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#903 – Dick Bernard: St-Jean Baptiste Day June 24. Adding to a conversation about heritage and culture.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

In Minneapolis, this Tuesday, June 24, the Canada Consul-General is hosting a celebration of St-Jean Baptiste, sponsored by Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. The flier is here: La St-Jean Baptiste la Fete Nationale du Quebec. All are welcome, at a very moderate cost. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of state at the time of Fete de la St-Jean Baptiste. Otherwise, no question I’d be there. It will be a festive event.

My father, Henry Bernard, is 100% French-Canadian, thus qualifying me…and since 1980 I’ve been actively involved in family history matters relating to Dads Quebec (to Dad, always, refered to as “Lower Canada”).*

In 1982, Dad and I and four others traveled to rural Quebec, including Quebec City and Montreal, to make a first visit to the land of our ancestors (QC, Ile d’Orleans, St. Henri, St. Lambert et al). I had, then, only the most basic notions of the family history and traditions of my French-Canadian heritage. Dad was 74, then, which happens to be my current age….

After soupe aux pois (pea soup) at a festive weekend event of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota, some days later we all arrived in Quebec City on the evening of St-Jean Baptiste Day (StJB), Thursday, June 24, 1982. StJB is a major festive event in Quebec, a holiday, always June 24**.

I know Dad pretty well: arriving on the Lower Canada home soil from which his father had come in 1894, (and his grandparents on Grandmas side, 40 and 30 years earlier) was, for him, like arriving in Heaven.

Being a novice in the matter of ancestry at the time, the experience was less intense for me, but no less profound. Three times since I’ve been back, and later immersed myself in family history and the hobby of editing a little newsletter called Chez Nous.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

In Quebec, this year as all years, June 24 is a major day of celebration. The official notice is here, in French. The document can be translated into English, here. But, no question, they consider this a French-Canadian day***.

So far, I describe a Quebec holiday, primarily French-Canadian, celebrated this year at the home of the Canadian-Consul General in Minneapolis, sponsored by a French-related organization, Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. We French-Canadians frequently have held smaller celebrations here, most recently June 24, 2013. I wrote about aspects of last year here.

For those with intense feelings about matters French, French-Canada, Canada, and England, (and “Americans”, and “Yankees”, etc) the preceding words can excite some interesting conversation.

An alternative welcoming French word “rapprochement” comes to mind….

Enjoy June 24 and St-Jean Baptiste!

As it happens, I became involved a bit in the “drama” of French and Canadian on St. Jean-Baptiste Day a year ago, after the event of the brand new French-American Heritage Foundation, on whose Board I have served since its founding in 2013.

A year ago, I stopped by the Cathedral of St. Paul to take the above photo of St. John the Baptist, one of the six side altars devoted to national groups, primarily Catholic, who settled in the Minnesota of Archbishop John Ireland’s day.


I had long known of the altars existence but this day was different: for the first time, then, I really noted the signage identifying the altar:


It came time to correct, I felt, an error in the sign, and on July 1, 2013, I wrote a letter to the Rector of the Cathedral, Rev. John Ubel, in part, as follows:

As you know, Archbishop Ireland, whose project it was to build the Cathedral in the early 1900s, had a great affection for both France and the French-Canadians who migrated here in the tens if not hundreds of thousands in the early days of the then-immense Diocese.

It is true that St-Jean Baptiste was a French patron, and it was through the French settlement of Quebec, that this same Saint became patron of the French-Canadians. So, the French part of the sign is correct.

The problem comes with the “Canadian” portion of the sign. It is misleading. Recently I was reviewing the 1940 United States Census form, where census takers were instructed as follows: in the column heading “Place of Birth”: “Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English, and Irish Free State (Eire) from Northern Ireland“.

