Former model speaks on God given dignity

It is with permission from The Forum that I post on my blog, a story by Roxanne Salonen that appeared in The Forum on March 21, 2014. It is a story about Leah Darrow, a former New York City model and “America’s Next Top Model” contestant who is speaking this week in our area.

Here are the details:

If You Go WHAT: Former top model Leah Darrow presentations WHEN: April 22-23 WHERE: 2 p.m., Sacred Heart Church/School, East Grand Forks, Minn. (April 22), 7 p.m., St. Michael’s Church, Grand Forks (April 22); 7 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Church, Grafton (April 23) Info: Free and open to the public Online:
And here is Roxanne’s story:

DENVER – In her post-modeling days, Leah Darrow, former New York City model and “America’s Next Top Model” contestant, wants most of all to help others see their dignity as children of God. “I hope to bring that true message of the gospel to the hearts of youth,” she says. “I want to tell them, ‘You’re unique and unrepeatable, you’re called for greatness, and you’re not the sum of your sins but of the Father’s love for you.’ ”

For a while in her own teen and young-adult years, Darrow had begun losing sight of this vision. Though having grown up as the oldest of six kids on an Oklahoma farm in a dedicated Christian home, she soon became lured onto a path of fame she thought would bring true fulfillment.

In the fall of 2004, Darrow was part of the reality television show, “America’s Next Top Model,” hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks. After being eliminated in the second episode, she turned toward New York City, where she began successfully pursuing a professional modeling career.

But soon, she says, she became disillusioned, and during a shoot in which she was asked to wear next to nothing, Darrow had an epiphany and left the modeling world forever. “I’d been seeing my worth through the world’s eyes,” Darrow says. “I understand now that I am unique and unrepeatable in the sight of God, and I’m embraced by God’s mercy. The hope that I was called for greatness was ignited in that moment I walked away from modeling.”

After several intense years of becoming immersed again in the faith of her childhood, Darrow began stepping into her new life, which now includes being a wife and mother as well as speaking throughout the country on the joys of living a life steeped in Christian values and virtue.

Darrow brings her story to North Dakota with the aim of stirring hope in others. Brian Herding, pastoral minister for St. John the Evangelist Church in Grafton, helped pull together resources to draw Darrow to his parish at no cost to participants, and says it was “a God thing” that she was able to come. It’s also especially fortuitous her visit will come just after Easter, he adds. “That’s the ultimate time when we dive into the mercy of God and the joy of the resurrection,” he says. “I just think the timing of that is going to be so beautiful for people just coming off of Easter. Why not top off the joy of the resurrection with another experience of hearing of God’s mercy and forgiveness?”

Herding says he was impressed with Darrow’s story because she, like many of us, started with strong faith roots but had grown lukewarm in living them out. “At some point you just start going through the motions,” he says, noting that Darrow helps exemplify the dangers of a halfhearted faith in a vital way. “She’s very energetic and it’s enjoyable watching someone present when they’re very passionate about what they’re sharing.”

This will be Darrow’s second visit to North Dakota. Kathy Loney, youth and young adult ministry director for the Diocese of Fargo, invited her to a rally for middle-school students in Hankinson several years ago and witnessed Darrow’s spirited presence firsthand. “At that age, they’re so taken by what they see in magazines. They’re already looking for this perfect look, but the perfect look doesn’t necessarily exist,” Loney says. “Here is someone who has lived this life and image of the ‘perfect’ body, and she has a story to tell.”

Loney says she was transfixed at the way Darrow “sucked in” both the girls and boys into her presentation because of her attracting, authentic personality and the message at the heart of her talk – conversion to Christ. “I’ve been doing this long enough to see which speakers are most effective and she was one that blew us away,” Loney says, noting that the kids flocked to her afterward. “They pulled her over after lunch and a lot of them were asking, ‘How can you help me?’ Young people don’t generally search out a speaker like that but she really impressed the group. She’s just a beautiful woman inside and out.”

