- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - It may seem odd to consider, in this age of record-keeping and the ability to observe history by the minute, but when Lois Berndt was a high school student, her textbooks didn’t include World War II.

Berndt took her curiosity for the period and applied it toward watching movies and reading about it. Along the way, an interest in history developed, the Wahpeton Daily News (https://bit.ly/1VScoAZ ) reported.

“And my parents, after they retired, they collected antiques,” she said. “I got to see some of these beautiful things. There were times where everything was made out of different materials and they didn’t last. Whereas some of these old-time things were made better. It got to be where I liked antiques, too.”

Berndt, who’ll turn 79 in June, is the president of the Richland County Historical Society in Wahpeton. Since 1980, she has been involved with the society, first as a participant, then as the secretary and treasurer and now as its leader. Last year, the State Historical Society of North Dakota honored Berndt for excellence in local history and she continues to make improvements.

“We have to make (our exhibits) more interesting for children. We’re getting so many things, we’re just packed to the gills practically with artifacts. The plan is, we’re going to put a lot of things on CDs,” she said, adding that this form of preserving information will allow visitors to share it on their computers, make personal copies and so on.

The Richland County Historical Society often draws in visitors tracing their genealogy.

“It’s just so satisfying and gratifying to see how you’ve helped someone work on their family history,” Berndt said. “People are just unaware of what their great-grandparents did.”

That isn’t the case with Berndt, who traveled with eight of her cousins in 2004 to see Europe, in particular the country of Slovenia, where her grandfather was from.

“We stayed with one of my dad’s cousins, who was an English teacher, which was a great help to us. And we went to the church where our grandfather was born, where he was baptized and the surrounding community. And my dad still had 29 cousins there. But my grandfather was the only one who came to America. (The trip) was very interesting and a highlight of my life,” she remembered.

Berndt applied her fascination, creating several family histories.

“I’ve done my mother’s parents and my dad’s parents, plus I’ve done my husband’s parents. And when I was in Slovenia, they gave me a family history chart that went back to 1613,” she said.

Although her computer-archived histories were lost due to a crash, Berndt said she’s held onto the paper copies and has shared her information. She’s equally interested in sharing the story of Richland County.

“There’s so much new out in the county that we wanted to make a record of that,” she said.

On April 12, Berndt spoke before the Richland County Board of Commissioners, promoting the soon-to-be-released book, “Richland County Townships and Towns” and also requested $5,000 in funds for improvements to the building. The request was approved and some commissioners bought the book as well.

“It’s mostly what’s happening in the townships and the towns,” Berndt told the commissioners. “You go around and just about every little town has a celebration every year. I applaud them for that, they’re making their own fun.”

Fun that’s available and close to home.

“When we did the Richland County bus tours, I think that really opened people’s eyes as to what’s available in the rural area. A lot of town people never get out of town. Maybe they just zip up the highway. But when we were doing this book, we went out to the country and took pictures and went to places and talked to people. It’s kind of an eye-opener. And I think our book will say, if people want to see this, they can jump in their car and look for themselves,” she said.


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, https://www.wahpetondailynews.com

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