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#1031 – Dick Bernard: Taps. A Memorial Day to Remember in LaMoure

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

POSTNOTE, May 29, from Kathy G: A one-minute ad without a single word, for Memorial Day. “This is a one-minute commercial. Not a word spoken and none is needed. Food City is a Southern grocery store chain with headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee.”

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

Reunion over, and about to leave LaMoure ND, we and my brother John decided to attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the LaMoure American Legion post. It is always moving and inspiring – an honor to attend, as is the usual observance by the Veterans for Peace in St. Paul MN which I had to miss this year.

I had been to several observances with my Uncle and Aunt in LaMoure over the years, so I knew what to expect, but brother John, long retired from a 20-year career as an Air Force officer, and long-time Californian, was deeply impressed with the local observance, as was my wife, Cathy. Neither had been there before.

Monday was an iffy day, weather-wise, but the place was packed as usual, with music provided by local high-schoolers, with the reading of names of departed veterans, and a couple of very good speeches. (I can’t name names: my program departed the car enroute home during a windy and rainy stop to change drivers at Fergus Falls.)

At the end of the formal presentation indoors, we adjourned to the vacant lot beside the Legion where crosses were planted, poppies affixed, an honor guard with flags and rifles for the traditional salute, and then taps, expertly played by a young woman, probably high school age.

We had a mix of near sunshine, and light rain, almost perfect.

It was all deeply moving.

(click to enlarge all photos)

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

Inside, the narrator had earlier read the names of all local military veterans who have died.

Even in this small community, it was a very long list of names, particularly for World War II, and World War I as well. As I remember: departed veterans were named from the Civil War, and the “Indian War” during the same time period; the Spanish-American; Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

This observance emphasized the physically dead. Back home in the evening I noticed that the national observance on the Capitol mall now recognizes also those veterans permanently physically disabled by war. The Vets for Peace recognizes all of these, but also those mortally wounded psychologically: PTSD, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, homeless….

Saturday, I’d seen the reader of names at the fish dinner at the same Legion, and he said that every year somebody mentions somebody not named who should have been on the list.

Little did I know that I’d be writing him my own letter today. He read the names of my uncles, Shipfitter Frank Bernard (USS Arizona), and Lt. George W. Busch (USS Woodworth); but not those of Uncle Arthur Busch (U.S. Army 1945-46), nor Art and George’s cousin next farm over, Capt. August Berning, Marine in the Pacific Theatre WWII, both deceased.

So next year, the narrators list will be even longer, thanks to me, and to others who also add names, and, of course, more veterans who have died in the days to come.


The recitation of names by War caused me to think about categories of Wars in which the U.S. been engaged, and how people have engaged in those wars. (In a previous post I included an American Legion summary of these wars: America at War001)

Of course, the early wars, including the Revolutionary, came as our country grew to today’s boundaries of the lower 48 states. Wars brought us into being, over 150 years ago, against England, etc.

But by far our most deadly war was our own Civil War: the same war which birthed the very concept of Memorial Day. We were at War against ourselves, then. It is not an abstraction to think that perhaps the current “war” between Sunni and Shiite centered in Iraq and Syria might not be such a novel occurrence. There are far more similarities than differences to our own Civil War. In our own country, the Civil War was brother-against-brother; slavery or not was the main issue; plenty of Old Testament scriptural basis supported slavery.

Then there were the Teddy Roosevelt adventures: Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, etc. That was my Grandpa Bernard’s War: North Dakota’s were among the first volunteers to go to the Philippines in 1898, and Grandpa was on the boat with the others.

The deadliest wars so far, WWI and WWII, the U.S. entered long after they began, reluctantly. There was debate whether we should have entered earlier, or not at all. Wars are complicated things, after all. In WWI my Grandpa Busch’s hired man, whose name I do not know, was killed. Grandpa wanted to volunteer, but there was the matter of his being ethnic German, which complicated things a whole lot for Germans in this country.

Then there were the anti-Communist Wars, like Korea and Vietnam, and the near miss with Cuba and Russian Missiles in 1962 (I was in the Army, then). It’s been years since the Soviet Union became Russia and other countries, but the “Communist” card is still played by some, perhaps yearning for the good old days of the Cold War. Wars have an unfortunate way of living on, far past their reason.

And there have been wars just for the hell of it (it seems to me): Grenada comes to mind. Remember the Grenada War?


Through Korea, Wars were very personal things: if you were at war, you were at war against someone who could shoot you dead. The days of massive standing Armies and compulsory draft are long past, the times when (as in my own family) we three boys all served; or four of my five uncles (the fifth was needed on the farm). The notion of a citizen Army (males of a certain age) ended with the end of the Draft in 1975 and (in my opinion) will never be successfully marshaled again, even in times of major crisis.

Memorial Day remembers old wars….

Now war has become a video game, threatening every single one of us, if we can’t figure out how to deal with each other, including the top guys who have led and will lead people into these ever deadlier things called war.