Darrow says her upcoming talk will be a slight shift from past presentations due to her changed perspective as a wife and mother, but that the core will remain. “When I talk about the mistakes I’ve made, especially in trying to find love, and now with the experience of how (my husband) Ricky loves me,” she says, “I’m able to share with my confidence rooted in the reality that the fantasy of love I imagined was no match to the reality of God’s plan of love for me.”

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email

One Night Stand

 Silver Ring Thing, a national touring event that speaks honestly to young people about God’s plan for sex, will present a concert style program titled, “One Night Stand,” Wednesday (April 9) in Hope Evangelical Covenant Church, Grand Forks. 
Doors open at 5:45 p.m. The event, for ages 13 to 18, runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There’s a session for parents from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Hope Church and the Women’s Pregnancy Center are co-sponsors of the event.
Through song, skits and testimonies 13 young adults who tour the United States, will present a message of purity and abstinence until marriage centered on a relationship with Christ.
They speak about boundaries and healthy relationships and also present information on sexually transmitted diseases. The event is free. Silver Ring Thing rings will be sold for $20. Large groups may register online at: Call (701) 746-8866 for more information.

Sacred Heart’s fish fry is the cat’s meow

I am not alone when I label this one of the top community events of the year. Have you been to an East Grand Forks Sacred Heart Lenten fish fry yet?

If not, why not?

Last Friday night I was once again honored to be the server at Sacred Heart School when 850 people came through the line for a plate of the best fish ever, a delicious Red River Valley red potato and a serving of slaw. Then you get to top all that off with a luscious piece of homemade pie.

Everyone – from the workers in the kitchen to the hungry ones standing in line, to the potato man, make for a most enjoyable evening.

By the way, the potato man is Tom Kaiser who will give you the biggest potato he can find if you request it.

I’m not sure how long Sacred Heart has been doing these Lenten fish fries, but it has to be more than 20 years. Parents, teachers, students and athletes work tirelessly each Friday during Lent to put on these suppers as a benefit for the athletic department.

I’m always thrilled when Pat Phaneuf, athletic director, calls to ask if he can count on me to serve again. This was my third year.

Before I don my “Kiss the Cook” apron, my serving gloves and tongs, I always stop in the kitchen to chat with the workers and to take pictures. Here are two from last Friday.

Michelle Remer, Erin Hylden and Jordyn Lloyd batter fillets before   they are transferred to the fryers. 

Mike Krecji, Mike Powers, Pat Phaneuf, Jerry Pribula, John Stocker and Greg Stocker, are fryers and runners who keep the serving line supplied with fillets.

Last week’s crowd was the largest so far this year. There are two Friday nights left — tonight (April 4) and April 11. Be sure to stop by. Tickets are $9 per plate. Serving is from 5 to 7 p.m.

This was the first time one of our Twin Cities sons, Dean, daughter-in-law Jyl, and granddaughters Amelia and Grace, have been here on a Lenten fish fry Friday night.

They thought it was “the cat’s meow.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Until Soon

The Spitfire Grill

Left to right: Misti Koop as Percy; Nicole Quam as Hannah, and Maura Ferguson as Shelby in, “The Spitfire Grill.”

No need to go to Broadway because Broadway has come to us – this last week of March 2014.

Monday evening, Jim and I were among those attending the opening of the musical, “The Spitfire Grill,” in the beautiful Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks.

Curtain is at 7:30 nightly through Saturday, March 29. I highly recommend you not miss it.

We knew virtually nothing about the storyline of “The Spitfire Grill,” or of its beautiful music. Our big draw was that two of our favorite local actors, Misti Koop and Darin Kerr, are in the cast.

We don’t miss seeing either of them on stage. Ever!

“The Spitfire Grill,” which was a 1996 movie, is about a young woman named Percy (played by Misti), who has spent the last five years in prison. As she leaves her cell, in her pocket is a photograph she clipped from a travel magazine with the caption: “autumn colors along Copper Creek near Gilead, Wisconsin.”

