From the miscellaneous drawer - Dad

by Anne Swenson

The holidays don’t always bring cheer and goodwill to everyone. Listen to the heart speak and revealed will be fears and sorrows as well as hopes and dreams.
In my family, growing up, my mother was the religious one - a lifelong Methodist - while my dad was a former Lutheran who had become an atheist. All in all, he probably wouldn’t be considered a “nice” person. He disliked Jews, blacks, and other ethnicities unfamiliar to him. At least he said he did.
But as a young adult when asked by my Mom to invite some friends for my birthday dinner at her house, I chose a young Jewish family. I worked with the wife and was close to them all.
Then I crossed my fingers. Hours later that evening, I had to pry my friends away from the conversational exchange with my Dad. He and they had such a good time, finding things in life in common and some not so different.
A contractor, it was Dad who volunteered his time as superintendent when Mom’s new church was being built.
As a Republican, he exasperated his liberal granddaughters.
He drove too fast and too aggressively. That wasn’t true of the late December nights when we kids were the runners for anonymous Christmas box deliveries to brighten a few homes. Then he was stealthy and exceedingly considerate that we weren’t discovered.
The son of Norwegian immigrant parents who settled in Minnesota, he spent his lifetime learning about people and possibilities in America. He praised the good and scolded the bad. He became a licensed engineer although he never graduated from a university.
In conversations he listened for truth and logic. He was honest and open. I don’t think he ever stopped learning. He was insightful and frank.
He was a natural leader - Boy Scouts, American Legion, School Board and business organizations. He loved baseball, ski jumping, collecting old tools and the cabin he built on Cedar Lake near Ely. He loved his wife and family until he died in Ely in 1985 at age 89.
He taught me to ice skate, use carpentry skills and how to build stone fireplaces.
He saw some potential in me and pointed out my possible failures. He taught me to take responsibility and to listen. And to keep learning. (But iPhones and iPads are still counter-intuitive to me.)
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In the Ely Echo for Dec. 14, 1977, 40 years ago, the headlines were:
• Alaskan plans to win everything; Attla sends warning to Ely sled dog racers;
• House approves funds for VCC art building;
• Federal game manager studies Ely deer.