In the classic book, Maria Chapdelaine, (Louis Hemon, 1913), there appears this phrase on p. 89 of my English version: “When the French Canadian speaks of himself it is invariably and simply as a “Canadian”; whereas for all other races that followed in his footsteps, and people the country across to the Pacific, he keeps the name of origin: English, Irish, Polish, Russian; never admitting for a moment that the children of these, albeit born in the country, have an equal title to be called “Canadians.” Quite naturally, and without thought of offending, he appropriates the name won in the heroic days of his forefathers.

I understand that this may not rise to the top of your list of priorities, and perhaps more evidence is reasonably required, but at minimum I would hope you review this matter.”

In the manner of such things, I had no expectation of a response from Rev. Ubel, but he did respond quite quickly and said my argument made sense, and they’d be looking into the matter.

Months passed by. Then, in the mail May 2, 2014, was a handwritten note from Rev. Ubel: “I do wish to write to share with you that we have completed the work to change the signage at the St. John the Baptist Shrine Altar. You were correct and we made the correction.

Many thanks for your patience. We decided to go with French-Canadians, though I certainly understand other arguments. French and Canadians is clearly wrong. We looked at our own historical records of the Chapel.

I went back to the Cathedral, to see what had been done with the signage:

May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

I look at this story as not a battle won in any national war; rather an effort to revisit a long history of too-often fractured relationships.

And this year I’ll really appreciate a great deal the efforts of Canada, through Consul General Jamshed Merchant, and Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis, and hope to see continuing and increasing efforts at rapprochement (what a wonderful word!)

* Mom was 100% German ancestry; her ancestors coming to Wisconsin between 1840s and 1860s from what was then Westphalia and Hanover states.
** A week later comes Canada Day, celebrated each year across Canada on July 1. I’d imagine this is a pretty big vacation week in Canada, not just Quebec.
*** St. Jean-Baptiste was early on a favored patron of France, from which my and others French-Canadian ancestors migrated beginning in the early 1600s. One story of that relationship is here.

#900 – Dick Bernard: A Ride on the St. Paul-Minneapolis Green Line

Monday, June 16th, 2014

NOTE: There is plenty of “regular” news about the inauguration of the Minneapolis to St. Paul Green Line train Saturday and Sunday. Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Twin Cities Daily Planet are three of, doubtless, many.

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

Some personal observations: a ride on the railroad

My spouse, Cathy, takes events like Father’s Day seriously. So, as Sunday loomed, she asked what I wanted to do for the day. I had only a single request: to join the throng that would doubtless pack the Green Line train on the opening, free, weekend. I even entertained the notion of trying to be on the first free ride early Saturday morning. That was a bit nuts, so we ended up going mid-afternoon on Sunday.

It wasn’t that I’ve never been on a train.

Occasionally we ride the Blue Line from Mall of America to Target Field via the Airport for a Minnesota Twins game. We begin the journey with plenty of seating; the return, after the game, begins with everyone packed like sardines.

The earliest train ride I remember was sometime in the late 1940s, 14 miles between Sykeston and Carrington ND, and back, in the single passenger car of the spur line which went from Carrington west to Turtle Lake in the morning, turned around and came back in the afternoon. Sykeston was the second stop. For some specific reason, on this particular day the route was reversed so that townspeople of Sykeston could “ride the rails” to small-but-larger Carrington and back, without staying overnight. There had to be some specific arrangement.

For a little kid, it was fun, including the occasional soot from the stack of the coal fired steam engine a few cars forward.

Once in awhile, rarely, there have been other train rides: as a college student from Valley City to Minneapolis about 1960 for a student union conference. That was an overnight ride, where the train seemed to stop in the middle of nowhere, frequently. Now and then there have been AMTRAK journeys, as St. Louis to Rochester NY; Washington D.C. to North Carolina; St. Paul to Hartford Ct via Rochester NY; Minneapolis to Chicago with my young son in the 1960s.

What are your memories of trains?

So, came Sunday afternoon, beginning at St. Paul’s Union Station. Initially the plan – my plan, as for a moment I “ruled the roost” – was to go the entire 11 miles and 20 stops from newly reopened Union Station to Target Field. I changed my mind. We went as far as the University of Minnesota stop, turned around and came back. The other stations we’ve seen before.