With freedom before her, Percy goes to Gilead to start life anew. She reports to the local sheriff played by Evan Montgomery, who takes her to a tumbledown diner run by a grumpy old widow named Hannah (Nicole Quam).  The sheriff talks Hannah into giving Percy a job as a waitress.

Led by the postmistress and local gossip Effy Krayneck (Abby Schoenborn), some people become suspicious of Percy and she wonders if she made a mistake by coming to Gilead. Her thoughts are interrupted by a cry from Hannah who has fallen and broken her leg. Before you know it, Hannah has turned the grill over to Percy – much to the chagrin of her protective nephew Caleb (Darin Kerr).

One night, without explaining why, Hannah asks Percy to continue her custom of wrapping a loaf of bread in a towel and leaving it on an old tree stump behind the grill.

It’s a mystery to Percy but she complies.

Percy is soon joined at the Spitfire Grill by Caleb’s wife Shelby (Maura Ferguson). Over a hot stove, the two women are drawn together and a beautiful friendship is born. In time, Percy tells Shelby the harsh details of her past and why she was sent to jail. And Shelby tells Percy all about Hannah, about the town’s past, and the day her childhood hero went off to war and Gilead changed forever.

Hannah has had the Spitfire Grill up for sale for a decade, through her nephew Caleb who has turned to selling real estate since the quarry closed. With no deal in sight, Percy comes up with the bright idea to sell the grill by way of a raffle. As the weeks roll by, people write and send money hoping to be the raffle winner.

One night while placing the usual loaf of bread out back, a silent visitor (Christopher Olsen) appears. Percy tries to talk to him but the mysterious man grabs the bread and runs.

On another night, after business hours, as Hannah, Percy and Shelby sit at a table reading the notes that people have sent to enter the raffle, Hannah expresses her appreciation for what Percy and Shelby have done for her. It seems everyone in town is helping Hannah now and a magical charm has settled in, not only at the grill but throughout all of Gilead.

What is the secret that Hannah has kept from the entire town? Who wrote the best words and wins the raffle to acquire the Spitfire Grill? Does Percy, after all is said and done, find her little corner of heaven in Gilead?

You must go to find out.

The story of “The Spitfire Grill,” is not only spoken, but beautifully told through many songs: “A Ring Around the Moon,” sung by Percy (Misti); “When Hope Goes,” sung by Shelby (Maura); “Digging Stone,” sung by Caleb (Darin); “Forgotten Lullaby,” sung by Hannah (Nicole); “Forest for the Trees,” sung by Sheriff Joe (Evan);  “Ice and Snow,” sung by Effy (Abby Schoenborn along with Darin and Evan).

No siree! There’s no need to go to Broadway. The best talent is right here at home.

Until Soon

Here’s Johnny – from Jackson

There’s nothing like a beautiful bouquet of flowers to take your breath away. That’s what these did to me.

They were delivered to our doorstep Tuesday morning complete with their very own vase. Ever since I snipped an inch off their stems and arranged them for the kitchen table, a most lovely fragrance has filled our house.

The aromatic bouquet is from John McKenzie, a very kind, gentle, appreciative and extremely thoughtful young man who visited us over the weekend. John is our nephew from Jackson, Tenn., the son of Jim’s sister Jane.

Some of you may know the story of our finding Jim’s birth father in 1994 and the loving and accepting family that came with that discovery. John is part of the package. This was his third trip here, the second time in winter. We love it when he comes no matter the season.

John enjoys going to a UND hockey game so that definitely was on the schedule. So was watching on TV our East Grand Forks Green Wave boys take first in the state hockey tournament. We also went to the Lenten season’s first Friday night fish fry at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, East Grand Forks.

Saturday we continued our tradition of going to the Coffee Company for a dark roast and a delectable caramel roll which was served to us by my good friend and music colleague, Rachel Abbe.

We toured our towns with John and on Saturday night we attended the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra’s Silver Celebration concert in the Empire Arts Center. It was simply fabulous.

John is a symphony sort of guy and we learned that Jackson’s Symphony also was in concert that night, so John still got his classical fix even though he was away from home..

