Family History browsing by category


#884 – Dick Bernard: New Cement: Memories of Grandpa Bernard

Monday, May 12th, 2014
Scene of the action: Caribou Coffee at City Centre, Woodbury MN May 12, 2014.

Scene of the action: Caribou Coffee at City Centre, Woodbury MN May 12, 2014.

My coffee mate Steve and I usually quietly occupy our respective corners by the front window at Woodbury Caribou Coffee. Today he suddenly whipped around to watch the action on the sidewalk the other side of the window.

As action goes, what we saw outside wasn’t much. A guy was by with one of those saws to break the bond between blocks of sidewalk concrete.

The task for the next crew, sometime very soon, will be to take out the old concrete and replace it with new.

Of course, Steve had to quip: “they have to fix the sidewalk so that some old guy [presumably me] won’t trip coming in here.”

Fair enough, but a bit much to take from a young whippersnapper, scarcely five years retired.

Young pup. Who does he think he is?!

Talk got around to sidewalk superintending, and I remembered a YouTube piece I saw a year or two ago, with a cameo of my grandfather, Henry Bernard, watching them pave Main Street in Grafton ND. Turns out the piece was filmed in 1949. You can watch it here. Grandpa appears at 4:15 of the 5 minute video. He has three seconds of fame, maybe, and he’s one of only two old birds who gets his own name affixed to the video.

“Old bird”? In 1949, Grandpa would have been 77, not much older than I am now.

In the fashion of the day, he was dressed up, even to do this sidewalk duty. White shirt, tie and straw hat. He’s pointing out something or other to one of the other nearby folks. He had a first grade education in Quebec, and a first class engineers mind: he had been chief engineer in the local flour mill ‘back in the day’, and he loved to see how things worked. He’s recorded as the guy who drove the first motorized fire truck to Grafton from somewhere or other; fire chief and all around first class guy (and tough in bar fights too, I heard). At his funeral in 1957 all the VIPs of Grafton attended.

Back home I went out for my walk and coming east on Lake Road I approached an older guy standing motionless, looking at something off to the side.

He just kept standing there.

Finally I reached him, and saw the reason: he was watching some guy put new siding on a house.

Just continuing the fine tradition of sidewalk superintending. Doubtless remembering something from sometime.

We chatted a bit, and I walked on.

Thanks, Steve, for the memories.

Re the job specialty: “Sidewalk Superintendent”, the pays lousy, but the hours are good, and sometimes the work can be quite interesting!

From my front row seat, 9 a.m. May 12. 2014

From my front row seat, 9 a.m. May 12. 2014

May 12: As I left,I asked the guy who seemed to be supervisor, “how do you keep idiots like me from walking in the wet cement?” He just smiled. Another kibbitzer remembered working on these crews as a summer job long ago; and wondered if there’ll be someone carving initials before it dries….

POSTNOTE: Like most ordinary people, Grandpa seldom made the news, which for most of us is a good thing.

Some years ago, cousin Loria Kelly in E. Grand Forks happened across a powerful account of Grandpa and Grandma in Los Angeles in the winter of 1942. You can read it here: Bernard Los Angeles 2-42001

#873 – Dick Bernard: Easter, a Beautiful, Reflective, Complicated, Controversial Time

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

It is expected to be a beautiful Spring day in the Twin Cities today. Perfect Easter weather. Of course, not all Easter Sundays have been perfect. We dodged a lot of snow just a few days ago….

(click to enlarge)

Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

(explanation at end of post)
Basilica hand 4-18-14001

Best I know, the Catholic Church does more with Easter week than most any other Christian denomination. My sister, Mary, near the end of a U.S. Peace Corps assignment down in the South Seas in the island country of Vanuatu, described Easter there yesterday, in an Easter e-mail from New Zealand. You can find her description here, at the very end of this now very long post, dated April 19, 2014.

Good Friday I volunteered to usher at the at noon service at my church, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. We ran out of leaflets – they had printed 450. There were perhaps 500 in attendance, more than anticipated.

The Stations of the Cross are always a reflective time. The phrase that stuck most with me on Friday was this, from the Second Station, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus:

“They shared one another’s life for some three years.
They talked together, ate together, traveled together.
That night, he came to Jesus and kissed him one last time…
no kiss of love,
rather, a kiss of rejection and betrayal.

To feel rejected or to feel betrayed is a painful experience.
To be rejected or betrayed by a friend hurts even more.

Who among us has never felt rejected or betrayed?
Or who among us has never rejected or betrayed someone?

Betrayal is an ugly thing.
Rejection tears at the very fabric of our self-esteem….”

You can read that reflection, and all the rest, here: Basilica of St. Mary 2014 Stations of the Cross Presider Book

As years accumulate, stuff happens…for us all. Hurt, and all the rest, is not only one way. Messes are part of everyone’s life.

After the Stations, I walked across Loring Park to have a cup of coffee with a good friend of mine. She’s Catholic, too. Earlier in the morning she’d had breakfast with a couple of Catholic friends, folks I know, who are disgusted with the Church, one because of the continuing unresolved scandal of sex abuse by some Priests (his was a painful personal experience some 50 years ago); the other because, apparently, there’s nothing in the church for her daughter, who’s becoming Episcopalian.

Earlier that morning I’d written a note to a friend who’s being baptized Catholic Saturday night but had almost dropped out due to the latest scandal news last Fall. We had long conversation at her time of crisis last Fall, and after that and many other conversations with other people, she chose to carry on with her desire to become Catholic.

