughters and cribs for his great grandchildren. Saws and assorted tools of his craft, some handmade, line the walls in anticipation. In the midst stands the bones of his latest project: an oak and aspen hutch for one of his granddaughters.

A wood carving of The Last Supper, striking in its painted detail and variety of wood, adorns a wall of his home near Hancock. An ornate grandfather clock, crafted for wife Darlene over a span of “about 200 hours,” stands as a proud centerpiece against an adjacent wall.

“I built a clock for each of our girls too. They furnish a picture and the dimensions of what they want me to make. I’ve made toys for the kids including tractors, also coffee tables and trunks.”

While he often builds from oak, “I choose the type of wood to use according to its color,” said Koosmann, whose passion for carpentry and woodworking was fueled in 1972 when he finished all of the inside of the couple’s new house on a farm near Appleton. “I did all the inside building including some of the cabinets. We didn’t have money then to hire it done.”

Orville Koosmann was born in April 1934 to Martin and Lydia Koosmann, one of four children. A sister Violet now lives nearby in Alexandria. Brothers Jerry and Elton live in Wisconsin and Chaska.

He attended District 57 country school in Swift County and graduated in 1951 from the West Central School of Agriculture, now the site of the University of Minnesota, Morris campus. He met Darlene through a mutual friend.

“She lived nearby and worked for the John Deere dealer,” said Orville. “I thought if she worked for John Deere she was worth getting to know. I took her to see the movie Titanic for our first date.” Orville and Darlene were married Nov. 21, 1954.

Along with son Tim (Natalie), the Koosmann’s have two daughters: Wendy (Bennett Zierke)—who lives with her family next door—and Wanda (Gordon Weber) of Buffalo. Thirteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren complete the Koosmann clan.

Orville farmed for more than 40 years on land near Appleton, as did his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him. The last pigs were sold in 1972. Now son Tim and his family live and farm on the same site where Orville was born and raised.

“It’s all grain now,” said Orville, who moved to the Hancock area in 2009. “I stayed in this area because I wanted to farm. I had fun doing it, but it’s not easy to get started in farming now.”

Farming for Orville today includes helping Tim on occasion and housing chickens in his backyard that belong to the grandchildren. In addition, there’s a menagerie of cats and newborn kittens that keep the neighborhood mice at bay.

In retirement Orville golfs, reads about adventure and history, and enjoys life with Darlene. “My greatest accomplishment was marrying her,” he said with a nod in her direction. “We do everything together.”

The couple has cruised to the Caribbean, driven their motor home to Alaska and visited China, Japan, Hawaii and Hong Kong. “We spend December through March in our motor home in Lake Havasu, Arizona.”

Together, Orville and Darlene “stay close to God” through their membership and commitment to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in rural Morris. In addition to building furniture and art pieces for family members, Orville has crafted works depicting Jesus and Palm Sunday for his church family. “Church is important to us."

“I am who I am because of the way my folks raised me,” said Orville. “[Darlene’s] dad once told me, ‘If you want good neighbors you have to be one,’ and that’s the way we try to live.”