Father’s Day, a week early

A week from today is Father’s Day.

Three days ago, a father died in a St. Paul hospital; Thursday of this week will be his funeral.  His grandson is Bennie, who is scheduled to

begin coming out of the induced fog he’s been in since  the car accident Memorial Day weekend.  His son, the Dad of Bennie, also my son-in-law, is doing better physically, but “home” for him now is at the hospital with his own Dad’s daughter-in-law and  grandson.

I could go on and on.

Family relationships and circumstances go on and on, far beyond the boundaries set by the first message received; the media coverage; the obituary….

They are often complicated.

This day I think back to the old newspaper column seen above.  The total column is hereMy father died 1997001 .  

I was at the Chicago O’Hare Hilton, Nov. 16, 1997, there for a conference, leafing through the Chicago Tribune, and  saw the article.  It was a Sunday morning.

Nine days earlier, my own Dad had died down in Belleville IL, on the doorstep of 90 years old.  Susan Schmich’s column “spoke to me” that Sunday morning, and ever since, any time the father of someone I know dies, I send them a copy of this column.

Now, I will be sending it out again.

Bennie’s Grandpas death was not unexpected.  He was told a year ago he probably wouldn’t make it to his next birthday (later this summer).  It was no secret.  The family knew.

The intersection of multiple ailments which couldn’t be remedied for medical reasons was the ultimate cause.  But he had a reasonably normal life till a few days before his death.  We saw him not that long ago.

He wasn’t perfect, but who of us is “perfect”, by even the loosest definition of the word, especially reviewing many years of life?

He and his wife were the first at the hospital when Bennie arrived by helicopter from the accident scene about two weeks ago.

For years this Dad  witnessed the graveside rituals of many at the Ft. Snelling military cemetery, as a loyal member of those unsung teams who give the last salute to the departed veterans.

I understand that he had wanted to be buried at Ft. Snelling, but just days before his death learned he couldn’t be – his National Guard service wasn’t enough to qualify under long-time VA rules.

Maybe there will be more conversations about that.

For now, let it suffice, a Dad died.

And the impact is broader than one might think.


from Melvin: 

Thanks for your message. In synchronicity, I texted Father’s Day greetings to my uncle, 2-brothers, and a cousin this morning. My brothers lovingly informed me that I was a week early, however, they enjoyed the affirmation of celebrating every day.

My father passed in 1990, a few days after my birthday. Like with Bennie’s grandpa, my father’s death was not unexpected. I always felt grateful that my father seemed to wait until my birthday came and went before he went to his heavenly home.  He is buried at Ft. Snelling; I hope Divine Intervention will come through for Bennie’s grandpa to be buried there too.

Thanks again for your timely article and message. Have a relaxing Sunday. Peace

“What a difference a day makes…”

PRE-NOTE: Friday evening we got a telephone call about a very serious auto accident involving Grandson Ben and Son/son-in- law David.  Ben was air-evac’ed to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.  This is written on Sunday afternoon, May 27.


“What a difference a day makes…”, a long ago tune, keeps running through my mind.

Friday seems so long ago, when the lives of grandson Ben and Dad and Mom David and Robin and so many others changed instantly.  At that intersection in western Minnesota, one single second would have made a huge difference.

One single second.

I’ve just returned from the hospital.  Those with an interest can check in on Ben Menier.   I notice there have been over 1,700 visits already.  There will be time for individual visits later.

I’ve passed along all of the comments made by you – 40 so far.  Thank you so very much.

A couple of other favorites of mine come to mind today.  Louie Schwartzberg’s short film on Gratitude  is one I highly recommend.

Another is “The Station“, which Ann Landers liked so much she reprinted it from time to time years ago.  You can read it here: The Station001.

Ben and David and Robin were together in Ben’s ICU room yesterday afternoon.  As I write Ben is in surgery, another step towards a hoped for good end to an event no one could have anticipated.

At best, his will be a long haul, with uncertain end.

In peace.


For those who follow my blog, here is my offering for Memorial Day, 2018 written prior to the accident.

#MeToo. Time for honest conversations…lots of them.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sometime before she began first grade in about 1913 my Aunt Lucina got a Valentine from a young friend, Stella, who lived on a farm a couple of miles down the road in Henrietta township North Dakota.