My general advice to her, as I recall: do as you will; we’re a huge church, and the church is all of the people in it, not just some leader or bad apple.

Before I wrote to her, I’d written to the Priest who’s again in the headlines out here. I had and have great respect for Fr. Kevin – he was my pastor in the 1990s, and Diocese Vicar General as well – the point person on the then-abuse cases. A wonderful man.

Earlier this week he’d spent an entire day in depositions because of alleged mishandling of complaints somewhere back when.

I used to have a job similar to his, representing people in trouble, and answering to a boss, so I understand the dilemmas he must have faced when the scandals erupted years ago.

So it goes.

I have no problem admitting I’m life-long and still active Catholic. “Catholic” is, as already described, a very complex term. As usher, I see all sorts of “Catholics” entering the doors, and I will again at the 9:30 Easter Mass this morning.

It is the people who are the Church, and Catholics are a diverse lot, defying a standard description, from least to most exalted…. The U.S. is a diverse lot, too. Even families, as most of us know from personal experience.


A short while ago, on March 27, was when Pope Francis met President Obama in Rome. I was in LaMoure ND on that day, when the new Bishop of Fargo, John Fulda, came by. He was there for a meeting with area Priests, and the afternoon Mass was crowded.

Here’s two photos from March 27:

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

If any two people know about differences of opinion and how they need to be respected, it is Pope Francis and President Obama. They represent immense constituencies where differences of opinion abound. I highly respect them both, and I think their common thread is their efforts to set a higher bar for a more positive tone of dialogue and understanding between and among people.

At their level, disagreement is assumed. Their job is to try to set the tone, and they both work on a positive tone.

Our society, of course, seems to place the emphasis on disagreement, “dissent”. When in doubt, go to war, with each other, or against some other. The fact of the matter is that these two international leaders, one representing people generally, and one representing a religious belief, understand another way of communicating: the importance of dialogue, of relationship.

I suspect the same has to be true of Bishop Folda, a youthful, new Catholic Bishop living in a world as he does where not even all Catholics agree with him, much less the rest of the population.


Which leads back to the hand leading this post: I was cleaning up after Stations and found the scrap of paper on the floor.

It was by a little kid, probably, doing some drawing of his or her family, including an apparently recently deceased pet, Buttercup. Somebody wrote in the names.

I like that illustration; no trash can for it! There seem to be seven people and one deceased animal in it, and behind the words are the real lives of these seven people, and all that surround them. Maybe, today, there’s an Easter Egg hunt at their house, or neighborhood. Perhaps candy. Hopefully something with family, a pleasant day (as we know, such days are not always pleasant for everyone.) Tomorrow is the future, and whatever it holds for all of them.

Happy Easter.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

POSTNOTE: 9:30 Mass at Basilica was crammed with more people than I’ve ever seen there over the last 18 years of membership. The sanctuary was filled to overflowing by 9 a.m., and the supplementary overflow facility was also filled to standing room only. A far larger than normal crowd is always expected at Christmas and Easter. This crowd was considerably larger than usual.

Lee Piche, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, was guest homilist (sermon) and had an excellent message which I interpreted as advice to better care for not only each other but for our earth. I was impressed.

Everyone, of course, has their own story about why they attended today.

To me, the only story is that a lot of people showed up….

#865 – Dick Bernard: Uncle Vince, Aunt Edith and Dr. Borlaug

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

A week ago, out at LaMoure ND, I asked Uncle Vince if he’d like to go for a ride.

I knew what his answer would be: “yes”. As long as I’ve known him, a ride in the country is like ice cream to a kid. Farmers like to take a gander at the countryside, regardless of the season, and comment on what they see, which is lots more than city slickers like myself can hope to observe. The actions of land, water and sky are very important in their daily lives.

That’s the essence of being a farmer: having a feel for ones environment.

Along with me, I had a three-CD set of Benny Goodman’s 1935-39 small group recordings, a recent gift from an 84 year old elder neighbor. Vince was 10 years old in 1935, and sometime in his youth he had learned a bit about the clarinet.

He loves music, so Benny Goodman and clarinet was an additional treat on a pleasant early spring afternoon.

I mentioned that I had seen Goodman and his band in person, in Carrington ND, sometime in 1957-58. In that era, somebody in tiny Carrington managed to book famed national acts like Goodman, and Louis Armstrong and ensemble, who I also saw there in September 1957.

We chatted a bit about that, and then Vince said he’d once met Norman Borlaug. “The Nobel Peace Prize winner?” “How did this happen?”

Vince recalled a time he and Edith were driving on Highway 11 west of Hankinson ND and they saw somebody at roads edge. They stopped, and the guy said he was out of gas. So they gave him a ride back into Hankinson, helped him with the gas, and were on their way again.

In the conversation, it came up that their passenger that day was Norman Borlaug, and that he was out in ND checking on some field work on barley, if I recall correctly.

Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, and Vince knew about him. It seems Borlaug has become controversial. There are assorted opinions about him. You can take your choice.

If you didn’t know the name, “Norman Borlaug”, you would be forgiven. Few outside of the agricultural community probably do.

But the conversation with my Uncle, long retired farmer, now in the twilight of his life, was fascinating to me, in part because through him I have gotten to know common farmers on their farms: how they live, how they think.

Vince was a small farmer by ND standards, but he had a lot of pride in what he did.

And while only high school educated, to this day he reads voraciously, and, if he could, he’d attend this or that farm meeting in his area of the state. He may have been “ordinary”, but ordinary meant extraordinary in so many ways.

He was well read, well educated. He remembered Norman Borlaug from that one brief encounter years ago. I had no doubt that the event happened as described, where described.

There’s the old saw about “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and it applies to my Uncle and to a great many others in all sorts of ways.

The 84-year old man, Don, who gave me that Benny Goodman CD spent much of his work career keeping track of the location of box cars for the Great Northern Railway – this was before computers. This same man, in his small home across the street from us, has an autographed photo of Elizabeth Taylor, dating from the time he was a dinner guest at her home during his days of involvement in the movie industry.

We all have our stories, to be remembered, and celebrated.

Thanks, Uncle Vince, for yours. And Don, as well.

Grain Elevators, Berlin ND, March 27. 2014

Grain Elevators, Berlin ND, March 27. 2014

1000 Pages. 22 Years. Recording the memories of the French-Canadian and French Experience in the Midwest. Here are all of the pages of 145 issues of Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles, 1979-2001, recorded by volunteer editors, members of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota

Monday, March 24th, 2014

(click to enlarge)
Chez Nous001

Over a period of 22 years, a succession of volunteer editors recorded stories of the heritage and culture of the French and the Midwest in two newsletters, Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles.

Below is a brief history of the organization, La Societe Canadienne Francaise du Minnesota (LSCF), including an index to the contents of the 145 issues, and pdf copies of every page of every newsletter – nearly 1000 pages in all.

John Rivard, founder of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota.  Undated, probably in the 1970s

John Rivard, founder of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota. Undated, probably in the 1970s

A few more photos of John Rivard, his role and his props! John Rivard ca 1970s001

This post is part of the permanent record now being established through the French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF), an organization founded in 2013 to continue the tradition of La Societe C-F and other similar groups.

You are encouraged to not only visit the FAHF site, and provide suggestions, comments and materials for use there, but also to share this site with others, and become a participating member yourself, financially and in other ways.

Now, enjoy the news as recorded below!

Dick Bernard, Woodbury MN
editor Chez Nous, 1985-2001 (98 of the issues) and former President of LSCF

The History and Index of La Societe C-F, Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles, is here: La Societe C-F Chez Nous Index 1979-2001

A commentary about the production of the 1979-2001 newsletters can be seen here.

Two tips:
1. Occasionally you may see something you wish to print. Near the upper right corner of each page is a handwritten number, usually in red, showing its page number within each file. This will make it possible for you to easily select the page(s) you wish to print, rather than having to print the entire file.
2. The index endeavors to group articles on similar topics. For instance, many people are interested in genealogy: check the index section headed “Genealogy”. Or “Recettes”, “Obituaries”, “France”….

ARCHIVES of the newsletters:
(Click on page range to access the pdf for the pages indicated)
CN 1-26001 Oct1979 – Mars81
CN 27-51002 Mai81 – Jan82
CNrev 52-78003 Mar82 – Jan83
CNrev2 79-104004 Mars83 – Oct83
CN 105-139005 Jan84 – Nov-Dec84
CNrev 140-170006 Jan-Fev85 – Nov-Dec85
CN -NVJ 171-211007 Jan-Mar86 – Nov86-Jan87
CN -NVJ 212-249008 Jan-Fev87 – Oct-Nov87
CN -NVJ 250-266009 Dec-Jan88 – Avr-Mai88
CN -NVJ 267-291010 Jui-Jui88 – Dec88-Jan89
CN -NVJ 292-309J011 Fev-Mar89 – Jul89
CN -NVJ 310-327012 Aou-Sep89 – Dec89-Jan90
CN -NVJ 328-339K013 Fev-Mars90 – Jun90
CN -NVJ 340-375014 Jui-Jui90 – Dec90-Jan91
CN -NVJ 376-402E015 Jan-Fev91 – Mai-Jui91
CN -NVJ 403-430016 Jui-Jui91 – Dec 91-Jan92
CN-NVJ 431-462018 Jan-Fev92 – Jui-Jui92
CN-NVJ 463-504019 Aou-Sep92 – Mai-Jui93
CN-NVJ 505-544020 Jui-Aou93 – Mar-Avr94
CN-NVJ 545-577021 Mai-Jui94 – Nov-Dec94
CN-NVJ 578-614022 Jan=-Fev95 – Sep-Oct95
CN-NVJ 615-649023 Nov-Dec95 – Jui-Aou96
CN-NVJ 650-687024 Sep-Oct96 – Mai-Jui97
CN-NVJ 688-725025 Jui-Aou97 – Mar-Avr98
CN-NVJ 726-760026 Mai-Jui98 – Jan-Fev99
CN-NVJ 761-791 20 yrs027 Mar-Avr99 -Mai-Jui99
CN 792-829028 Jui-Aou99 – Jan-Fev2000
CN 830-861029 Mar-Avr00 – Nov-Dec00
CN 862-897030 Jan-Fev01 – Nov-Dec01

#859 – Dick Bernard: Today the third one of us is 70!

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Happy birthday, Flo!

Brother Frank, on deck for this age, with one to go – John – sent a short e-mail: “boy, we sure are getting old!”.

