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Personal tragedy, drought-shriveled crops and dashed dreams.

Florence Moen's family lived through them all during the Great Depression, yet she remains remarkably unruffled by her experiences.

Whether it's because of her sturdy Norwegian genes or because everyone around her was in the same boat, she seems to have been strengthened by the experience.

Born in 1914, Florence Skarsten grew up on the family farm at Tokio, near Devil's Lake in eastern North Dakota.

She and her eight siblings lost their mother when Florence was 13. Florence and a sister helped raise their younger brothers and sisters.

Her father put her in charge of canning and baking bread, a skill she mastered right off the bat.

"If you have to do it, you have to learn," she said.

Chores didn't end in the kitchen.

Because Florence enjoyed being outside, she milked cows along side her father and two brothers and helped with haying.

In the early 1930s, their farm didn't get any rain for three years. Although her father continued to plant crops, they withered before harvest.

Grasshoppers got the garden.

As soon as the tender shoots of carrots and peas shot out of the earth, the insects "ate them down to the dirt," she said.

Just a few years before, her father had bumper crops. The farm was so prosperous that he bought a combine, hoping to make extra money by combining other people's harvests.

When Florence graduated from high school in 1932, she was able to graduate in style despite her family's reduced circumstances.

Her two sisters had gotten good jobs in Bozeman - one worked for an attorney and one for a bank. They bought a floral, chiffon dress for Florence and sent money for her graduation announcements.

When the bank closed in Tokio, her father lost his savings there.

By 1935, that financial loss and the drought drove him to sell off the farm and move to Brockway, Mont., to a property that he had homesteaded earlier.

Despite bad times, her family was well-off by the standards of the day.

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"We weren't without a thing," she said.

They always had enough to eat, and at Christmas her Bozeman sisters sent presents and boxes of clothing.

Although they didn't have a lot of money, her father turned his back on "the dole," free flour, sugar, cheese, canned meat given out by the government.

When her father moved to Montana, she went to Iowa where she had relatives. There, she worked as a housekeeper and then a clerk until 1941, when she moved to Billings because two of her sisters were here.

She worked as an invoice clerk at the Russell Miller Milling Co. for five years.

In 1944, she married Robert Hartung, a World War II veteran. He died in 1969.

She married Arnold Moen in 1979. He died in 1998.

She has a son, Jim Hartung, and daughter, Norma Jean Graham, who live in Billings.

Now 94 and nearly eight decades away from the Depression, Florence still abides by lessons she learned during those tough days.

"I always count my pennies before I spend anything," she said. "I learned not to waste money. I have never been in debt."

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