Sibling sleepover reunites nine sisters

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 2, 2001

No brothers allowed.

Monday, April 02, 2001

No brothers allowed.

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It could be a sign on the door of a girl’s room or playhouse. Or it could be the first-ever Jacobson sisters’ sleep over.

Nine of the 10 Jacobson sisters, who grew up on a farm near Bricelyn and later moved to Mason City, gathered at the Holiday Inn Express in Albert Lea Saturday.

&uot;Everybody is amazed that there are 10 of us and that we still like each other,&uot; said Joann Hall of Richfield.

The 10th sister, Carolyn Howlett of Britt, Iowa, had to cancel at the last minute because of an emergency within her immediate family. And their four brothers, Roger, Loren, Paul and Luther, weren’t invited. They have their own get-together.

None of the sisters could remember how long it had been since they’d been together just as sisters. &uot;Whenever five or six of us get together, we always take pictures,&uot; Marlene Marsh of Greene, Iowa, said between flashes.

The idea for the get-together came about in January, when two of the younger sisters, Beth Edmundson of Charles City, Iowa, and Rachel Morris of Mason City, were having coffee and decided to plan a weekend for the sisters.

They sent out e-mails and made some telephone calls.

In her e-mail to Naomi Rall of Greenville, S.C., Edmundson told her she’d be missed. &uot;Beth assumed I wouldn’t be able to come and I was really sad,&uot; Rall recalled. &uot;I’m normally the one who misses out on things.&uot;

Rall forwarded the e-mail to her husband at work. &uot;When he got home, he said, ‘Well, are you ready to go?&uot;

Other husbands were every bit as excited for the women as Rall’s. Marsh’s husband helped by making her a list of things she shouldn’t forget to take along. Hall’s husband even put money in her purse. &uot;He was really anxious for us to get together,&uot; she said.

It took quite a bit of planning to get it all together, but they chose Albert Lea for the reunion site because of its central location, and the date because it was the 20th anniversary of the death of their mother Mabel (Varland). Their father, Ludvig Jacobson, died in 1987.

The group met first for coffee in Ellendale, then went shopping and had lunch. After dinner, they planned to play lots of 500 – their mother’s favorite card game. All the women said they got new pajamas for the occasion – hence the &uot;sleep over.&uot;

&uot;We’ve been laughing since we got together,&uot; said Hall.

They also spent lots of time reminiscing about growing up together. The oldest sister, Shirley Miller, now of Thompson, Iowa, was already in nursing school when the youngest sister, Beth, was born. There is a 21-year spread between the oldest and youngest sister.

&uot;We had our own sorority,&uot; Hall said.

The older sisters remember they were &uot;assigned&uot; a younger sister to get ready for church and to find and hang onto during a storm.

&uot;We grew up in the church. We were never late, and we filled a whole pew,&uot; Hall said. &uot;We were really poor, but we didn’t know it.&uot;

While their parents weren’t overly demonstrative of their feelings, the sisters said they always felt loved.

&uot;We never questioned our love,&uot; Rall said.

Added Marsh, &uot;Our mother was the heart of the family, but dad was the head.&uot;

Eight of the sisters are in the medical field; six of them are registered nurses. Edmundson is a social worker. Morris is a teacher. The brothers all married RNs.

Marsh and Ruth Ott of Marble Rock, Iowa, put together a three-generation family book that they update annually. Hall’s husband has compiled a computer list of the 147 descendants of Mabel and Ludvig, including their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The family has an annual picnic at Miller’s farm – the roots of their parents, and are faithful in keeping up with each other. There are &uot;J-Fam Alerts&uot; through e-mail to notify each other of big news in their families. They’ve also had a round robin (letter) going around since the ’60s.

And whenever there’s a crisis in the family, they are there for each other. &uot;We reach out and pull people in,&uot; Rall said. &uot;We look for strength and try to build on that.&uot;

Edmundson said she was pleased with the results of the first sisterly get-together.

&uot;I think we can count it as a success,&uot; she said.

The sisters are hoping to do it again next year.

&uot;Maybe we’ll try Hilton Head,&uot; Marsh said.