Leona Cummings

Polk County History Woman of the Year







Leona Cummings


I am what you call a full-blooded Swede. My dad, Samuel Lindquist was born in this country, but his parents and brother were born in Sweden. My mom, Annie Lundeen’s grandparents also came over from Sweden. There is a Lundeen Road off of “48” named after the family. Both of my parent’s attended Round Lake School and The Swedish Lutheran Church at Trade Lake (Zion) in Burnett County. With roots like that, I was meant to be a talker, an eater and a stubborn Swede.


I was born in 1928 on a farm that the Lundquist family homesteaded and was later lost in the depression years. Today my family would have been called needy or poor. In those days it was not noticeable, as everyone was in the same boat and it was accepted as a way of life.


We lived off the land and rented a number of different homes in Polk County. The rent was sometimes ten dollars a month and not always paid on time. My dad worked at a feed mill in Frederic a number of years and some summers my mom would walk two miles to town to work at Stokleys Canning Factory during the summer months. We were five kids; Carmond, Elaine (Johnson), Deloris (Peterson), myself, and Gloriann (Jones) and we all had jobs early in our lives. I was twelve years old when I started my first job as a hired girl on the Walter Lindh farm. I milked cows by hand, washed the separator, the dishes, the clothes and the face of a little girl.


I had Sunday’s off and I walked home for the day. I was paid $1.25 a week. I was treated as one of the family and I never felt that I was missing out on one single thing. I also worked in town for Gust Johnson’s. Mrs. Johnson worked for the telephone Company and I took care of a child and made supper. I moved back home when I was fifteen years old. I had money in the bank, knew the meaning of caring, sharing responsibility and appreciation.


I started working at Hagberg’s Store in Frederic when at fifteen years of age. I had to send to the state for a special permit to work. I worked there six and one-half years. I married Royce Cumming in 1950 and then worked as a bookkeeper for the electric company until we started our family in 1954. I was a stay at home mom for our four sons, Jeffrey, Jon, Jay and Gene.


Royce hauled logs until we started our family business of a sawmill. I still do all the bookwork for our business known as Cumming Lumber Company, Incorporated.


All of these jobs molded my life. The recipe I use most often was written by my grade school teacher, Inez Nelson in my autograph book in 1939:


                           True worth is in being, not in seeming,

                                  In doing each day that goes by, some

                            Little good not in dreaming, of great

                            Things to do by and by.




I have made that recipe a pattern for my life along with my gift from God, my imagination. For the past 30 years I have held a weekly Bible Study at our care center. I go as Grandma Passage to the North West Passage Child, Adolescent Center in Frederic. I share stories, laughter and hugs. I become Johnny Appleseed, a pilgrim lady, a schoolgirl, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, a housewife; baking sewing and caring for the sick with home remedies and washing clothes on the washboard in my apron. In 1976, I became Betsy Ross with my collection of flags and memories. I do this to remind us of our duty to our country and to honor our veterans and our flag.


Perhaps my greatest little thing that grew into a great thing, was planting the seed that sprouted and grew into our Frederic Soo Line Depot Museum. This project was the result of ordinary people, pooling ordinary time and talent to accomplish an extra ordinary gift to our town and visitors.


Each day I make someone laugh and compliment someone. It doesn’t cost me one red cent, as they used to say. It isn’t money in the bank, it’s a gift to hearts.



Leona is a special gift to this community and we thank and honor her for the contribution she has made to mankind.


Garage sales are a big part of Leona’s life. Some years ago she told her sons that she had been to the mortuary and prepaid the funeral expenses and purchased a lot and a headstone. She came home and said, “I could just see what the headstone would say if it was left up to you boys. The oldest one would say, ‘let’s buy this one.’ The number two son would say, ‘let’s buy one a little nicer.’ Before she could finish the story the third son spoke up, ‘let’s buy her one at a garage sale, that’s the kind she would like the best.’”


Leona’s garage sale items are a history lesson from the past and she shares them with the young and old. She will become Betsy Ross for us at our March 22nd meeting, sharing some of the flags and other memories.