Ladies honor Mom with annual trip

At 96 years old, (almost 97, she points out) Arnelda Otten has seen it all.

“I graduated high school here in Milaca the year everything went kaputs,” she said.

After coming of age in 1930 during the dawn of the Great Depression, she went on to raise 10 girls and three boys in the Milaca area. All these life experiences haven’t stopped Otten and her daughters from exploring what more this world can offer, however.

The Otten women have carried on a Mother’s Day tradition of travel, companionship and adventure for nearly 25 years. Otten, along with her girls Janice Hallin, Carol Mueller, Joan Beckrich, Sharon Wolfe, Diane Sproessig, Nancy Fradette, Cathy Gaffer, Mary Owens, Norma Bruflodt and Ruth Struffert come together each Mother’s Day after much planning and anticipation for their yearly trip.

What started as a trip to see Mueller’s daughter in college, the women are happy to continue with the tradition.

“We just decided to do something for Mom, and ourselves,” Hallin said. “We thought we deserved that.”

Sometimes, one of the sister/daughter-in-laws Otten boys Bob, Jim and John have welcomed into the family also join the women.

“We explore,” Hallin said. “We tour bed and breakfasts. We try to do something educational. We go to plays and museums. It’s an adventure, and we look forward to it every year.”

During the years, the group has visited southern Minnesota and Iowa and the iconic locations of “Little House on the Prairie” creator Laura Ingalls Wilder. They’ve explored more of the neighbor to the south, Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and more.

“We’ve thoroughly loved getting to know Minnesota,” Gaffer said. “We find the little old towns that you may have never heard of.”

Along with the physical and performing arts, the women also enjoy visiting some of the more recent agricultural offerings in the state.

“We love to go to wineries. She’s always done with her sample before us,” Gaffer said laughing.

Wherever the caravan of women ends up, the focus is always the same.

“Every time we go, we try to honor Mom,” Hallin said. “We made her queen one time.”

The daughters have put on plays for their mother, made hats for the entire clan, planned brunches and tea parties in her honor, and put on musical concerts for Otten.

“We always sing ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ because that’s her favorite song,” Owens said.

“One year we all died our hair red,” Struffert added. “Because then they’d know we were all her daughters.”

For the full story, see the Thursday, May 17 print edition of the Times.