(click to enlarge illustrations)


Her friends Mom helped make this card for her daughter. Most likely it was delivered in person by horse and buggy. A year or so earlier, rural telephone (“two longs and a short”) had entered the vocabulary of these country neighbors, but in those days the phone was “party line” for everybody, and not for casual use. Stella was apparently missing her young friend down the road, my Aunt Lucina.

Valentine’s Day has a very long history. You can read about it here; (do a quick scroll to “Modern Times” for the more contemporary history.

All of the following are Valentine cards from the Busch farm in ND, which I had borrowed from Uncle Vince and Aunt Edithe, and scanned years ago. They were in a box, and I wrote a bit about them a dozen years ago. My post says there were 19 Valentine’s in the box. I scanned the nine you see here.

The remaining illustrations in this post are all from that same box, that same scan, just waiting for the appropriate time to see the light of day, albeit on a computer screen in 2018.





Valentine 1911

Valentine 1913

Valentine 1913


The following are my scattered/random comments as we wade through the swamp of #MeToo. #MeToo is about relationships of one sort or another gone awry. It has overtaken most everything else in the national conversation the last few months, but if you think about it, the high profile #MeToo’s are very few and very rare.

What follows are some personal unpolished thoughts out loud, hopefully to encourage other thoughts out loud, but mostly to encourage people of different genders, ages, points of view, to discuss together, in person, the “#MeToo” issue. There will be squirming and defensiveness, but the conversations are worth having, far better than the insanity we’re going through today.

I have relevant experience with this, beyond simply being a human being.

As a teacher union staff person from 1972-2000, I and my colleagues had plenty of experience with the “sex” issues of those days: accusations similar to todays, most in the area of inappropriate contact between student and teacher; often front-page news. They were also rare, mostly men were accused (but not all), and mostly there was provable guilt to some degree (but not always). There came to be instant and severe punishment: almost automatic loss of the license to teach.

There was an over-reaction by society generally, and by the teacher community. Some saw individual incidents as opportunities to tar the entire teaching profession, particularly the Unions (including myself) whose duty was to represent our members. At the height, my own union adopted a “no touch” rule for members to avoid problems. It made sense at the time, but was also crazy (such as the female kindergarten teacher afraid to help tie a kindergarten boys shoes).

“Innocent until proven guilty” was not part of the conversation. I’d say it was impossible to get a fair trial that ended with exoneration, or rehabilitation. Once charged, you were presumed to be guilty.

How little we have learned EXCEPT that “sex” has become a very useful political tool….

Fast forward to today, very, very briefly: Full disclosure: two of my personal heroes, Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, have been felled by the recent rounds of #MeToo. Again, once accused, convicted. The “whole truth” unnecessary; all that matters, the result. If you like the outcome against one person, be aware, another person you like, including yourself, may be next on the chopping block.

For some reason I kept the Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose top of the front page headline was: “Most believe Franken’s accusers“, with subhead “But nearly half of voters say senator shouldn’t have stepped down.” This was a month after the first allegation against Franken was made, for something which occurred before he ran for U.S. Senate, an accusation accompanied by a single photograph suggesting…. Then came some other allegations, “anonymous”. Then the “court” of public opinion:

(click twice for additional enlargement)

We may as well dispense with hearings or courts or privacy: just take a poll and publicize it…the sample will render the verdict. This is a dangerous way to do things.

I did watch 60 Minutes Sunday night, the “#MeToo” topic was one of the segments. I’m sure you can still watch the segment on-line. Now we move, righteously, to kill sexual harassment. It is a wonderful idea. So was prohibition, and the move to eliminate abortions, or to keep slavery, or get rid of illegals…the lists of schemes to prohibit go on and on and on.

To #MeToo as an issue: I read, and I talk to people of other genders with possibly differing points of view…. “Sex” is a part of every one of our beings. It has a very long history. In our country, there is a fascination with sex, as practiced by someone else.

The objective must be to make things better, rather than to attempt to make things perfect.

Then there is our national moral and legal arbiter Donald Trump. While there is much talk about the sanctity of “due process”, including from me, there is no level playing field when it comes to Trump. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be found guilty of anything. He is a proven serial liar – nothing he says can be taken at face value, even in writing, most certainly not in court, and sexual harassment is generally a very personal deal, rarely public, subject to interpretation. He needs only to deny…and countersue.

