Many gathered to say farewell to Jean and Edith “Dede” Zamboni at the Steele County History Center yesterday. The iconic pair are moving to Rochester at the end of the month for health reasons.

Friends gathered Monday to share stories, memories and coffee.

“Saying goodbye to the twins is almost like the end of an era,” Kellen Hinrichsen, executive director of the Steele County Historical Society. “They’ve lived in the same house for their whole lives and now they’re moving on to Rochester.”

Many in attendance of the coffee hour expressed how beloved they are in the community and how greatly they will be missed.

The 95-year-old twins said that they will miss the town and all of the wonderful people they’ve come to call friends and family. They both expressed deep appreciation for those who were able to attend their final coffee event and to those who left cards and well wishes.

The Zamboni legacy

Before reaching high school, the sisters and Carol Kottke published the Newsette and Kottke’s mother typed up the master sheets. They were a collection of recipes, bithday parties, coming and going events of their readers and their families--by bus, train, in every direction — cartoons and ads. The three girls would deliver copies for a nickel and sing their song at the doors. It was sung to the tune of the 1937 hit song, “Oh, the merry-go-round broke down.”

The jingle went: “Oh, the Newsette paper’s brought around to every door. If you read it once, you’ll all call up and ask us for some more.”

The sisters graduated from Owatonna Senior High School in 1942. While in school, they were proud majorettes in the marching band that was led and directed by Harry Wenger.

In 1990 the twins visited Poschiavo, Switzerland, the family’s origin. They learned they have two relatives still living there, cousins of grandma Tome. The cousins were still living in the family home and have since died. Now the house is a museum for rural life of 400 years, known as Casa Tome.

After graduating from OHS in 1942, the two girls went to college at Winona State Teachers College. They graduated in 1948 and during Edith’s junior year she left to enter the convent and ended up graduating from the College of Saint Teresa — eventually.

From then on they lived separate lives, reconvening in Owatonna and once, way up in the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia in 1993. Edith was there as a bi-lingual teacher at the Sisters’ first foreign foundation and Jean signed up as a volunteer there for a year while teaching at Mankato State University.

In 1947, Edith became a religious sister with the Rochester Franciscans. Until Vatican II, she was known as “Sister Baylon,” but since then, she has been “Sister Edith.”

Jean had her fair share of adventures as well. She moved around quite a bit teaching art throughout southern Minnesota and a stint at Illinois State University.

In 2014, on their big 90th birthday, Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz proclaimed Oct. 21 as “Edith and Jean Zamboni Day.”

Reach reporter Emily Kahnke at 507-444-2376. Kim Hyatt is a former reporter of the Owatonna People's Press. Associate Editor Annie Granlund also contributed to this story. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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