“Evil” will never end (not always restricted just to the “bad guys”). Yes, we can be the bad guys, and have been.

And, there is much to be said for “duty, honor, country”.

But the reality of evil, and those honorable concepts can be and are misused by all “sides”, including our own.

There are lots of alternatives to war, and while peace can be very messy in itself, it far exceeds the never-ending problems with attempting to win the peace by war. That has never, and will never, work.

Thanks, LaMoure American Legion, for a most respectful and sombre Memorial Day 2015.

I will not forget.

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015



The Reader of the Names

The Reader of the Names

The Student Speaker

The Student Speaker

The main speaker

The main speaker

The traditional Salute

The traditional Salute

#1027 – Dick Bernard: Remembering 50 years; a Teacher Union Gathering.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Today was the annual Recognition Dinner of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, and as I’ve done since the first one, in 2001, I always attend. And when I get home, I’m always glad I made the trip to the north suburbs of Minneapolis, to some venue in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

It was a rainy late afternoon, early evening, this year, and a rush hour drive, but as always the general theme of food, fun, family prevailed, the family being 85 or so present and past leaders of the now over 2700 member teacher union.

This year I was especially glad to be there, though externally I probably looked and sounded a bit withdrawn.

It was an evening of reminiscence…a time of thinking back.

It was 50 years ago this coming summer, July 21, 1965, when I came to Anoka for the first time, and signed a contract to teach in the brand new Roosevelt Junior High School in the neighboring town of Blaine. I signed the contract in Superintendent Erling Johnson’s office in the old Anoka Senior High School, the school from which Garrison Keillor had graduated a few years earlier, in 1960.

I didn’t know it then, but three days later my critically ill wife, Barbara, would die at the University of Minnesota Hospital, leaving me in a strange city, a new arrival, with a year and a half son. Survival depended on community, in the broadest definition….

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Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

The early weeks remain a blur, and the first year was especially difficult, but somehow or other unplanned things tend to work out, and in this case they did.

Another unplanned event got me involved in the teacher’s union beginning towards the end of the 1960s.

I was teaching at Roosevelt, and a teacher colleague, Ron Swanson, became President of what was then called AHEA, the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association. Anoka-Hennepin was already a large district, and while there was not yet collective bargaining, representing about 1000 teachers was very hard work.

Ron was a local boy, and I was an outsider, but one day I remember Ron walking by with a large box of Association files, heading to a meeting, and complaining of a bad headache.

It was then and there that I decided that I needed to get involved and do something, though I had no idea what teachers unions did. That singular decision led to a 27 year career representing public school teachers – something I’d never even considered doing. So is how life goes.

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

You learn quickly, of course, when you jump in, and others who are active see that you have an interest.

For me, it began with becoming part of a Public Relations Committee which founded something we decided to call “Coins for the Community”. Tonight, at the dinner, it was mentioned that Coins for Community remains as a project of the Association 45 years later!

Old AHEA Newsletters I have reveal the origin and first results of “Coins for Community”: AHEA Coins for Community001. I can still see in minds eye the small committee meeting in an Anoka-Hennepin classroom deciding on the project. A teacher at Sorteberg Elementary School asked her son to design the Coins logo which was used for years.

Then came a year of editing the Teacher Association newsletter, thence dabbling in negotiations, thence diving into the totally uncharted waters of Executive Director of the local Union beginning in March, 1972.

American Education Week 1970.  These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

American Education Week 1970. These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

"Revolution" in the Fall of 1970

“Revolution” in the Fall of 1970

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

There were increasing numbers of we teachers who became active back then and, truth be told, we all basically slogged along, putting one foot in front of the other, learning as we went along. So did management adapt and adjust. They had no concept of sharing power with employees – it just was something that had never been done.

We all learned, making abundant mistakes in the process.

What heartened me tonight is that this Association survived and thrived long after we departed from the scene.

Sitting in that room tonight, among a number of we “old-timers” were a large crop of present day active members of the Association, the people who make any organization work: in a real sense, a family of people who work together towards a common cause, not always agreeing on what or how to do this or that, but nonetheless getting the job done…and being respected by the other side.

Sometime in the next months there will be a 50-year anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Junior High School. When it happens, I’ll be there with the rest of us, all well on in years, now, but nonetheless all people who contributed in our own ways to the future.

Thanks AHEM Local 7007. It was great to be there.

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

#1024 – Dick Bernard: “A Boy Named Sue”, a song for Mother’s Day?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Today we did what has come to be an annual trip, possibly four miles to the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (RCCF) to purchase Mother’s Day Flowers. (More here.)

The seasonal business is staffed by inmates at this place once called the Workhouse; 25% of the proceeds count as a donation. It is a pleasant task, buying flowers at a jail while helping some folks recover from the mistake(s) that got them confined there.

(click to enlarge)
RCCF Flowers001.