Lots of people who should know better, say what he allegedly did happened long ago…we should get over it. (There is something of that mantra about Judge Roy Moore, whose incidents happened, they say, “40 years ago”.)

Trumps reputation as a very rich man is that he is one who can afford to, and does, counter-sue almost at every opportunity. If you have power and lots of money, you can buy much better “due process” justice than if you are poor or less powerful or one of those teachers I used to represent.

With Trump, we have what we deserve, and we’re probably stuck with it. Make it a learning opportunity.

A NEW FAVORITE BIBLE STORY comes via an evangelical guy who attends an every Saturday Bible Study one table away from me at coffee. There seems to be an intended public witness by the half dozen men who usually attend, all nice guys, and knowledgable.

Anyway, a few Saturdays ago one gentleman – likely a PhD and a very decent man from all indications – was saying he’d been at something or other and the speaker talked about the first two commands in the Bible: “have sex and eat“. It got a good laugh from the assembled Christians….

Comments are welcome, but probably this forum is not the best – engage with others where you live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And Ash Wednesday, too.

From Norm: Those old valentines brought back many memories of my grade school days when we used to exchange them I school. As I recall, there was usually a box set-up in our home room that had been decorated by our creative peers with a slot on its top for us to insert the valentines that we had brought in.

The box would later be opened on or close to Valentine’s Day and its contents distributed with all of the be my valentine messages on them.

I can even recall a few valentines that had a small red sucker attached to them as well.

Thanks for bringing back those special memories, Dick.

from Jeff: I think you make a good point, and one often pointed out, that if you are able, you can buy more due process if you can afford it.

I think the #metoo is a good thing, but while he said she said isn’t always right, sometimes it is (Aziz Ansari)

Towards a Spirituality of Joy….

Friday night through early afternoon today was what is becoming my personal tradition: the Men’s Retreat at Franciscan Retreat & Spirituality Center Prior Lake MN. 17 men attended. Most of us were strangers to each other.

There are lots of varieties of retreats and many retreat centers. I’d highly recommend taking a look at the Franciscans in Prior Lake and their program.

The painting of a playful St. Francis at the lectern in the Chapel said it all about this years retreat theme:

(click to enlarge)

St. Francis of Assisi

The 2018 theme at Prior Lake: “Towards a Spirituality of Joy: Love More, Laugh More, Be Not Afraid.”

The painting and the theme said it all about the Retreat. No, nothing wild here! A bunch of older men, likely mostly Catholic, pretty ordinary kinds of folks who’d you’d see here and there, all with their own stories. The talks encouraged us towards the positives which surround us, sometimes unnoticed.

This particular retreat consisted of several “conference” presentations; plenty of open time for participants, a good mix of individual time; conversation at meals; an opportunity for meeting with a spiritual advisor…What I find best at these gatherings is blessed release from television, newspapers, radio, even telephone (doubtless this goes on, but not encouraged.) The Retreat, expertly led was a time for reflection, reading, several religious services. Gentle.

Pope Francis got special billing. At the end of the first conference we each received a pocket card. Just a simple idea, but something not likely to be discarded.

In his powerful April 26, 2017 talk, Pope Francis set a tone: The Pope’s Ted-Talk is worth 15 minutes of your time. (Scroll down on the same page for more resources.)

Saturday evening we saw a marvelous film that I highly recommend, “I’ll Push You”, the story about the friendship of two young men, one terminally ill who wanted to do the famous Camino de Santiago walk in Spain.

His life-long friend said, “I’ll Push You”, and that is the very powerful story of the 90 minute film.

My choice for reading this time was Paul Rogat Loeb’s 1999 book. “Soul of a Citizen“. It is about making a difference. That the book is now 18 years old made no difference at all. We all can make a difference. One of Loeb’s chapters was headed by this quote, from Dorothy Day: “People say, what is the sense of our small effort. They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time.”

One of those small bricks was laid by my friend, Vince, many years ago at this same Retreat House. In my first trips there I noticed a Peace Pole on the grounds that was in pretty rough shape – it was wood, and had been there for a long time. Last year I mentioned this to the director of the Center. This year I slogged through deep snow down to see its status.

It had been repaired, though some work remains to be done.

Someone with a vision had caused the Peace Pole to be there; someone noticed it years later…and mentioned a need for repair; someone, likely a volunteer repaired it (there seems to be more that needs to be done, but it’s well along….) That is how the business of building a better world works. What we treasure mostly comes in small and unexpected increments. It is the bricks that build the building that is the home that we all live in on planet earth.