But Flo will probably be happy to see this post. At least her brother, me, remembered. This year I don’t need to be reminded a few days later…if I’m lucky, our card will reach her today. Most likely it won’t, since I only mailed it yesterday.

Oh well, at least I sent it in beforehand.

I’m the keeper of the family photos, and in the Henry and Esther Bernard box is a manila envelope labelled, simply, “5 kids”. There are quite a few photos in that envelope, from 1948 when the youngest was born; to 1997, when Dad died.

Here’s my favorite of the bunch: (the birthday girl is at right; yours truly, then 16, probably took the photo).

(click to enlarge)

At Anoka MN, summer 1956, from left: Henry, Frank, John, Esther, Mary Ann and Florence Bernard.

At Anoka MN, summer 1956, from left: Henry, Frank, John, Esther, Mary Ann and Florence Bernard.

The day of the photo Dad would have been 48, Mom was 46. Need I say more?

This particular day we were enroute down U.S. Highway 10 in Mom and Dad’s 1951 grey Plymouth Suburban, one of the earlier station wagons. It was the second family car in my time on earth. The earlier one was a 1936 Ford. New family cars weren’t rushed in those years.

We were driving from Antelope, about a half dozen miles northwest of Mooreton ND, to Broadview IL, west suburban Chicago, to visit Mom’s kid brother, Art, wife Eileen, and new son, John. Our stop, probably for a picnic lunch, was in then-almost rural Anoka, a place with a long history in Minnesota, at the junction of the Mississippi and Rum Rivers about 20 country miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis.

That was a long trip; mapquest says 618 miles today, 10 hours. But today most of that is I-94 or I-90. Then it was a very long trip, seldom taken, on two-lane paved roads that went right through towns and cities. Most of the first half of the trip, then, would have been on U.S. 10; thence on U.S. 12 to Chicago.

At the time of the photo, I was a couple of months into my Drivers License years, so I was probably behind the wheel a lot of the time on that trip. The rest of the scrum was vying for “window front”, or “window back”, three in the front, four in the back. No seat belts, no air bags, no air conditioner (except open windows), ‘stick shift’, plenty of time to try to practice survival skills of minimal neighborliness in the confines of the vehicle. Restaurants didn’t see much of our money on those trips. They were an extravagance.

I seem to remember we got to Broadview pretty late at night, or maybe that was the trip where we were “mooching relatives” at Mom’s cousins place, the Langkamps, in Rockford IL. (We took two trips to Chicago – the other one was the previous year when uncle and aunt had just moved to Chicago-land from Ft. Wayne IN. Both trips we saw the Chicago Cubs. One year they played the Pittsburgh Pirates, the other the New York Giants. In both years, the teams were cellar dwellers, sharing 7th or 8th in the standings, but that made no difference. Wrigley Field was a big, big deal for we kids from North Dakota!

Life went on.

Little did we know that day at Anoka in 1956 that in July, 1965, I would sign a teaching contract in Anoka, in the very school Garrison Keillor had graduated from a few short years earlier. Nor that Flo, on return from the Peace Corps in 1968, would teach one year in the Anoka Junior High School Keillor had attended, before working for Anoka County Home Extension Service (or so I recall).

The memories go on and on, of course. Here’s a tiny “family album” from amongst that envelope of photos: Bernard mini-Album001.

And here’s one from 1966, in, probably, the Palo Alto CA area, where Mary Ann was a Nurse at Stanford, and Flo was about to head for Peace Corps Training. I won’t take responsibility for this photo as I was back at Normal IL, at the UofI at Normal, for summer school. In those days, you didn’t know what you had on the photo till the negatives were developed. Then, you took what you got.

Summer 1966 California, from left: Mary Ann, Esther, John, Florence, Frank, my son Tom, Henry Bernard

Summer 1966 California, from left: Mary Ann, Esther, John, Florence, Frank, my son Tom, Henry Bernard

Happy Birthday, Flo!

#854 – Dick Bernard: A Project to Document our Nation of Immigrants

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

One week from today, Wednesday, March 12, a fundraiser to celebrate the power of immigrant stories will be held at Target Field, Minneapolis. You are encouraged to attend, and make others aware of this important event as well. All details, including bios of the speakers, are here.

Your RSVP is requested.

Ours is a nation of immigrants: this is such an obvious fact that it often escapes notice. My own American roots are France (via Quebec) and Germany.

I was reminded of the extent of the immigrant population a few months ago. In the summer of 2013, I had reason to access the 1940 census of the tiny town of Sykeston ND, the place from which I graduated from high school in 1958. In that tiny town (pop. 274, in 2010, 117) in 1940, of the 161 adults 16 listed other states as birthplaces, and 11 were born in countries other than the U.S.

As late as 1940, one of six adults in the town were not native, even, to the state of North Dakota. I wrote a bit about this here, including the worksheet from the actual census here: Sykeston ND 1940 CensusRev, see page 3.

Tiny Sykeston was just one town, then.

Every reader could tell their own story: family members, ancestors, neighbors, friends….

We are a nation of immigrants.

Which leads again to Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 6-9 p.m. at Target Field in Minneapolis MN.

On that day, three immigrants to the U.S. will introduce GreenCardVoices.

All projects have their stories, and GreenCardVoices is no different. This new project already has a history.

Some years ago Laura Danielson, chair of the Immigration Department at Fredrikson and Byron, Minneapolis, decided that the stories of immigrants she knew were so interesting that they deserved retelling, and a coffee table book, Green Card Stories, was published in January, 2012.

