Idelle Bjelland has been many interesting things in her life, including a competitive ice skater, a college student, a wife, a mother, an art teacher with her own Minneapolis TV show, a marketing director, a business founder and owner, a grandmother, a Realtor, and a great grandmother. Three and a half years ago, she added resident of Trillum Woods to the list.
“As a Realtor, I took a continuing education course in senior living and it got me thinking about my own plans,” Bjelland explains. “I had originally thought that we — my husband Rolf and I — would downsize with enough room for a caregiver, but caregivers are in short supply. We then thought about communities in the southwest, thinking that this area might be too far north in the winter. Our friends disagreed and kept pressing us to look at three local communities. We toured Trillium Woods on a Monday, and signed papers on that Tuesday. We were that excited about the opportunities we found here.”
Accidental Ice Skater
Bjelland, 85, has lived in Minnesota since she was 7. In fact, it was the timing of the move that opened up new doors and changed the course of her life forever.
“When I was seven in Minot, ND, my sister and I were excited about an upcoming parade that we were going to be in,” Bjelland recalls. “Sally and I had taken dancing lessons and already had costumes made up for the big day. But unfortunately, we ended up having to move before the parade and didn’t get to participate. Shortly after we arrived in Minnesota, we were invited to an ice-skating party and we were told that it was a costume party. Our father painted hockey skates white and our mother got us dressed in their flashy parade costumes with white tights. As it turns out, we were the only ones dressed up.”
What could have been an embarrassing situation turned into a huge opportunity for the pair of transplanted sisters. “We weren’t good skaters, but the rink thought we looked the part and asked us to skate around by ourselves during the intermission while they resurfaced the ice,” she says. “People started thinking of us as real skaters and it led to us joining the Figure Skating Club of Minneapolis. I trained vigorously and competed until I was 18 – skating in ice shows at competitions in Chicago, Lansing, and Colorado Springs.”
Art Teacher Turned Local TV Star
Bjelland’s parents were adamant that she go to college — which she did, though she married her high school sweetheart and then started a family while she was still a student. Despite some time off for giving birth, she ended up graduating in only 3 ½ years. “As an ice skater, I traveled often and it forced me to be very organized in high school. It prepared me very well for periods of correspondence learning in college.”
By the age of 24, Bjelland had four kids, a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of Minnesota, and a job as a substitute teacher in a school district, where she flourished.
At the same time, the Minneapolis School District did not have the resources to hire art teachers in every school and was looking for an innovative way to cover this important subject. Soon, they had a solution: Bjelland — who was, in addition to being organized, very comfortable in front of a crowd from her days completing as an ice skater — was tapped to teach art classes on a local TV station. She provided lesson plans and supply lists to homeroom teachers ahead of time, and then taught over the airwaves to several classrooms of students at once. Her TV lessons continued from 1965-1974 and there are thousands of people aged 55-65 from the area who may remember her as their TV art teacher.
“Again, I attribute my success as a teacher on TV to all the preparation and performance skills I learned as an ice skater: Organization, determination, focus, and poise.”
When new teachers were found for the schools and her TV show was no longer necessary, Bjelland went back to teaching onsite at a school where she had previously subbed— but all sorts of jobs started opening up for her based on her success and familiarity on TV.
She was a marketing director for several different companies in various industries — and even started a company selling houseplants at Tupperwear-style parties. Flora Adora grew quickly and soon employed 30 people. Then, after her children graduated from college, she became a Realtor.
In her personal life, Bjelland met her future husband at a high school reunion — years after her marriage had ended. Actually, she once knew the then-widower Rolf very well, having run his successful campaign for senior class president several years before. They’ve been married for 19 years and between them, they have 8 children, 26 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.
Life at Trillium Woods
As a member of the marketing committee and an active ambassador of Trillium Woods, a life plan community in Plymouth, MN., Bjelland welcomes new and prospective residents. “Many new people are visiting because of the coming community expansion — with its new independent living residences, dining venue, underground parking, and salon and spa.
“I tell them all about the clubs, classes, workshops, events, parties, games, and other activities, assuring them that if they wish to be involved, they will be,” she says. “At the same time, I share with them the importance of moving into a life plan community — a place where care is available onsite if it’s needed. The best time to plan for change is before you need to and knowing that there’s expert care ready nearby brings us peace of mind.”
Making connections and friends at Trillium Woods is easy, Bjelland says. “Within hours of moving in, our new neighbors were knocking on our door to welcome us and invite us to events and dinners.”
And during her first holiday season at Trillium Woods, Bjelland discovered yet another connection to her ice skating past: “We took a tour of five homes in the community decorated for the holidays and in one particularly phenomenal home, a program from one of my Figure Skating Club of Minneapolis shows was up in a frame. It turns out that my sister and I had skated with my new neighbor Don Deline and his sister Patty many times and knew each other as kids. That sort of thing happens a lot at Trillium Woods. Most people discover old connections — but if not, it’s a great place to make new ones!”