Peace Pole Franciscan Retreat Prior Lake MN

In peace.

The House Cat

Today is the one month anniversary of the appearance of the “house cat” on the blackboard at my coffee place, Caribou Coffee at City Center, Woodbury MN. Here it was this morning:

(click to enlarge)

January 17, 2018

Here it was on December 17, a delightful surprise visitor:

The cat appears, Dec. 17, 2017

I came to look forward to the cat, and wondered if it would survive anonymous fingers with chalk in hand. Here it is on January 1, 2018.

That Caribou Cat, Jan. 1, 2018

By this time I was noticing it was being noticed. The notation above the cat was by a man facing very serious surgery. (I don’t know the outcome, since I haven’t seen him since, and he never shared contact information. I hope the surgery went well for him.)

On Jan. 10, I took another photo. It was beginning to look crowded out. I wrote a note to the manager, hoping that somehow this marvelous cat could be saved, as long as possible.

Here’s Jan. 10:

The cat on Jan. 10, 2018

So, am I a “cat person”? Actually I prefer dogs, but neither are helpful to me – allergies. My visits to home with dogs…or cats…are always of limited duration.

But animals are good to bring calm to a stressful time. They are good companions, and I applaud them all – mostly.

Today, as you can note, the blackboard was cleaned, and I like the topic theme at the beginning of 2018.

Have a great day!

The Caribou Cat

Best wishes to the cat! May it have many lives yet to live!

Four Brief Homilies at Christmas 2017

Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, a reader told me he’d been listening to Krista Tippet’s “On Being”, and the guest for this particular program was David Steindl-Rast, the old man in the Gratitude video from Dec. 22. The interview is a lengthy one, and well worth your time.

This morning, Christmas Day, Fr. Harry Tasto, a retired Priest and gifted homilist, gave his Christmas message at Basilica of St. Mary.

He spoke, briefly, to seven specific constituencies within this “family” called Church:
1. The Children
2. Those who are Young, previously below 21, now defined by some as Young into their 30s
3. Those in Middle Age
4. Finally, those who are Old

His brief remarks encouraged personal reflection back to myself in those ages – how did the world look to me, in those ages? What was my place in that world of others? What is it now?

He then talked to specific audiences he knew were in the Church this day, since they are of this Church always, not always satisfied parts of this large very old, not always comfortable, sometimes messy and even offensive “family”.

5. The Regulars
6. Those who come once in awhile
7. Those who rarely darken the doors, maybe never, even, but know the family is gathering there, much like Christmas dinners this weekend.

We’re all in families like described above, this day, and all days.

Fr. Tasto caused me to think back to two other “homilies”, one at a workshop in suburban Houston TX in 1998; the other at the Cathedral in San Antonio TX in 2000. Both came at an important time in my life. My story of them was my 2000 Christmas card, three very brief panels which you can read here: Homilies001

Today begins the next 365 days for all of us. Where were we a year ago? Where will we be a year from now?

Gratitude 2017; and “The One We Feed”


Angelica Cantante, Orchestra Hall, All Is Well, Minneapolis, Dec. 16, 2017


If you read no further than this paragraph, do take seven minutes to watch Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude. I first saw this piece of film in 2012. Its message is powerful and timeless.


At this season, December, 2017, we are a nation at war against each other. A place where a few “winners” win, and everyone (including the winners) stand to end up as losers….

I think of that old proverb, often attributed to a Native American elder: the “Two Wolves” inside all of us. It is a proverb full of wisdom.



There is great good, all around, still. You don’t need to look far. There is reason for Gratitude.

There’s this gift from “anonymous” I saw on the blackboard at my local coffee shop, last Saturday morning. The sketch is a day brightener, possibly the work of some high school kid, gifted in art. I’m not the only one who has noticed it. I predict it won’t be erased any time soon.

Blackboard at the Coffee Shop Dec. 16, 2017

Thursday I saw an acquaintance writing a note above the sketch. I know he’s facing a very serious surgery very soon. He wrote: “This drawing is awesome: who?” A simple, anonymous act lifted someone’s spirit.


