Class of '69
There’s more than just the date telling me that it’s been a long time since writing a class letter. There’s other undeniable evidence; summer is waning. At school the floor waxing is nearly completed. The cool of the evening will reveal new teachers at work making classrooms their own as well as other teachers drifting back for occasional chores to get ready for the approaching new year.
Yesterday evening I decided to avoid the drive to the fitness center and instead headed to Saint John’s to walk. At eight o’clock the sun, while not yet set, was making it clear that the day was coming to an end―unlike those new summer days early in June. There were a few people enjoying the beach and a group of kids―no doubt leadership or sports campers―tossing a football between the running sprinklers on the field by the Prep School.
At the head of the path I took there were white flowering weeds that I had to push through. It was apparent that I would be sharing the space with no one. The time of day, the lack of people, and the still leaves created a quiet spirituality as I joined Sister Katerri of the Mohawks watching over the lake.
A couple of years ago the path by the Monks’ beach and prayer gardens of the monastery was opened to those outside the community with the proviso that they not leave the path. It seemed a much better alternative to the steep hill back to where I’d parked. The lake was as quiet as the still trees and the only person I met on the path was a gentleman in waders carrying a fishing pole who wished me a good evening.
Climbing up the hill from the path I saw one person sitting on one of the benches overlooking the lake. Walking back through the campus there was a quiet vespers-like atmosphere. The wheels of a skateboard approaching me from behind provided the only interrupting sound. I surmised the young man riding it might be a campus worker or perhaps, seeing his backpack, that he might be working on a research project.
Karla has again added an interesting complexity to our quiet summer. Last spring she decided, at the urging of two of her good friends, to participate in the Miss Paynesville pageant. Her primary motives were having fun with the other girls during the week of the contest, having another chance to wear her prom dress, and getting to play the school’s grand piano in the auditorium before a large audience. She found the perfect piano outfit in the costume shop―a long black satin dress with a white satin sash across the strapless top. It was fitting for the Chopin piece her piano teacher helped her to select.
All her expectations were met until one of her friends, the outgoing “first princess,” put the crown on her head! She was, to say the least, stunned. The town’s newspaper photographer caught her surprise in a picture that clearly displays her tonsils. That moment began her summer as an unpaid employee of Paynesville’s Chamber of Commerce. Once she and her two “royal sisters” participate in 19 parades highlighting festivals sponsored by area towns and a few additional appearances, she will be paid a scholarship that will nearly cover the cost of text books for her first college semester.
Amidst such summer events we also recall a year of regretful losses. No longer having Esby physically present, put a significant dent in the world as I know it. Just prior to his death on October 26th he completed and published a collection of autobiographical essays with the help of Dennis Johnson ’60. We were fortunate to have been on campus on the Saturday of Homecoming where Esby signed copies of Esbj! The Heart and Mind of a Professor for those who purchased them. A few days later he was gone.
A picture of Esby with his eye-twinkling smile sat at the front of First Lutheran Church on the day of his funeral. That picture was surrounded by precious Esby memorabilia, including the purple beret. Having been eulogized by his pastor and brother, Synod Bishop Jon Anderson provided a fitting farewell as we adjourned to the church’s fellowship hall to share lunch and memories. Hearing recalled experiences with Esby, helped us deal with his departure, feeling blessed to have shared a moment of his life with our own. We represented the many different paths of his life, meshing together in this final moment―relatives, students, colleagues, and medical people who’d helped guide him to each new adventure. One of his physicians, a doctor who found that Esby was a significant part of his life, recalled that he had a way of making all of us in the room feel like we were his only friends. Esby helped make it possible for him to understand how God could hold us each in the palm of His hand. God speed Esby―how better we are for having had a chance to know you.
I learned of a second loss later in the spring when Mike Dobbs called to share the news of Jon Bomgren’s passing. As Mike had attended Jon’s funeral and visited with his family, I suggested that he share his reflections with us. He sent the following tribute.
