March 2023 Newsletter

The latest in our series on

The People of the Park…

Dee Hillstrom

& Sundays at Silveridge

by Dale Dauten

The other day I saw a photo or a church sign that read “7 days without prayer makes one weak.” Not bad, but that’s not what got my attention. No, it was the caption below the photo of the sign that caught my eye: “How ministers tweeted before Twitter.” Makes sense.

What got us thinking about churches was getting to visit with the charming Dee Hillstrom (pictured below), the pastor who’s leading church services at Silveridge, known as the Silveridge Christian Fellowship. The non-denominational services are held in the ballroom, Sundays mornings at 9. Attendance has been well over a hundred residents, and there are now plans in the works to add a choir (volunteers needed).

Pastor Dee leads services at Silveridge during those months when she and her husband, Dale, are in the park, a schedule dictated by her agreement with her congregation back in Federal Dam, Minnesota, where she is minister at Our Savior Lutheran Church. She’s with her congregation up north until Christmas, then back in time for Easter, with Silveridge in between.


Dee grew up dreaming of being a minister, but that dream was a long time coming true. She grew up in Valley City, North Dakota and grew up faster than a young girl should have to – she took over the household and the raising of her two younger brothers starting when she was just 15 when her father was killed in a gun accident and her mother institutionalized for what was then known as a “nervous breakdown.”

While fifteen year-old Dee had the benefit of her father’s veteran’s pension and social security, she also took a parttime job as a bookkeeper for the local department store, and she also used her love of sewing to make additional income making prom dresses and wedding gowns. Dee says of that time, “I couldn’t have made it if not for the support of my church pastor. He had four sons and used to say I was like a daughter to him. And he was like a second dad to me.”

The day Dee graduated from high school, the department store offered her a fulltime job as assistant bookkeeper, which she accepted. Even with a fulltime job and her role as head of the family, she still enrolled in the local teachers’ college, what’s now known as Valley City State University (pictured below), and eventually graduated, later adding a Master’s in Counseling.

It was during her senior year that she met Dale (pictured below), who would become her husband (and who you might spot on the park’s tennis courts).
Both Dee and Dale took teaching jobs out of college, working in a mostly rural school district in Minnesota. Dee taught English and French, and later became a counselor. Dale taught PE and coached a number of sports teams, including cross country, later becoming Athletic Director. They both retired after 34 years of teaching.

Along the way, the Hillstroms had two daughters. The older daughter became an accomplished runner and later became a teacher and coach for cross country. (Both father and daughter each won Coach of the Year awards in cross country.) She and her husband have five kids. The second daughter became a nurse, then married a missionary and the couple live and work in Mozambique and have adopted three children there.

As for Dee, throughout her teaching career she’d remained active in the church and had often taken the pulpit as a guest preacher at her home church and in neighboring churches. A year or two after retiring from teaching, one of those area churches lost its pastor and couldn’t afford a fulltime replacement, so they asked Dee to take over. The Bishop had to approve that plan, and did, with the proviso that Dee attend a two-year program at a school for lay pastors. She agreed and has been Synod Authorized Minister at Our Savior Lutheran ever since.

(Photos below: Our Savior Lutheran in Minnesota, followed by Dee inside. She tells us that husband Dale created the stained glass windows on either side of the altar, one of which is in the background of the photo.)

The church in Minnesota is small, with a few dozen members, so Dee enjoys being able to reach a larger congregation when she’s at Silveridge. “I absolutely love preaching,” she told us, adding, “it’s rewarding to see how receptive the people of Silveridge are. In fact, they told me that they’d find people to fill in for me so I could have some Sundays open; I told them that, no, I didn’t want any time off.”

Asked what topics she most likes to include in her sermons, she said she often bases them on her favorite scriptures. And she sometimes includes her life story, hoping to inspire others facing hardship. “When my dad died,” she recalled, “the pastor said to me, ‘Don’t ever lose your faith in God, and don’t ever lose your faith in yourself.’ That’s a message I pass along.”

Two more things before we end. First, Dee wanted to acknowledge the work of those who keep the church running: “It is such a pleasure to work with the Silveridge Christian Fellowship Board. They are wonderful Christian people who want to help in any way to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and His love and have been very supportive of me.”

(Photos: Board Chairman Cal Gramer, and in the group photo, L to R, Rosie Betts, Nancy Swain, Jim Obermoller, Betty Novotny, Paul Main, Mary Erickson, Wayne Buhl.)

(Below: Guitarist Marcel Trudel and keyboardist Gerry Carson)

(Below: Keyboardist Arlyss Bergrud and Song leader Jill Main)

And, lastly, let’s end where we started, with a couple of our favorite church signs: