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#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.

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

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

(click to enlarge photos)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#843 – Dick Bernard: Valentine’s Day 2014

Friday, February 14th, 2014

(click to enlarge. Stella and Verena were on neighboring farms, perhaps first grade age, when this card was made and delivered about 1920 or so.)

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I wish you a good day today. For us, life has other plans, and the dinner we’d planned to have at a local restaurant is replaced by an unplanned trip to LaMoure ND for the funeral, on Saturday, of my Aunt Edith Busch, who died at 93 early Wednesday morning.

Such is how life often goes, unplanned. Hard as we try to control things, things happen. Usually we dust ourselves off, and some semblance of normal reappears. For Edith, life’s troubles are behind. At the funeral, those of us in attendance will try to put ourselves in the shoes of Edith and her brother, Vincent, who occupied the same space with her for all of his 89 years, most of those years on the Pioneer Farm where their parents broke the first ground in 1905 (at top left of the below photo you can see a portion of Grandma and Grandpas wedding certificate, which still hangs on the farm house wall 99 years later.

Grandma Rosa and Uncle Fred married in rural Wisconsin near Dubuque IA, Feb 28, 1905, and within a month took the train out to their undeveloped piece of land in North Dakota. They were 25 and 21 respectively, so the hard work was an adventure of youth. Together they raised nine kids, all but one surviving to old age.

Daughter Verena died in 1927 at age 15 from a burst appendix. Edith was 7 and Vincent 2 at the time. This was a hugely traumatic life event for the Busch’s. When I was checking on burial plots in the country cemetery in nearby Berlin, I found that Grandma and Grandpa had purchased ten adjoining plots then, the first for Verena, later for the two of them, and the rest of their other children living at the time.

Edith, and sometime in the future Vince, will be the 4th and 5th occupants of the space at St. John’s Cemetery. All the other siblings are buried elsewhere.

Here’s the photo I’ve picked for this Valentine’s Day.

(click to enlarge photos)

Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

(The photo is as photos were in the pre-digital age, when you didn’t waste film and didn’t know what you got till it was developed, and that included expressions. The photo was taken in December 1996. I picked this photo specifically because of the heart on Edith’s Christmas sweater. You can click to enlarge it. You’ll see it has an American Gothic kind of theme, appropriate to Edith and for this occasion.)

Their town, LaMoure, is a town of about 1000, like all small towns so familiar to me on the midwest prairie. Those of we nephews and nieces who can make it to the funeral will have dinner at the local restaurant, Centerfield, which is, true to it’s name, just beyond the center field fence of the local Baseball diamond. It is a nice restaurant, and it will probably be packed. Probably Uncle Vincent will join us, then we’ll go back to the Nursing Home with him to just sit and reminisce, and have some dessert, brought ‘potluck’ by the guests.

Then, the next morning we go across the street, literally, to Holy Rosary Catholic Church for the funeral; the Church Altar Society will have lunch and there will be more visiting, and back in the car for the 315 mile trip back – that is always the constant.

None of Vince’s close relatives live in the town, and he’s now the last sibling, and only one sibling spouse survives. His “children” are we nieces and nephews, far flung as we are from the area he’s lived his entire life.

Sometimes we don’t think about that. The St. Rose Nursing Home staff and the local LaMoure caring infrastructure now become Vince’s family for his difficult emotional times ahead. I’m grateful that Vince and Edith lived there, and previously at Rosewood Court Assisted Living next door.

Valentine’s Day is today. I can’t say that it is a “Happy” Valentine’s Day for us, but then it is a day for friends and family to gather and remember.

Farewell, Edith.

All best wishes, Vince, as a new time in your life begins.

#499 – Dick Bernard: Political Communication; Communication in the U.S. Political Sphere

Friday, January 13th, 2012

This mornings e-mail brought a most interesting post from Just Above Sunset (JAS), one of my favorite bloggers. Today’s post, Longing for Vigilante’s, concerns Politics and the Communications Profession. It is quite long, but worth the read, and accessible here*. I filed an off-the-cuff comment (later in this post, certainly a “rant”), and the entire conversation brought to mind a reflection on political communications in days gone by….

Some years ago I read a fascinating historical novel, Bones of Plenty by Lois Phillips Hudson.

Hudson’s novel is set in rural North Dakota in 1934, in the area of a small town west of Jamestown, and not far from where my Uncle Vince has spent his entire life. Vince was 9 years old in 1934 (he just turned 87), and in conversations he has described that year as the worst year in the Great Depression.

There is much to this novel, but what brought it to mind today was reflecting on how communications took place in 1934. There were newspapers and journals, then, many of which printed most anything submitted by readers. There was no glut of information. Some citizens had telephones; radio, while existing, was not accessible to the masses.

The main way people communicated, then, was in person, face-to-face, after church, in the saloon, at the town hall, or in assorted settings in the town and country.

These were not people who necessarily agreed with each other: some loved Roosevelt, some hated him. There were all of the things that cause relationship dilemmas in the present day. But the fact of the matter was that they were stuck with each other, and as a consequence, whether they liked it or not, they had to figure out ways to survive, together.

It occurs to me that we no longer feel that need to relate with others, politically, and we are hurting ourselves immensely, as a country. We isolate ourselves in “pods” of particular interests/biases.

This is unhealthy to the future of our society.


After I read Just Above Sunset, I dashed off the following, which I have chosen to not edit in any way. Best to catch the emotions of the moment. It is my rough draft, as it were.

The photos at the end of this post are of elders and a student in conversation two days ago in Minneapolis. It was a privilege to witness their chats.

Here’s to real, genuine, communication as it used to be!


(Posted to Just Above Sunset [Jan. 13 2012]) “[I begin with] my last sentence, apologizing for the length of the following rant. Sorry. I hope at least one person reads this!

There is certainly research around on this most important topic, but nobody will read it.

My guess: most Americans don’t even read headlines, much less content, and in these days can’t be bothered with discerning fact, so they depend on their outlet of choice: Fox, Daily Kos…endless similar sources right and left.

I’m just a common dog in all of this. I’ve noted that the first paragraph and the last are important. the headline may or may not be unbiased. Pundits often stick in the middle of their column, somewhere, a CYA paragraph, in case somebody calls them out for their bias. They can then say, truthfully, what is really false: “see, it was right there, and you just didn’t read it.” The lead story on TV is always sensational, and there is no “depth of coverage” worth those words outside of, perhaps, 60 Minutes. And on an on and on.

There is a lot of money to be made by the media in political advertising, and we schmucks will pay the bill through campaign contributions to our favorite candidates.

Years ago I coined a phrase, [essentially] “we have too many news people, and too little news” [actually, “more ways to communicate less“]. Of course, as I say, I’m just a common dog and have no way of proving that, and the words are too common to do a productive internet search of that and prove my case. But “my” phrase has been out there for years.

We have become a nation of idiots.

‘Opinions’ have replaced any semblance of ‘facts’ or ‘truth’.

Or maybe we haven’t lost it all just yet.

Just a couple of days ago an elderly friend of mine (actually, he and I are the same age, but what the hey?) was talking with a young woman, who’s working on her senior thesis at her university in Philly area. [first photo, below. click to enlarge] I had taken her over to see him. She happened across me last summer, and I think she’s glad she did. He observed to her, and I agree with him, that the vast majority – the silent middle in this country – is up to something. But it’s quiet and uninteresting and too hard to ferret out, so it won’t make the news. If he’s right, and I think he is, we’re at a time of a profound shift in attitude, but it’s far too boring to cover: like watching paint dry. News is entertainment today.

My college friend is the future we’re, pardon my French, ‘shitting’ on as we play our games. They will remember. We lived in the golden age of “America”, and we lost perspective. Who doesn’t know someone who’ll freely admit “I’m spending my kids inheritance.” It’s more than our kids money we’re spending. We’re spending their future, too.

So the commercial media (which unfortunately includes almost all media now – even lonely bloggers need to pay for their computer) will continue to “ambulance chase”, and in one way or another adopts the famous mantra: “we report, you decide”. And the politicians and their image makers will lie through their teeth, knowing it doesn’t make any difference at all: today’s quote is all that matters, and that people will forget by election day.

As a disinterested relative of mine is fond to say, “they all lie”, which gives her permission to ignore any responsibility for her own choices.

One parting shot: last spring we saw a movie that came and went quickly, but is back in DVD and on demand as of Jan 3, 2012. It is called I Am, The Documentary. I wish everybody in the world could see it, and then talk about it. Check it out on the internet. As the subtitle says: “The shift is happening”.

I hope.”

Sign me: someone who cares.

Bob Milner and Allison Stuewe, Minneapolis MN, January 12, 2012

Interviewing Lynn Elling, Minneapolis MN, January 11, 2012

UPDATE January 14, 2012
* – Comment intended for “Rick the news guy” referred to in Just Above Sunset. Rick was apparently on the “ground floor” at the founding of CNN. I don’t know if this comment will reach Rick. I rarely watch CNN now, but what I see suggests that it at least is attempting to act as a legitimate news source, compared with someone like Fox News (to me, “faux news”).

I thought you might be interested in the following:

I spent considerable viewer time with CNN in the early years of the station. My first vivid memory was Wolf Blitzer reporting from wherever he was during Desert Storm in 1991. He did a great job, as I recall.

In October, 1996, I was watching CNN when I finally had enough and turned off the television, permanently. It was in the heat of the political season and one Newt Gingrich looked me straight in the eye through a CNN camera and told a bald-faced lie, with great sincerity. It was my last straw. I don’t remember what the lie was, but I know it was Newt. I wrote a column about it which was published in my college town paper in December of that year. The column is [Politics 1960 vs 1996001].

I am no longer a TV fan, though I watch it for brief times, including evening news. I pretty rarely watch CNN these days.

The most recent experience with CNN was another unfortunate one: I went to Haiti in December, 2003, and spent a week there learning about Haiti from people who were favorable to President Aristide, including his foreign press liaison. This was a time of tension before the coup, and, in fact, we were in the press liaisons home when she got the phone call about the big demonstrations forming near the capitol.

I really knew nothing about Haiti before that trip, and I was astonished at the diametrically opposed ‘spin’ from the American government and press, and people who liked and respected Aristide, particularly when it became clear that he was to be deposed largely through U.S. efforts [personal opinion here].

One of the worst events for me was one evening when I learned that CNN would be interviewing President Aristide in Port-au-Prince. I think the guy doing the interview was Anderson Cooper, though I could be wrong on that. It’s not terribly relevant. What turned me off was how condescending and dismissive the CNN interviewer was to Aristide. He was treated like he was some small town mayor, rather than as President of a country. I’ve never forgotten that.

The news business is difficult, no doubt. I do know a bit about how it works, and I don’t think it is working at all well today.

Thanks for listening.