A couple of unrelated happenings this week lead to this column.

This week, a relative, Donna, sent an old photograph with an inquiry: did I know one of the people in the photo?

north of Valley City ND circa 1940, a group from the St. Mary’s community. Note the two on horseback.

As is quite typical with old photos, this one didn’t have a date or names written on the back.  I could help: I identified my Aunt Mary, and Uncle Bernard, and Mary’s sister, my Aunt Florence.  I suspected the photo was probably about 1940, the year I was born.  My cousin, Mary, from the larger family, added a little bit to the conversation the same day.  “Yes that is my mom [and dad, Florence and Bernard].  That picture was taken down by the creek that was below Uncle Hugo’s farm. Now that creek is Lake Ashtabula.  Mom said they had so much fun down there.  My Dad sure had a head of hair.  Mom and Dad were married in [19]43. So you’re pretty accurate.

(For non-family, the popular Lake Ashtabula, a part of the Sheyenne River dammed in about 1950, is perhaps a dozen miles north of Valley City ND, and the persons pictured probably mostly lived in the area around the nearby St. Mary’s Church in rural Dazey.)

There are lots of family stories and transferrable memories in that picture from 80 years or so ago.  Few if any of those in the picture likely are still alive, but have left behind parts of themselves in their descendants and in other ways.  All of them were survivors of the Great Depression, just ending; and if I’m right, this picture was taken right before WWII, which also impacted on all of them.

In sundry ways, folks like them were my generations teachers in life…we watched….  Because of them, we became what we are.


At the time the photo  crossed my screen, I was in the process of updating my address list, which I still keep in paper form, and which I last updated six years ago.  As you might imagine, there were lots of scratch outs and additions – changes of all sorts.

In this particular revision I made special note of a cadre of people I met after retirement – people who had influenced me in my chosen post-retirement avocation, peace and justice work.  Many of these were part of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers; all of them phenomenal role models.

Here are some of those heroes of the past 20 years, non-family people who were my mentors, who have passed on between 2015 and today. There have been others, not listed here, because they died before this list was generated, but the point is that these were people who influenced me, whether or not they knew it,  at the time.  Heroes.  Thanks to all of them.  Probably, they are not known to you, as are the people in the photo, but certainly they are known to me. These were only a portion of those from a single segment of my life; all in the time period after I retired in 2000.  Amazing people, all of them.  Just a sample, crossed off of my address list, but not my memory.

Burt Berlowe

Rosa Bogar

Freda Ellis

Lynn Elling

Hank Garwick

Mary Rose Goetz

Bob Heberle

Don Irish

Mary Lou Nelson

Joseph Schwartzberg

Mary White

Wayne Wittman

Who are your heroes, the men and women who shaped who you are?

3 replies
  1. Jermitt Krage
    Jermitt Krage says:

    Early in my life, I had several hero’s. The top of the list was my mom and dad, the dad that raised me. They survived the depression of the thirties and raised four children. All four of us graduated from high school and college even though we lived in a three room, plus a pantry house. While in high school, my hero’s were my coach, Buddy Hurin, my moms brother Ernest Jasmer and my dads nephew Willis Krage. Earnest because he was like a second father to me, and always telling me “I love you, Jermitt” whenever leaving for his own home. Willis, because he took me under his wing as a friend and an athlete.
    As an adult, I continue to rely on friends who were in many ways, my hero’s. With their help and encouragement, I feel I had a wonderful like. I hope I have given back some to others. I am eternally grateful to all of them, including my friend Dick Bernard.

  2. Larry Johnson
    Larry Johnson says:

    HEROES –

    My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Groh
    Dr. Harry Skornia, the peace activist/broadcast reformer who was founder of PBS, but is virtually unknown to most people
    Mulford Sibley
    Dr. Karen Olness early Children’s Hospital, and her husband Hakon Torjesen
    George Gerbner, former Dean of Annanberg, and founder of CEM (Cultural Environment Movement)
    Marieli Rowe, long time director of National Telemedia Council, oldest media literacy organization in country
    Franz Jagerstatter
    and more, I’m sure

  3. Jane Peck
    Jane Peck says:

    Dick, you are one of my heroes! Your dedication to recordIng and sharing history keeps me inspired to do the same. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.