In 1983, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was planning to hold its first “Art in Bloom” show.
Looking for help organizing the exhibit, which paired arts and flowers, the Friends of the Institute group turned to Rosella Fefercorn.
Fefercorn was a natural choice. She was a lifetime member of the Diggers Garden Club and Federated Garden Clubs of Minnesota and a member of the National Federation of Garden Clubs. She had attended floral design classes and was an accredited floral judge who evaluated flower shows around the country.
With little publicity, the initial “Art in Bloom” was a success for the institute. Over the next 15 years, Fefercorn helped it become a very popular and successful annual show.
“My mother was very proud that she was contacted by one of the members of the Friends of the Institute, who had seen an ‘Art in Bloom’ show in Boston and wanted to do one here,” said daughter Sally Hyslop. “My mother was a real gardener, and she was able to use her connections to reach out to all the garden clubs and find early volunteers. She was able to find gardeners and floral arrangers.”
Fefercorn, of Minneapolis, died on Feb. 21. She was 99.
She was born on Nov. 15, 1920, in Fargo, N.D., the oldest of six children of James and Molly Brophy. When she was a young child, the family moved to a dairy farm near Blackduck, Minn. Her love of gardening, baking and sewing started soon after the move.
She joined a 4-H Club and made yearly trips to the Minnesota State Fair to compete in baking competitions. She won many blue ribbons and was awarded the 4-H Achievement Award. That award led to a thrill of a lifetime — a trip to Washington, D.C., and the White House, where she met President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
After high school, she moved to Minneapolis and went to work as a milliner for Dayton’s. During World War II, she worked at the Arden Hills Ammunition Plant.
In 1948, she married Nathan Fefercorn, who owned Plymouth Electric, an electrical contracting business.
Her trips to the Minnesota State Fair for 4-H competitions led to a lifetime love of the fair. In 2017, she shared her favorite memories in a documentary aired on TPT called “State Fair Traditions.”
Fefercorn, who attended the fair annually until 2018, was a patron of the All You Can Drink Milk and Honey Almond Ice Cream booths.
Over the years, she sponsored many personalized yellow benches and tables on the fairgrounds.
“We called her our ‘blue-ribbon mother.’ She sponsored a good percentage of the yellow benches,” said Hyslop. “Last year, we asked her if she wanted to give a charitable gift to the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. She said she wanted to endow a fund that would help with season operational expenses or ‘fix whatever needs fixing.’ Whether that was fixing the dairy barn or painting stripes on the parking lots. Whatever needed it.”
The fund was named the “Rosella Fefercorn Fund for the Minnesota State Fair Punch List.”
Fefercorn was also a frequent traveler. Along with Sally and Sally’s husband, David Hyslop, the former president/CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, she visited 36 countries on six continents. The Minnesota Orchestra’s first European and Asian concert tours were among the trips.
Fefercorn was preceded in death by her husband Nate, who died in 1986, and son Ross, who died in 2017. Her second husband, Harry Nimchuk, died in 1998. In addition to her daughter and son-in-law, she is survived by a grandson, Alex Hyslop, and many nieces and nephews. Family services have been held. A memorial gathering is planned for a later date.
Joel Rippel • 612-673-4719