Jonathan Karl Bomgren (1946 – 2008)
My hands rest on each side of a shiny silver urn. The words of the Episcopal burial rite come to my mind, “For none of us has life in himself, and none becomes his own master when he dies. For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord, and if we die, we die in the Lord. So, then, whether we live or die, we are in the Lord’s possession.” That is why the urn is shining, because Jon is in the Lord’s possession, and this outshines the heaviness in my heart.
Two months earlier Jon suffered a fall on the ice at his home. As she tried to help him, his wife Mary also fell. Both were hospitalized. The fall eventually caused Jon’s death on March 30. His funeral was postponed until April 25th so that Mary could recover and attend.
I had been in the process of relocating Jon, whom I had last seen in the late 1970s when he was in Arlington, Texas. Now I had found him again, but too late.
While Steve Guttormsson, his wife, Rosemary (Lange), both members of the class of 1969, and I were visiting in Duluth last summer, we discussed Jonathan, told stories, and laughed heartily It was Howard “Bick” Sandin who helped me find Jon again, and said of his passing at so young an age, “What a waste!”
I am reminded of some of Jon’s pastoral gifts. Advent Lutheran Church in Arlington, Texas, owes its beginnings to Jonathan in his ministry as Pastor-Developer. They grew to a peak of about 2400 parishioners, and remain a strong, active parish. The Rev. Stephen Bomgren’68 celebrated Jon’s memorial service in Arlington, Texas with Thayer-Rock Funeral Home in Farmington, Michigan. Pastor Rodney Hill preached the sermon in Michigan, while the Rev. Bishop John H. K. Schreiber presided. Rodney Hill and Jon had made a promise years ago that they would do the other’s funeral. Pastor Hill kept that promise, as I witnessed in Farmington.
Besides founding a parish, in Jon’s more than 30 years as a pastor, he had served at three Michigan churches. Members from all three churches were present at the funeral.
I was reminded of my greatest gift from Jon as I set a picture of a brown-haired, young girl, Anne, next to Jon’s urn. Jon, his surviving sibling Steve, and their parents had known Anne for 17 years. Through Jon I was blessed to know Anne, one of the most spiritual and loving of persons, for several months. On December 7th, 1968, Anne joined our Lord in His Kingdom. A brain tumor had cut short her life, just as a hunting accident had cut short the life of her brother, Paul, the year before. Jon and Steve would carry these losses and pain along with the spiritual strength of their mother, Elizabeth, into their ministries and throughout their lives.
Jon leaves behind his wife, Mary, and her daughters as well as his mother, Elizabeth and his brother Steve. I had the pleasure of meeting the step-daughters, who spoke of Jon with much love and devotion. Mary and I had an enjoyable and reflective dinner after the funeral followed by a visit in their home. I also was introduced to Jon’s two Great Danes: Luther and Gustavus. Sitting on a couch and looking straight into the eyes of two very large dogs, one is very grateful for their good manners. Unfortunately, they will never understand why Jon will not return to them, again.
My hands still rest upon the urn as I reflect how often Jon must have said the following words from the Ash Wednesday service, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” While holding the urn, I spoke briefly as if to Jon, regretting I had not found him sooner. I said a prayer for his eternal soul, and then I kissed the urn in behalf of all his friends. Who can forget his unique smile which could shift into a smirk as he analyzed you, that twinkle in his eyes?
“May Jonathan’s soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer).
Since my last letter I’ve accumulated news about many of us. Julie Johnson’s brother Dan, class of 1964 and a member of the speech department during our senior year, has at last published Loyalty, A Biography of Richard Gustavovich Reusch. Professor Reusch was no longer teaching in the Religion Department at Gustavus when we arrived. Those of us who kept in touch with Dan during more than a decade of research into the life often heard vignettes depicting this unique soldier, pastor, missionary and teacher as a most fascinating individual.
Sustained by numerous grants and taking advantage of every opportunity to uncover the details of Reusch’s life, including a Fulbright, Dan’s journey took him to the Gustavus archives and historical collections throughout the United States, then to Russia, Africa, and points in between as lost bits of personal history emerged to reveal Reusch’s life. Dan describes his first encounter with Reusch in his book.