I’ve written about this program before. Every inmate there has a mother, and father, and ancestors…and some problem that got them time….

This year I was reminded of a session on “heritage” that I conducted on Monday evening, coincidentally my 75th birthday, in Minneapolis.

Heritage, I said on Monday, is everything about us, brought to us from our past. In Old French the word heritage essentially means “inheritance” from our ancestors.

We usually think of our ancestry, as people we know: our Mom, our Dad, maybe our Grandparents, but we are a sum of thousands of predecessors, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings, on and on and on. Each brings to us something empowering or disabling. Much is DNA; or observed and learned behaviors, and on and on.

Our “inheritance” is far more than money – or lack of same….

Thinking about how to approach Mondays topic, I decided to frame heritage as our collective “baggage” and “balloons”.

If we’re lucky, and determined, the balloons we’ve inherited have greater lift than the weight of the baggage. We can rise above much; sometimes like these inmates who were helping us today, we’re dragged down, but we can recover.

I kept thinking of Johnny Cash’s old tune, “A Boy Named Sue”, and found an unexpurgated and particularly entertaining version on YouTube. (Yes, this version has the cuss words, little kids doing fake violence and the like, but c’mon, every now and then you’ve thunk the same ’bout your own situation and who bears the blame for your state of being at some particular time!).

Somewhere out there on the internet, I’m sure, there’s analysis about what drew Johnny Cash to sing the verses of that song, and made that song so popular. Here’s one. We identify with imperfection, because we’re imperfect. Doubtless in the video that accompanies the song, those little kids who were the “actors” had fun with the rubber knife and the play gun.

I guess it’s part of the life we all experience from time to time, our private face..

But for all of us it started with a Mom and a Dad, and for them, the same, and back all through human history.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And if you’re in the area, and haven’t got your flowers as yet, try the RCCF sale this weekend, or through May 24.

A related post here.

And an interesting commentary, “Teach Your Children Well“.

#1017 – Dick Bernard: Reminiscing Along North Dakota’s I-94

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

For a few hours last Friday I reacquainted with about 130 miles of North Dakota’s I-94, between Mandan and Valley City ND. Thanks for the unexpected trip, and the opportunity to reminisce, go to my Uncle Vince.

Vincent, who died on February 2, was a long-time member of the Catholic Fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, as was his Dad, my Grandpa. Grandpa joined about 1921, and Vincent in 1947.

As part of the annual North Dakota Knights of Columbus gathering, this year in Mandan ND on April 17, about 150 KCs who’d died in the past year were recognized by a reading of their names and procession of candles, one dedicated to each departed Knight.

I was invited as a member of Vincent’s family, and attending was the least I could do.

It was a very impressive event (portion of program here: KCs Mandan 4-17-15001. Listed (p. 4) and somewhere among the candles (below) was Vincent Busch. A retired and prominent Catholic Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick (p. 5), was celebrant.

Knowing Vincent as I do, he’d probably be embarrassed and said, “what did I ever do to deserve this?”

Well, of course, he deserved the recognition, and the others as well.

We all deserve to be remembered.

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At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

To get to and from Mandan I drove a portion of I-94 I have rarely driven in the past 50 years.

I-94 Bis-Vc001

Thursday, I started from LaMoure, where I’d had a very busy couple of days. Though only 60 miles to “Jimtown” (Jamestown, in Grandpa’s rendering), I arrived pretty well exhausted and “motelled” there. I wanted a beard trim, and learned from the clerk that the J.C. Penney store across from the motel had a walk-in Beauty Salon. Sure enough. A pleasant lady trimmed my beard.

“How much?”

“No charge”.

It was one of those unexpected kindnesses that you relish when they occur, and you don’t forget. It becomes an invitation to pay it forward, to someone else….

Next morning, enroute west, I stopped in at nearby Eldridge, my home from 1943-45. Elridge is a main-line railroad town on what used to be called the NP (Northern Pacific) Railroad. I photo’ed the first place we lived there (upper floor, north side); and the school in which my Dad was Principal, both still full of memories. I visited both with Dad back in the 1990s. Then, the school was occupied by a lady and her daughter. Today the place is empty, like most of those tiny town schools, mostly brick, which have managed to survive, though empty.

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

Enroute again, the map reacquainted me with places from my past, especially college days at Valley City State Teachers College. Many classmates I knew, then, were from places like Tappen, Napoleon, Streeter…. I graduated from high school in 1958 at Sykeston; another place we lived in 1942-43 was Pingree. These towns were tiny, but mostly much larger than they are now.

In Bismarck, of course, I visited the State Capitol. The “Prairie Skyscraper”, built to replace the old capitol which burned down Dec. 28, 1930, was always a place of pride for we NoDaks.

This was a bustling place this day: the state legislature was in session. I was there about lunch time, and Senators and Representatives were among those catching lunch. A group, DigitalHorizonsOnline, was testing our knowledge on North Dakota Trivia. Do visit their site.

