Death and Breath

I was thrilled to find this Memory Book, a treasure trove of important family history

During the course of putting my things in storage at my mom’s house before my impending move to California, I discovered a black, lace-bound “Memory Book” high atop a shelf. To my surprise and delight, it was a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, photos, letters and sundry items having to do with the history of my father’s family. It was a great find; with my dad gone, my mom, sister and I have only a sketchy idea of names, dates and events from our family’s past. It’s comforting to know that we have loads of family records in files that I hope to go through in the near future.

On the first page of the Memory Book was a death notice of a twenty-three-year old woman that clarified a question I had asked my mom just a week ago. The woman’s name was Amanda Bolsta, wife of Hartley. She left behind an infant daughter who was her namesake. Nearly seventy years later, I would come to know this child as my Auntie Mannie.

Later in the Memory Book, I found this wedding invitation for Hartley and Amanda's wedding reception on August 4, 1892

It’s a tragic story, to be sure, but one that also proves that death is just as much of a beginning as an ending. For in a cruel yet life-giving twist of fate, Amanda’s final breath turned out to be the breath of life for me. Hartley soon married Amanda’s sister, Ella, and together they had a son, Charles, who sixty-two years later became my grandfather. While I mourn the death of a vibrant young woman, I cannot help but bow in gratitude to the universal force that decided that the Bolsta lineage was due to be redirected.

Yes, Amanda’s sad and sudden end made my existence possible as well as that of my beloved daughter. Perhaps we will meet some day in the realm where she has resided for the last one hundred seventeen years. If so, I will embrace her and whisper two words in her ear: “Thank you.”

Here, on the first page of the Memory Book, is the newspaper notice of Amanda's death. The photo in the middle is of her husband, Hartley, my great-grandfather


Here, recreated word for word, is the 1893 newspaper notice of Amanda’s death:


BOLSTA—Amanda C., wife of Hartley Bolsta at Ortonville April 19, 1893.
Immediate cause of death was a ruptured blood vessel on the brain.


The death of Amanda C. Bolsta, wife of Hartley Bolsta of this place, which occurred Wednesday morning at six o’clock is one of the saddest. The couple had been married less than a year and this blow, coming as it does, passes a shade of gloom over the whole city. The deceased was one of Ortonville’s popular young women, respected by all, and by her death a happy home is broken up. She leaves an infant daughter, a loving husband and all Ortonville to mourn her death.

The deceased was 23 years, 10 months and 1 day of age. For a year she had been troubled with her head the result of a tumor on the brain: this was probably aggravated by the birth of the little daughter. The immediate cause of her death was the rupturing of a blood vessel in the brain. The family and friends have the sympathy of the entire community.

Amanda was only twenty-three when she died

Amanda Bolsta left behind an infant daughter, whom I would later know as Auntie Mannie. Here she is at age twenty-six.

Amanda Bolsta left behind an infant daughter, whom I would later know as Auntie Mannie. Here she is at age twenty-six.

I’m not the only person who is here today due to the tragic demise of somebody else. My friend Russ Blixt has an equally powerful story. Click here to read it.

Click here to see all my posts featuring my life stories.


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6 Responses to “Death and Breath”

  1. Glenn Says:

    What a blessing to have such a memory book… although there are digital equivalents (, there is something magical about ink and sweat from days of yore.

    California? Where?

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yep, can you imagine finding a blog written by your great-grandfather, Glenn? Awesome!

  3. Suza Says:

    That was very moving..thank you…

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My pleasure, Suza!

  5. Dan Dobrick Says:

    From your 5th cousin:
    After reading this, it occurred to me that through another’s untimely death one generation earlier, Hartley was born.

    Hartley’s mother Anna Christina Wilson was first married to John Ferdinand Schroder in St. Peter, ca. 1858 and had two children, Anna Matilda (b. 1859) and Josephine F. (3/8/1861 – 4/11/1918) (nurse, died in 1918 flu epidemic in Ortonville). This family shows up in St. Peter in the 1860 census: John, Anna, and Matilda. John died after August 1860 and before Anna’s marriage to Ole Bolsta 5/3/1865.

    Without this marriage, no Hartley!

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much, Dan. I didn’t know that! It’s amazing how many things, both large and small, had to fall into place for all of us to be here now!

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