By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Delphine Silbernagel, as a child, lived briefly on a family farm near Dent, southwest of Perham. She recalls rural life in Otter Tail County with her mother, father, and ten siblings. The family moved to Fergus Falls in 1936 after her father lost the farm during the Great Depression.

Today Silbernagel, 91, is well respected by residents throughout the community of Fergus Falls. She takes pride in being a member of the Our Lady of Victory parish for 85 years.

Of the 11 siblings, Delphine is the only one still living. “I was not the youngest,” she says, “but number nine.”

When people ask how she made it this far in life, she says, “Know your faith and practice it. Work hard, stay as mobile as you can and have a good sense of humor.”

Delphine is especially proud of her four brothers, Dent natives, who served in the military, three of them during World War II and one during the Korean War. Among them was brother Robbie, a World War II D-Day survivor, who died in 2009.

Delphine, her older brother, Robbie, and other relatives moved to a house at 705 West Cavour in Fergus Falls in 1953. She was employed by Northwestern Bell Telephone near the northwest corner of Union and Lincoln in downtown Fergus Falls. 

Two nephews (Tony and David) and a niece (Kathleen) lived with Delphine and Robbie and attended Our Lady of Victory School, only two blocks to the east past Broadway.

“We were only one house from the end of the street and only had to walk across Buse Street to get to West End Grocery, which we always called Gerhardson’s,” said Delphine, while recalling corner grocery stores for the book, “Golden Memories of the Fergus Falls Area,” published in 2019.

The Silbernagels and neighbors on West Cavour, during the 1950s and 1960s, especially appreciated this corner grocery store on hot summer days when they could purchase ice cream or cold drinks, pop as they called it in those days.

“Our nephews Tony and David and niece Kathleen skipped over to Gerhardson’s many times a week,” Delphine said, “for errands, to buy candy or pop, or to visit with the Gerhardson kids.”

Her nephew Tony is remembered as the greatest basketball player at Our Lady of Victory School. He led the OLV seventh and eighth grade traveling basketball team to a record of 11-1 in 1960-61. That year the team played home and away games with area Catholic schools.

This past summer Delphine moved to an apartment on the east side of Fergus Falls. That’s where she was interviewed for an article for the church newsletter that goes out to Catholic parishioners in Fergus Falls, Elizabeth and Pelican Rapids.

To say that she has been an active member of Our Lady of Victory Church for many decades is an understatement.

Delphine attended daily Mass for 25 years at 6:30 a.m. and fondly recalls nephew David as an altar boy when Masses were in Latin. She took her two nephews and niece to Mass at 8 a.m., prior to the start of the OLV school day, and then headed to work at Northwestern Bell Telephone.

“We went to Sunday Mass together, Stations of the Cross Wednesdays during Lent, all of the Holy Week services, Saturday evening when there was Rosary and Benediction and went regularly to confession,” she said. “In those days nobody went to communion unless a few days earlier you had gone to confession.”

Delphine, for many years, wrote all the names on parish envelopes the week before Christmas. She was treasurer for St. Anne’s Society, belonged to St. Claire’s Mission Circle, was volunteer bookkeeper when the parish was served by Fr. Joseph Fridgen, sang in the choir, worked at church dinners and served during the annual fall festival.

She made personal visits to nursing homes and the Veterans Home in Fergus Falls, prior to the onset of Covid 19 in early 2020.

Going above and beyond the call of duty, she joined Sister Mary Peter (now retiree Sister Adela Gross) in painting all the closets in the old OLV convent. Her father and Ben Snyder painted all the walls in the house that formerly stood where the sanctuary of the current church now stands.

Delphine was sacristan for a few years, taking care of candles and the votive stand. She led the Rosary for eight years on Wednesday mornings and several years prior to the Saturday Mass. Delphine gave ongoing financial support to a little boy in Guatemala through the Godchild program.

Members of the parish who are more familiar with Delphine’s life story were amazed to learn that Delphine was only 21 when three kids, her two nephews and niece, were added to the family in Fergus Falls. 

These days, while visiting with people over coffee at the Viking Café in downtown Fergus Falls, Delphine recalls her mother working as a cook seven days a week at Skogmo Café for 30 years, then at the Western Café for 10 years, “bringing leftovers home for us.”

As for all of her volunteerism at OLV, Delphine says this was proudly done “for the greater honor and glory of God.”