Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Sisters drive cross country to visit childhood home

  • The Barnes family of Rowena had 17 children, among them three who, now at or nearly in their 90s the trio made a return trip to their childhood home....
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  • The Barnes family of Rowena had 17 children – 10 boys and seven girls. Among the girls were three who ended up moving away from home, but now at, or very nearly in, their 90s the trio made a return trip to their childhood home to meet with family and reminisce about the place of fond memories. Marilynn Guardia of Mississippi, who is going to be 92 in September, Elaine Watson of Pennsylvania, who is going to be 90 in September and and Audrey Tracy of North Carolina, who is going to be 89 in December, made a trip across country by themselves as a group driving more than 900 miles.
    The trio met in Pennsylvania and then drove to Minnesota. While the three said they all took turns driving, it was Watson who did most of the driving. After all, it was her car. Guardia, Watson and Tracy talked about their trip and memories of life growing up in Redwood County at the site where the New Avon Salem United Methodist Church once stood – a few miles east of Wabasso. The land, said Tracy, was sold to the church by their great-grandfather, and the family lived close enough that missing church was never an option. The trio recalled a time when Rowena was much more of a booming community than it is today. They recalled the village having an elevator, a depot, a creamery, a stockyard, a general store and four houses. After finishing the eighth grade at District 8, each of the girls traveled to Redwood Falls for high school. During their time in high school, each took secretarial courses and got jobs working for area folks. The allure of the outside world called each to leave Minnesota, with Guardia and Watson traveling to California to work for Lockheed. “Mother would not let me go alone,” said Guardia. “I had to wait for my sister.” Tracy followed soon after, and as part of the military scene they would go to dances where they all met their husbands – each serving in a branch of the U.S. military. Between the three of them there are 10 children and nearly 190 years of married life. This was not the first trip the sisters had made back home, and they hope it is not the last one, either. “Next time I think we’ll probably have to fly, though,” said Guar-dia with a smile. All three considered life in Rowena a good one, adding they enjoy the reminiscing about the good old days.
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