Before the symphony, I had prepared a dinner that even I thought was pretty tasty: pork roast, gravy, real mashed potatoes (not from potato flakes), corn grown by Lyle Rose of East Grand Forks, that I had in the freezer, green beans from friend Marlys’ garden that I also had frozen, and apple crisp made from apples plucked from the trees my mom planted back on the farm in the 1950s.

For this meal, I even brought out the Christmas dishes because I told John his visit was a “gift” to us.

We had dessert before the symphony, and when we returned that evening, I asked John if he’d like another helping of apple crisp before bed. A great big smile crossed his face and he said, “Could we do that?”

And so we did.

Sunday morning, it was a joy to have John worship with us at our church and to have lunch at the Canad Inn. He had to be to the airport by 2:30 p.m., and as I drove us there, I felt a twinge of sadness. I told John, “I might cry.” He said, “Don’t cry.”

And so I didn’t.

John is back home now and back to work for Perseus Books, the leading provider of distribution services to independent publishers. He’s also back to his studies. In May of 2015, he will complete a Master of Science degree in publishing from Pace University in New York City.

John promises that next time he comes, he will stay longer so we can head west to my farm in north central North Dakota, then on to Medora.

We’ll be waiting!

Until Soon

It’s summer somewhere

We have just returned from 10 days in Sun City West, Arizona. Friends we’ve known for 40 some years called saying, “we’re going to Hawaii for two weeks. Why don’t you come down a couple days before we leave, we’ll have some fun then you can take us to the airport and stay in our house and drive our car while we’re gone.”

Such a deal!

I’ve never been one to think I had to go away in the winter, but I loved Arizona, with temps in the 70s and 80s every day, huge pots of purple petunias wafting their aromas all over the patio and humming birds nearly lighting on your lip.

Every afternoon was spent on the patio and every evening was dinner with either East Grand Forks neighbors, Jim’s ole Navy buddy and his wife who live in Arizona, and longtime friends from Hillsboro, Ore.

All that and I still had time to read three books. I love the writings of James Patterson.

After arriving back in the Cities, we partied with our families who live there to celebrate Ethan’s ninth birthday, Amelia’s return from Asia with Youth With a Mission, and to watch Elyn play four games of tournament basketball. Her team won three games. She’s an awesome young basketball player and my dream is that she will one day play for the University of North Dakota like Madi Buck does.

I happened to mention when our families had gathered in the living room that while we were in Arizona we looked at a few houses on the market, only for fun, Granddaughter Ruby Girl Grace fairly came off the couch, gave me the “Stink Eye,” and proclaimed, “Grandma, if you move, we will not talk!” She paused to catch her breath then added, “Wait, wait, wait, let me rephrase that. If you move, we will have words.”

My eyes watered and I replied, “Grace, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

I reassured Grace that I could never move from East Grand Forks because of how I love it and how I know she loves it.

This afternoon she sends this email:

Grandma, I was just curious about when you are going to be coming next week…?…and about what’s going on over there where the sky is blue and the grass is green and the fudge sickles are cool and the Tennessee tea is in the fridge and the Mexican caviar is on the table with a bowl of chips beside it ready and waiting for guests to dig in…Oh, wait…it’s not summer there either…darn it! I’ve already had dreams about sitting out on your deck, bonfires, Christian and Rachael, and all the summer fun that happens in my favorite place in the world. Just wanted to let you know. Love you, miss you.


Next week, we go back to the Cities to see Grace in her high school musical, “The Wiz.”

May I share these snaps?

Elyn’s basketball team

Ethan and Grandpa solving the world’s problems between Elyn’s games

 The birthday boy, the basketball player, the Youth With a Mission returnee and the dreamer of all things beautiful on grandma’s and grandpa’s East Grand Forks deck.

Until Soon

The most wonderful of surprises!

Mrs. Parrill. What a beautiful name!