January 1948. A blizzard had blown into Minnesota from the Dakotas. The storm was winding down, and already nighttime snowplows were beginning to clear the township roads. Local farm families who belonged to the West Union Augustana (Swedish) Lutheran Church had braved the weather to assemble in the parish hall to hear a special speaker. But would the famous missionary from Africa make it through the storm all the way from St. Peter? It was already twenty minutes past eight.
Suddenly, the door swung open and in a swirl of wind-driven snow two men came into the hall, stamping their feet and taking off coats, caps, and gloves. One was a neighbor who had driven to St. Peter to pick up the speaker. The other man was the famous Dr. Richard Reusch.
He introduced himself as a former officer in the Imperial Russian army who had fought the Bolsheviks before going as a missionary to Tanganyika Territory, East Africa. But I was seven-years-old, and it was his story about the lion (or maybe it was a leopard) that I remember most vividly.
A man-eating lion had killed some cattle and badly mauled a Masai warrior. So Dr. Reusch went hunting. He was tracking the animal through the bush when all of a sudden he heard a roar. Lo and behold, across the clearing only twenty or thirty feet away he saw the lion, already crouching, which, he hastily explained, signaled its intention to leap―on him. But he had foolishly left his rifle leaning against a nearby tree, so what could he do? In only seconds he would be in paradise!
He glanced at his rifle. Then, at the lion. Time stopped. Suddenly, with a roar the lion was airborne, those hideous teeth hurling toward his neck!
It was not humanly possible in those few seconds to reach for his gun, bring it to his shoulder, take aim and fire. And yet that’s what happened. The voracious beast shuddered in mid-leap and―dropped at his feet. Dead. With a single bullet. (Pause) ‘My friends,’ intoned the former Russian cavalry officer, ‘it was not my doing, but that of an angel sent by my Heavenly King!’
His was the best-told story I’d ever heard.
September 1960. Swedish American Lutheran immigrants founded Gustavus Adolphus College in l862. A century later, first year students were still required to enroll in a two-semester Bible history course. And so on the first day of the fall semester in 1960, the freshman class gathered in the Little Theater for the first lecture in Old Testament studies. A short, bald man stood on stage next to the proscenium dressed in a green and tan checked sport coat over a maroon vest, black tie, British cavalry twill trousers and cordovan plain-toed shoes. According to my class schedule, his name was Dr. Richard Reusch.”
And so begins Dan’s compellingly search for the “real” Dr. Reusch who he had first met as a child and then years later as a first year student enrolled in his first religion class.
Last month we joined Barb Seeley Devlin’s family in celebrating her retirement from presiding over the Richfield school district. It was a lovely day on the lake and a great time. I know Barb will be greatly missed and will be up to interesting things as she starts the next phase of her life. Coincidentally, in April I was seated next to a gentleman from Richfield at lunch at the Association of Congregations meeting. He was reluctant to believe that Barb’s newly hired replacement could be anywhere near as good. Barb is a bit of a youngster compared to most of us. Having a September birthday, I remember the party for her 21st―held in the old Traverse des Sioux cabin on 169. I somehow got the food from Mrs. Young by turning in the guests’ meal card numbers and bought jugs of wine (not supplied by food service). I’m certain none of us could grasp a remote concept like retirement on that lovely fall evening as we stood on the threshold of our adult lives!
Greg Gunderson is senior managing partner of Pinnacle Executive Solutions, doing recruiting, outplacement, and succession for Midwest businesses. Kate (Anderson ’70) is a media specialist for Mankato Public Schools at East Junior/Senior High School.
Wanda Schwartz Schnabel is an advisor at North Harris Montgomery Community College District in Houston, Texas. She and her husband had their first granddaughter, Sophia, born in 2006. Congratulations!
Bill Tews is another of us enjoying retirement in Cumberland, Wisconsin. “I retired after 37 years as a teacher and counselor. Now, I don’t do much but it takes up all my time.”
