“I could have stayed here forever, rather than trekking to some distant territory,” writes Naomi Gaede-Penner in her newly released book, “Prescription for Finding Home in Alaska.”
“Here” refers to Kansas, in particular her grandparent Leppke’s farm outside of Peabody. “Distant territory” was Alaska in 1955.
“From my earliest days, I bonded to my Grandma (Bertha) Leppke who was as warm, nourishing, and soft as the bread she baked,” said Gaede-Penner, who now lives in Parker, Colo.
As for Solomon Leppke, “Grandpa didn’t sit on anything (to milk.) He just squatted beside the cow on his heels. Even late in life, Grandpa still had one of the strongest handshakes in Marion County.”
Gaede-Penner’s parents, Elmer and Ruby (Leppke) Gaede, had expected to be dairy farmers in the Hillsboro area, where he’d grown up in the family of Henry A. and Agnes (Ediger) Gaede.
But after graduating from Tabor College, Elmer Gaede went on to achieve his medical degree at Kansas University.
His occupation as a physician led them to Anchorage, Alaska, then to a remote interior village along the Yukon River, and later to homestead on the Kenai Peninsula.
In “Prescription for Finding Home in Alaska,” Gaede-Penner tells her story, beginning as a young girl, transplanted from the flat-land prairies of Kansas to the isolated wilderness of Alaska.
She describes her struggle as she searches for home against the backdrop of village potlatches, school in a Quonset hut, and Native friends.
She recounts her father’s adventures as a bush-pilot doctor and her mother’s attempts to cope with frontier homemaking.
The book includes harvest-time and farm-life nostalgia reflections on how Depression-era parents reacted to life and how small-town, traditional couples parented.
Gaede-Penner’s first book, “Prescription for Adventure: Bush Pilot Doctor,” recounts her father’s medical emergencies, flying hazards and hunting adventures.
Both books can be purchased from the Tabor College bookstore and Thee Bookstore in Hillsboro, or Faith and Life Bookstore in Newton. They also can be checked out at the Tabor College Library.
Gaede-Penner was a featured this fall at the Tabor College 60-Plus program.