All of the route was familiar territory. It was just nice to see it from a train or, rather, experience it in a train. Westbound we were seated, and could see little; coming back we were standing, and could see little. It was a free day, after all, and train was full of people, including many friendly and polite families with young kids. This was an outing, not a trip to work!

Here’s two photos I took, one while seated; the second while standing. You can tell which is which!

View from the seated position

View from the seated position

...and from the standing position.

…and from the standing position.

Of course, there were a few grousers demonstrating. “STUPID” said one sign on Saturday; “Nobody will ride it” said another demonstrator. Waste of tax money….

Of course, it isn’t like the Green Line is something novel. Trains and subways and the like are ubiquitous, though not as ubiquitous as I’d like them to be.

As one nice person said while we waited at University Station for the ride back: “we drew preliminary plans for this route 25 years ago”. A news comment suggests that the idea was first surfaced 30 years before 2014. Long before that were streetcars.

It took so long because the “auto” interests prevailed. The monopolist who brought buses (big autos) to this area burned the streetcars so they wouldn’t be competition ever again. Later, I seem to recall, he went to prison for something or other.

But the Green Line was fun on Sunday, and when the hubbub settles down, it will be a busy line and enhance everyones quality of life. The grousers will grouse about something else.

Take it for a ride, sometime. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Green & Blue Line001

#899 – Dick Bernard: Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Happy Father’s Day to everyone.

My favorite postcard, from 1910, to my Grandma Busch on the farm in North Dakota, from one of her sisters in Wisconsin, is this one:

(click to enlarge photos)
BUSCH Postcards early 1900s - 92 - Sep 1 1910097

At the time, Grandma had two kids, three and one (my mother, the one year old), and Women’s Suffrage was 10 years away.

The card was a little reminder, I suppose, even back in the “good old days” (as perceived by some, perhaps even still).

This Sunday morning I was ushering at Basilica of St. Mary, as usual, and one of the male members of the fabulous Basilica Choir was leading the congregation in the Alleluia before the Gospel reading.

A lady came back about that time, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, proudly, “that’s my son, singing up there!” A minute or two later, enroute back from wherever she’d been, she added a footnote: “he’s an identical twin; his brother is also in the choir!”

Her pride was merited.

I thought to myself that in this picture was a biological Dad. And any number of male and females that had been in advisory capacities, along with Mom, as these twins with marvelous singing voices grew up. Being Father (and Mother) is a team activity, from birth to death.

In our own constellation, there are five biological Dad’s, each their own unique person.

Everyone of them, and this Grandpa, have their own styles and are examples to others. Note, I didn’t say “good examples”. It seems to me that each one of us, regardless of gender or role teach not only by our positive qualities but by our mistakes, which are (at least for me) plenty numerous. Every now and then I run across parents who are trying to insulate their kids from the evils of the world. I feel badly for them, since it never quite works out according to plan. Maybe we can minimize the problems, but as each one of us can attest we sometimes bumble along, remembering stuff we wish we hadn’t done; regretting things we wish we had, but didn’t.

My favorite Father’s Day picture is one I only recently found, from 1949, out there on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm:

Mother's Day, 1949, at the Busch farm.  Standing at rear, from left, Lucina Pinkney, Edith Busch, Henry with John Bernard.  Middle Row: Esther and Mary Ann Bernard; Grandma Busch.  Front row from left: Richard and Frank Bernard, Ron Pinkney, Florence Bernard, Jim Pinkney.

Mother’s Day, 1949, at the Busch farm. Standing at rear, from left, Lucina Pinkney, Edith Busch, Henry with John Bernard. Middle Row: Esther and Mary Ann Bernard; Grandma Busch. Front row from left: Richard and Frank Bernard, Ron Pinkney, Florence Bernard, Jim Pinkney.