The book did well, but over the subsequent months, Laura and others engaged with the book and its stories came to a conclusion: print books, however attractive, have their limits, particularly in these days of exploding technological capabilities to share information far beyond one home or one office coffee table, and Green Card Voices was born just a few months ago.

The project is described here, including a video (this is a video project, after all!).

The dream of the project is to video-document first generation immigrants with more than five years in the U.S. from all of the world’s countries (196 in all). These stories can then be shared broadly in various ways. It’s a very ambitious undertaking, but doable with adequate funding support from persons like ourselves.

By happenstance, I was in attendance at one of GreenCardVoices first public presentations at Hosmer Library in south Minneapolis November 2, 2013. Theirs was a fascinating program, and I am certain the program at Target Field next Wednesday will be fascinating as well. (Roy Woodstrom, librarian at Hosmer Library, is a child of an immigrant – his mother is German). The person who invited me to the presentation is a child of Swedish immigrants. And on we go.

Shepherding the project is Dr. Tea Rozman-Clark, native of Slovenia. Her bio is here.

Tea Rozman-Clark, Feb. 25, 2014

Tea Rozman-Clark, Feb. 25, 2014

RSVP for the Target Field event Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

You’re in for a treat.

#850 – Ed Ehlinger: It’s the Little Things that Count

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Every now and then a true gold nugget appears in my in-box, and this evening was one such nugget, from Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health. His commentary is presented here with his permission. Wonderful Sharer of Story Anne Dunn, to whom he refers in his writing, is a long-time good friend of mine, and she has posted on several occasions at this blog. You can access her posts here.

Dr. Ehlinger, shared Feb. 23, 2014:


“I will tell you something about stories . . . They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

I was worrying about all of the big things that were facing me in the upcoming day when I left home on a recent sub-zero, cloudy, and dreary February morning. It was one of those days that prods one to question the reasons for living in Minnesota. To make matters worse, I was now stuck in a traffic jam on Interstate 94 where it crosses Hiawatha Avenue. Most of the gray exhaust rising from each of the cars idling on this highway turned parking lot was creating an environment that was not quite pea soup but more like dirty dishwater left in the sink overnight. The remainder of the exhaust was freezing on the pavement creating a black ice that made whatever movement there was hazardous and stressful.

The longer I was trapped in this traffic jam the more irritable I became. It was dawning on me that I was going to be spending a large chunk of time in my car in one of the gloomiest parts of town on one of the gloomiest days of the year. The irony of the presence of such ugliness as I sat stranded over a street named after a famous American Indian, whose name evokes images of nature’s beauty, was not lost on me and made my frustration even more intense.

That thought, however, momentarily took my mind away from I94 and Hiawatha Avenue and transported it to a storytelling session that I had attended over twenty years ago. Despite the fact that it had occurred so long ago, I could vividly recall the setting – a small cottage nestled in a small clump of trees in the middle of a preserved patch of prairie just south of the Twin Cities. The cottage was decorated with hand-crafted furniture, fabrics, and art. It was a magical place that gently coaxed stories out of people. It was the antithesis of I94 on this gloomy morning.

One of the storytellers made a particularly vivid impression on me. Her name was Anne Dunn, an Ojibwe woman from Cass Lake, MN. She had made the trip to the Twin Cities solely for the storytelling session. She knew it didn’t make any sense for her to come all that way just to tell a story or two but she had a feeling that she had to be there – so she was.

Her story was about a young man who had gone on a Vision Quest. Just before he departed, an elder approached him and advised him that over the next three days he should pay attention to the little things around him because they might hold something special. The young man said that he would and then departed with hopes of having a great vision that would give him some purpose and direction in his life.

When the young man reached the top of the hill that he had chosen for his quest, he set up his camp and began the fasting and prayer that he hoped would lead to his vision.

For three days he waited. No dreams came while he slept. He looked for signs from eagles, wolves, bears, or deer but nothing appeared. He gazed at the sky looking for clouds or thunder and lightning but nothing was visible to him. He looked at the trees and the rocks and the hills but he saw nothing but the landscape. He prayed, and even begged, for a sign but nothing came that he could recognize. Finally, exhausted and in despair he gave up his quest and headed back to his people.

Upon entering the village the young man was met by the elder who had talked with him before he left. The elder asked about the Vision Quest. The young man dejectedly replied that it was a failure; nothing had happened. He felt depressed and cheated.

The elder asked him about the bird. The young man replied that there were no birds.

The elder asked him again about the bird. The young man again replied but this time with some impatience in his voice that there were no birds. He had looked diligently for three days for signs of eagles, hawks, loons, or even owls but none had appeared.

For the third time the elder asked him about the bird. By this time the young man was beside himself. He screamed that there were no birds, that the place was barren, and that his whole Vision Quest was a waste of time.

The elder quietly asked “what about the bluebird?”

“O, that pesky little thing,” the young man replied. “He kept bothering me. I tried to chase it away but it kept coming back. After a while I just had to ignore it because it was interfering with my Vision Quest.”

As he was talking, the young man suddenly remembered the words of the elder before he had left on the Vision Quest -”pay attention to the little things.” With great despair he realized that he had disregarded this advice. The bluebird was trying to tell him something but he didn’t pay attention because he was looking for something more dramatic and spectacular than the appearance of a lowly little bluebird.