It’s been a long time since I was a first grader in Russell, N.D., and she was my beloved teacher. I remember her as the kind and gentle lady who set me out on the wonderful path of learning. I never knew where Mrs. Parrill went after leaving Russell, but over the decades, thoughts of her have pretty much made me melt.

I also remember Mrs.Parrill’s husband, Dean, and that they and their little baby lived in an apartment in the Russell School known as the teacherage. Sometimes students would be invited into the teacherage until their parents came to pick them up. I can still see the wooden cupboards and the big windows that looked to the north and to the east and how the back door from those living quarters led to the stage in the gym where we presented our programs.

The years – they slip by in a heartbeat!

Two weeks ago, I went to Cavalier, N.D., to the memorial service for Donald Cox, father of my good friend Brian Cox. It was a beautiful service in every which way.

As Barb Puppe so beautifully played pre-service music, I read Donald Cox’s obituary. I was taken by surprise to see the name, Dean Parrill, and that he was the half brother of the deceased.

During the luncheon which followed I asked Brian if Dean Parrill was there. “No,” Brian said. “He died several years ago, but his wife is here.”

That’s when I nearly dropped my plate. To think Mrs. Parrill, who I hadn’t seen in 60-some years, was in that very room.

Brian led me to her table and we had a lovely reunion which was a bit tearful for me.

“You are Naomi?” she said when our eyes met and we hugged. “Oh yes, I remember you.” Next to Mrs. Parrill sat her daughter, LeaRae (Parrill) Espe, who was the baby in that teacherage all those years ago. I had to ask LeaRae her mother’s first name because I honestly did not know. It is Mildred, but I have too much respect for her to call her by her first name.

My teacher and me

We took photos and talked as long as time permitted that day in Cavalier, and since then we’ve had a couple of wonderful chats on the phone.

Mrs. Parrill is 88-years-old, in reasonably good health and lives in Bottineau, N.D.

She grew up on a farm near Dunseith, N.D., attended a country school her first eight grades, and then graduated from Dunseith High School. Over the years she earned teaching certificates and a bachelor’s degree from Minot State Teachers College now Minot State University.

Besides her two years in Russell, Mrs. Parrill taught country schools in Ward, Rolette and Bottineau Counties. She taught a total of 36 years with 28 of them in Dunseith. She retired in 1986.

Besides LeaRae, who also lives in Bottineau, Mrs. Parrill had two sons, Joel, who I found out lives in Grand Forks, and the late Clark Parrill.

Even though I had lost track of Mrs. Parrill, she knew about me.

When her grandson, Joshua, attended school in Kramer, N.D., she was invited to Grandparent’s Day and there she met my sister-in-law, Shirley Hall, who taught in Kramer.

“I knew she was Mrs. Myrlin Hall and I asked about you,” Mrs. Parrill said. “I knew you wrote for the Grand Forks Herald and she said you had put together a book. I wrote (to the Herald) to get a book and I asked for it signed. I read it and enjoyed it. It’s so interesting when the ones we taught do something.”

I asked Mrs. Parrill if she remembered how I cried the first few days of first grade because I missed my mother so much. She did not recall that, “but I remember how you looked when you were little,” she said. “You were a very cute little gal. We’d see you at ball games, too. I remember one time we went to a ball game in the gym and you and Judy Brandt came and sat with Dean and me. You squeezed in right between Dean and me.”

Mrs. Parrill says she could have picked me out in a crowd. “You look somewhat like you look did when you were little,” she added.

I was Naomi Hall then and having a bad hair day when pictures were taken at school.

Mrs. Parrill remembers something else. “We got invited out to your folks place and it was such a nice place,” she said. “Those people at Russell were so wonderful. I’ve often said that community had such good people. We were there two years and we got to know so many people. Dean would go around and visit everybody.”

Mrs. Parrill is as overjoyed as I am that we have met again after all these years.

“It’s so good that you found this out,” she said. “It’s wonderful and to think it’s been 61 years. You don’t look old enough to be even 60. I remember you very well. Seems like you are one of the main ones I remember. It just makes my day when I see somebody I taught who is satisfied.”