This is a Mother’s Day picture, but to me it contributes to the universality of the word “father”.

Dad is there, of course, and it is May, 1949. Not in the photo are Duane Pinkney, the father of the two boys are lower right (most likely he was taking the picture); nor are Grandpa Busch and his son, my Uncle Vincent.

We went home after that day on the farm, and as was quite common, came back late in July of 1949. This time we stayed overnight, and a vicious wind blew the roof off the barn, a scant 200 feet or so from where we had been sleeping.

Uncle Vince takes up the story: they now had a big problem on their hands. No barn roof. Dad was a school teacher and it was summertime, so he stayed around while the three men set about hand building a new roof for the barn. Dad was invaluable, Vince says. Me? I was nine. I remember bits and pieces: the form for the roof, the big people nailing boards…. Sixty-five years later the barn still stands, though it is not doing well, as they’d say at a clinic for barns.

The Barn, Sep 20, 2013.  Built 1915, roof replaced 1949.  Unused for years.

The Barn, Sep 20, 2013. Built 1915, roof replaced 1949. Unused for years.

Look at that barn. Imagine it without a roof, in August, 1949, after the storm. Notice a young boy up there, 9 years old; his Dad, 41, his Grandpa, 69, and his Uncle Vince, 24. The nine year old was me, then, watching the others pound the nails, etc. Probably I could pound one or two….

Dad died in 1997. For some years prior to his death I would quite often be his driver when he came north to visit places like the farm. About that time, I began to spend perhaps a week most summers at the farm, just helping out. Vince, who is now in the twilight of his years, became in a real sense something of a new Dad, and a good one, though most of our times were basically quiet times. His sister, Edith, helped out in that role too.

We are all family, whether biologically connected or not.

At the end of Mass today, the Priest asked all the men to stand for a Blessing. Years ago this used to be for biological fathers only.

It’s a good change.

Happy Father’s Day.

Uncle Vince, at the funeral of his sister, my Aunt Edith, February 15, 2014

Uncle Vince, at the funeral of his sister, my Aunt Edith, February 15, 2014

#896 – Dick Bernard: Magnifique!* An evening with Mozart’s last three symphonies

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

For subscribers (and all): here’s the May 3 “For Pete’s Sake” concert in honor of Pete Seeger. The originating post is here.

My sister Mary Ann’s continuing posts from Vanuatu can be seen here. Scroll to the June 7, 2014 addition at the very end of the post.


While by no means an expert, I like orchestral music, and a favorite composer is Mozart. So when we dug out our tickets for last night, and they said “Mozart: The Three Final Symphonies”, I was pleased. It would be a great evening at Orchestra Hall.

And it was.

The program: Symphonies 39, 40 and 41, all composed in 1788, when Mozart was 32 years old; all first performed in 1791, the year he died at age 35, less than half my age.

What a life he lived. And what a legacy he left behind. Larger than life in many ways. A prodigy.

I can’t sit still with his music in my ears.

(* – Mozart was Austrian, and thus German language. But the French “Magnifique” as a descriptor works just fine for moi!)

It happened, last night, that a young man took the seat next to me, and was very friendly, striking up a conversation before the concert began. He’d been the Orchestra “years before” he said at the invitation of a teacher at the college he was attended. This concert was “pretty pricey” he said. We chatted, briefly, about this and that.

No question, that he was engaged and enthusiastic about the performance he was witnessing.

I got to thinking about a recent Facebook post I’d received from my daughter, about Grandson Ted, who was 14 yesterday, and whose birthday we’ll celebrate in an hour or two.

The Facebook post included grandson Teddy Flatley’s arrangement of Spanish Flea, June 3, 2014, South St. Paul MN. His Mom, my daughter, Lauri: “Ok… so I have to admit it. I’m pretty proud of this kid. Not that I have ever NOT been proud of him. Today was just a flat out reminder of how extraordinary he is to me. Way to go T Flat. I can hardly wait to see where the road takes you next!”

