Class of '41
Dear ’41 Classmates,
Yes, lots of thoughts, prompted by Bob Esbjornson’s Advent greeting: "Your gifts for me and mine for you come in small packages, too (like God’s great gift of the tiny Baby Jesus): the letters we receive and send. They are gifts more valuable than their size would indicate, for they express the great gift of friendship."
Some of you have experienced corresponding (by phone or letter) with new friends―the new kids on the block of the development office, like Heather Nancarrow, Director of the Gustavus Fund, and her Administrative Assistant, Ann Volk. Like Krysta Hochstettler, ’98, Assistant Director of the Gustavus Fund/Coordinator of GusLink, Phonorama student callers.
I am so pleased that your generous gifts are coming in, all gifts are credited to our Class of ’41. And in case you missed it, a gift envelope was inserted into the center of the last Quarterly. Such as the check from Bob and Jean Burggren (Red Wing, MN) who, are "getting along fine." Were it not for Bob’s having new knee surgery they would have attended Christmas in Christ Chapel.
Having said that, let’s celebrate the new 80-year-olds as they report in letters: * Don Anderson (new address: 4508 Mallard Trail South, Eagan, MN 55122) who celebrated with much fanfare at the Sunshine Factory in Minneapolis. * Stanley Swanson (Lindsborg, KS) who celebrated 80 in Minnesota, all of the five children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild together, coming from Chicago and Aurora, IL, Mahtowa, MN, Denver and Durango, CO, San Francisco (Cupertino), Boston, New York City, Salem, VA, and York, PA. *Joyce Westrom Hilary, (Minneapolis) turning 80 at a (literally) standup festivity at Cherri and Dick Thurner’s home. The hosts planned everything Swedish―beautiful bouquets of blue and yellow everywhere, party sandwiches with Swedish flags and a basket filled with all the memories (written by the guests). * Luverne Johnson Sellstrom (Spicer, MN) celebrated her 80th birthday a day early on December 6 when her daughter, Cheryl, and husband, Larry, and family planned the coffee lunch between services at church. On Monday she got an unwelcome gift―a sudden attack of bursitis in her shoulder, “which took care of my plan to have someone take my picture while I stood on my head when I reached four score years. Maybe I can plan it for my 90th now."
For these impressive octogenarians and all the others I don’t know about, I send along a favorite quote Chet received in 1993.
" I have good news for you. The first 80 years are the hardest. The second are a succession of birthday parties.
"If you forget your name or anybody’s name, forget to keep an appointment, promise to be at two or three places at the same time, or spell words wrong: you need only explain that you are 80. Everybody wants to carry your baggage and to help you on the stairs.
“If you spill, your shoes don’t match or if you carry a letter around a week before mailing it―that’s all right, because you are 80. At 80 you can relax with no misgivings. You have a perfect alibi for everything. Nobody expects much of you. If you act silly, it’s your second childhood. Everybody is looking for symptoms of softening of the brain. It is a great deal better than being 65 or 70. At that time they expect you to move to a little house in Florida and become discontented, grumbling, a limping has-been. "But," if you survive until you are 80, they are surprised that you reveal lucid moments. At 70 people are mad at you for everything. At 80 they forgive you for anything. If you ask me, "Life begins at 80." Lucky you!"
While Thinking About You…it struck me so forcibly how our lives are inextricably entwined, yours and mine, and Gustavus. In my April 15, 1998 letter from San Jose, CA, you may recall, I thanked classmate Bob Olson and his wife, Marjorie (Knudson, ’42) of Mount Pleasant, MI for their letter mailed from Cote de Caza, CA enclosing a check for Christ Chapel restoration (contributed by seven men in a Wednesday morning prayer group with whom Bob had met for many years). Bob wrote about how he pictured himself at Gustavus in the fall of 1937 visiting the campus with Wes Roos, who lived in his hometown Jamestown, NY and who convinced Bob to enroll at Gustavus.
I am very sorry to tell you that enclosed in this January letter are the obituaries of both Bob and Wes, both of whom we salute with affection, remembering their interest and enthusiasm for our College.
Another close relationship to this friendship lies in the fact that Bob Olson’s ashes will be interred in May in Balaton, MN, Marge Olson’s home town, where I taught my first career years 1941-43. I even played the piano at Bob and Marge’s wedding there in 1943! One of my students in Latin class there was Jean Sanders with whom I have kept up correspondence through these fifty plus years during which she and her husband, Bob Ward, have served missions in Africa (and now are about to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary).
