When Jo Hawkins laughs about raising a village, she’s not kidding. The 65-year resident of Rosemount raised 12 children here and has been blessed with 49 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren so far, with two more on the way. And all these offspring were the result of a really good blind date she went on when she was only 17.

Hawkins never could have dreamed that when her cousin Lorraine set her up on a blind date at a country dance hall on Jan. 11, 1947, she would spend the rest of her life with the man.

John, 21, had just returned from Japan, where he was stationed with the United States Army. Jo was immediately drawn to his kind and caring nature.

“He was very considerate of me, and as young as I was, I just knew that that was what I wanted,” she said. The feeling must have been mutual, as John went home that night and wrote her a letter. They went out again the following week, and many more times after that, and John continued to cap each date by composing a love letter to his sweetheart.

“We had a wonderful night and it just never changed. Neither of us dated anyone else after that,” Hawkins said.

John proposed in October of 1949 and the two got married in her hometown of Glenwood City, Wis. and made their home in St. Paul. But when John’s uncle, who managed a grocery store in Rosemount, called to tell them of a restaurant for sale nearby, the couple made the move to the small town with their 7-month-old daughter in tow. Jo was 22 at the time, and she has called Rosemount home ever since.

The family ran the Bon Ton family restaurant for five years in the building that is now home to Dakota Awards & Engraving on Highway 3. There were only four restaurants in Rosemount at the time. By the time John sold the Bon Ton to accept a job at the Koch Refinery, the couple had six children and a home on 17 acres of land.

“We really liked Rosemount right from the start,” Hawkins said, “but it was much different then than it is now. It was very small and homey and everyone was kind.”

All 12 of the Hawkins children attended St. Joseph School and Rosemount High School, and 10 of them went on to graduate from college. Five of them remain in Rosemount, while the others are spread as far as Oregon and Qatar. As for raising six girls and six boys, Hawkins said it was a piece of cake.

“They were hard workers and you had to be, because you couldn’t do it yourself,” Hawkins said.

“After three, there’s nothing to it. The children learned to help each other growing up and that was a big help, and they’re very close now today.”

When John passed away seven years ago, Hawkins began to feel her home was too large and too difficult to maintain. Her children encouraged her to move into The Rosemount Senior Living when it opened in January, telling her it would have made John happy. She took their advice and is pleased to be living on the same land where her daughter’s house once stood and where her children used to attend school.

“I just love it. It’s so much like home and everyone is so kind, and it’s just such a friendly place,” Hawkins said. “I am just very thankful I did it when I did.”

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