Happy Birthday, Ted!

Shortly before that, daughter Joni had e-mailed files with music programs of her kids, Spencer and Parker, 14 and 12. I’d attach those audio files too, but don’t have the expertise….

Ted is mathematical, a good aptitude for a musician, and he seems to have settled in with music as a specialty. Spencer and Parker like band, but Trap Shooting and Baseball respectively seem to be their activities of choice.

For all of us, our own way in our own time….

Looking through the program I noticed an upcoming program: Pixar, June 26-28, 2014: Pixar001

This afternoon I’ll ask the three kids if they want to go to this concert.

It will be interesting to see their response.

Great music from the proverbial “old dead musicians” isn’t all there is, but it surely is very important to all of us, especially the young, and I hope the boys stay interested.

There are variations that reach across generations. As previously noted in the blog about the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony concert, fine music and ‘toons go hand in hand.

Could be much worse….

Fine music has to be accessible to and encouraged for young people. This includes pricing and accessibility. Fine music isn’t for only those who can “afford” it.

#890 – Dick Bernard: Dad’s Flower

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Originally published as #889 on May 28.

A couple of days ago, daughter Lauri stopped by and noticed:

(click to enlarge)

May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014

Of course, it’s spring in Minnesota, and the State Flower this time of year is the Dandelion, and the Barbary Bush that is aggressively protecting it is very prickly. So, what to do?

Besides, as she pointed out, and we both know, the Dandelion was my Dad, and her Grandpas, flower of choice for special occasions.

When he was out and about in the spring, and dropped in on the Brashers, or somebody he knew at Our Lady of the Snows or elsewhere in Belleville IL, and Dandelions were in season, Dad’s “calling card” was not infrequently a bouquet of Dandelions, with a certain amount of je ne sais quoi (a pleasant quality that is hard to describe).

He was that kind of guy, Dad was.

I’ve done home-made holiday greetings since 1977, and each year something “speaks” to me and becomes the topic of the annual greeting.

In 1996, the year before Dad died, it was the Dandelions turn, and the resulting simple card is here: Bernard H Dandelion 96001

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “a weed is simply a flower misplaced”. I just google’d “weed flower misplaced quotation” and here’s your daily reading.

Dandelions haven’t received the memo….

Dad, lifelong teacher that he was, would be delighted to know his little and delightful eccentricity (not the only eccentricity!) is being publicized.

Have a great spring.

POSTNOTE: Sad to say, that proud Dandelion pictured at the beginning of this post is no longer visible, at least for this year. I put on some heavy gloves and removed the greenery and the flowers.

But that doesn’t mean its end.

It is entwined with the root system of its host plant, so it will be back, and back, and back.

#888 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day and Disabled Survivors of War

Monday, May 26th, 2014

UPDATE May 27, 2014: Here’s a Facebook album of photos I took at the Veterans for Peace Memorial Day observance at the MN State Capitol Vietnam Memorial yesterday.
A very worthwhile summary of the tension which seems to surround the Memorial Day observances (Pro-War or Pro-Peace) can be found here. It is long, but very worthwhile.

TWIN CITIES READERS: join with the Veterans for Peace today at 9:30 a.m. at the Vietnam Memorial area on the State Capitol Grounds for the annual Memorial Day reflections. I have attended this observance for years. It is always moving.

May 29 UPDATE: Thoughts after the Memorial on Monday May 26
After the annual Vets for Peace Memorial on the Minnesota Capitol Grounds Vietnam Memorial, I went home to try to reconstruct my attendance at these events over the years. Almost certainly they go back to 2003, which was about when I was becoming an activist for Peace, and was a new member of Vets for Peace. I didn’t make all of the Memorials: sometimes I was out of town; but if in town, I’d be there. Ditto for Armistice Day each November 11, most often at the USS Ward Memorial in the same neighborhood; the first one, though, at Ft. Snelling.