On the Capitol Grounds is an immensively impressive and newly enlarged State History Museum and Interpretative Center. I highly recommend it. It matches any such facility I’ve seen anywhere.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015.  Foreground, the old ND State Library.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015. Foreground, the old ND State Library.

Of course, no trip to the Capitol is complete without a trip to the top, to take a picture (below). On the ground level are about 43 winners of the North Dakota Roughrider Award. There are perhaps 43 portraits now, among them my early childhood friend from Sykeston, Larry Woiwode, who is directly across from the portrait of the old Roughrider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt.

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Larry Woiwode

Larry Woiwode

Enroute to the Mass I took a side trip over to the Ft. Abraham Lincoln a few miles south of Mandan. This is the place from which Gen. George Armstrong Custer took his ill-fated trip to the Little Big Horn in 1876. Of course, this is April, and nothing was open, but I could drive around, and walk to see the Slant Village and the Custer home. Earlier, a lady at the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department pointed out that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Parks Department, and each State Park will have their day. Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Day is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Visit over in late afternoon, back on I-94 East, this time to Fargo.

Dominating the trip back was thinking about May, 1965, when my wife, Barbara, was released from Bismarck’s St. Alexius Hospital, and we began the long trip by car to Minneapolis where she was to be admitted for a kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It was her only remaining option to live beyond 22.

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Back then, late May, 1965, someplace along 94, east of Bismarck, the radiator hose chose to burst. Luckily, we were close to one of the very few exits with a gas station. At Valley City, she and her mother and brother and our year old son Tom took the train the rest of the way to Minneapolis. I continued on by car. Barbara was admitted to the hospital, and died there July 24, 1965. 50 years ago, now. A major marker on my life path. We all have such….

I drove on, finding a motel in Moorhead MN about 9:30 pm.

In the morning, at the house breakfast, I saw a number of people wearing bright t-shirts, “Team Fred” on on one side; “Muscle Walk 2015” on the other. I asked a family of four, “what’s this about?” “A walk for ALS” the Dad said. Fred, I surmised, was someone they knew who has ALS, but I don’t know that.

I went out to the car, remembering the earlier kindness in Jamestown, the free beard trim, took out my checkbook, wrote out a check for $50 to Muscle Walk 2015, went back into the restaurant and left the check with the family: “have a great day”.

Probably the gift surprised them.

Pay it forward, thanks in part to the kind beauty salon person in Jamestown.

It was a great day….

POSTNOTE: Sunday evening came one of those calls from an Unknown Caller. It was Jim F, from Carrington ND. Turned out he was the “Fred” from Team Fred, and he was calling to thank me for the donation Saturday morning. It was a most pleasant surprise; we knew people in common, it turned out.

#1014 – Dick Bernard: Farewell to a Special Lady

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Yesterday my cousin Mary Kay and I traveled to Dubuque to the funeral of Marion Placke. It was a long day: the odometer read 550 miles traveled when I arrived home; and the clock showed 16 hours from the time between when I left and arrived home.

But it was an extraordinary day; a very, very rich day.

Marion was one of those folks who, unsung, bring richness to the lives of those around them.

In the casket, she was 98, by her own self-declaration a month or so ago, “an old lady”.

A solitary photo by her casket was from some long ago time:

(click on photos to enlarge)

Marion Placke

Marion Placke

She never married nor had children of her own. Most of her life her occupation was “housekeeper” at various places. Her obituary did not include a listing of this or that degree, or such.

The fall and broken hip that preceded her death by about a week occurred at her long-time home on the slope of Sinsinawa Mound in southwest Wisconsin, a few miles from Dubuque, only half a mile or so from the nearby house in which she was born August 1, 1916.

But these few words hardly do justice to Marion Placke.

Her nephew, Fr. Wayne Droessler, himself a retired Catholic Priest, gave a wonderful tribute to his Aunt Marion, as part of his homily at the Mass. At the end of the Mass, before dismissal, he kissed her casket in a fond expression of farewell. At the mausoleum, the casket was surrounded by young people who up until the most recent years had been “babysat” by Marion and her sister Lucina Stangl. I particularly noticed one young person near the coffin, who was obviously grief-stricken at the loss of the person she quite likely called “Grandma”.

Fr. Wayne Droessler April 10, 2015

Fr. Wayne Droessler April 10, 2015

Farewell, April 10, 2015

Farewell, April 10, 2015

For we travelers from the Twin Cities, who seldom actually saw Marion in person, much of our trip down and back was dominated by memories of this or that about Marion and Lucina(Lu) Stangl.

Marion was a superb story-teller and this, coupled with her love of family history, brought the Berning family (our common root) and the old days alive in a extraordinarily rich way.

The two sisters – Lu was 6 years Marion’s senior, and died in 2010 at 100 – were adventuresome.

