Guest column: Why I love Albert Lea

Published 5:23 pm Monday, November 4, 2019

By Judy Popp-Anderson lives in Conger, works as a grief care provider for Bonnerup Funeral Service and enjoys time with family and friends.

My love for Albert Lea can be summarized in a few words: people, opportunity and location. It was not, however, love at first sight. I moved to Albert Lea in January 1976 when I got married to my husband, Ruben Anderson. Other than Ruben, I had no significant connections with anyone here.  After a couple of months of sitting at home waiting for Ruben to return on Thursday afternoon from his job of selling farm supplies in Iowa, I bemoaned that I would never work again. His comment was, “who knows you’re here?” and gave me a nudge to get my resume out and start looking around.  I connected with Fountain Centers and met wonderful people, many of whom have become lifelong friends. I have been taken underwing by awesome mentors wherever I worked. Lesson learned: You do need to take the first step. 

When I talk about loving the location of Albert Lea, I include the surrounding communities. We moved to Conger in 1977 and found awesome neighbors, friends and adopted family. Most of the time, Albert Lea has been my work home. I have always enjoyed Fountain Lake, whether it was eating my lunch on the shore or walking around the lake. My drive from Conger provides breathtakingly beautiful scenery and inspiration.

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The faith communities give great strength to Albert Lea. The variety of denominations allow for people to find a church home if they are looking for one. I have appreciated the opportunities to worship with many people, share and support our common bonds and respect our differences. I am grateful for the ministers who have served me and so many of the people I have worked with who need a spiritual guide — especially those who hear Fifth Steps for people in recovery or working on recovery, the variety of supports for those who have lost loved ones, those churches that provide meals for those in need of food or companionship, the area food shelves and the needs too numerous to mention that are met by people who reach out to others. The spirit of care makes life better for all of us. There is never a shortage of meaningful ways to volunteer.

When my husband died unexpectedly, I got support from so many at Bonnerup Funeral Service, my faith community, work, the Bricelyn community where Ruben’s business was located, friends and acquaintances. That was crucial for my being able to embrace my grief and a new unwanted journey. Locally owned businesses frequently came to my rescue. I remember purchasing a battery-operated trimmer from Raleigh’s Ace Hardware. Before I left the store, Dennis said, “Judy, let me put that together for you and give you a little tutorial.” That was so thoughtful. I continue to be impressed when they answer questions I didn’t know to ask, and it makes using a product so much easier.

There is a good variety of eating places, from elegant places for special celebrations to everyday-type eating where everyone knows your name if you frequent them often enough. 

As some of you know, I recently was named Female Senior Citizen Volunteer of the Year for the state of Minnesota. That award does not belong to me — it belongs to all the amazing people who have provided me with mentoring, support and friendship. I love Albert Lea.