My older brothers, Myrlin and David, didn’t have Mrs. Parrill as a teacher, but they remember her as well.

“Both she and her husband were very nice people,” David said. “Dean used to play ball with us boys in the gym.”

When Myrlin saw her picture he said, “I see a young Mrs. Parrill in there.”

And I see the teacher who meant the world to a little first-grader.

Until Soon

Sidewalks or sand – happy at home or Hilton Head

I have a collection of shovels that fit my mittens to a T. One is handy at the front door, another is handy at the back door and yet another waits for me by the garage. They are lightweight triplets from the Home of Economy, all shiny silver with yellow handles and matching sharp yellow blades.

I believe in good equipment.

Call me a tad touched, but I find throwing the white stuff off the sidewalks a task that’s not only invigorating, but downright fun and fulfilling. All it takes to get me revved up is to get dressed up and, after yet another snowfall, make that job the first one of the day. I take great pride in having our sidewalks look just like they do during the summer months when the banks have vanished, the wonderful moisture has soaked in and the grass is green.

We have a lot of snow in our yard, as I’m sure you do. During the Christmas season, Jim posted a picture of the front of our house on Face book showing not only the snow but the little white lights that lined our eves and bushes. I don’t think our friend, Jim Bollman, saw the banks or the lights – for the walkway.

“Look at those sidewalks,” was his comment.

And when Kevin Grinde stopped over for coffee with the rest of the ole Herald crew, he asked, “How do you get your sidewalks so clean?” I told him I’m out there shoveling before anyone walks on them. Kevin’s reply: “that’s cheating.”

I can’t take all the credit, however. Some must go to the shovels I use. They are the best.

Now, please look carefully at the two pictures below. One is of our front sidewalk. The other is of footprints in the sand on the beach of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Are they not the identical shade of gray!

 We were on Hilton Head Island for a week last fall and on days like these 20-below zero ones I’m there again – not in body but in mind and spirit.

As I shoveled out back, I glanced at the mountain of snow that covers my moss roses and imagined it to be summer and that bed ablaze with color. That set me to thinking about the stunning berry bushes we walked by every day while we were at Hilton Head. There was a row of them in full bloom between the timeshare where we stayed and the beach.

The first time we happened by, these bushes stopped me in my tracks. Having never seen anything like them, I gently picked a small branch for the sole purpose of finding out what they are.

I asked several people along the way (whose accents went with the territory) and no one had a clue as to what they are. But, everyone walked away agreeing with me of their beauty.

I showed my small leafy spray with purple-ish clusters to Kerry, the friendly gentleman behind the desk. He couldn’t tell me about them either but assured me he would find out. He soon called our room saying he had found the answer online and had printed it out for me.

I was elated.

This is known as the American Beautyberry or Callicarpa. It is a species of shrubs and small trees in the family of Lamiaceae. With between 40 and 150 species accepted by different botanists, the American Beautyberry is native to Asia, Australia, southeast North America and Central America.

And there it was, on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, blooming for our enjoyment while we were there.

One of the first things I thought was that these berries are probably poisonous. Not so. Both jelly and wine can be made from them.

Today, with Hilton Head on my mind, I decided to check on their weather. Yikes! They are bracing for badness, too, as a dangerous winter storm will impact Southeast South Carolina on into Wednesday. They expect 1 to 2 inches of snow, ice and sleet and unless absolutely necessary, people are advised not to drive.

While we are old hats at that warning, may I warm us all with a few photos of our stay at Hilton Head – one of the best vacations we’ve ever had.

If I may and without taking the verse out of context, I’d like to touch on a few words found in Philippians 4:12, namely, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

For me, that may be after another six inches of snow falls on our sidewalks or I’m enjoying the beauty of such places at Hilton Head, S.C.

I shovel not only because I like to, but because I can. I have the God-given strength and endurance for which I am very thankful.

I’ll have a couple other things to say about Hilton Head in the coming days.

