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John Willenbring Oral History


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Biographical Information:

John Willenbring was born in Richmond, Minnesota, on December 10, 1882, into a family of German immigrants. Much of Willenbring’s childhood was split between working on his family’s farm and attending school. As an adult, Willenbring married his first wife, Mary Braegelman, in 1908, and purchased her father’s farm. They worked the farm until Mary passed away in 1933. Willenbring then moved to St. Cloud in 1935, where he married Agnes Digelski and worked until 1959 as a boiler inspector and labor organizer affiliated with the Farmer-Labor Party. Willenbring passed away on January 27, 1983 at the age of 100.

Transcript Summary:

In a pair of interviews conducted on December 14 and December 17, 1976, John Willenbring discussed his life as a resident of central Minnesota. Willenbring described that his early life was spent working on his parent’s farm, where he stayed until the age of 26. He then he married and purchased his father-in-law’s farm, which he worked until his wife passed away in 1933. Willenbring decided to relocate to St. Cloud in 1935, where he spent the next twenty-four years working as a boiler inspector for St. Cloud State University. He retired in 1959. Aside from his work and family life, Willenbring also discussed his role in organized labor movement. Willenbring said he helped to spearhead the creation of new unions for low-wage workers. Likewise, he also worked closely with the Farmer-Labor Party and, later, its successor, the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. He frequently collaborated with prominent members of the party like Minnesota governors Floyd Olson and Elmer Benson.

Interview conducted by James Robak and Calvin Gower


Image ID: 13668

See additional files below for full transcript.

13668_transcript.pdf (229 kB)
John Willenbring oral history transcript

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