Living by grace: Bretzman enjoys simple pleasures

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Pat Bretzman tends her flowers on her patio in Worthington's Okabena Heights neighborhood. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Visiting with Pat Bretzman is as pleasant as a summer breeze.

That’s because Bretzman is a “people person” who can happily chat away with just about anyone at any time.

“I’m not quiet; no, never,” she laughed. “I like being with people, I want to talk with people and I talk a lot.

“Rick (her husband of 48 years) is the quiet one,” Bretzman asserted. “Opposites attract, apparently.”

Bretzman, 69, graduated from Windom High School in 1967. The former Pat Borer grew up in Windom with her three younger brothers, and she relished her family’s residential location in part because it made her movie habit accessible.


“We lived about two blocks from the theater in downtown Windom,” she said. “I enjoy movies, and I’m really thankful that our city council is bringing a theater back to town.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing because theaters provide good entertainment for people of all ages.”

But despite sometimes having Hollywood stars in her eyes, Bretzman is a very down-to-earth woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands — or at least her work gloves — dirty.

“I love flowers — any kind of flowers,” admitted the garden aficionado who displays a sign reading, “Bloom where you are planted” by her front door. “Annuals, perennials, you name it.”

In devoted fashion, Bretzman cares for a multiplicity of plants and flowers in the yard of her Okabena Heights home near the fish rearing ponds. The site not only proves fertile for her gardening but also affords a scenic outlook that’s pleasing to two longtime farm dwellers.

“We have a great view,” said Bretzman. “I love looking at the lake, and at all the evergreen trees along Whiskey Ditch.”

Bretzman’s efforts to brighten the corner where she lives have garnered some attention; the Bretzmans’ yard has twice been named a Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce “Flower Power Yard of the Week,” with the most recent citation coming this past June.

“Really, I try to keep in the background and I don’t like the spotlight,” emphasized Bretzman.


What Bretzman likes best is keeping herself busy, especially in service to others.

Whether occupied with something at her church (she’s a member of the United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church), with the local hospital auxiliary or as a regular volunteer at the Manna Food Pantry, Bretzman is frequently on the go.

“I help out at church when there is a call for it, and I volunteer three times a week at the Manna Food Pantry,” she said.

“We [the volunteers] have a lot of fun, and yet we see such need,” Bretzman continued. “You hear so many bad remarks about people, and I hate that because everyone’s got a story — and maybe we just don’t know someone’s story yet.”

Bretzman’s heart for service has grown through the experience of personal trials throughout her own life, including enduring the farm crisis of the 1980s.

“I met Rick in Lakefield,” said Bretzman of her husband. The two married in 1971.

“He is the second youngest of eight kids, and his dad died tragically when his car got stuck in the snow and he tried to walk home in the middle of a blizzard.”

The senior Bretzman’s death left his wife alone with a farm and eight young offspring. The eldest children — 15-year-old male twins — quit school to help out with the farming. It must have taken a great deal of work, sacrifice and determination, but the Bretzman family managed to hang onto the family farm (located between Windom and Lakefield) as Rick Bretzman grew up.


After Rick and Pat’s marriage, the couple joined forces in continuing the family’s farming tradition.

“I had been a town girl and didn’t know a thing about farming,” said Bretzman. “But I learned to drive tractors and combines.”

As the Bretzmans raised their three sons (Todd of Worthington; Jason, who continues to live on the family’s farm; and Brian, who lives with his wife Jill in Sanborn), the ’80s farm crisis hit and Bretzman had to double down on her work life.

“I went to work at the Sogge Memorial Home for, oh, 10 to 12 years,” said Bretzman, who later was employed in an assisted living home.

“The farm crisis was really rough but we were able to survive it,” she stressed.

“I know what it’s like not to have money for this and that, I know what it’s like to struggle, and I don’t wish that on anybody. There but for the grace of God go I.”

Eight years ago, Bretzman’s worsening allergies, plus a desire to be closer and more present for their two grandchildren (Austin Klaassen and Brooklyn Bretzman), prompted them to move into Worthington.

“We like being outdoors and going to ballgames,” said Bretzman, gladly mentioning that Brooklyn, 12, loves playing and practicing softball, thus fueling her grandparents’ sporting interest.

Bretzman mentioned that her dad had played fast-pitch league softball at Bergen.

“We spent a lot of time there, and Rick used to pitch for the Methodist team, and the kids played, too,” said Bretzman. “Fun times.”

Bretzman has coaxed Rick into joining her as a volunteer with the Nobles County Community Christmas Baskets program, and her granddaughter frequently accompanies her as a food pantry volunteer during the summer months.

“I’d planned on being a social worker, but that didn’t work out,” said Bretzman, who nevertheless finds plenty of ways to assist in the community.

“Yes, you could say I have a heart for helping others,” she said. “When I can, I want to do something to help.”

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
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