Class of '41
October 2003

Hi ’41―

Your ears are burning this morning because I am concentrating on you.  You.  You.  Having been to the Class Agents’ Day, September 13, I’m revved up to start celebrating fifty years of the Alumni Fund.  “Our College needs us,” they say.  Class donor goals are 50x50.

’Scuse me a moment.  My Gustie mug of green tea needs to be refilled.  I’ve drunk past Christ Chapel, Old Gus, and Old Main.  (By the way, Gus is now back in the original position we knew, after an about-face at tornado time.)

Let me refresh your mind as to how we stand in the Alumni Office records.  Names on our list total 160, of which 33 are persons with whom we have no contact, and 73 are deceased, a current total of 54 classmates.  Our best giving year was 1993-94, 49 donors.  Last year 48 donors responded, 81.8%.

Class agents have been Roy Bomgren (1954-55), Wendell Holmquist (1956-62), Marian Swanson Johnson (1963-69), Bob and Ruth Bostrom Esbjornson (1970-71), and Marian Swanson Johnson (1972 to date).

Add up fifty years of giving by the Class of ’41.  Life-to-date gifts of $499,651.97.  Then I say, “I’m proud of you, Classy Class!

Now let’s move to meet the need Gustavus has now.  There are many ways to give.  I’ll mention some briefly.  Old Main restoration and renovation―you have seen the brochures in the Quarterly. Old Main has given 125 years of service to many generations, so it is a family treasure.  A building for the ages is our concern now.

  • Reconfigured faculty offices & work spaces for the departments of classics, philosophy, political science, & religion
  • Increased and more flexible space for the Office of the College Chaplains
  • Four state-of-the-art classrooms
  • An elevator for improved accessibility
  • Climate control

These are ideal for family gifts/ naming opportunities, a match for $25,000 and up by Warren and Donna (Gabbert) Beck ’67 ’66.

It was festive in the newly named Heritage Room in the Jackson Student Center, for the meeting of Gustavus Class Agents on September 13.  At our table (in the front of the room―the oldest, of course) were Oscar Lofgren ’40, Evelyn Strom Pearson ’40, Mim (Peterson) and Carl Manfred ’39, C. Eddie and Peggy (Akerson) Johnson ’42 ’42.  I didn’t get much chatter time with them, for the Alumni Office’s program was split-timing (for coffee and sticky buns and such).  The biggest stir (and well-deserved) of attention was for our new Prexy, Dr. Jim Peterson ’64.  He spoke with ease about past, today, tomorrow, and then went around the room, stopping to chat with 123 class agents.  (Now there is a president with a long memory, who recalls he was in my English 101-102 class when I taught here in 1960-61.)

The materials ready for us in our notebooks from the Alumni Office were immediately useful.  The alphabetical list of students, Class of 1941, totals 160 persons.  This is the class which has eight members honored with Distinguished Alumni Citations 1958-1997.  Classy!

So now I want to talk about us.  Of these classmates, 106 are deceased or contact has been lost.  Which leaves a current total of 54.  We had 45 donors in 2002-2003, 81.1%.  Our best year of giving was 1993-1994, when we had 49 donors.   The class donor goal for the whole College is 50 x 50 (50 percent participation by the 50th anniversary year of the fund).  I’m so proud of you all―for many reasons; and we need you for several reasons (e.g. there are classmates we have no contact with―30 of them).  Can you supply addresses and/or phone numbers for any of these?  Donna Linn Anderson (Robert), Edith Nelson Anderson (Frank), F. Lemuel Anderson (Ruth), Cynthia Turnblom Beardslee, Florence Bongard, Clara Strandt (Walter), Curtis Carlson, George Cram, Jr., Stanley Demoski, Barbara Nutter Dybvig, Stanley Fleisch, Loel Frederickson, Phyllis Utter Glenn, Walter Gonska (Carole), Wade Green, Orlando Hanson, Claudia Hegdahl, Ed Janovsky, Arleen Johnson (Arnold), Gothard Johnson, Julius Johnson, Merritt Johnson, Theodore W. Kennedy, Frank Kinney, Philip Koppel, Leslie Olson, Arlington Peterson, Melba Udden Pillman, Gordon Sando, Margaret Plaman Weber.

It’s still warm and comfortable to sit on our screened porch at 70 degrees.  The sun is settling itself for a position to retire, having cleared the white cumulous clouds from the true blue sky.  Beside me the lavender Russian sage is busy with bees; Painted Lady butterflies have their turn to sip the nectar.  Still not blossoming, chrysanthemums will come out next.  The Black-Eyed Susans are brightly saluting the bronze-gold Big Bluestem in our Prairie Garden.  The grapevine I rhapsodized on purple paper last time was a total loss.  This dry summer, just past, had many problems.

