Birthdays are special for the Nippoldt and Bothe families.
Victor Nippoldt and Roger Bothe have farmed across the road from each other for more than 50 years and were always ready to lend a hand when needed. That included celebrating birthdays together.
This month, Victor turns 90 and Roger and Ruth Ann Bothe and friends from Woodbury/Peaceful Grove United Methodist Church have planned a huge celebration.
"The two families have been together forever; they were family," Ruth Ann said on a recent visit to see Victor. "He was a surrogate grandfather to our son Brian. He was always there to babysit or run the tractor when we needed help."
Victor, who lives at Woodbury Villa, was born, grew up and lived 87 years in the house at 8175 65th Street in Cottage Grove. The Nippoldt property, now mostly the Highland Hills development, was farmed by Victor's father Lehart and his grandfather John Lawrence Nippoldt. Across the field, Roger Bothe's grandfather and father farmed. Both properties have been recognized as Century Farms.
Victor remembers attending the Sunny Hill School, on Inwood Road until the eighth grade when his father became ill and Victor and his sisters, Alice, Frances and Viola, were needed to work on the farm. Alice lived to be 94 and Frances, 90. They milked 40 cows twice a day and raised oats and corn, Victor said. None of them ever married except their sister Viola.
The families have been lifelong members of the Woodbury United Methodist Church, according to Roger Bothe. Both grandfathers, John Lawrence Nippoldt and Henry Bothe were founders. One Christmas Eve Victor recalled driving to church in a horse-drawn buggy. "They had a barn at the church for the horses," he said. "The horses would be sweating after the drive and we covered them in blankets in the barn during the service."
When he first helped his father, plowing was done with horses, he said. By the time Victor's farming days were over, he was driving the largest tractors.
In 1977, Victor went to work for the City of Cottage Grove's Public Works Department. In the winter, he plowed snowy streets and kept the skating rinks ready for kids.
When he sold the family home and moved three years ago, Ruth Ann, Roger and other friends helped him clean and organize the years of collected memorabilia. "Some was donated to the Woodbury Heritage Society," Ruth Ann said. Many of the photos she put together in albums for Victor.
All the photos are labeled and in chronological order and as he looked through them last week, Victor laughed at pictures of old cars. One -- clearly from the 1930s -- wasn't his, he said, "not stylish enough. My first car was a 1941 Chevrolet."