My list of positives for 2017 is long, thus “gratitude” in the subject line. From my list I choose some examples possibly gifts to yourself for the New Year:

There’s the book, FIRE IN THE VILLAGE, by my friend, Anne Dunn. Anne is Native American, and she wrote this book of 75 short stories “to celebrate my seventy-fifth journey around the sun.” One of the stories, “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, can be found here, an earlier post at this space. (Information on how to order the book is at the link.)

AND SO IT WAS by Annelee Woodstrom is another gift. Annelee is another long-time friend, who wrote this book, her third, during her 91st year 2016-17. Annelee grew up in Hitler’s Germany (born 1926), and has lived since 1947 in northwest Minnesota. Here is my description of the book and of Annelee. She experienced the worst, and made the best of it long term, and has many life lessons to share.

GADSDEN’S WHARF: Some years ago I was privileged to meet Rosa Bogar, a tireless advocate for community. This Fall came her most recent message, about an event at Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston SC – a place where most of her ancestors arrived as slaves in the long ago. Rosa grew up in Orangeburg SC, with its own very troubled history in the civil rights era. She has long lived in the Twin Cities. Her most recent project is here: Gadsden’s Wharf001. Here is more about this reminder of the past, which is Rosa,s effort towards a better country and world for us all.

All three women are powerful witnesses for all of us.

Not to leave out the men:

PHANTOMS OF THE FRENCH FUR TRADE is a three volume scholarly work by Timothy Kent of Ossineke MI. Timothy’s personal biography is most fascinating. I got to know Timothy through his extraordinarily effective explanation of the Voyageur life. He lived the life, so as to write authentically about it.

You won’t reach Timothy by e-mail! Yes, he’s very civilized.

My friend, Jerry Foley, who has two degrees in history, and is French-Canadian by ancestry, has read the books and says about them: “Timothy Kent’s books are very detailed and easily readable stories of French Canadian families and of the fur trade, written by a person who loves this history. The books are insightful and well worth reading.”

A SONG IN THE DARK. Yesterday, at Orchestra Hall for a marvelous “A Minnesota Orchestra Christmas: Home for the Holidays”, I was scanning the program booklet and came across a marvelous Essay by noted pianist and accordionist (and fellow French-Canadian) Dan Chouinard. His comments about Holidays, and music, strike a chord. You can read them here: Dan Chouinard001

FINALLY, THE YOUNGSTERS – those of my school age grandchildren’s generation.

Last Saturday, at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis (photo leads this post) we heard over 200 2nd through 12th graders in concert as part of Angelica Cantante. In the group were three of our grandkids. Their sister, not as musically inclined, sat with us).

“All Is Well”, the second to last number sung by the massed choirs, particularly spoke to me. Here is a version of this song sung in 2012 by another youth choir.

Of course, “all” is not necessarily “well”…probably even amongst some of the choristers, or those of us in Orchestra Hall, or anywhere, for that matter.

But in that assembled group of youngsters I saw the essence of what our community, in the largest sense, must do to survive as a society: we must be a team, working together. At this point in our history, our country is not a team.

Merry Christmas.

In the spirit of the season: grandkid creche from some years back.


As often happens in my tiny corner of the universe, as I began composing this post, into my e-mail inbox, at 5:07 p.m. Dec. 13, 2017, came a remarkable article from the New York Times, “The Heroes of Burial Road”. The full headline is this: “The Heroes of Burial Road: Many Haitians can’t afford funerals, and bodies end up in anonymous piles. These men offer them some dignity.”

The narrator in Gratitude talks about our great gift of clean water, which we take for granted; the heroes in the NYTimes article give simple dignity to people who cannot afford even a simple funeral.

We take so much for granted in the United States. We feel so entitled. But look a little deeper. Every U.S. community has similar stories of people who have died without family, without resources.


There is much for every one of us to consider, at this Christmas, 2017.

Last Sunday, Janice Andersen in our church newsletter gave some perspectives, worth reading: Advent, Janice Andersen001 Janice, and many like her, have been inspirations to me for many years. The bridge that precedes and ends this segment was at a Just Faith Retreat we attended with her in May, 2005. Janice is a powerful witness to the best in each of us. Consider people like Janice as the bridge to other communities with needs.

There are so many stories, in each and every one of our lives.

Let’s get to work.


Christmas Card 1977

The phrase within the card:

“Then said a rich man.
Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered,
You give but little
when you give of
your possessions. It
is when you give of yourself that you
truly give.”

Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

Dedicated to Dad, born 110 years ago today, Dec. 22, 1907. Died Nov. 7, 1997

from a great friend in Europe: To be sure, Mr. Bernard, very discouraging indeed but thanks for “keeping on keeping on”!

Aneurin, known as Nye, Bevan (UK politician, member of parliament & holder of various cabinet positions) said” “The whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century, is being deployed to enable weath to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power.”

That art has been further advanced by the U.S. in the 21st century. Many have pondered why so many are so easily persuaded to vote against their own interest.

Today, Angelica Cantanti. And a memory of Jerry Brownfield

Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis

This afternoon, 4 p.m., at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, open to the public, is a concert by the children’s choirs of Angelica Cantanti. Details at link. Free Will offering will be asked.

This is an outstanding group with a long history. Two nights ago, WCCO-TV featured the choirs on local nightly news. You can watch the segment here. Son-in-law Bill is the person interviewed on this segment.

Disclosure: three grandkids, Ted, Kelly and Lucy, will be on stage today. We’re really proud of them.

Come on down.

Jerry Brownfield

Just past midnight came sad news from a friend in Bellingham WA. Beth announced the death of her husband of 53 years, Jerry. It seems fitting to share what she had to say, in twin with the young people’s concert I proudly publicize above.

I think I met Jerry only one time, at their home in south Minneapolis, before they moved to Washington state. At the very least, he, like Angelica Cantanti, can help give meaning to this season.

(click to enlarge)

Jerry Brownfield, Ptarmigan Ridge, WA 2007

Here’s Beth’s e-mail to her list about her husband:

Dear Friends,

Jerry, my sweetheart of 55 years, and married 53 years, “walked into the forest” (as my native friends would say) on Thursday, Dec 7, after a sudden and brief illness.

FOR what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek spirit unencumbered?
ONLY when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

Kahlil Gibran

This is from Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, on death, and is fitting to Jerry’s situation. Pneumonia took his life and his breath. A stroke seven years ago took his singing voice and his balance. His death released him into a transition to a new relationship with his family and many friends. We picture him stepping into the forest, with a twinkle in his eyes, and bold steps into the world of nature that he loved most of all.

The picture of Jerry in front of Ptarmigan Ridge (Mt Baker) was taken 10 years ago. His full obituary is also on the Moles Farewell Tributes: here (Jerry Brownfield) where comments may be made.

NOTE: If you sent previous messages to us by email or post could you post those on the Moles Farewell Tribute site? We cannot do that on your behalf. We have received over 20 pages of collected emails. They were priceless and we would love having them collected here and shared with friends who experienced different facets of Jerry. Jerry would not have believed the influence and impact he had on so many people.

Jerry’s memorial service will be held at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Bellingham, WA Saturday, January 27, starting at 3:30 pm, followed by a reception from five to six where we can share stories and memories.

Donations in his memory to Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center (13 Prospect St.#201, Bellingham, WA 98225), or Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival here.

Regarding myself, I am surrounded by love and support from our family, neighbors, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, book groups, hiking groups, YMCA, Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival Committee, Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, my Lummi friends, etc.

I am grieving, remembering, and forever grateful to have had Jerry in my life for all these years. Right now I am “Chopping Wood & Carrying Water” picking up things that Jerry used to do, carrying on with the things that Jerry supported me on for our entire life together.

Jerry would want you to know that he appreciates each of you for supporting him, or supporting me. Both he and I, from different planes, are grateful you have been part of our lives. Jerry’s hiking friends will scatter 1/2 of his ashes at Ptarmigan Ridge this summer. Jenny, Amie and I will decide the placement of the remainder.

“How Will Future Reckon With Cousin Kenneth”

Prenote: In a sense, consider the below a trilogy of Thanksgiving thoughts, with the primary part, the second, on civility, the most important. In addition, from a long-time colleague and friend, here is a collection of 10 short poems pertinent to Thanksgiving 2017: 2017 Thanksgiving.


“Cousin Kenneth” is a thought provoking column I saw in the Minneapolis Star Tribune at Thanksgiving, 1993. All I know are the words in the column. “Cousin Kenneth”, if still alive, is now 24 years older. I wonder how life went for him…. (Click to enlarge the jpeg, double click to enlarge some more:)

Here is a pdf if you wish to print out: Cousin Kenneth 1993002


No, I can’t ‘blame’ the League of Women Voters (LWV) for this long ago memory of Kenneth. I’m a member of LWV, and on Nov. 19, the local chapter leader sent us the following from the League of Women Voters, U.S., which is very pertinent, especially this Thanksgiving.

