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#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.

#990 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Uncle Vincent died Monday evening February 2. I wrote briefly about his death here. His funeral is on Tuesday in Lamoure. Details are here. The photo used there is one I took of him almost exactly a year ago at his sister, Edithe’s, funeral on Feb. 15, 2014. The one that people will see in the folder at the funeral Mass on Tuesday is of he and Edithe Oct. 25, 2013, couple of weeks before he joined her in the Nursing Home; and 3 1/2 months before she died. (That photo is at the end of this post.)

They lived together on the home farm for all but the last few years of their entire life. Nine children were born and raised there, and Vincent is the end of the line for “the Busch place” of Berlin ND. So is how it goes. There are lots of nephews and nieces, but we live all over creation.

There will be stories of course, some told on Tuesday. Others in other conversations.

My sister Mary and I went to clean out Vincent’s room last Thursday, reducing all of the possessions to a large box and some garbage bags. St. Rose provided a handcart to remove the possessions and as I was making my second and final trip a couple of staff opened the door for me: “Isn’t this as it always is: an entire life reduced to a few garbage bags….”

They see this trip quite often, of course. In one way or another, for all of us, it is the same. What we struggled for in this temporal life suddenly becomes irrelevant to us.

One of the possessions in the room was Vincent’s desk (pictured above), which I kept “off limits” till he died. It was important to him. It yielded an immense amount of stuff, which I have now been going through, piece by piece, to be sure that something of importance is not in hiding there. There are the usual questions, of course: “Why in the world did he keep THAT?” “Why is that pliers in here?” “Should I keep that 1987 fishing license?” And on and on.

Then there’s other stuff: an official document of a report on a U.S. Patent received by my grandfather Ferdinand Busch in 1925 for a “fuel economizer”. I knew Grandpa had a couple of Patents, in the 1950s, but had never heard of this one. It’s Number 1,541,684 if you’re interested. It expired in 1942, and already in 1925 many similar devices were being invented, so don’t presume you’ll get rich on it!

That this treasure appeared was not too much of a surprise. This desk had been Grandpa’s before, and had a very long history, perhaps going back to he and Rosa’s arrival on the ND prairie in 1905.

A folded and brittle piece of paper appeared in the pile of flotsam from the desk. It was from 1915 – 100 years ago – and was a detailed report on fundraising for the new St. John’s Church in Berlin (which closed in 1968). It was a single page listing of who contributed what to the construction of the church, and it appears from the pattern of contributions that the church was paid for in cash, $3,419.85. You can see the sheet here: Berlin St. Johns 1915001. It’s an important part of local history, perhaps inadvertently saved, but saved nonetheless.

Before we took down the pictures on Vince’s walls, I took photos (of the desk, and the other walls). Now, those things on Vince’s wall deserve the attention. What you see there is what was important to him….

On the way out of town, we stopped at the gas station and Mary Ann overheard an older guy (probably my age) talking to some of his buddies in a booth. They had seen the on-line obit, and he said: “I didn’t think Vince was that old.”

Maybe they’ll be at the funeral on Tuesday.

Vincent and Edithe and all of the family from rural Berlin are at peace.

For the rest of us, live well, but don’t forget the garbage bags who somebody will use when it’s your turn!

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

from Annelee, Feb 8:
I just read “MY Uncle Vince”you revealed much of the love you had for him — it touched me deeply.

The photos also gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Uncle Vince was. Warm and honoring the past, but living in the present.

When you wrote about the garbage bag — being part of the end of one’s life —that is only part of what happens.

I will always remember (until I die) what my papa said to me as we hugged for the final time before he left.

As he turned away and left I called out, “Papa, Papa, please don’t leave me just yet!”

I still can remember him standing there, he looked at me with so much love and he said, “Anneliese, I will never leave you.”

“But Papa”, —-

“Anneliese” he broke in, “ you will remember what I said and you will do things like I taught you. You see, I will be with you more than you know.”

He kicked a solitary tree trunk and walked away without looking back.

He was mot even 41, he is gone for more than seven decades. But I still remember these words, —

I taught much to my children of what he taught me. I told them about Papa —what I remembered.

So you see, Papa and all he owned is gone —but he is still with me in memories — and he will be with Roy [my son] because I tried to instill
the values my Papa taught me—in him.