Mary Kay related that some years back, when Lu was a spring chicken of 92 (Marion, 86), Lu and Marion went white-water rafting. At the end of the trip, they learned that Lu was the oldest person who’d ever done that trip!

Ten years ago, in July, 2005, the ladies and several family members made the trip up to a mini-reunion at the North Dakota farm.

While there, they expressed an interest in visiting Whitestone Hill Battlefield monument, perhaps 25 miles away.

Those of who’d been there know that there is a rather daunting climb up to the monument itself, so we expected that Lucina and Marion would stay at the parking lot, and we younger “kids” would do the walk up the hill.

Not these ladies: both of them climbed the hill, reached the top, and spent some time at the monument itself (photos below).

That trip up that hill helps define, for me, the example left by Marion Placke and her sister. I could give more examples, but that will suffice.

Others will have their own memories.

A fond farewell.

Marion Placke and Lucina Stangl, LaMoure ND  July, 2005,

Marion Placke and Lucina Stangl, LaMoure ND July, 2005,

Walking up Whitestone Hill, July, 2005.  Marion in white slacks; her sister Lucina, in blue slacks just behind her.  Lucina's son, David Stangl at rear.

Walking up Whitestone Hill, July, 2005. Marion in white slacks; her sister Lucina, in blue slacks just behind her. Lucina’s son, David Stangl at rear.

A small reunion at the Vincent and Edith Busch farm, Berlin, ND, July 2005.

A small reunion at the Vincent and Edith Busch farm, Berlin, ND, July 2005.

Marion Placke (2nd from right) at Memorial Park, Grand Rapids ND, July 1920.  Her mother had come up to assist her Aunt Rosa Busch, who gave birth to Edithe.  Others in the photo are Busch's and possibly other Placke's

Marion Placke (2nd from right) at Memorial Park, Grand Rapids ND, July 1920. Her mother had come up to assist her Aunt Rosa Busch, who gave birth to Edithe. Others in the photo are Busch’s and possibly other Placke’s

#1011 – Dick Bernard: Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Today, per usual, I ushered at Basilica of St. Mary at 9:30 Mass. It was a cool sunshiny day in Minneapolis. I took a couple of snapshots.

(click to enlarge)

Basilica of St. Mary Easter Sunday 2015

Basilica of St. Mary Easter Sunday 2015

Basilica of St. Mary about 10:30 a.m. April 5, 2015

Basilica of St. Mary about 10:30 a.m. April 5, 2015

Of course, the juxtaposition of the season of Spring and the Christian observance of Easter is intentional. Wikipedia says this about the setting of the date of Easter: “It has come to be the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March.” This year this full moon was April 4.

I hope your Easter Day was a good one, whatever meaning today had for you.

Have a great spring.

#1009 – Dick Bernard: “Goosefeathers”*

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

About 8 a.m. today I was on Radio Drive, southbound, just past the intersection with Valley Creek Road in Woodbury. This is possibly the busiest intersection in our suburb of over 60,000 people.

A car in the inside lane was stopped, delaying traffic behind.

Sashaying across in front of the car, taking its sweet old time, was a Goose, one of many who, despite all man-made efforts, return every year, and will populate the intersection for some time, laying eggs, and guiding young goslings across these same streets, mostly safely, until they’re old enough to fly.

Like all his siblings, brothers and sisters, cousins, and so on, this goose was in no hurry. “I have the right of way”.

Of course, I see these geese every year, generation after generation, taking up residence in their temporary home at Woodbury’s busiest intersection. Nothing seems to work in moving them.

How they came to prefer our suburb, I don’t know. My guess is, though, that they are regulars, probably the egg is imprinted with a GPS code for that very intersection in our town, much as likely happens with salmon, and monarch butterflies and on and on and on.

It probably happens with we humans too…though we’re too arrogant to acknowledge that we’re imprinted with patterns, too, that enable or bedevil us our whole lives.

Maybe I’m thinking about this a bit more, since ten minutes before I saw that goose, I was writing a letter to someone who was making suggestions about how I should handle my recently deceased Uncle’s affairs out in North Dakota. As readers of this space know, he never married, and his bequest to me was to handle his final affairs, relating to land, personal property et al.

My correspondent, a relative from a distant state, to whom I was replying, said “To simplify your life I would advise hiring an estate lawyer to settle the estate as we did….All matters are handled with speed and efficiency. The added bonus was we [siblings] all remained a family in the end, which was the greatest gift we all received.”

Oh, so easy, just hire a lawyer.

I have nothing against lawyers, they do provide a valuable service.

But isn’t this part of our contemporary societal problem?

We are basically disconnected, not only from family, from each other, attempting to override the basics of human relationships (bad and good) so as to make life less risky and more satisfying.

I’m thinking that maybe that solitary goose delaying the traffic this morning is happier than those of us waiting for its passage.

Then, again, there might be some useful merit in trying to modify instinctful behaviors too.