“Setting the Table for Civility” over the Holidays

As part of the League’s partnership with the National Institute for Civil Discourse, LWV members are invited to participate in “Setting the Table for Civility”. It is an opportunity for individuals, as we gather with friends and family for the upcoming Thanksgiving and year-end holiday season, to take action to promote civility. These include exploring three basic questions:

• What are you most thankful for about living in America?

• How do you feel about the deep divisions and incivility we see now in our country?

• What can we do to revive civility and respect and find more effective ways to listen to each other and work together?

Tools and materials are available to support conversations at family gatherings, within faith communities, on campuses and on social media. This could be a great way to engage new members and to invite non-members to join the League in an activity that brings people together and helps us build more civil dialogue in communities.

Happy Thanksgiving! And may your dinner discourse be civil.


(click to enlarge)

I saw the above announcement at Basilica of St. Mary Nov. 19. That afternoon was the dedication of the bench pictured above, on Hennepin Avenue, under a large tree. A Basilica staff person said that, already, an emergency vehicle had stopped to see if the form on the bench needed assistance – they had not heard about the new sculpture. Some weeks earlier, the sculpture was displayed in the undercroft (Basilica-speak for “church basement”). Postit notes were available for people to comment on the meaning of the sculpture. One said “I don’t like this at all”. Why is known only to the writer.

What was this “World Day of the Poor”? Turns out that this year is the first, and it is a Papal Message by Pope Francis, Nov. 19, 2017. Here is his statement.

It is my understanding that Pope Francis “walked the talk” as a Priest and Bishop in his native Argentina.

Dad. A Family Memory

Prenote: My Dad died 20 years ago today. I had been planning to write a little piece about him for some weeks, and in fact had been at the place where he died, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, on October 22-23.

I digress for a moment: We were tiny town folks, and church was central to our lives, so my thoughts are occupied now with the folks of Sutherland Springs TX, where 26 people were killed inside the community church at Sunday service. Who will stop this insanity?

I think back to that chapel at Our Lady of the Snows, where I attended Mass Oct 23, as Dad would have. To my family: “I went to 7:30 Mass on Monday morning. There were about 30 of us.” There have been lots of wake up calls to deal with the crisis of guns in America. Sutherland Springs should be at the very top of our list: it can happen anywhere, to anyone….

(click to enlarge photos)

Chapel at Our Lady of the Snows Oct 23, 2017



My Dad was like most of us. He had a good run, of almost 90 years. He contributed more than he took. He earned compliments and (I’m sure) criticism. Those who knew Dad can fill in their own blanks.

He lived ten years at Our Lady of the Snows, on the bluff just east of St. Louis in Belleville IL, from age 79 till his death. To prepare for his upcoming 80th birthday (Dec 22, 1987), he walked 80 consecutive daily 15 minute miles. My sister, Flo, and I were there for the “birthday walk”. It took him 13 minutes…

Henry Bernard about to begin his 80th 15 minute mile December 22, 1987

Nine days after he died I was in Chicago at a conference at O’Hare, and in the Sunday Chicago Tribune I found this column, by Mary Schmich: Schmich My father died001. To this day, whenever I hear that the father of someone I know dies, I send this column on.

It spoke to me.

His kids left a permanent marker in memory of Dad at Our Lady of the Snows Apartment Community on Memorial Day, 1998. Here’s the marker for the flagpole, photo from Oct 23, 2017. (Neither Mom nor Dad have gravestones. They both donated their bodies to schools of medicine for medical research.)

Marker at the flagpole at Our Lady of the Snows Apartment Community, Belleville IL Oct 22, 2017


There are lots of things to remember about my Dad.

Today is election day in many places, including our town. Most certainly, Dad would vote. If he had a partisan preference, he never said it to me. He was interested in political topics. I recall a long term project of his was to read the biographies of all the Presidents of the U.S. I graduated from high school in the 6th year of Dwight Eisehower’s time, so Harry Truman would have been the most recent biography. In 1983 he and I visited the Eisenhower Library in Abilene KS, and on the same trip Lyndon Johnsons Johnson City TX.