We turn to other things to watch―gophers that have made black mounds in our backyard.  Three new birdfeeders are up and will attract mostly sparrows, a dozen at a time.  Our Mountain Ash, suffering from fire blight, is doing the best it can with the foliage that remains.  There are berries enough to supply the robins, which stop by before their long flight south.

Continuing our gift to Gustavus thoughts:  another way to go is the Heritage Partnership.  At the luncheon on September 20th we met several old friends, heard from a student string quartet and other remarks from students now resident at Gustavus.  Eleven Class of ‘41 "partners" include:  Paul Dacklin, Robert and Ruth (Bostrom) Esbjornson, Lucille Westerdahl Hope, Marian (Swanson) and Chester Johnson, Coral Carter Nordstrom, Blanche (Isenberg) and Angelo Pergol, Elnora (Swanson) and Ray Soderquist, Alice Baver, Ed ’39 and Ruth (Erickson) Johnson.

The Gustavus Heritage Partnership includes donors who have made planned gifts to Gustavus Adolphus College in one or more of the following ways:  bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts of retirement plan assets, living and testamentary trusts, charitable remainder trusts, charitable deed trusts, gifts of real estate, life insurance, a named, endowed scholarship or fund.

Coral (Carter) Nordstrom, Sun City West, AZ, gave a music scholarship in memory of her husband Stan ’38.  It was awarded last year to senior Eric Parrish.  His thank-you note (on loan from Coral) follows:

“My name is Eric Parrish.  I am a recent graduate of Gustavus, and a recipient of the Nordstrom Family Scholarship.  I must apologize for the delay in writing to you.  I have been directing an original musical that I wrote the music to and also the book.  The production was pretty successful and has now closed.  Needless to say, I have been extremely busy―and I am just now catching up with things.  At Gustavus I was a section leader with the Gustavus Choir.  We went to Italy this year for tour over J-Term.  I was also a soloist for Christmas in Christ Chapel and the winner of the vocal part of the concerto-aria competition.  I believe that Al Behrends sent you a copy of the recording from that performance.  Marian Johnson and Dr. John McKay have spoken highly of you, and thus I am grateful for the contributions you make for the College.  Gustavus has been a great experience for me, and I thank you for your assistance.”


                                                                        Eric Parrish


The Esby Ironwood Grove in the Linnaeus Arboretum was rededicated last Saturday.  At the ceremony Bob Esbjornson read the following:

“We dedicate this grove of ironwood trees in honor of Ruth’s contemplative style as a place to sit and be still; we hope there will be those who find it a “quiet circle” for breaks in action, a place for listening and watching, for a time of paying attention to the Creator and creation.

“Ruth not only enjoyed being alone, she needed solitude.  She often went walking alone, sometimes to prepare her homilies aloud, sometimes to weep, sometimes to pray, and always to enjoy the world around her.

            ‘The morning light is so amazing I can see far across the river to the hills on the other side.  In spring I look out on a soft green world that is cool and moist.  In summer I see the darker green that often becomes brown and hazy in the heat.  In autumn I see hillsides of bright yellows, lovely reds and muted browns.  In winter I see black, bare branches etched against gray skies.  O God let my senses thrill with thy creativity that is new every morning.’"

The Esbjornson family members:

Robert, ’41 Ruth (Bostrom), ’41; Louise, ’68, Carl

John, ’50, Carol (Ostgaard), ’50; David, ’75, Karen, ’80, Mary, Susan


By now you probably have heard the sad news that Paul Granlund died September 15, the day the Granlund Retrospective Exhibition opened in the Hillstrom Gallery of the Gustavus Student Center.  Funeral services were held in Christ Chapel on September 20th.  Tributes were given by Dr. Axel Steuer, Nicholas Legeros ’77, and Professor Will Freiert.  The Granlund Retrospective will continue until November 9.  The Family wrote the following obituary.  Many laudatory articles and editorials appeared in the press.

Paul Theodore Granlund, Sculptor. Born in Minneapolis, October 6, 1925, died September 15, 2003.

            Family:  Survived by wife, Edna Marie (Spaeth); children Gretchen Musicant, Gregory (Jill), Jonathan (Susan), Timothy (Margaret); Grandchildren, Max, Marc, Clarie, Joshua, Taylor, Roisen, and Oskar; as well as sisters, Dorothy DeVasure, Grace Anderson, and Lois Brown.

            His figurative bronze sculptures are found in private collections and public installations nationally and internationally.