The young man went away and cried with the realization that he had wasted a golden opportunity.

Just then, I was jolted back to the present by a horn sounding behind me. The traffic had begun to move and, for the person behind me, I had been too slow to respond. I slowly pushed down on the accelerator and caught up with the flow of traffic. The cars were now moving but the murkiness and glumness of the surrounding city-scape remained. My mind went back to the advice of the elder in the story – “Pay attention to the little things around you. They may hold something special for you.”

At that moment I looked up through the dirty gray air toward the sun that was slowly rising directly ahead of me. Around the sun a glorious rainbow had appeared and was forming an arch over the road. The rainbow was created by the exhaust and polluted air which moments before I had been cursing.

I began to smile as I noticed that the most vibrant color of the rainbow was blue – a blue that matched the hue of a bluebird’s wing. At that point I knew that I was one of the reasons Anne Dunn came to the Twin Cities. I needed her story even though it took 2 decades to understand that. To paraphrase Leslie Marmon Silko, I needed her story to fight off the frustration and stress that was not leading to health. Her story also assured me that the big things in my day would take care of themselves if I stopped worrying and simply paid attention to the little things all around me.

It turned out to be a great day.

The 2014 legislative session starts this week. That’s a big thing. While we deal with that, let’s be sure to pay attention to the bluebird on our shoulder.

#849 – Dick Bernard: A Family Story: A 50th Birthday, The Beatles Invasion, “Forever Young”, and “The Station”

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

UPDATE: Here is a December 17, 2010, post which directly relates to the below.

Today, February 26, 2014, is son Tom’s 50th birthday, as well as my wife’s birthday, and a daughter-in-laws…and my Grandfather Bernard’s 144th. Saturday night, at another birthday party, daughter Joni took this picture of me with my 13-year old grandson, Spencer, who has that pride of catching up and now passing his still- 5’10 1/2″ Grandpa in height (you can “measure” us by the door frames behind us!). (The Facebook wags have had a bit of fun with the photo.)

Dick and Spencer, Feb. 22, 2014

Dick and Spencer, Feb. 22, 2014

Those who follow this blog know that what appears here is “potluck”. Since initiating this site five years ago, I’ve written about whatever happens to be of interest at the time.

From day to day, I don’t even know what my next topic might be, or even when.

Perhaps I might subtitle these “Thoughts Towards a Better World” with “Life Happens”.

So, in the last week or two, while the death of my 93-year old Aunt Edith on Feb 12 took precedence, other ‘side’ events diverted my attention.

During Aunt Edith’s last days, the daily CBS news was recalling the first visit to the U.S. (see “British Invasion” here) of the new phenom band from England, the Beatles, and their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964, 50 years ago. Not long before that electrifying national event, I had first heard them on car radio, driving between Grand Forks ND and Hallock MN.

It is odd how this specific event sticks in my mind, but it does all these years later.

At the exact same time my wife, Barbara, was pregnant with Tom, our first and only child, who is 50 today, the Beatles made a triumphant appearance on U.S. shores.

Long ago, I gave Tom almost all of the photos I have of him from that era. Here is one of the very few I kept, this from the fall of 1964 in Elgin ND. Tom would have been about 9 months old, then. It appears we may have been watching a football game on television…. Either his Mom, Barbara, or I took the photo.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Tom Bernard Fall, 1964

Tom Bernard Fall, 1964

Of course, as everyone in our family knows, Barbara, then 21, had only a few months left to live, passing away of kidney disease July 24, 1965.

So, “Forever Young”, and “The Station”.

Another idol of mine, Bob Dylan, wrote and sang another anthem about living life which has gripped me over the years, Forever Young. (More about “Forever Young” from Pete Seeger and school children in his home town of Beacon NY, here. Pete was a year older than Aunt Edith, and passed away just days before her, January 27.)

Dylan composed that powerful song sometime when Tom was very young.

I also thought, today, about an old Ann Landers column I had first read in 1997, and saved, and saw again, and also saved, in 1999.

It is called “The Station”, and has some suggestions for living life along it’s road.

Here are the columns: The Station001 They are short and well worth the time.

So, farewell, Aunt Edith (and Pete Seeger), and Happy 50th Birthday, Tom.

It is a good time to reflect on the meaning of “Forever Young”, and of “The Station”.

August 2, 1995, at the Grand Tetons, from left, Flo Hedeen, Tom Bernard, Mary Maher, Dick Bernard, Vince Busch

August 2, 1995, at the Grand Tetons, from left, Flo Hedeen, Tom Bernard, Mary Maher, Dick Bernard, Vince Busch

On-site sketch of the Grand Tetons by Tom Bernard August 1, 1995

On-site sketch of the Grand Tetons by Tom Bernard August 1, 1995

POSTNOTE: Aunt Edith and Uncle Vince come from a farm family that loved music. And the February 15 funeral included several old standards, movingly sung by Norm and Sue Goehring. The Busch family loved music. So does son Tom, so do I.