Back on the road, nearing home, I heard a thud underneath my car. It sounded ominous. I looked in my rearview mirror. A squirrel had picked the wrong time to cross the road.

Have a great day.

* – “Goosefeathers” came to mind when I was titling this post. I looked it up to see if it appears as a saying somewhere. No conclusive results. On the other hand, I remember the saying “horsefeathers” as a kid. It’s definition doesn’t fit my use of goosefeathers, but I’m not writing about a horse, anyway….

#993 – Dick Bernard: “3 Sad Words…: My Father Died”

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Related posts here, here, here and here.

My Dad died Nov. 7, 1997. Along with my sister, Flo, I was privileged to be there with him, at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL.

He was a month and a half short of 90. Like my Uncle Vince, who died Feb. 2, less than a month after his 90th birthday, Dad had a rough run the last couple of months, and the last six months one could tell the train was on the tracks, and the destination inevitable.

A week and a half after Dad died I was in Chicago, at the O’Hare Hilton, for a conference. Sunday morning, November 16, 1997, I picked up a copy of the Chicago Tribune in a terminal coffee shop. Inside was a column by Mary Schmich, “3 sad words that virtually all face: My father died”: My father died 1997001

I’ve been thinking of this column a lot lately, in context with Uncle Vince, who never married, and was never a “father” in the biological sense of that word.

But in a greater sense he was, in a way, a Dad; just like a woman who never had children can very well be a Mom to somebody.

There were 28 nephews and nieces in Vince’s constellation (and his sister Edithe’s, too). We descended on the farm once in awhile for a visit, as the picture below illustrates.

(click to enlarge any photos)

At the Busch farm, probably 1949.  At left is Vincent, then 24.  Four of the Bernard kids on horseback.  Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney.  The man at right is unknown.

At the Busch farm, probably 1949. At left is Vincent, then 24. Four of the Bernard kids on horseback. Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney. The man at right is unknown.

My sister, Mary Ann, in that photo, recently remembered that Vince could be impatient around we kids.

Of course.

In that picture, she would have been seven, and I nine, and I can imagine that our bunch disrupted the normal day for everyone at the farm and, kids being kids, we probably were going places and doing things we weren’t supposed to do, and wanting attention.

But as time went on, and I made many, many visits to that farmstead, I came to learn that, indeed, Vincent became a “father” of a real sort, especially after my own Dad died.

Like all of us, the lessons were never dramatic.

Someone who wrote a note after the funeral simply called Vince “a common, caring man” (you can read some of these comments at the end of this post). I consider that a big compliment, but not the only one. He taught his lessons just by being, as we teach others around us, whether we want to or not.

I’m a much better person for having really gotten to know Vince well, especially the last 35 years or so of his life.

Vince, it can be said, showed up, not comfortable on the stage, but certainly on the court of life!

Six of his nephews and nieces preceded him in death. When the two most recent, a niece in 2012, then a nephew in 2014, died, even though his health and endurance was distinctly and rapidly failing, he wanted to go to their funerals. Both were wearing trips for him, but he was there.

The stories about him go on and on. He was quiet witness to a good man leading a good life, contributing in sundry ways to the communities of which he was part, including our family.

Yes, he fits my definition of “Father”….

Thank you letter to LaMoure, as printed in LaMoure Chronicle Feb 11, 2015: Busch Vince Chron 2-15001

Vincent at right, May 19, 2012, by the grave of his sister, Mary.

Vincent at right, May 19, 2012, by the grave of his sister, Mary.

June 3, 2014 at Tom's funeral

June 3, 2014 at Tom’s funeral

Vincent, as seen by others:

“…he was a true friend. Jerome and I enjoyed he and Edith when they sat at our table at Rosewood. God Bless his memory.”
Jerome and Darlene Rasmussen

“It has been a great honor to have known Vincent for so many years. He was a holy man, always obedient to our Lord. He showed us all a good example with his faith. We will miss him a lot.”
Norm and Sue Goehring

“Now we celebrate the life of Vincent!

What joy it is for our Lord when a life-long servant’s soul comes to him.

Volumes could be written of Vincent’s life.

I’m happy to have been a small part of his life.

He fashioned his life after the life of Christ. May we all imitate Vincent’s example.

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and let Perpetual Light shine upon him!”
Kay (Schweitzer) Morehead

“Vince was a special person to know. I’ll bet Edith and he are putting in God’s garden already.”
John and Jackie Cisinski

“We are so sorry at the loss of Vince. We are neighbors of Vince and Edith, and were lucky to have them as friends. Vince was a good man – honest, hard-working, and very giving. We are thankful we knew him.”
Alvin and Diane Wold

“He’s probably got a whist game going on now.”
the Montgomery’s

“Vincent will remain in our memories. He was a wonderful person, He will be missed.”
St. Rose Care Residents and Staff

“Vince was a very faith filled person. He was often at weekday Masses and had a great love for Jesus.
We really appreciated his great voice in our Choir and throughout the Church.
He’s a good example of the common, caring, man.
May he have eternal peace in Heaven with Jesus.
God Bless his Memory.”
Jim and Kathy Potts

“Prayers and thoughts of all of you. I love the thought there is a reunion being planned – or even held for the Busch family now.

