Randi Ottem was born Randi Halvorsdatter at Sunndal, Møre og Romsdal, Norway. Sunndal stretches all the way from the fjord into the Dovre Mountains. Its beautiful scenery includes Innerdal, Norway's loveliest mountain valley, and Åmoten, a gorge where several waterfalls meet. Mountain valleys are the home to wild reindeer and musk oxen. The Old Norse form of the name was Sunndalr. The first element is sunnr which means "southern" and the last element is dalr which means "valley" or "dale". Before 1870, the name was written Sunddalen; during the period from 1870-1917, it was spelled Sundalen; and since 1918, it has been spelled Sunndal.
Randi's father was Halvor Thoreson, and her mother's name was Randi Knudsdatter. Randi was born at the Ottem farm, from which the family surname of Ottem was derived when the family came to America. She was born on 26 July 1869, and christened on 22 August 1869. Randi was the fifth child in a very large family of twelve. Many of them left Norway to make homes in the United States. Her youngest daughter, Dolores, said,
She just talked about life. It was hard because they didn’t have anything. In the spring she went out into the mountains in Norway with the cattle and spent her summer there. They made cheese. I don’t know how they did it. Her oldest brother came to this country and settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota. And when he saved enough money, he sent for her. She was nineteen. She came for a better life, like they all did. She came to Grand Forks. She was three weeks crossing the ocean, and seasick all the way. She crossed the North Sea, and her parents were with her until she got on the boat, because her mother said, “I’d rather follow you to your grave.” That was an awful send off. She never went back to Norway. When she died in 1953, there weren’t too many people who were flying back and forth. She didn’t know anyone on the ship. They came into Ellis Island and then took the train to Grand Forks. And she had those old Norwegian clothes. She said her brother took her down all the railroad tracks and back alleys until he could get her some decent clothes. They told her oranges were supposed to be healthful, so she had a big bag of oranges on the ship. As long as she lived, she wouldn’t taste an orange on a bet. Then, I don’t know what she did. She went to work in a hotel as a maid of some kind. Then she got a job at the University of North Dakota. She was a dining room gal. I suppose she had friends. Then she met Dad. She came in 1888 and Clarence was born in 1892, so somewhere along the line, she must have been here a couple year years before she met Dad.
On 10 December 1891, Randi married Ole Christenson at Grand Forks, Grand Forks, North Dakota. At that point, her life was entwined with his as they raised their large family of ten children, and made their home in Minnesota at Holt. More can be learned about Randi by reading "From Norway to Minnesota" which was posted just before her own post, on 11 August. Her wedding picture is posted there.
Of her life after Ole died, her youngest daughter, Dolores said,
We moved to the little house at Johnson’s place in about 1937. I finished attending school when I was 13. I would have had to board and room somewhere, and there wasn’t any money in those days. So, I left the farm when I was twenty, when the boys got married and Mom and I moved into our new little house. It was a little north of Holt. When Lawrence and Rudy got married, we had to do something. Mabel insisted that they were going to build a house for Mom on their farm and she was going to take care of Mom. She was very adamant about that. We built a little house and I went to work in town. Mom kept house and cooked; and of course, we were right by Carl and Mabel. But Mabel died when Jim was five days old.Jim, Dolores' son, was born in 1941. I remember Dolores saying that Grandma Randi turned her grief over daughter Mabel's death toward Jim, who she rocked and held for the first months of his life. Jim always told a story about pouring buttermilk on his breakfast cereal by mistake and not wanting to eat it. Grandma ate that cereal rather than see it be wasted.
Dolores also remembered when Grandma Randi came to live with them.
She came to live with us in 1950 and lived with use for three years. She had continued living in that small house. The girls, Mabel’s girls, were all married and gone and it was just Carl and Forest, and they were out in the fields all the time, and she was so alone there. She was about 82. Actually, the house was mine. It was my money that I got from the sale of the cattle when we left the farm that bought the house, so we sold the house and she moved in with us. It was fun having her live with us. It was fun. She and George (Dolores' husband) got along so well. I think he thought more of her than he did his own Mom. And of course, the kids enjoyed her. She liked Jim and Gale, so it wasn’t a problem. It was a happy time. She was a very Christian lady, quiet, and she didn’t interfere with anybody else, and did her own thing. She liked to have flowers. She used to work in the yard, even at our place. She helped with all the work, even at our place, because she was well until the last few months she lived.
Randi died on 13 May 1953 at Thief River Falls, Pennington, Minnesota. She was loved and cherished by her family, which is a tribute to her gentle, sweet nature.