Love and blessings Annelee

response from Dick: Annelee is our dear friend who I’ve known since 2003 when I learned of her book, War Child. Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Her Dad and Mom refused to be part of the Nazis and as a result, he was drafted into the military engineers, and after the last visit home she describes above, her Dad went with the Germans into Russia and was never heard from again. They believe he died somewhere in Russia, but are not sure.

She will be speaking several times in the Twin Cities this spring, the next on March 8 at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis.

#989 – Dick Bernard: Uncle Vince

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

A few hours ago the phone rang here at home.

The call was from St. Rose Nursing Home in Lamoure, ND. The message very simple: my Uncle Vincent died a few minutes earlier, at 7:15 p.m., CST, February 2, 2015.

Thence began the task shared by thousands of others yesterday: passing the word.

There is no need for details now. Those can come later.

Uncle Vince was unique, as is every single person who dies anywhere, for any reason.

The ritual and the eulogy will come later.

For now, here and here are a couple of collections of statistics on U.S. and World Deaths.

Uncle Vince is at peace.

Vince loved singing. The last song he heard, I hear, was the Nursing Home Chaplain’s rendition of “Amazing Grace“, sung by his bed, in his room.

I’m pretty sure that, for Vince, there could be no better concert, ever.

Take your pick from many renditions of Amazing Grace, here.

(click to enlarge photo)

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.  Edithe was Vince's older sister, and died almost exactly a year ago, February 12, 2014, just two doors down from where her brother died Feb. 2, 2015

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013. Edithe was Vince’s older sister, and died almost exactly a year ago, February 12, 2014, just two doors down from where her brother died Feb. 2, 2015

#985 – Dick Bernard: Ernie Banks. Remembering a Boyhood Trip to Chicago, and seeing the Cubs

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

I’m an early riser, and todays NYTimes headline on the computer screen said, simply, “Ernie Banks, the eternally hopeful Mr. Cub, dies at 83”. That would be the Chicago Cubs, the first and and for many years the only host Major League baseball team I ever watched in person, at Wrigley Field, Chicago, in the mid-1950s. Here’s the news conveyed by the Chicago Cubs organization; here’s this mornings Chicago Tribune top story.

Mr. Banks played with the Chicago Cubs beginning in the 1954 season. He was 23, the shortstop.

I likely saw Ernie Banks twice, in the summer of 1955; then again in 1956. Those were in my teenage years, and we were living in the country, Antelope Township, about 20 miles west of Wahpeton ND. Both times we went to visit my Uncle and Aunt, Art and Eileen Busch, in Broadview IL; and both years we went to see the Cubs, because they happened to be in town.

It is possible to more or less fix the dates in history because we didn’t make 600 mile trips as a matter of routine in those days. This was before freeways, and there were five of we kids to pile into our 1951 dowdy gray Plymouth Suburban. No air conditioning, or seat belts or such. There is a photo, apparently taken on the trip by myself (I wasn’t in the picture) at the Rum River Park in Anoka; another on the Busch’s suburban lawn.

Bernards, Summer 1956, at Anoka MN roadside park

Bernards, Summer 1956, at Anoka MN roadside park

Here’s a photo of myself with my brother, Frank, taken in the general time period.

Frank and Dick Bernard, Antelope ND, 1955

Frank and Dick Bernard, Antelope ND, 1955

The only physical memory I have, other than the games at Wrigley, was the interminable drive through Wisconsin to Illinois, heavy traffic, long very slow lines of traffic behind semi-trucks creeping up the seeming “everlasting hills” on two lane U.S. 12. We stopped for cheese somewhere, and my love affair with Colby Cheese began that day, somewhere in Wisconsin.

Both trips were a very big deal for my parents, especially my Mom. Her brother, my Uncle Art, was a young electrical engineer for General Electric (GE), and after he married Aunt Eileen in January, 1955, they moved to Broadview in the Chicago area. He lived and worked in the Chicago area for the rest of his career. A year and a half later their first child, John, was born, and we made the second trip back to Broadview.

By then, I was involved in sports, such as one could be in tiny rural environments, and I fantasized about Mickey Mantle, who was making news with the New York Yankees.