Ron and Marci (Gustafson ’70) Kirchoff's daughter, Krista, became a third generation Gustie last fall. Congratulations to her on a college choice we all approve. We wish her good times ahead.
I received a nice note from David L. Benson, living in Aitkin. “Sue (Brekke) retired in November ’06 from teaching English and being media specialist at Aitkin High School. She is now teaching English to French business people via the internet and telephone. Dave is 2007 president of First Lutheran Church in Aitkin and was 2006 ‘Kinship Mentor of the Year for Aitkin County.’ Kinship is a mentoring program for at-risk kids. He also volunteers at the community food shelf regularly every month. He’s been retired almost five years. Together we purchased some farm land in North Dakota last year. We continue to live on a lake near Aitkin, Minnesota.”
John Knox ’68 sent an interesting explanation of his position to Alumni Director Randall Stuckey ’83, that I received. “My position is a bit complex. After serving as interim dean of graduate studies for two years, last August I was asked to become the first dean of academic programs at Idaho State’s Idaho Falls Center. ISU has about 2500 students taking classes from remedial math and English to Ph. D. programs in nuclear engineering. Most of our students are nontraditional and part-time. About 1/3 also take classes in Pocatello which is 50 miles south (and where I still live.) We collaborate with the University of Idaho which has about 300 or so students (mostly graduate) on this campus. My second job is as associate director of CAES (the Center for Advanced Energy Studies) which is a consortium comprised of the three major Idaho universities (ISU, UI, Boise State) and the Idaho National Laboratory. Each university supplies an associate director to work with the INLCAES leadership and our respective campuses. Through all of this I continue to be professor of physics, though my teaching load is very limited. My wife, Karen (Matteson) has been assistant principal at Irving Middle School for the last three years.”
John Wall played a concert of organ music, and original vocal and choral music assisted by Gustavus alumnae, Naomi Karstad ’83, on March 30, 2007, in honor of his two daughters and in celebration of his 60th birthday for friends and members of congregations where he has served as organist and choir director.
Susan McNamara Showalter continues her work with philanthropic foundations. Dave Showalter is on the design team for the Central Corridor Light Rail connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Anne Larson Fritsche is a self-employed piano teacher in Rochester. She and her husband enjoy spoiling their grandson, Nolan, born in 2006.
Carley Bjugan Watts' daughters demonstrated that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. They both chose English as their college majors. Kristin recently graduated from the University of Minnesota and Alison from Boston University. Alison is currently an assistant editor at Random House in New York.
Cheryl Meyer Klein's daughter is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA; our best wishes to her as she embarks on her journey. Cheryl is a teacher/athletic director at Lake Pend O'Reille School District in Sagele, Idaho. Her husband is an algebra teacher at Sandpoint Middle School.
Mary Sue Hanson Taylor reports that she continues to work in law enforcement. Her two children are Gustavus grads, Holly in l993 and Michael in l996.
Greg Benson retired from a career at First State Bank and Trust in Bayport in 2006. The note I received revealed that they have “three grandchildren that live close by so will be spending lots of time with them. They also will be visiting their youngest son, Josh, for a month in Tucson. Retirement plans include more projects around their home in Scandia, more fly fishing and golf, hunting and developing their hunting property in Northeastern Minnesota. Greg still remains on numerous boards in the St. Croix Valley so definitely he will not be bored with retirement. He and Mary are looking forward to traveling around the U.S. to see the sites and possibly find some trout streams.”
An earlier note from Mike Dobbs shared that his “wife Mary formed a rock and roll band of women in their fifties called The Hot Flashes. Michael now is a ‘roadie’ for the band―benefits: I get to continue living in Mary’s house.”
Bev Kroening Dopita wrote from Park City, Utah, “We are currently enjoying the beautiful Park City area, making it feel like we are always on vacation. Ski in the winter; golf in the summer. I am a principal of a teen parent program. Every day is a challenge but very rewarding.”