His livelihood and job as a school teacher and small town school superintendent depended on “taxpayers”. He would muse about “NRFA” (pronounced nerfa, No Reelection For Anyone), but I highly doubt he ever practiced that philosophy – it was just his expression of disgust at politicians at all levels whose primary interest was to get reelected.


In 1981, his wife, my Mom, died too soon, at 72. He was 73. They lived year round in San Benito TX, 245 miles south of Sutherland Springs. I think he went through a personal crisis in this time…how to go on. A life-saver for him was to go back to teaching, volunteering to teach English as a Second Language across the street at the Berta Cabaza Junior High School.

I recall that when he traveled he often would send postcards to his students back home, reasoning that this may be the only mail they ever received.


He was born in 1907, as modern life was just beginning to bud. A couple of months ago I participated in a program in which I attempted to condense his first 18 years into seven minutes from his writings. Here is what I came up with: DAD STORIES told early 1980s– 2. My spoken rendition of these memories can be viewed here, beginning at about 8 minutes.

About 1920, Grafton ND. Henry Bernard is tall kid in white shirt. Other family members are his parents, Henry and Josephine, and siblings Frank and Josie, and two families visiting from Winnipeg Manitoba. The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists in an auto museum in Pennsylvania.

Those who know me, know I like to write. It seems to have followed some genetic trait inherited by my Dad from someone long ago.

After Mom, his wife Esther, died in 1981, Henry embarked on what became a regular routine.

He developed a two week cycle for letters to we kids. Monday was to his oldest (me); Tuesday for the second child, Mary Ann; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday for Florence, Frank and John. The other days he wrote to other family or friends, here there and everywhere. He was constantly intellectually active.

His tiny apartment (96A, which is now used for storage), was set up for his daily activities. Here’s his desk on Dec. 22, 1987.

Henry’s “home office”, 1987

For whatever reason I kept my set of letters and a few years ago donated them as part of the family archive to the University of North Dakota Chester Fritz library (his haunt in years of living in Grand Forks.)

I had, frankly, forgot about the donation of the letters till a surprise e-mail came on July 26, 2017: “Dick: Greetings. I wanted to let you know that the family history materials you donated in 2009 and 2010 have been processed. The materials are now formally part of the Initiatives in French Midwest Heritage Collection. Your materials are Series 29 and the finding aid for the collection can be viewed here:

I want to let you know that I very much enjoyed processing this material. Your father seemed like a really great guy and I am honored to help document not only his history, but that of your entire family. Please look at the finding aid and let me know if you have any corrections. Thank you.”

The writer was Curt Hanson, Head for Special Collections at the University of North Dakota. Dad was an interesting guy. Here’s a column about him in the Grand Forks (ND) Herald May 31, 1987: Henry Bernard by C Haga001

There ensued further conversation ‘back and forth’, including a later comment from Curt: “A funny story regarding the processing of your Dad’s papers. I have, truly, never come across someone as Catholic as your father. The fact that I am Lutheran may account for this! Your father would frequently date his letters by noting something similar to “17th day of Lent 1987.” This caused me to have to look up and determine when the 17th day of Lent was in 1987. I had to do this frequently!

While I was processing your father’s material, I had to spread out on a table here in Special Collections. One day last month, the Department was visited by an Orthodox Jew who was researching the history of the synagogue in town. He was dressed all in black, with both a payot and a yarmulke. He sat at the table right next to where I was processing. I found it ironic that an incredibly Jewish man was working next to the papers of a very Catholic man. Maybe it is just me, but I found that to be interesting.”


The last family reunion, including many of us, September, 1996, at Our Lady of the Snows.

I close with a few more photos, mostly from Dec. 22, 1987. Happy Birthday to my daughter, Heather, who is 42 today; and an early b-day to Henry’s daughter Mary Ann, whose birthday is Nov. 10, and his son Frank on Nov. 17.

Perhaps you can take some time for remembering your own Dad (or Mom, or whomever) stories….

Henry, Dec. 22, 1987

Henry at 80. He was a ceaseless walker, until almost the end of his life.

St. Louis from Our Lady of the Snows, Dec. 1987. Now the trees have grown and the skyline is visible only in the fall after the leaves have shed.

St. Louis, Oct 23, 2017, from Cahokia Mound IL, a few miles northwest of Our Lady of the Snows.