Laurie Robertson: a passionate life
Laurie Robertson has packed more into her 90 years than most people dream of. Although she now lives with her daughter in Park City, Robertson has done it all — from working various jobs, to writing books, traveling cross-country, and watching history take place in her own backyard. Maybe it was growing up in Madison, Minn. that made Robertson so adventurous, or her fascination with Native American culture. Whatever it was, Robertson never kept her passion to herself, allowing it to spread to her daughters, Girl Scouts, and anyone else who was lucky enough to be around her.
"Growing up in Minnesota she was always on the wild side, racing her little Mercury through the footpaths on my grandmother’s farm," said Ani Robertson, her daughter. Robertson’s own impressions of her early life in Minnesota included more than driving fast. She describes Madison as "a hamlet, center of trade for farmers of an undulating prairie landscape." She also remembers hearing Norwegian spoken in homes and around the streets. As her girls grew so did her work in the community. She was a Girl Scout leader in 28 of Minnesota’s counties and led 45 of the girls and leaders in a 10-day canoe trip, which retraced the route of the 1967 Indian uprising. Robertson is quick to add that this uprising was "justification on the part of the Native Americans." The journey had never been taken by women, "therefore it was ballyhooed by newspapers and widely pictured."
Robertson’s regard of Native Americans doesn’t stop there. On her property in the Cascades, she carved a 22-foot-high totem pole, completed in roughly 230 hours. And she was 65. "Authentic Native American paint used, and hand tools only, chisels, froe and mallet," says Robertson of her tools. She has also organized support, food and cultural events for Native Americans. She has traveled cross-country to view their scared sights and has befriended Sacagawea’s great-granddaughter along the way.
Robertson’s twin degrees in sociology and psychology have impacted her ability to "assess any situation with stunning clarity," said her daughter Ani. Robertson’s college degrees have also helped her land some impressive jobs. She worked in the personnel department of the Army Air Force Depot during wartime in Spokane, Wash. While in Washington, D.C., she worked at the Department of Agriculture as the editor of Rural Electrification News. In Kankakee, Ill., Robertson served as executive director of the YWCA and in Minnesota she was executive director of the Girl Scouts in 28 counties.
One of the most exhilarating experiences in Robertson’s life, besides trying to manage Girl Scouts in canoes, was living on the south side of Mount St. Helens during the explosion in 1980. "We watched with awe the fountains of grayish black smoke shooting miles high," she recalls. Robertson was required to sign in and out of the red zone just to make a trip into town.
Now that she has settled, Robertson’s hobbies tend to be more calm, including watching sports on TV and "repairing bric and brac around the house." The memories of her life will always be remembered though by her daughters in the books written just for them. "The books were completed over a 12-year period… were bound, three copies only, for my two daughters and for me."
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