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Centenarian set to hold book-signing


Local centenarian Fran Shelfantook recently published the second book in her trilogy and to celebrate and promote this, she will be holding a book-signing tomorrow (Aug. 1) at the Fort Frances Museum.

The signing will occur during the museum’s weekly “tea and scones” event, which is held every Thursday.

Shelfantook, who celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year, will be at the museum beginning at 1:30 p.m., along with some copies of her latest book.

“She won’t be reading but will be available should someone want her to autograph a copy,” noted museum curator Sherry George.

“Fran is part of our writers’ group here so we’re excited to have her,” George added.

“We’ve been hearing her stories all through the years, so for her to publish these books is great,” she remarked.

“We’ve all followed the books.

“I have read both books, they’re great,” said George. “It’s nice to have local history.

“It’s the sort of thing our own pioneers go through.”

Shelfantook’s daughter, Linda LaFrance, explained what the second book is about.

“The second book, ‘Emma’s Story,’ is about my mother’s grandmother, who had been born in Sweden and came over when she was three years old,” noted LaFrance.

“After [Emma] was married, she and her husband moved from Murdoch, Mn. to Duluth, Mn. and they ran a flour and feed store there.

“Then he died very young of typhoid fever, and Emma and her sons ran the flour and feed store for several years.

“She had a lot of health problems because of the damp weather in Duluth,” added LaFrance. “So her doctor advised her to move to the northern pine woods around Grand Rapids, just somewhere out of the real damp weather.

“So she and her two sons and one daughter homesteaded up around Grand Rapids, in a place called Squaw Lake,” LaFrance remarked.

“[The book] goes through the travails and troubles that they had living as pioneer people in a very remote area.

“It talks about the difficulties of things like childbirth and lack of medical care,” she noted.

“Emma actually was a midwife, and people came to her for help with illnesses because she had a lot of home-made remedies.”

Shelfantook knew her grandmother well, and the book reveals first-hand knowledge about the kind of person Emma was.

“She was a very well-loved woman who was extremely helpful to neighbours and raised a nice family,” LaFrance said.

LaFrance, who has assisted her mother in editing the novels, said she’s already working on the third one, which is loosely title, “Anna’s Children.”

It will chronicle the life of Shelfantook’s mother.

Meanwhile, “Sophia’s Journey,” the first novel of the trilogy, tells the tale of Shelfantook’s great-grandmother’s journey from Sweden to Minnesota, as well as the hardships she endured.

“These books were actually written back in the mid-1990s to around 2000,” LaFrance explained.

LaFrance said it was an absolute joy for Shelfantook to write the books, adding they wrote themselves.

“It was an act of love for her to write these books,” she reasoned.

“The books are based on real people, but obviously other characters had to be brought in to fill out the story,” LaFrance explained.

She said the characters would just appear on the page when she needed them.

“When she started out, it was for the family,” LaFrance said. “There are many, many descendants now of Sophia and it was a way to preserve the story for them.

“Then we finally decided to publish the first one in 2011, and people really seemed to enjoy it and talked about how they couldn’t put it down.

“It got a very good reception.”

LaFrance said her mother is happy to come to “tea and scones” tomorrow.

“She loves to be around people, she’s very outgoing,” LaFrance noted. “She’s more than happy to answer any questions and visit about these people who are in her past.”

While Shelfantook’s eyesight has limited her ability to continue writing, she has found many other activities to keep her busy at Rainycrest, where she moved to last November.

“She’s just very involved there and does everything they have to offer,” said LaFrance.

“After breakfast, she rides her bicycle for half-an-hour or so. She’s still very much a participant in life.

“I always tell my granddaughters, ‘You come from a long line of strong woman,’” LaFrance added.

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