Norm and Sue Goehring at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, LaMoure ND, Feb. 15, 2014

Norm and Sue Goehring at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, LaMoure ND, Feb. 15, 2014

Tom (at right) and fellow musicians, Denver, March 8, 1997, photo by Dick Bernard

Tom (at right) and fellow musicians, Denver, March 8, 1997, photo by Dick Bernard

Most of the Busch and Bernard families at the farm, June 1941

Most of the Busch and Bernard families at the farm, June 1941

Above is a family photo taken on Mothers Day, 1941, including both set of grandparents of Richard (the one year old in the photo), at the Berlin, North Dakota farm. From left, back row: Ferd and Rosa, Edith, Mary Busch, Lucina Pinkney (I think), Josephine, Henry Jr (“Boy”, my Dad), Esther and Henry Bernard, Duane Pinkney, Vincent Busch and unknown. At front Art Busch, Richard Bernard, and (I believe) two from one of the Berning families.

Only three survive at this date in 2014: myself (the one year old); Uncle Vincent, second from right, then 16, now 89; Vince’s cousin Melvin, next farm over, was then 13.

It occurred to me, when looking at the photo, that the oldest person in that photo, my Grandpa Bernard, next to my Dad (the tall man at center) was then 69, four years younger than I am now.

Life travels on.

Have a happy 50th birthday, Tom!

Dick, Tom and Barbara Bernard Summer 1964 Valley City ND

Dick, Tom and Barbara Bernard Summer 1964 Valley City ND

Dick and Barbara Bernard as Godparents, March, 1965, four months before Barbara's death.

Dick and Barbara Bernard as Godparents, March, 1965, four months before Barbara’s death.

#845 – Dick Bernard: Edith Busch, another reminder of the enduring value called “Community”

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

(click to enlarge photos)

The home where Edith was born and lived till she was 71, artist rendition by Karen West of Petaluma CA 1993

The home where Edith was born and lived till she was 71, artist rendition by Karen West of Petaluma CA 1993

Fr. John Kizito of St. Helena's at Ellendale ND presided at Edith's Funeral Mass.  Father Okafor was on retreat in Israel and could not attend.

Fr. John Kizito of St. Helena’s at Ellendale ND presided at Edith’s Funeral Mass. Father Okafor was on retreat in Israel and could not attend.

Yesterday was Aunt Edith’s funeral. My post on February 14 as preliminary is here. It was an inspiring two days. Seven of we nieces and nephews made it to LaMoure (and skated part of the way home afterwards!) and in all about 40 or so attended a most appropriate funeral, and a wonderful lunch followed, as always. Three of Edith’s nieces remembered how she impacted on them, individually, as a role model. For a sad occasion, nothing much could be better.

Our family is a far flung crew, so relatively few could make it back for Edith’s funeral.

My sister, Mary Ann, left a phone message from Vanuatu in the south Pacific, where she is serving in the Peace Corps.

Vince and Edith’s “double cousin”, Mel, who grew up next farm over, wrote from Eureka CA on funeral day, and summed things up well:

“Thanks for the update on the funeral plans. I hope that you realize that we could not attend due to time and distance , but my thoughts were there remembering the youth times of our lives and the great memories of that special time. I am sure that Vince will sorely miss the love of his sister for all of these years and [we] will keep both of them in our hearts and prayers.

As the passage of time is inevitable we will sometime all be together again. Of the original 21 young people reared in the old homestead, only 3 of us remain, Ruby, Vince and myself.”

Re “double cousins”: the “old homesteads” were adjoining farms, ten miles northwest of LaMoure. Brother and Sister Buschs and Sister and Brother Bernings in the country neighborhood between Cuba City and Sinsinawa WI married in 1905 and 1906 respectively, and took up farms very near each other. Thus all their kids were “double cousins’.

One of Mel’s nephews in Iowa, in another e-mail, described the close relationship well: “Regarding Edith’s photo in the obit … it was quite a shock to see it for all of us. She resembled our sister Marianne so much … Marianne passed away a few months ago at the age of 79.” Edith and Marianne’s mother, Lillian, were “double cousins”!

Below is my favorite photo of Aunt Edith with her sisters, in 1968, at her sister Florence’s farm near Dazey ND. There was a sixth sister, Verena, who died at age 15 in 1927. All of the five knew her as well. (There were three brothers, two younger than Edith). Bernings were similarly a family filled with girls, and only two boys. Another “double cousin” trait.

The Busch sisters summer, 1978.  Edith is second from right.

The Busch sisters summer, 1978. Edith is second from right.

Death is the great leveler. None of us escape. Funerals are reminders of deaths inevitability. They also remind us of coming together: community.

Twenty-one years ago we had a Berning-Busch family reunion at the Grand Rapids ND Park (a photo of most of us who came is below). You can find Edith in the front row towards the left; Vincent is near the back on the right side. Family members who look at this photo will find a great many pictures of people now deceased. It is a reminder that if you are thinking of doing a reunion, do it now.

The Berning-Busch Family Reunion, July 1993, at Grand Rapids ND Park

The Berning-Busch Family Reunion, July 1993, at Grand Rapids ND Park

But “community” is far more than just family. We all know this.

Friday night, Valentines Day, we arrived and gathered for dinner at 5:30 p.m. at LaMoure’s Centerfield Restaurant We had no reservations. No room at the inn, so to speak.

The hostess didn’t know us, asked why we were in town, “for Edith Busch’s funeral”, and said “wait a minute”. They set up a special table for 11 of us in the back of the restaurant.

I could relate many other similar happenings in these two days, and at other times, and so can you. A list would start with the personnel at St. Rose Care Center, and Rosewood Court, and Holy Rosary Church, but would go on and on.

In our polarized nation and world, where we are separated so often into competing “tribes” of all assorted kinds, the fact remains that we are really one community, and we never know when we will need that “other” who we choose not to associate with.