Balaton friendships that have lasted a lifetime include the various Almen families, benefactors of Gustavus. Our classmate, Louie Benson, Watertown, MN, is a member of that tribe. Selah. Louie is a singer―at his Trinity Lutheran Church one Christmas Eve "with knees shaking so hard that I’m certain they gave an earth-shaking effect that caused the congregation the same fear that came over the shepherds in the Judean Hills that historic night a couple of thousand years ago."
Ray Erickson (Salem, OR) brings to mind a special experience of Johnson Hall, the one dorm that was so structurally damaged by the tornado that it had to be razed. He writes as follows.?
My First Visit to the Girls’ Dorm (Johnson Hall). Our church undertook a competitive project to collect funds for an Orphans Home, though I don’t recall where it was located. I was about five years old, and, because I had made some acquaintances there while delivering papers, I took a quart jar with slotted lid and signature sheets to the various buildings. It being the 1920s there were few pennies to spare, and I didn’t fare very well with the male students, though considerably better with the faculty. I ended up at the girls’ dorm, and a kind coed took me in tow to visit every room, and left no occupant unspared, recording each donor’s name on a card. I don’t recall the intensity of her solicitations, whether it was by entreaty or intimidation, but the jar became much heavier as I left the building. When all of the coins (no paper) were counted at church, I was easily the winner and received a book entitled "Anchors Aweigh" which seemed written for adults, containing no pictures which would have been more appealing to a preschooler, and which probably had no influence on my eventual choice of service in the Navy."
Harriet Stakke Noble (South Bend, IN) appreciates Marjorie Swanson’s (Minneapolis, MN) keeping her informed about our tornado, sending the VCR and clippings. Harriet’s husband, Bob, who cannot drive any more because of physical constraints, is driven to his work as a consulting engineer by Harriet. Another taxi driver is Blanche Isenberg Pergol (Sauk Rapids, MN), for Angie who was diagnosed in May with macular degeneration. With a lamp he can read the paper―and above all―he can read the box scores, and they still go to the Gopher and Viking games (Blanche as a commentator). No Elderhostels for Ellie (Swanson) and Ray Soderquist (Kearney, NE), but Barbershops for Ray, and Ellie’s TALKING computer for diversions and communications.
Dorothy Benson Klotz (Hopkins, MN) has checked on the tornado recovery at Gustavus with drives down to St. Peter, "Awesome to see the progress everywhere." Arthur Heglund, VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI, writes "It is heartening for me to read and know of Gustavus’ special and super recovery from the tornado." Charles and Bea Lusk (Borrego Springs, CA), enjoyed fall travels in Canada and western U.S. selling their motor home when they got back―next a new trailer to continue their travels. We’re still looking for (Ebba) Margaret Lundstrom Riesenweber’s Scandinavian stories to pass on to you from Kennewick, WA. Ruth Sealander Ruud (Moorhead, MN) and husband, Russ, expected all their family, including two little granddaughters, for Christmas. Eunice Nordin Gordon (Poway, CA) marked their tenth year in Poway, she and her husband still love to travel (one foreign trip to the Basque country, Pyrenees, and southwest France, and two domestic trips to Arizona and New Mexico).
Marv and Jean Henrickson (Arlington Heights, IL) also detail travels including to St. Peter to see tornado damage. Marv tells a horror story about his oral surgeon who dropped a loose gold crown down his windpipe almost into a lung. Clem and Betty Lou (Pearson x43) Gruber (Anoka, MN) keep "sort of busy…doesn’t seem like much, but then everything I do takes twice as long as it did twenty years ago," writes Betty. She spent ten days with their daughter, Kristin, in England on Kristin’s Fulbright Teacher Exchange. Batch and Dee Johnson (White Bear Lake, MN) gathered Gusties for their annual do at their lovely lake home near Mahtowa, MN.
Greetings to us came from Paul Nelson (Shaker Heights, OH) in magazine form. And from Paul Dacklin (Warner Robbins, GA) in the form of Georgia pecans. Bea Olsen Lindsten (McLean, VA) reported on Epiphany, that her Christmas play at church “just gobbles up my time―a cast of 81 this year!”
On Martin Luther King Day (January 18) as I think of you, we have awakened to another turbulence, white and cold this time. Snow has plastered the windows so we see in a glass whitely. Drifts have been sculpted around the garage into fantastic caves and contours. My archivist can’t get out of the driveway, or get to the campus. I’m pleased to have him home at the computer while I’m thinking of you. His reward will be mulled cider and tiny Wolfermans cheddar scones when we’ve done the job. And the biggest lift comes from the fragrant blue and pink hyacinths opening on our breakfast table. Consider this an early Valentine, with our warm regards.