Lines from an old hymn came to my mind when I was notified of Vincent’s death

”What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”

May Vincent’s welcome be so glorious. “
Rosi Zimbleman

“He represented a generation of strong willed hard working people that collectively built this country to the standard of living we have today. “
Doug Schmitz

“May he rest in peace. As happened when your dad Henry died, at the exact time of Vinces death I was singing profoundly religious music – Vivaldi’s Gloria. He was in my heart. In our last phone conversation, he was interested in trying lentils, he had never eaten a lentil…that wonderful quality of wanting to experience new things…so fishing and lentils too.

Thank you for your stalwart stewardship of our kin…I appreciate that in the early 80s you invited me to visit Vince and Edith and the beauty of them and the farm in many seasons became a source for renewal and heimat, a rare and precious preserve.”
Mary Busch.

“Was so glad I visited Uncle Vince this summer. What a wonderful person. At the restaurant by the ball field, learned about Vince’s love of baseball. We had a chance to talk about it. So much of his life was devoted to work. Baseball gave him the opportunity for time with friends. What a remarkable heritage we have been given.”
Georgine Busch

“In talking with my kids, they all remembered Aunt Edith and Uncle Vincent very well. Our family was very lucky to see them in Valley City at Mom’s apartment. They would drive up, or we would drive down for a day visit to Berlin.

Some of the memories we came up with:

Vincent loved to eat lots of strawberry jelly on his bread. It was a new jar every time, whether there was an open one was in the fridge. Mollie didn’t see that in our house.

Always up for fishing at the James river or Lake Ashtabula. He would have worms and off they went. Once, Vince said worms were good to eat, so Joe tried one. Vince, and my Dad laughed so hard. Vince got laughing and could hardly talk. I was having a fit, they let him eat a worm.

Carrie was in ND with my mom for a few days. She was probably around twelve. Mom, Edithe and Vince took her to the Peace Gardens. Vince took all these pictures at every stop. Getting ready to leave, Vince realized there was no film in the camera. So Carrie went through the Peace Garden sites again to take do overs.

Bill says Vince was such a nice guy. They could always talk about fishing and the Twins. They were always partners for pinochle.

He was a very good Uncle to me. I only got upstairs once in the old house. I remember two rooms. I was young and Mom and I slept with Edithe.

Great card games, meals, and they were always so happy to have company. Loved the produce and apples. I still have the double boiler and cream and sugar set they gave us for our wedding.

Also, my kids thought they were married to each for a long time, before they learned they were brother and sister. Too funny. They were a good team!!!

Have a good day.”

Mary Jewett

Aunt Edith's burial May 20, 2014, St. John's Cemetery, Berlin ND, where Vincent was alsoburied Feb 10, 2015

Aunt Edith’s burial May 20, 2014, St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND, where Vincent was alsoburied Feb 10, 2015

Comment from Anne: This piece makes loss and grief seem almost light. They float and rise on the human character expressed in so many kind and loyal words of love. A tribute of seemingly common content exposing a rare being. As I read it I began to hear the words inside my head spoken in a soft male voice. I thought your uncle Vince was reading to me! Sometimes death is less an end and more of a conclusion.

Comment from Annetta: I would say I am sorry for the loss of Vince. I will instead say thank God for the gift of him in your life and you in his. You made his journey one of amazing grace. And he taught grace in the way he lived. What a gift. The loneliness will be the loss of his physical presence.

#992 – Dick Bernard: Valentine’s Day, today and yesterday.

Saturday, February 14th, 2015
Early 1900s Valentine from the Busch farm.

Early 1900s Valentine from the Busch farm.

Thursday our 15-year old grandson (aka “the kid” and “hi guy” to me) was over for pizza. Grandma took him home (he lives nearby) and after returning she related a brief story.

He wanted her to go the gas station and the reason came out, after a little prying, about why: he wanted to pick up some candy for a girl for Valentine’s Day. “Don’t tell”, he instructed, specifically referring to his parents.

I haven’t heard how this all went on Friday. I think Grandma was a little jealous; some other girl had entered the kids life.

So is how it goes. We’ve all been there, done that, and there are doubtless sweet or funny stories about that first awkward move towards the first venture towards a possible relationship.

Of course, just a few days after Uncle Vincent’s funeral, I remain in a nostalgic mode, relating to the North Dakota farm, following the recent death of my uncle.

That place has been a treasure trove of artifacts from the past.

Some years ago, I borrowed the tin container chock full of old postcards, and brought them home to classify and scan them for posterity. The article I wrote about them is here*. There were Valentine’s back in the early 1900s. One of them is at the beginning of this post. Here’s another:

To Verena from Stella, early 1900s.

