Even before I learned that Colleen Rentz was a nurse I knew that she had a gentle touch. When she worked occasionally at Gervais Jewelers in downtown Morris, she once held and stroked my right hand while a jeweler removed my wedding ring in order to have it resized. This was a new and rather unnerving experience for me. I could tell that Colleen immediately sensed my apprehension. There was compassion and caring in her touch.
Colleen Manney was born July 7, 1926, in the Manney family home at 205 East Sixth Street in Morris. She was the second of five children born to parents Frank and Lola (Hays) Manney. "I was delivered by Dr. Fitzgerald," Colleen recalled.
Frank served in World War II and moved back to the area after serving in the military. He co-owned the DX Oil Station in Morris with Sid Gausman for many years. Lola was a homemaker who died when Colleen was 14.
Colleen attended St. Mary's School from first through eighth grade. She then attended Morris Public School and graduated in 1944. Granddaughter Mary interviewed and wrote about her grandmother for her high school sophomore class project: "Her childhood was filled with fond moments, and my grandma said that she and her brother and sisters would always look forward to three things: birthdays, Christmas and the county fair. Her family was really active in the fair and, for a number of years, her dad was the president of the Stevens County Fair Board."
Colleen remembers sledding on "courthouse hill." The City would close two blocks on Fifth Street during the winter and children could sled on the street.
When she was 16, Colleen got her first driver's license. "It was easier then. All you had to do was go to the courthouse, pay 50 cents and they gave you a driver's license. My first trip into town was to get my dad a cigar at Max Trontow's pool hall. Today I could not have done that [at that age]."
Following her graduation from high school, Colleen attended St. Gabriel's School of Nursing in Little Falls, Minnesota.
"We went every day year 'round for three years," said Colleen, who eventually became a registered nurse. Following her graduation in September 1947, she began work at the Morris Hospital, which was located on Seventh Street. "I worked for Dr. Behmler and Dr. Rossberg," recalled Colleen. She was paid 75 cents per hour. She later worked at the new hospital (Morris Hospital and Stevens County hospitals combined) and for 14 years at the Morris Medical Center.
Colleen retired from nursing in 1996.
As a young woman while attending a regular Wednesday night dance at the Morris armory she met a young sailor, Delmar "Bud" Rentz. Their early courtship consisted primarily of writing letters since Colleen was a senior at St. Gabriel's and Bud was still in the Navy.
"When I graduated and returned to Morris, I walked into the DX my father owned," said Colleen. "I was so surprised to see Bud who was working there as a bookkeeper."
Bud proposed to Colleen following a date at the movies. They were wed on Feb. 5, 1948. "It was a stormy day about 20 below," recalled Colleen. "My dad had hired a covered carriage. We were married at the Assumption Church by Father Fearon."
Following his work for DX until the mid 1950s, Bud worked for Hardware Mutual Insurance until the couple purchased the Merchants Hotel, which was located on the present site of RiverWood Bank. "Bud decided to go on his own and located his office on the first level of the hotel." Later, Bud moved across the street to start Rentz Agency in the former Red Dot Café location. Colleen and Bud raised seven children-- Steve, Dan, Tom, Paul, Patty, Jim and John. There are 17 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. Bud died Aug. 2, 2002.
"We raised our family with a good work ethic, to work hard and be honest," said Colleen. "We brought them up with a faith in God, and taught them to love each other and be good to people."
Following Bud's death, Colleen moved from their longtime home on Columbia Avenue to a townhome in Morris. In addition to spending time with her family, she enjoys baking, cooking and reading books, magazines and newspapers. She regularly catches the local news on the radio and watches national events on television.
She loves the enthusiasm that the people in Morris offer, and remembers the Morris of earlier years. "There was a National T store in the block where La Tienda is now...Nelson's Grocery was in the vacant lot by JC Penney--now Keepers... there was Loeffler's which then became McRoberts Grocery and also Splitstoser's..."
This past summer, Colleen's family surprised her with a celebration to honor her 85th birthday. Family photos were taken on the wooded and rock landscaped path that leads from LaFave House on College Avenue to the University of Minnesota, Morris campus. The place has special meaning to the Rentz family.
Colleen and Bud were partners with others in the area--a group called the West Central Educational Development Association--who lobbied state legislators to establish a University of Minnesota campus in Morris. The Rentzes belonged to the Cougar Club--"that was fun"-- and attended many basketball games in "the old gym (located in the campus' Physical Education Annex)." Many of the Rentz family children and grandchildren have benefitted, in part from the foresight of their parents and grandparents, by receiving their college education at Morris.
"I remember the first play put on by Don Spring's theater students [during the campus' West Central School of Agriculture era]," said Colleen. "It was Shakespeare's 'Midsumm-er Night's Dream.' The play was held outdoors where Briggs Library is now. I can still remember the girls [in the play] wearing pretty prom dresses [as costumes] and performing among the trees."