All best wishes, Vincent. Your sister, Edith, is at rest.

And if you’re ever in LaMoure, stop in at the Centerfield Restaurant, where hospitality is at home.

Centerfield Restaurant, LaMoure ND, February 14, 2014, 6 p.m.

Centerfield Restaurant, LaMoure ND, February 14, 2014, 6 p.m.

Wild Roses at corner of Hwy 13 at the road leading to the Busch farm home July 2013

Wild Roses at corner of Hwy 13 at the road leading to the Busch farm home July 2013

The front page commentary of the Basilica of St. Mary newsletter this morning seems to fit the “community” theme: Basilica Welcome 2 16 14001. And Fr. Bauer’s commentary on the todays Gospel, Matthew 8:20-37, the business of laws and lives generally, seems to apply as well. I always hesitate to interpret others expressed thoughts, but will take the risk here. As I heard the gist of Fr. Bauer’s remarks, the Law is fine, but essential is one one lives in relation to others. So, he seemed to call into question anyone who has a pure idea of what is right, and what is not…. But that’s just my interpretation.

#842 – Dick Bernard: An Evening with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall; and watching a family wind down….

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The “filing cabinet” on the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout is here.

Thursday, February 11, 2014
We attended the first post-Lock Out Concert at Orchestra Hall on February 8, 2014. This was an evening of immense emotional energy, with the Orchestra led by the father of Orchestra Hall, Maestro-Emeritus Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. The entire program, eight pages, is here:MN Orch Feb 7-8 2014002 This concert, and the one to follow this weekend (we attend on Feb. 15) seem to be “bridge” concerts between the 488 day Lock Out and a to-be determined future of this “family”, which is the Orchestra Management (MOA), the Orchestra itself (including the Conductor), and we in the Audience.

The Minnesota Orchestra is the essence of the perfection of a team sport: excellent players, outstanding conductor and an engaged audience make the team. The team was cooking on Saturday night.

On Feb. 8 all was in resonance.

I hope the good feelings continue, but….

I didn’t write immediately after the concert as the last three days have been devoted to family matters in ND. My Aunt is, as I write, near death in a fine nursing home. She is 93. In the next room is her 89 year old brother. Neither ever married. They are the last living members of Grandma and Grandpa’s family of 9.

There’s was a musical family, as country families often were. Their Dad was a school-trained fiddler and had a small band for local dances. To this day, Vincent is an excellent singer. Many of the kids and descendants of my grandparents are musical.

For their entire lives until 2006 Vince and Edith lived and worked together on the pioneer farm built by their parents, and when heart problems ended the farm career for my Uncle in 2006, they moved into Assisted Living, and then into the Nursing Home in nearby LaMoure ND. [Note 9:20 a.m. Feb 12: Aunt Edith passed away at 1:05 a.m. The funeral is Saturday. We'll have to miss the Saturday concert, 5th row center. Anyone interested in the tickets at cost? Inquiries welcome. dick_bernardATmeDOTcom.]

My Uncle and Aunt are very familiar people to me. Often I would spend a week or more at the farm in the summer, helping out with whatever.

They were like all families: connected, yet disconnected. They had different personalities and different skills and different interests. They had their resonances and dissonances.

In other words, they were like the rest of us, regardless of what relationship we might have with some significant other.

With all the magnificence of the evening inside the hall on Saturday night, my thoughts following the concert have more focused on what recovery from the long lockout will ultimately look like for the big “family” that is the Minnesota Orchestra community.

Most of us with any seniority in living a life in any “community”, be it marriage, employment, brother and sister (like Vince and Edith) etc., etc., have at one time or another experienced peaks and valleys. I don’t need to be specific. Think of some instance where you, personally, experienced some huge hurt, followed at some point, and for some reason, by reconciliation.

The reconciliation is its own temporary “high”.

But it is a very temporary high; and to maintain and rebuild and improve requires a huge amount of work and compromise by all parties to have any sense of permanence at all.

So it is going to be with the three-legged stool that is the Minnesota Orchestra: the musicians/conductor, the management, the audience.

If last weekend, and the coming one, are considered to be the end of the past, everyone is sadly mistaken. They are only the beginning of the beginning of a new era with the Orchestra, and everyone will be on edge as this progresses…or not.

There can be no “business as usual” if this enterprise is to succeed long term.

In Saturdays program booklet, I was most interested in the words on the “Welcome” page (page two), pretty obviously written by committee consensus, and I read with even more interest page seven, about Beethoven’s Eroica. Whoever chose Eroica to highlight the first concert back in Orchestra Hall probably chose this work intentionally. Read especially the second paragraph of the descriptor, and the last.

The power of the Minnesota Orchestra to come is going to depend on a true spirit of working together by all three legs of the stool: orchestra, management, audience.

We’ll see how it goes.

And Peace and Best Wishes to Aunt Edith, and to Uncle Vince, in this time of transition for them both.

(click to enlarge)

Uncle Vince "fiddles" with his Dad's farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992.  Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Uncle Vince “fiddles” with his Dad’s farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992. Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Aunt Edith's flowers August 1994

Aunt Edith’s flowers August 1994

The Busch family 1927 "PIE-ann-o" (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

The Busch family 1927 “PIE-ann-o” (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house.  She is at peace: July 20, 1920 - February 12, 2014.

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house. She is at peace: July 20, 1920 – February 12, 2014.