To Verena from Stella, early 1900s.

But the focus for me, this day, is another old piece of paper I found just days ago; another item lurking amongst the items in the old desk Vince and Grandpa used. You can read it here: Busch 62nd Anniv 1967002001

It is not known who wrote this draft of (perhaps) an announcement for the local paper in LaMoure, but it is most likely that it was submitted before March 17, 1967, less than two weeks after the anniversary, when Grandpa Busch died suddenly at home, the story being that he was coming up from the basement with some eggs for breakfast. Vincent at the time was 42 years old; his sister Edithe was 47; and Grandma would live five more years, dying in 1972.

I don’t know if there were “sparks” (or Valentines) in Grandma and Grandpas history, which led to their marriage, at ages 24 and 21, Feb. 28, 1905. Their families lived on adjoining farms in rural Wisconsin near Dubuque, and it was not uncommon in those days for the parents to have some say in who or when someone married someone else.

Whatever the case, as the story tells, they came to strange and uncrowded country far from their home in Wisconsin, raised 9 children, and lived a very long life together.

“The kid”, apparently, has started to notice girls, and is starting down the road that adolescence brings to us all.

I wish him well.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#991 – Dick Bernard: A fine goodbye to Uncle Vince

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Related post here.

(click photos to enlarge)

At the Busch farm, probably 1949.  At left is Vincent, then 24.  Four of the Bernard kids on horseback.  Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney.  The man at right is unknown.

At the Busch farm, probably 1949. At left is Vincent, then 24. Four of the Bernard kids on horseback. Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney. The man at right is unknown.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015, showed little promise in Lamoure ND. Overnight a light coating of new snow was being covered by freezing drizzle, and our funeral procession with Uncle Vincent was to go down gravel country roads for near 10 miles for a look at the farm where he lived most of his 90 years, thence down those same roads to Berlin ND, to St. John’s Cemetery.

It didn’t look very promising.

But all went well: a very nice funeral Mass. The funeral procession went off without a hitch; a good farewell at the cemetery; thence back to the Church hall for the traditional lunch.

I thought to myself, what would Vince have to say about this weather. Well, probably he’d say, “we need the moisture”. His life, after all, was farming, and so far this winter it’s been fairly dry out there on the prairie.

Back to town and maybe 25 of us had lunch, followed by reminiscences.

Who was this man, Vincent?

One needs to have been in the room to really catch the sense of the gathering as we remembered Vincent in story after story. I got lucky, and got one photo that, for me at least, sums up the sharing time:

At the post-funeral lunch for Vincent, Feb. 10, 2015

At the post-funeral lunch for Vincent, Feb. 10, 2015

One of us reminded Pat (at right) of a story.

Pat, a neighbor farmer, related that he’d been helping Vince with something one day, and at some point Vincent appeared with a little lunch: a sandwich. Pat accepted the gift readily, and took a large bite.

The inside of the sandwich was sliced raw onions and nothing else.

Vincent was proud of his onions.

A surprised Pat simply ate the sandwich.

The room erupted in laughter.

Edithe and Vince August 1998

Edithe and Vince August 1998

As is true in such settings, one story begat another, and the essence of our relative, friend and neighbor began to flesh itself out.

Vincent was as he was; as we all are, unvarnished representatives of humanity.

There were a number of short eulogies in that hall on Tuesday.

One person, not there, sort of caught Vincent for me in an e-mail received a week earlier: Vincent “represented a generation of strong willed hard working people that collectively built this country….”

I read this to the group, and there were nods of acknowledgement.

Vincent represented every one of us in one way or another.

My sense was that we could have gone on with stories for a much longer period of time, but all good things must end, and we went our separate ways.

One story I wanted to relate was also sent to me some time before the funeral, indeed, before Vincent passed away.

Cousin Jerry related he “had a great memory of visiting the farm and sharing a room with Vincent” when Jerry was perhaps five, and Vincent about 30 years of age.

“[Uncle Vincent’s] night-time prayers on his knees by the bedside really impressed”.

For me, that little phrase sort of sums up how Vince impacted others: Uncle Vince never married, but to all of us cousins (and others, I’m sure), in one way or another, he conveyed little lessons that impacted on each of our lives.

There were 28 of we nephews and nieces who on occasion visited that farm, and we were probably more nuisances than useful, but in their own ways Uncle Vincent, Aunt Edithe and Grandma and Grandpa taught us in one way or another.

Each of us do the same, often not knowing our impact on others.

I’m certain Lamoure County is the better for Vincent Busch having been part of it for 90 years.

As one person said in a condolence note, Vincent is probably now organizing whist games in heaven…and I wouldn’t doubt that a bit! And his sister, Edithe, is right there at the table.

Uncle Vincent, St. John's Cemetery, Berlin ND Feb 10, 2015

Uncle Vincent, St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND Feb 10, 2015

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.