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Dolores Terlinden celebrates 100th birthday with fond memories of family, faith, and Christmas tree business

March 23, 2024 – West Bend, WI – A special Happy Birthday note to Dolores Terlinden of West Bend, WI, who turns 100 years old today.
Terlinden is well known in the community. She carries the title of longest member at Peace United Church of Christ in Kewaskum where she was baptized, confirmed, and married. Dolores and her late husband Ervin are probably best know for running a Christmas tree stand, Terlinden’s Tree Lot, at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Poplar Street in West Bend for over 60 years.

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During a sit-down in her living room Dolores covered a long list of fond memories including her family, life in West Bend, and how she met her husband.
“That was a long time ago,” said Dolores. “I went to Elm Grove Grade School and Kewaskum High School when Mr. Rose was the principal. I had to walk to school, and now kids get a ride to everything.”
Ervin, she said, grew up in Kohlsville, never went to high school and worked for a farmer.
Maus
Dolores met Ervin at a dance in Wayne. “My brother had a friend, Phillip, who took me to the dance and Ervin was there. I didn’t look twice at him but Ervin said, ‘Where did you meet that red head?’  I had red hair at that time and then we started double dating, but Ervin was after me from the start and then Phillip said, ‘You can have her’ and I went with Ervin ever since.”
Dolores said she liked Ervin because “he was just a nice guy.”
“He didn’t have a car at first and we didn’t have money, but on Wednesday nights we would go to the movies and then to Sam’s Club for a hamburger and malt and then we’d go home. Saturday nights, if there was a dance at Cedar Lake at Gonring’s we would go to the dance.”
Dolores, who grew up in the Town of Barton, said she was 21 and Ervin was 22 when they got married. The newlyweds moved into the corner house on Poplar Street right in December 1945.
“We only had a little part of the house on the east end when we first moved in. Then when Ed Berres moved out and the landlady died, we bought the whole house and Ervin remodeled it.”
Over the years the Terlindens had four kids, Gary, Jean, June and Carl. Now Dolores is grandmother to 10 and great grandmother to 11 children.
Pastor Eric from Peace United Church stopped Thursday to wish Dolores a happy birthday. He joined the conversation and questioned Dolores about the tree business. She couldn’t quite recall how it started, so her daughter Jean chimed in that Ervin had a reputable roofing business during the summer and during the winter the tree sales helped as a seasonal side hustle.
“We had trees all over,” said Dolores. “We sold trees and wreaths for over 60 years. Ervin has been gone 15 years but Gary (her son) helped in the later years.”
“Ervin then started making wreaths and I helped,” she said.
The ‘wreath factory’ was in the back of the Terlinden’s garage. “I’d add ribbon and pine cones,” said Dolores. “We’d use white shoe polish to make it look like snow on the pine cones. That worked better than paint.”
Up until two years ago Dolores was still making wreaths.
cast iron
“Daddy had ropes and he strung them like a clothesline and then perched the trees against them so it looked like teepees on our front lawn,” said Jean. “Us kids would play underneath them and all of a sudden dad would see our heads stick out and he’d yell, ‘Get out of those trees!'”
The price of the trees when the business started in 1950 were in the range of $2. Jean recalled, “The kids would come down from McLane School with the pennies they collected and buy a tree and carry it back up,” she said.
At 100 years old Dolores is still feisty. A little slower than she’d like. “I have a bad knee, I can’t see and have trouble hearing,” she said.
Despite the challenges of being around a century, Dolores is eagerly celebrating her birthday and enjoying the company that stops to visit.
“Be sure to have a piece of cake before you go,” she said. “It’s angel food cake with sprinkles inside,” she said. Still a favorite after all these years.

Below is a story from 2007 about the Terlinden Tree Lot

TERLINDEN FAMILY ENTERS 60TH YEAR OF CHRISTMAS TREE SALES…
The traditional Terlinden Christmas tree lot is open for another season in the front yard of the Terlinden home at 8th and Poplar in West Bend.

On Tuesday Gary Terlinden was busy stacking balsam and Fraser trees up against the wood siding of the home he grew up in.

“The year after I was born was when my family started the tree business,” said the 60-year-old Terlinden who recalled more snow back in the day.
“We’d play in the trees and crawl underneath and I remember there was always more snow than we get these days.”
Back in the day the Terlinden’s carried up to 2500 wild trees cut from up north. The stock has been trimmed back some, as the lot now carries 300 trees that have been pruned and sheered and trucked in from tree farms in Burnwood and Antigo in northern Wisconsin.
Terlinden
The Terlinden’s specialize in handmade wreaths and really big trees, some 15 and 17 feet tall.

A 15-foot long piece of wood that’s taped off in red every 12 inches serves as the handy measuring stick. “When you’re outside you have no idea how big that tree is and since many people have only eight-foot ceilings and we’ve got 10-and-12 foot trees and the stick comes in handy.”

Terlinden said people with cathedral ceilings and a lot of room can handle a big tree. “They’re beautiful once they’re decorated.”
Sixty years ago a Terlinden tree cost between $2.50 and $3. “Of course we had 25 cent gas then too,” said Terlinden who will be selling the trees until Christmas for $4 a foot.
“We see most of the same customers. Of course there’s been a transition over the course of 60 years, we’ve lost a few but the same people come back year after year.”
November 2012 Dolores Terlinden has wreaths and boughs for sale. For 66 years Terlinden and her husband Ervin sold trees from their front lawn at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Poplar Street.
This year Dolores, 88, called it quits on the tree sales although she is still selling hand-made boughs and wreaths starting at $15.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Happy birthday mom. I’ll see you next month when I’m home for Cora’s wedding.
    ( One of her great granddaughters)

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