Meeting the Hormels

Published 12:52 pm Sunday, July 31, 2016

Members of the Hormel family visited the Hormel Historic Home. Photo provided

Members of the Hormel family visited the Hormel Historic Home. Photo provided

I had the pleasure of meeting several of Ben Hormel’s family descendants recently. Their visit to the area served as a family reunion as they took a walk through many parts of their family’s history.

Here’s a quick genealogy lesson:

Ben Hormel was George Hormel’s youngest brother-17 years younger.

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Ben had three children: Lois, Virginia, and Ben Jr.

Lois had three children: Betty, Patricia, and Jerre making George Hormel their Great Uncle.

Betty and her husband David Rowe, along with their 4 adult children and spouses, visited our area last week.

Most of the family arrived from Maine while two came from California. I joined them in Clear Lake, Iowa, where we were welcomed into the cottage that George Hormel built on Dodge’s Point in 1914. Upon his retirement George transferred ownership of the two-story home to his brother, Ben, whose family then enjoyed it until the early 1950’s. The family that purchased the cabin from Ben still owns the property, and though they have made changes, some out of necessity and some to accommodate their needs, the structure is little altered.

Betty’s mother, Lois, was the main property owner once her father moved to California when he retired after 50 years with the Hormel Company.  For Betty and her sisters, the cottage was their summer home. She shared memories of her time there and showed us her room and other unique features. Some of the original kitchen cabinetry remains in use and the Hormel family piano, a Square Grand, still occupies a portion of the living room. Wicker furniture is also original to the Hormel family. Our visit allowed Betty a walk down memory lane and the opportunity to share a special part of her life with her children — 3 of whom had never been to the area.

Several elements of the property reminded me of the Hormel Historic Home. The Clear Lake cottage was designed by Harry Wild Jones, the same architect who renovated the Austin home. From woodwork to light fixtures and built in storage, many features were similar.

Betty and her family then came to Austin to tour the Hormel Home.  She presented me with a quilt that her Great Aunt Belle (Lillian Hormel) made for her mother in the late 1920’s.  The lovely pink coverlet will be proudly displayed as an original family artifact.

They also visited the Spam Museum and the Hormel Institute and were thrilled by both. Logistics did not allow them to tour her grandparent’s home on 4th Street Northwest (formerly Kenwood Ave.) during this trip, but she has many fond memories of visiting as a child.

The family was genuinely impressed with what Austin is doing to both preserve the past and progressively contribute to the future. They have all lived their lives outside of Austin, but I think Austin might have found a way into their hearts and will make them even more proud of their heritage.

Free Garden Concert

6:30 p.m., August 1, 2016

Bissen Family and Friends performing classic Bob Dylan and other 60’s favorites. In a return visit, the group is sure to entertain and engage the crowd. In honor of the 10th anniversary of Dan Bissen’s passing, a collection will be taken for the Hormel Institute Cancer Research Center.