Until Soon

One big happy at the oval table

Left to right:  Kevin Grinde, Ann Bailey, Naomi Dunavan, Chuck Haga, Gail Hand, Virg Foss

Virg Foss, Jeff Tiedeman with Ann Bailey in background

The kitchen is always the coziest and that’s where we were — for three hours – we knights of the oval table – reminiscing about the days when we all had desks or cubicles and our job was writing stories.

Virg Foss describes that time of our lives to a T. “We had some golden years at the Grand Forks Herald,” he said.

For 36 years, Virg was a sports writer for the Herald. He’s now retired, but from October through April, he writes a weekly column. On Jan. 4, he wrote about Bubba Schweigert coming back to UND as head football coach.

I LOVED that column and emailed Virg to tell him so. When he wrote back, among other things he said, “We alums from the Herald should get together for coffee or lunch once in a while, if not regularly.”

It’s not yet spring, but Virg had planted a seed!

I grabbed my nearest reporter’s notebook and started making a list followed by phone calls. Last Friday I was honored to have six of the “old family,” come to my house for morning coffee that spilled over into a light lunch. It was the most enjoyable three hours I’ve had in quite some time. I hope they all felt the same.

Some of us left the Herald for other opportunities, some are retirees, some were laid off and some still write a column for our former employer or articles for other venues. Whatever – the bond that goes way back remains intact.

Ann Bailey came bearing wonderful gifts: a loaf of bread her husband, Brian, baked and a dozen eggs from her chickens. We talked about the good times we had when Herald newsroom people were invited to Ann and Brian’s beautiful farm outside Larimore, N.D.

Chuck Haga, Jeff Tiedeman and Kevin Grinde brought their unique gifts of wit and wisdom. Gail Hand came with the same effervescent aura and exuberance for life that we all loved then and do to this day.

Both Gail and Ann are breaths of fresh air to me.

As always Virg was cloaked in his genuine and gentle niceness. Not only that, he had “show and tell.”

Virg brought two 8×10 photographs that are true treasures. One was taken in the fall of 1969 on football press day at UND. “I started at the Herald in June of 1969,” Virg told us, “so it was my first media day with the Sioux.”

Other media members he pointed out to us were Jim Adelson, Ed Kolpack, Bruce Tellmann, Doug Tegtmeier, Glenn Olson and Boyd Christiansen. Also on the picture is the late Ken Kleven, a Herald photographer who tragically died in an auto accident. What a blow that was to us who worked with and adored Ken.

And, there’s one more smiling face on the photo – a youthful Chuck Haga, who was a UND student at the time and working for the Fargo Forum.

How fun to see Chuck as he was then and also to see how young-at-heart he is today, especially when he speaks of his grandchildren. Incidently, collectively, we have more than 20 “grands” among us.

The other photo Virg brought was of the 1961-1962 hockey team at St. Olaf College when he was a senior there. “There were just 15 of us on the team,” he said, “and we played all our games outdoors.”

I would have been happy to have these former co-workers stay for dinner that night too, but in time they had to scatter and all to soon they were gone.

It’s energizing and uplifting to reconnect with former colleagues who are aging well. Deep down they are the same as they were when we rubbed elbows within the hallowed Herald halls. Yet again, Virg said it best. “It was a fun time getting caught up with some very good people.”

There were a few of us who couldn’t make the first gathering.

Just to let them know, Kevin Fee, Darrel Koehler, Mike Brue, Kate Sweeney, Jackie Lorentz, your attendance will be “required,” next time or your pay will be docked.

Until Soon


Don’t be naughty, be nice to fruitcake

As I address our 2013 Christmas cards, I look again at those we received a year ago. One tickled me then and now because it mentions Jim’s and my most favorite Christmas delight.


On the front of this particular Christmas card is a picture of the couple’s two lovely daughters. On the back are these words:

Be merry – not moody.

Spread cheer – not colds

Give love – not fruitcake

Poor fruitcake! Why does something so pretty and appealing to the eye and palate get such a bum rap?