2014’s observance was better than last, which was better than the year before, and the year before that…. Slowly, surely, the observance grows in attendance and in quality.

My friend, Ehtasham Anwar, from Pakistan and a Humphrey/Fulbright Fellow at the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota, counted 150 of us at the observance.

From the first Pete Seeger song by Bill McGrath of Northfield, to Taps at the end, the one hour event was its usual quiet, powerful self, with memories, both of the structured sort (reading the names of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan), to individuals recalling their own victims of war, both living and dead.

Jim Northrup, Objibwa author and Vietnam vet spoke powerfully about his personal family history with the Vietnam War. It began with memories of watching Albert Woolson, the last survivor of the Civil War in parades in Duluth, “surrounded by pretty girls” – pretty cool for young Northrop. Then memories of the War itself, abstract demolished by reality. Seeing John Wayne appear and as immediately disappear in a cameo appearance on a battlefield somewhere over there….

One of the vets rang a hand-made bell eleven times, remembering 11 a.m., on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when Armistice was declared in the “War to End All Wars”.

We adjourned, quietly, and went our separate ways.

There were no gun salutes. It was all about Peace.

At the wall, at the end, organizer Barry Riesch and myself found that we both knew, in different ways, one of the names on the wall, Joseph Sommerhauser, killed 1968. He was Barry’s classmate; and he’s my long-time Barbers brother. Tom, my barber, was also a Marine in Vietnam.

So is how it goes with circles, only through gatherings like this can dots be connected.

(click to enlarge photos)

Barry Riesch identifies name of Vietnam casualty, Joseph Sommerhauser, May 26, 2014, at the Vietnam Wall, MN State Capitol Grounds.

Barry Riesch identifies name of Vietnam casualty, Joseph Sommerhauser, May 26, 2014, at the Vietnam Wall, MN State Capitol Grounds.

Original Post for Memorial Day 2014

About three weeks ago, my wife and I stopped downstairs after 9:30 Mass at Basilica for our usual coffee and conversation.

This particular day we joined a man sitting by himself at a table. He was a very dapper older gentleman, well dressed, wearing a boutonniere.

We introduced ourselves. He gave his name. I’ll call him Roger.

Roger, it turned out, grew up in an eastern state and was drafted during the worst parts of the Vietnam War. He was a Conscientious Objector, and went into alternative service aboard a Hospital Ship just off of Vietnam during 1968, one of the deadliest years of the Vietnam War.

He told his story that morning at coffee. He came home from the war, and went to work in the medical field. All went okay for something over 20 years, then PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) took hold. His personal hell was compounded because no one would believe him; he was, after all, “normal” for over 20 years. It took a long and very frustrating time to verify his career-ending disability.*

We shared contact information before leaving coffee.

Later in the week, came a packet from my new friend, including several photos, three of which are below.

Hospital Ship Sanctuary late 1960s

Hospital Ship Sanctuary late 1960s

"Roger" is in this picture, 1968

“Roger” is in this picture, 1968

Gen. Westmoreland visiting the ICU on the Hospital Ship.

Gen. Westmoreland visiting the ICU on the Hospital Ship.

I’ve seen him each Sunday since, and each Sunday he’s wearing that boutonniere, dressed very well.

This day, Memorial Day 2014, at 9:30 a.m. at the Vietnam Memorial on the State Capitol Grounds, I may see Roger, who I invited to the annual Vets for Peace Memorial Day observance. Each year this observance grows in numbers of participants. It is always impressive. Whether or not he chooses to come, I’ll dedicate the day to him.

I’ll also bring to the observance two new friends from Pakistan, Humphrey/Fulbright Fellows in the University of Minnesota Human and Civil Rights Center, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. I have been assisting them in identifying Americans to interview on the topic of Peace. The interviews, their stories, and their perceptions of America both from at-home and here are most interesting, and perhaps a topic for a later post.

