When Leo Palm was a young man living on his parent’s farm he was completely happy and contented with the rural lifestyle to which he was born.
He loved the satisfaction that comes after a hard day’s work, the joy of working with his beloved horses and the pleasure derived from making a living from the land.
Now that he has reached his 90th birthday nothing has changed.
He still loves the simple things in life and seems to be the kind of person who has the natural ability to greet each new day with optimism and gratefulness.
Sitting at the scrubbed kitchen table with his wife Ruth, while spruce trees outside the window create a pleasing backdrop, Palm reflects on a life well lived.
The Palm’s farm, located a few miles south of Rimbey truly is a lovely, serene place, with open spaces shaded by plenty of trees.
Leo Palm was born in his grandma’s house in the Sunset Hills near Eckville on Sept. 1, 1926. He was born to William and Irene Palm, the oldest of eight children.
As a young man he wasn’t much interested in book learning, preferring to get his education through hard work and tests that life outside the classroom had to offer.
“I never liked school much,” he said. “My dad said I should go to school, but I liked being on the farm, working hard and being with the horses. I loved horses.”
Ironically, the young man who didn’t like school ended up marrying a schoolteacher, a young lady who had come to teach at the Estonian school near the Palm homestead.
The two met for the first time one day when the threshing crew that Palm was working on came in for a meal at the farmhouse where the young teacher was receiving board and room.
He said Ruth was his first and only girlfriend, but it wasn’t love at first sight.
“It was love after threshing,” he said with a chuckle. “And it turned out alright.”
The couple was married in 1950.
He said he has no advice for young couples regarding marriage. He added, however, that his wife has always supported him in his endeavors and they were a good team, always going in the same direction.
“She’s been with me all the way,” he said.
Ruth just smiled and nodded at her husband’s words.
“You have to respect the other person. No two people are alike and you have to listen to each other.”
Palm and his wife agreed that farming nowadays is difficult, filled with many financial challenges. In spite of those hurdles, the long time farmer believes if there’s a will, there’s a way.
“When I was young and frisky I cleared 30 acres with an ax and a grub hoe,” he recalled. “If you really want to, there has to be a way. You still have to feed people.”
The couple moved to the farm near Rimbey in 1955. They are still on the original homestead and built the house where they still reside in 1961.
“It’s so nice to be here,” said Palm. “There is no place on earth I’d rather be.”
Ruth and Leo Palm raised nine children. Two of their children, Lois and Gord, passed away as young adults. They have 23 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
Throughout the years the couple has lived through joy and sadness, heartbreak and laughter, experienced the excitement of welcoming new babies into the family and felt the devastating sorrow when loved ones passed away.
Music has played a major role in their life. Ruth is an accomplished pianist and her husband taught himself to play the violin when his children were studying music at school.
The couple loved to dance and could often be seen on the dance floor cutting a rug or socializing with friends at old time dances.
One year they spent a month in Finland, exploring Leo’s family roots.
About five years ago Palm had a stroke. The stroke limited his mobility somewhat, but he still likes to go to dances and visit with friends and neighbours.
“I like to see the people and visit,” he said.
Palm’s love of horses has spilled over into an interesting collection of horse paraphernalia including saddles and bridles. The items are stored in a little shed he calls his museum. A wringer washer, coal and wood stove, lanterns and other antique items are also included in the museum.
Palm is also the proud owner of cupboards owned by grandparents on both sides of the family. He has an eye for antiques and what might be junk to another man is a treasure to him.
“You have to be careful what you haul to the dump,” he said.
Reflecting on his life, Palm feels fortunate to enjoy each day and make the best of every moment. He said he tried cigarettes when he was 12 year old, but gave the package to his father as smoking made him sick. He was never interested in partaking in alcoholic beverages and says he can count the number of times on one hand he has ever been in a drinking establishment.
And while he may not be rich in the monetary sense, living a good, clean simple life and being contented with his lot in life seems to have made him very rich, indeed.
“I like to sit outside and just admire the trees I planted and I like it when my horses come around the corner. “
He very much enjoyed his 90th birthday party that was attended by about 150 family and friends. A surprise visit by a grandson coming from Sweden and two men whom he had gone to school with were among the many wonderful highlights.
“It was nice to see those boys,” he said. “I still call them boys,” he said with a laugh.