Sweet gifts from a sweet lady

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Walentyna Andersen
Walentyna Andersen

Walentyna Andersen is remembered for her love of honey and beekeeping. A proper estate plan made sure her generous intentions were remembered as well.

What’s the secret to a long, healthy life? According to Walentyna Andersen, the secret is a spoonful of honey and a pinch of cinnamon every morning.

Known as the “Honey Lady” to the people in the Lake Benton, Minn., area, Walentyna passed away at age 89 last year. She will be remembered for her love of bees and honey, and for gifts given in her memory by her estate.

“Walentyna had a modest but detailed estate plan. She was able to include what was important to her,” said Robert Heuermann, executive director of the Catholic United Financial Foundation. “Her case is typical of most of the estate planning we do with our donors…thousands and thousands of dollars versus millions and millions.”

Sales Representative Dan Markell of the Marshall, Minn., area met Andersen at a Catholic United Financial Estate Planning Workshop with John Tetzloff in 2009. He continued to bump into Walentyna later at church suppers and events. During his visit to her quaint home, Walentyna shared stories about her childhood in Grudziadz, Poland, which included enduring the harsh German occupation during World War II.

“On one side was the Russians to the east and the Germans on the west. She said her family lived in a cellar for most of the war and only came out at night to forage for food,” Markell said. “It’s a miracle that she survived the war at all, let alone made it to the United States.”

It wasn’t until Walentyna came to the US and married Iver, her first husband, that she became involved in the practice of beekeeping. She reportedly had to overcome a fear of bees to help Iver care for the 300 to 400 hives on their property. Walentyna continued bee husbandry after her husband’s death, even entering her honey in Minnesota State Fair competitions.

“She just loved her bees,” Markell said. “The place where she lived was known as ‘Honey Corner’ because she lived in an intersection out in the country. She had jars and jars of honey sitting out like a roadside stand.” Some items were priced, but Honey Corner ran on an honor system; people took a jar of honey and left the amount of money they thought was fair.

Andersen’s estate left gifts to St. Genevieve Catholic Church of Lake Benton, Minn., her husband’s Lutheran church, and a gift to the Msgr. Schuler Seminarian Charitable Trust of the Catholic United Financial Foundation. The fund provides Catholic seminarians grants to cover basic living expenses so they can concentrate on their studies and answer their call to the priesthood.

“She also left money to her nieces and nephews in Poland,” Heuermann said. “Her planning in advance allowed for a combination of gifts to family and faith.”

Whether she intended to or not, the Honey Lady left us with an excellent example of planning a legacy in advance. The gifts of humble Honey Corner have been spread to ministries and family on two continents. Walentyna’s legacy, mixed with a pinch of cinnamon, is a legacy we can admire.