But these are tense times in the issue of care of the desperately wounded coming home from combat oversees, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

This evening 60 Minutes had a powerful segment on PTSD programs. You can watch it here.

There is a great deal of political controversy, lately, about the Veterans Administration Hospitals. My Grandfather Bernard died in a VA Hospital in 1957; so did my physically and psychologically disabled Brother-in-Law, who I spent time with at three different VA hospitals during assorted confinements. A VA Nurse I know is an outspoken advocate for better funding of health care in the system. Etc.

Still, the entire system, especially the Director, former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, and, of course, the President of the United States, is under attack as this Memorial Day dawns because of assorted outrages at a number of VA Hospitals in that immense system. Rather than fix the problems, the political strategy is to demand that the top guy be fired, and blame the President (and Democrats) and reap political points in the process.


If you’re interested (I hope you are) a long post on the topic I would urge you to read is here. There is a short comment of my own at the end.

I close with this personal comment: we are a nation that seems to revere war, when war has never and will never solve anything; and it is war that will ultimately kill us all. We have created and continue to refine the monster that can kill us all.

What I look for is the day when we can celebrate the death of war: now that will be a cause for celebration!

We Americans, indeed the vast majority of all citizens everywhere in the world, are a peace-loving people. Just look around at your friends, neighbors and communities. The vast majority of us do not celebrate war.

But it will take our individual work to end our national obsession with it, and to reduce the numbers of our fellow citizens killed or mortally and permanently wounded by it.

Let us make Memorial Day a day to celebrate Peace.

* – POSTNOTE: My barber, a retired man, is a Marine veteran of Vietnam. His brother died at 18 there; his name is on the Wall in DC and Minnesota. In Vietnam my barber was one of those who went into the tunnel system constructed by the enemy – he was willing and had the build for it. This was in the 1960s.

Tom and I talk a lot while I’m in his barber chair, and in recent years he’s talked about claustrophobia as a fairly recent and disabling issue for him. It sounds odd, coming from him, a former tunnel rat, but it is truly a problem for him, and he receives treatment from the VA for it.

War, it turns out, never ends.

#886 – Dick Bernard: Ten Plots

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

(click to enlarge photos)

St. John's Cemetery, Berlin ND, May 21, 2014.  Verena's headstone is to the right of the Busch family headstone.

St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND, May 21, 2014. Verena’s headstone is to the right of the Busch family headstone.

Tuesday morning we laid Aunt Edith to rest in the St. John’s Cemetery in tiny Berlin ND. Seven family members were there, including Edith’s brother, our Uncle Vince, whose entire 89 years had been spent with his sister, who was 93 when she died February 12, 2014.

The next morning I was talking with a guy I hardly know, my general age, and the topic of death came up. “Do you ever think about dying?” he said, then going on to remember his Mother who died days after a terminal cancer diagnosis; and his Dad, dying just minutes after having coffee with his son, and declining to ride along up to “Jimtown”.

Death is the one constant for every living thing. All we don’t know with precision is exactly when and how.

I’m guessing the vast majority of us hope that when the time comes, at least one other person will care enough to care that we passed on, and will acknowledge that we made at least a little positive difference sometime in the time we were passing time on earth.

I’m also guessing that someone’s death is more a time for the living to reflect on their own lives, already lived and to come. The deceased has no reason whatever to worry about what hymn was sung, or so forth. The ritual varies culture to culture, place to place, but there is a constancy.

Graveside May 21, 2014.  Edith's grave next to that her mother, Rosa, and father Ferdinand Busch.  Fr. Jerome Okafor presiding.  Brother Vincent nearest the car.

Graveside May 21, 2014. Edith’s grave next to that her mother, Rosa, and father Ferdinand Busch. Fr. Jerome Okafor presiding. Brother Vincent nearest the car.

Which brings me to the title of this post “Ten Plots”.