            He received his BA from Gustavus Adolphus College, did graduate work at the U of M, and the Cranbrook Academy of Arts where he received his MFA. Studied sculpture in Italy under both Fullbright and Guggenheim scholarships. Was chairman of the sculpture department at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and was Artist-in-Residence at Gustavus Adolphus College


Bits and Pieces

Batch and Dee (Borgstrom ’42) Johnson, White Bear Lake, MN, write that they “enjoy life, family, class news letters, and contact with Gustie friends.  We are assisting in grooming and motivating four grandchildren to become third generation Gusties."

“Dividends from dedicated lives – Family’s history of outstanding service” headlines a wonderful newspaper story of Mignon (Carter) and Edsel ’42 Johnson .

Bessie Hobart Chenault, Austin, TX, writes her life story in a letter to me and in more detail, in a family memoir.

I called Marian to tell her of the death of my husband, Sid.  He had Parkinson’s, and fell, sustaining serious head injuries.  After four weeks in the hospital, pneumonia, along with other complications, became too much for his eighty-four year old body to bear.  He slipped away peacefully on September 5th.

Let me go back now and reminisce.  After graduating from Gustavus, I taught high school in Maynard, MN for two years.  Our country was deep into World War II, and so another teacher and I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps.  After basic training I was assigned to McCord Field, WA, “attached” to the Army Air Force, as it was then known.  In December (1943) I was transferred to San Francisco and was assigned to the personnel department of the HQ of the 4th Air Force.  It was there in the chow line of the mess hall, that I met John Hardin.

That meeting led to dating in that most interesting period where there were thousands of servicemen:  Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.  China Town, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Opera House, and museums.  Beach House at Seal Rock and many other attractions filled our days off work.

After four months John was transferred away from San Francisco, and I was sent to Georgia.  Courtship continued via frequent letters, and in November 1944 we both had leave time.  We met in Oklahoma and were married by John’s father who was a minister.

Our honeymoon was 6 days, after which I went back to Georgia and John to California.  Approximately 10 months later the War ended (the atomic bomb), and we were discharged.

In August of 1949 (I must omit many details) John and I and two little sons, went with three other families to South Africa as missionaries.  Apartheid was the rule―white superiority was the rule.  I must say that the government was well controlled, and cities were as modern as in the USA.  We spent a total of 29 years in South Africa.  Four more sons were born there, and all six finished high school in educational systems patterned after the British―uniforms and all.

Retirement from the mission field?  Ministers don’t retire!  John had a position in a church in Abilene, TX.  It was while on a trip to Minnesota in May 1981 that John succumbed to a massive coronary.  He was flown to Oklahoma for burial near his parents’ graves, and I returned to Abilene.

I was only 61, and determined to do my “own thing.”  I found a part-time job with Christian Homes where unwed girls could stay.  Many gave their babies up for adoption.  My income was supplemented by renting two bedrooms to ministerial students at Abilene Christian University.

Second marriage was not in my mind, although friends had tried some matchmaking.  I had been “the Widow Hardin” for nearly three years when one good friend introduced me to her brother, Sidney Chenault.  A whirlwind caught us up―he at 65 and I at 64.  And we were married on May 15, 1984.

Nineteen very happy years later Sid has made his final journey.  The body returns to the dust, and the spirit returns to God.  His Christian life was beautiful and an example to everyone.

After John had passed on in ’81, I spent much time collecting records, diaries, copies of letters and reports and finally wrote a book, which I called Give Me This Mountain.  (Caleb’s request).  It is a family biography combined with a record of all of our experiences with the mission work.  A copy is in the Gustavus Archives.  My name as author is Bessie Hardin Chenault.

My life has been blessed by two Christian husbands―one in my youth, and one in the autumn of life.

For a while, at least, I plan to remain in the modest but lovely home that Sid and I bought in a quiet neighborhood at:  5106 Maulding Pass, Austin, TX  78749.  Family members live in this area so, with some help by them, my confinement to a wheelchair will not be too much of a hindrance.  I am not alone.

Years at Gustavus are among my fond memories.


                                                                        Bessie Hobart Hardin Chenault


What’s Next?

  • October 12-16 and October 19-23 - Phonorama at Minnesota Valley Country Club
  • November 15 – A Royal Affair  pa rum pum pum pum
  • December 5–7 - Christmas in Christ Chapel
  • April 15-17, 2004 - President Peterson’s inauguration
  • May 28-29, 2004 - Reunion Weekend. Class of ’54 plus the 50-Year Club
  • May 31, 2004 - Close of the Fund Year

Sincerely yours,

Marian Swanson Johnson

1941 Class Agent