Margo Wayland Neilson's daughter is a recent graduate of Richmond College in London. Margo and her husband live in San Francisco. She is a teacher at North Shoreview Montessori School. Her husband, Brian, teaches Italian at University of California at Berkeley.
Tom Wickstrom ’68 wrote that he and Susan Weber Wickstrom are enjoying retirement. He is “working part time at Bethel Lutheran in Ishpeming (Michigan). She is a homemaker, having retired from nursing in 2002. We spend the winters in Green Acres, Florida to avoid the snow! We just have enjoyed a second grandson born in April.” Congratulations to you both!
And now imagine, friends, that 40 years ago we were making our last return to Gustavus. We were seniors! It was our year to make the most of Gustavus and prepare for the rest of our lives. A year to finish the last of our major courses, prepare for graduate school, complete student teaching, and cement relationships.
It was a much different fall than when we first arrived as freshmen. We were seniors after all! We knew the patterns and nuances of our college. We’d carved out our individual niches and made a part of Gustavus our own. And, unlike that freshman fall, it didn’t constantly rain. We returned to quite perfect weather to start our final fall semester.
That brief recollection reminds me that our fortieth reunion will be upon us in a year. I hope each of you will plan to gather with old friends a year from this October. We’ll need the help of many of you to make this an unforgettable gathering in our unique tradition. I’ll soon send a note inviting all to join in the planning for this great celebration.
But for now, enjoy these last moments of summer that lead us into September. Try to find a quiet moment to sit down with a cup of great coffee, a Summit Dark, chai tea, or a can of soda. Close your eyes and see yourself moving into your dorm room for the last time, running to the classroom annex at 8:30 on a glorious September morning, walking on the Valley side from Vickner to dinner in the late afternoon as the Concert Choir practiced in the Aud, being somewhere you would have been on one of those first balmy evenings.
Jane Norman Leitzman
1969 Co-class Agent
Alumni Directory Online
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Gusties Gather! The Reason to Connect with Other Gusties
Gusties Gather! is a day for Gusties across the country to have an opportunity to connect or re-connect with other Gusties in their area. It is a time to build Gustavus friendships and networks and is in no way a fundraiser. Most gatherings on Sept. 28. Watch for gatherings in your area or check out the Alumni website for a location near you.
Twin Cities Gustie Breakfasts
The Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast for September will featured Jay Schoenebeck ’80, football coach, and Al Molde ’66, athletics director. Join other Minneapolis/St. Paul area Gusties for a morning cup of coffee and breakfast while getting an update on Gustavus. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month. Future presenters include Tim Robinson ’65, director of Nobel Conference 2008, in October and in November Tom Young ’88, vice president for institutional advancement.
Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place
Third Wed. of the month
1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy. 394 & Hwy. 100)
Cost is $10 per person
Reserve a spot by calling Don Swanson ’55 at: 763-533-9083.
Looting the Iraq Museums: Loss of Nation's Memory
During the U.S.-led invasion of Baghdad, approximately 15,000 Mesopotamian artworks and artifacts, some as old as 6,000 years, were looted from the National Museum. On Sept. 22, 2008 at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall, Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, former Director General of Research and Studies for the Board of Antiquities in Iraq and Director General of the National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq will lecture. Dr. George courageously worked to save the treasures of Iraq and to secure Iraq’s 12,500 archaeological sites. He was instrumental in recovering almost half of the artworks and artifacts.
Nobel Conference ― Who Were the First Humans?
Nobel Conference XLIV is scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8, 2008 and is focusing on the first humans. Presenters will consider the full range of recent evidence about the first modern humans going beyond archaeologists and paleoanthropologists to the work of biologists, climatologists, geneticists, mathematicians, and psychologists who have been adding to the scientific database.
Upcoming Alumni Events
- Gustie Breakfast with Jay Schoenebeck and Al Molde - Sept. 17
- Gusties Gather! - Sept. 28
- Presidential Inauguration/Homecoming/Family Weekend - Oct. 3-5
- Nobel Conference - Oct. 7-8