Back a few months, when the possibility of death of one or the other sibling seemed ever more likely, I inquired about burial plots at St. John’s just outside of Berlin ND. The sexton looked at the map and said the Busch’s had ten plots reserved in the cemetery, which surprised me a great deal.

No family narrative exists laying out the reasoning for this purchase; which gives me free rein to speculate.

Ferd and Rosa Busch married Feb 28, 1905, and immediately thereafter moved to their new patch of ground about five miles northeast of Berlin. Nine children were born to them.

In early May, 1927, when the third child, Verena, was 15, she died of peritonitis. Hers was the first family death. It was a devastating event for the family.

Vincent, then two, recalled looking for his sister.

Edith, then nearing seven, was very well aware of the death of her 15 year old sibling.

It was a terrible time for Mom and Dad.

My speculation – and it is only speculation – is that when they purchased the burial plot for Verena in the then-rarely used cemeteries, they purchased lots for their entire family.

Of course, time went on. The youngest child, Arthur, born in Oct 1927, may not have been counted in May, 1927. Except for Vincent and Edith, who stayed on the farm, all the other “kids” moved on. They are listed at the end of this post.

Of the ten plots, only five will likely be used.

But they stand as silent testimonies to life, and to death.

We’re all “on deck”. Make the best of the time you have left!

Certificate of marriage of Rosa Berning and Ferdinand Busch at St. Josephs Church Sinsinawa Mound WI February 28, 1905.  The feather from Rosa's post- wedding hat adorns the frame.

Certificate of marriage of Rosa Berning and Ferdinand Busch at St. Josephs Church Sinsinawa Mound WI February 28, 1905. The feather from Rosa’s post- wedding hat adorns the frame.

The Busch Family: (information is as best known. Amendments are welcome.)
Lucina (Jan 3, 1907 – July 6, 1996) married Duane Pinkney, buried Morris MN
Esther (Jul 27, 1909 – Aug 20, 1981) married Henry Bernard, donated body to University of Houston; memorials at assorted places at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL
Verena (Mar 21, 1912 – May 2, 1927) buried St. Johns Cemetery, Berlin ND
Mary (Sep 26, 1913 – May 2, 2003) married Allen Brehmer, buried Wales, ND
George (Jan 11, 1916 – Jun 23, 1979) married Jean Tannahill, buried Grand Forks ND
Florence (Nov 3, 1918 – May 24, 1996) married Bernard Wieland, buried St. Mary’s, rural Dazey ND
Edith (Jul 20, 1920 – Feb, 12, 2014) buried St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND
Vincent (Jan 6, 1925 – )
Arthur (Oct 16, 1927 – Feb 23, 2011) buried Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Cemetery Westchester IL

The “Double Cousins” who lived next farm over, August Berning, Grandma’s brother, married Christina Busch, Grandpa’s sister)
Irwin (no birth date known, died at 6 months)
Irene (Dec 7, 1908 – Jul 15, 1994) married Carl Langkamp. buried Calvary Cemetery, Rockford IL
Lillian (Feb 8, 2010 – Dec 20, 1999) married Walter McFadden
Cecilia (Nov 24, 2012 – Mar 11, 1998) Married Donald Thimmesch. Buried Glendale Cemetery Des Moines IA
Rose (Nov 2, 1914 – Jan 6, 1998) (married George Molitor KIA over Italy Apr 4, 1945; married Ben Van Hoorn
August (Nov 12, 1916 – Jul 3, 1965) married Betty Cisinski
Hyacinth (Nov 16, 1918 – Dec 7, 2002) married Robert Sweeney
Ruby & Ruth (Sep 25, 1920; Ruby married Miles Fitzgerald and is still living; Ruth died in infancy)
Rufine (Feb 21, 1922 – ?) (married Don Anciaux)
Agnes (Sr. Mary Catherine) (Jan 18, 1924 – Mar 23, 1981)
Anita (Oct 20, 1925 – Jan 25, 2013) married Dale Cranfield
Melvin (Apr 13, 1928 – ) married Leola Peters

#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