Home is where the heart is.
There’s no question that saying and others like it have found their place nestled away in the hearts of many because, as those sayings attest, home will always be a special place no matter the age or distance travelled. Just ask Pat Niska, whose family home on Southeast 13th Street in Brainerd has housed a member of her bloodline since it was built in 1914.
“My grandparents built and lived here back in 1914,” said the 76-year-old Niska who currently lives in the house with the white porch with her younger brother, Jack. “They lived here until 1929, that’s when my grandfather (Nels Josephine) became ill so they moved to Michigan but ended up coming back here where they had a dairy farm with five acres.”
Niska said her grandparents raised 11 children with her father, Frank, and his twin sister, Alma, being the youngest.
Frank and his wife decided to begin to raise their own family in the house he grew up in, turning it into the house where Niska and her brother grew up in, too.
“When I think of this house, because I didn’t have a real close connection with my grandma — she only spoke Finnish — and because my grandfather had passed away before I was born, I thought of it more as my mom’s house rather than my grandparents,” she said, adding that plenty other family members would come and occupy the home from time to time, too.“
As most children do, after graduating from what is now Brainerd High School, Niska moved away to college and bounced around before she found herself back at the same place she started in when her mom became ill in 2006. The home is a place she where she has stayed ever since, gathering her family members together Tuesday afternoon to celebrate its legacy.
“This is the 98th Anniversary of this home being a part of our family,” said Niska before presenting another family heirloom, a $2 gold coin belonging to her father as a child, to her cousin Don Tikka to pass down to his family. “That’s not common at all to have a home, with a lot of the same fixtures as the original and to keep it in the family for that long.”
And while neither Niska nor her brother had children of their own, she has no fear that somehow this house will remain in the family.
“No matter how far you travel or where you find yourself living for a few years,” she said with a smile. “You always end up coming home.”