We didn’t have TV, then, so my fantasies came from radio broadcasts, and I could play them out by trying to hit baseballs over the trees at the edge of our yard (don’t recall ever succeeding at that, but I well occupied much time trying!)

Then we were in Chicago, the BIG city. And when company comes to town, part of the obligation is to entertain them.

It happened, both years, that the Cubs were in town and scheduled; the White Sox were on the road. So the decision made by my Uncle was very simple: it was to be Wrigley Field and the Cubs that we’d see.

My memory is that we sat in the first base line stands both years – perhaps a GE block – and the weather was nice. I know that the Cubs opponent one of the years was the New York Giants, the other year the Pittsburgh Pirates, and at the time, the teams were 7th and 8th (8th was last) in the standings.

No matter, this was the Big Leagues.

Of course, these were day games. Wrigley Field didn’t have lights, then (and still?) unique in that respect.

I have no specific memories of who won or lost those games, or of any particular player, or spectacular play.

With no question, Ernie Banks was shortstop at both games, but he was, like me, a new kid on the block.

But I can say they were memorable days for this North Dakota kid.

Those were simple days, at least they seemed so.

Mom and Dad have long ago passed on, as have Art and Eileen. Mom’s last surviving sibling, my Uncle Vince, who grew up sharing his bed with his kid brother Art, is well along in his last mile of life out on the North Dakota prairie; I last saw Vince on Thursday.

For everyone there is a season….

Thanks for the memories.

#984 – Dick Bernard: Carpet Bowling and Marshmallow Toss

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Wednesday afternoon I made a trip up to ND relating to my Uncle, who’s in a Nursing Home in a small town, and has recently been enrolled in the Hospice Program. The trips are frequent, tiring, but always necessary.

Usually I leave in early morning. This day I was scheduled for something called Carpet Bowling with my second grade Pal at his elementary school. It was only a half hour, then I’d be on my way. I wasn’t sure what it was till it began.

Think “real” bowling, and you get a notion of Carpet Bowling. A regulation sized bowling ball is used, but this one was second grade weight. The pins were regulation size as well, but very light.

One class was involved, with their “pals”, one of which was me. There were four lanes, and we took turns. It was all very well organized. (My one turn, I got nine pins the first throw, and a spare!)

Teachers work magic with youngsters, and the supervisor of this activity was no exception. Everybody shared, and we all had a good time. At the end of the half hour, the teacher asked we Pals if any of us had ever worked setting pins, and a couple had, and described what they did in the old days, and how much they were paid.

It was fun!

Then I got on the road for the usual 5 1/2 hours, and for the next 18 hours was dealing with stuff that needed to be dealt with, including time with my Uncle.

The last activity of the day was a conference with the nursing and hospice staff.

It was scheduled for three o’clock, and I had to wait for another conference to include.

I was just outside the day room of the Nursing Home, and elders were seated in an oval, and a lady was preparing for an activity, described on the Activities Board as “Marshmallow Toss”, or similar wording.

It was a simple activity: the coordinator had five squashed marshmallows that had hardened. Of course, they were very light.

There were two small plastic pans that were the targets, one perhaps a foot or two away; the second a tiny bit further.

Each person had their turn: the objective was to toss the marshmallow into the container. For most of us, the simplest of tasks, but when you’re very old, and sometimes very disabled, even something easy becomes a challenge.

One guy got them all, easily; a lady next to him barely could get a single marshmallow in the closest container.

No matter, both had their turn, and a small opportunity to, like the children a day earlier, try to achieve a certain goal.

There were no winners either day; every one participated equally, and supported for what they had done.

I left for the 5 1/2 hours back home, with lots of time to think.

The proximity of the activities, just a day, but 300 miles, apart, was striking to me.

Long ago, these elders trying to toss marshmallows had been in the second grade somewhere, doing something like the carpet bowling activity.

There was perhaps 80 years difference in average experience between them, and for the elders, many peaks and valleys in between, that the youngers have yet to experience.

My Uncle, strong as a horse 10 years ago, is now essentially bedridden, extremely frustrating to him as life winds down.

For each of us, we’re in our own place, on the same path as those elders tossing marshmallows at the nursing home on Thursday.

Enjoy the trip, whatever you have left.