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Local poet named Woman of Achievement

By Staff | Apr 17, 2011

Shirley Ensrud

Shirley Ensrud likes to keep busy.

The long-time Blue Earth resident is best known as a businesswoman and poet, but she has also been involved in numerous community activities.

Now she is being honored for her years of community involvement and success in business. Ensrud is the 2011 Woman of Achievement Award recipient, which is presented by the Mitchell Chautauqua Club.

Ensrud will receive her award at a noon luncheon in her honor on Tuesday, May 3, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Blue Earth.

Ensrud says she has been told she is an unusual person who is capable of using both sides of her brain – since one side controls logic and one side creativity.

For years she worked as an accountant, but also has written eight books of poetry.

“Many people think that is a strange combination, and doesn’t really mix,” Ensrud says. “But, it works for me.”

She worked for Schwenn Ice Cream Factory in Blue Earth for nine years, in charge of accounts payable.

Ensrud also worked as an accountant with Winston Oothoudt for 21 years. After he retired, she ran her own accounting service for eight years.

All the while she was crunching numbers, she was also playing with words.

“I started writing poetry in high school,” she says. “I wrote my first poem for a class assignment and received a good grade. I thought, ‘this is fun, I could do more of this.'”

And, she did. Since that time, she has written precisely 1,053 poems. The accountant in her made sure she kept track of the exact number.

“I have them all in notebooks, categorized by subject,” she says. “I also have them all in chronological order as well.”

While she was writing poetry most of her adult life, it wasn’t until she was 69 years old and retired that she began to publish her work.

She formed her own publishing company, smebooks, and has self-published eight books of her poems. Barb Pearson designed the covers and Blue Earth Graphics did the printing.

“I haven’t really made a lot of money at it, but I sell some books and give many away as gifts,” she says.

Success in poetry isn’t always measured in money, she adds. Ensrud has won more than 150 poetry awards. She has also judged poetry contests herself.

Once, humorist and radio personality Garrison Keillor read one of her poems on the air.

“It is called ‘Country Haircuts,’ and is on page 10 in my first book,” she says.

While poetry has been her passion, Ensrud has many other interests, including playing bridge, fishing, travel, crossword puzzles – and her church and family.

She has been a choir member at First Methodist Church for over 50 years. She has also taught Sunday School and release time.

Ensrud also has served as a church lay leader, president of United Methodist Church Women, church treasurer and more.

Ensrud has also taught English as a Second Language and Art Masterpiece to BEA elementary students.

She has been a member of many clubs and organizations. Her favorite has been the Scribblers and Writers group, which meets once a week and is a support group for writers and poets.

“Many people think poets are either dead or strange,” Ensrud says with a smile. “So it is good to get together with others who have an interest in writing poetry.”

Other poetry organizations she is involved with include the Southern Minnesota Poets Society, the League of Minnesota Poets and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies – a group she has been a member of since 1986.

She has also been a member of the Good Sam Club, Home Ec Club, and numerous couples and ladies bridge clubs.

Ensrud is not a native of Faribault County, although she has lived here for more than 60 years.

She was born Shirley Baker in rural Mankato and graduated from Mankato High School.

While visiting her aunt and uncle on a farm in rural Delavan, she met Burdette Ensrud, whose family owned the farm across the road.

They were married in 1949 and she moved to Faribault County, first to Delavan and then to Blue Earth.

Shirley and her husband Burdette raised three daughters; LaDonna, Deb and Sue. They also raised Ida Jansen from the time she was 12 years old.

They now have nine grandchildren (12 including Ida’s) and seven great-grandchildren.

All of them have received books of poems as gifts in the past.

Does she still write poetry?

“Of course,” she responds. “I?will keep writing. I?have written some recent poems in honor of people I?know.”

Eventually there may be enough new poems for book number nine.

Reservations for the May 3 luncheon honoring Ensrud may be sent to Wilma Bittinger, 8986 377th Avenue, Blue Earth. Please enclose a check for $15 payable to Mitchell Chautauqua. Reservations are requested to be made by April 28.