We began this class letter with Bob Esby’s remarks about letters. At last we close with our January Guest Writer, Esby, who delivered his contribution between the sculptured drifts before taking off for a visit with his son, Carl Daniel, and his family in Bozeman, MT. His only reward was a cup of Roma and a warmed raisin-oatmeal cookie.
Marian Swanson Johnson
It’s about time to express thanks to Marian for her efforts over many years to pass on to us stories you tell her. Sharing the stories of our lives enriches us and those with whom we share them.
Why do we tell stories―as we do in almost every conversation as well as in letters? It is not matter of ego, though it may seem so. Madeleine L’Engle thinks it has to do with faith that our lives have meaning. We want to tell good news, as the gospel writers did.
We share our stories, even though bad things happpen in our lives. It seems that as we age more bad things happen to us than good. We lose our mate and friends when they die. When we sell our homes we lose the familiar and treasured settings. When we retire we lose careers meaningful to us. As our strength and mobility decline, we cannot be as active as we once were. Then comes the time when it is better to die than to keep on living in the pain and at great cost to others. We don’t have total control of our lives, and we have here no abiding city. What happens in our lives is fate, at times something good that surprises us, and at other times something bad that discourages.
What we choose to make of fate is a matter of faith. There was no escape from the basic moral decision, what can I, and what should I do now? We can and do choose how to think about our fates. As long as we have our wits we can choose between being grateful and grumpy. We can choose to live, not die, choose to love rather than exploit others, choose to seek wisdom about how to love well rather than foolishly.
Sometimes the good things that happen to us are as absurd as the bad things. Something happens that we did not plan and expect and probably did not deserve. We cannot account for this by giving credit to ourselves. We can explain it only by calling it providential. Grace is absurd, for it is not a consequence of our wisdom or goodness.
Faith prompts us to see possibilities in fates we did not expect or want. Instead of gloating or crying, we can choose to create something.
These events would not appear as providential if we are not aware, alert and active enough to respond. Living by a meditative and prayerful life style can become a habit that enables us to recognize doors in walls where at first glance we saw only walls.
A poem by Frederick Morgan expresses a provocative view of how God is involved in our lives.
Although He deals hard blows and gives great boons,
God does not wish to punish or reward us
As though He sat with answers in his hand
Waiting to mark us either sheep or goat.
It’s not so simple. Somehow He’s mixed up
In all this with us; cares, participates,
While holding all the while His ancient realm
That goes beyond our knowledge now. This, though,
We may share with Him, if we let ourselves,
As He shares our flesh when we deeply know.
Yes-what befalls us here is part of Him.
And what we make of it part as well.
And through this painful sharing, which is love,
He works within us to establish meaning.
(quoted by Rev. Glover B. Wagner in Pilgrim Pace, the newsletter of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Bozeman, Montana, Dec. 31, 1998)
Thanks Esby, now here’s some news from the campus:
Students and staff are in the midst of January Term and the campus landscape is covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. Once again, many students are taking advantage of J-Term opportunities with 127 on internships, 308 on study abroad programs, and 86 students studying at other domestic institutions. Despite the cold weather, progress is being made on construction of the new Campus Center due to be open in the fall of 1999. After a week and a half of classroom preparation covering the history and culture of South Africa, the Gustavus Choir will participate in a concert tour of the country January 14-February 2. The Gustavus Band will travel to South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa for their concert tour during touring week, January 30-February 6. Athletic teams are in full swing with all teams looking to be competitive in MIAC play. Over Christmas break many teams traveled for non-conference games including men’s basketball winning a tournament in California, men’s hockey playing in Italy, and the swim teams competing in Bermuda.
Gustavus is once again in the news, making some national rankings. Gustavus ranked 12th among the top 22 leading small colleges in the nation providing active Peace Corps volunteers. Gustavus is ranked 15th in the listing of top 20 bachelor’s institutions that sent the most students overseas for international study during the 1996-97 academic year. Gustavus is ranked 18th of national liberal arts colleges in the number of National Merits with 17 students. Mark Anderson ’66, Dean of Admission, reports that applications for admission for the fall of 1999 are running 20 percent ahead of last year. The Admission Office instituted several new campus visit days in the summer and fall to account for the fact that few students could visit last spring. Alumni are reminded of the Alumni Scholarship Program ($10,000 over four years for children and grandchildren of alumni) available to qualified applicants. Call the Admission Office at 1-800-GUSTAVU(S) for applications.