Some say it may have all started with comedians. Apparently Johnny Carson made the statement that there’s only one fruitcake in the whole world and it just keeps getting re-gifted.

Rumor also has it that some Boeing Company engineers invented a piece of artillery for launching a fruitcake 1,420 feet high. And evidently, Manitou Springs, Colo., is known for its annual tossing competition to see who can throw one the farthest.

That’s terrible!

I have always loved fruitcake, even as a child, and I wonder, if it’s so bad, why has it been around for so long?

As for Jim, it’s only been in the last few years that he has decided he likes it. You’ve heard the phrase, “try it, you’ll like it?” Well, Jim is thinking now that he had never actually tried it. And when he did – lo and behold – he loved the rum (or brandy) flavor with the fruit and nuts. In fact, our fruitcake didn’t last long enough last year and I had to make more right after Christmas.

All winter long, a slice with a mug of steaming dark roast makes the fire even cozier.

I decided to poll a few of my friends about fruitcake asking, “do you love it or despise it and why?” Here are their answers: some speak with affection, some not so much and others are hilarious!

Sarah Buescher — I don’t like store bought fruitcake. Like most things the homemade version tastes better because there was love put into it. I like the kind of fruitcake that contains real fruit and not the candied fruit, simply because I don’t like the taste of candied fruit. I did not grow up with the tradition of fruitcake and the first time I ever had some was last year. I think if I grew up with it I would love it and the memories that would come with fruitcake at Christmas. Sometimes it is the memories that make it taste so good.

Pat Guthmiller – I hate it! It’s dry and hard and I never have liked dried fruit. The only (good) part of it was the apricot brandy my mother used when she made it.

Jane Glander – Love love love fruitcake if it’s got a little cake around the fruit. I love it because I ate it with my dad. We both loved it.

Judy LeClerc – Well, I do not like fruitcake especially if it has dates in it! My husband, Ray, on the other hand, likes fruitcake and ate a whole one within days last Christmas. I’ve always thought that they make good doorstops! Or if they are round, good hockey pucks!!

Craig Fenske – I like it because of the candy in it.

Paul Schuette — I think many people who don’t like fruitcake have never tried fruitcake. They just think it must be bad because of all the “bad rap” stuff they’ve heard through the years. I like fruitcake and I always have. What’s not to like about it? Everything in a fruitcake is good. If you eat enough of it you might even get a little buzz from the brandy. . . well, maybe not.

Ryan Bakken — It’s amazing how much taste buds change over the years. I’ve realized that many foods I used to dread are now tasty and vice versa. My big problem with fruitcake is that it’s so dense and the red and green candies in them are too chewy. I guess I haven’t tried it lately to see if my tastes have changed.

Vickie Evenson – Ha ha! To funny! I have never cared for fruitcake (and that is a very gracious way to put that) because the flavors of the fruits are so distastefully distorted, and each bite feels like I’m swallowing lead. I have heard many people say that fruitcake appeals mainly to the elderly, however, I know there are so many more recipes out there that are changing minds towards it. Maybe I should give it another chance!

Marlys Johnson – I was with Jim. Before I said I did not like fruitcake! But did I ever try it? I’m not sure. Now I LOVE fruitcake because I love the recipe you gave me. I just made some this week and it is delicious!

Laurie Borth – I hate fruitcake. I hate the way it tastes!

Ione Sandberg — I really like fruitcake!  I think it reminds me of my childhood when my mother made fruitcake every year around Christmas time.  It would be served to ‘company’ and so whenever the fruitcake came out of the freezer, I knew someone was coming to visit.

Harold Tanke –It depends on who makes it. Some I like and some I don’t.

Ken Drees — I have always liked fruitcake. My mom made it every Christmastime and Maureen made some in the distant past. It would be a good tradition to bring back. The reason for the bad rap might be its sheer density. The fact that you could weaponize one just by putting it into the freezer kinda makes them fair game.

The fruitcake recipe I use is from my cousin, Gloria Bethke, and posted on my Nov. 9, 2012 blog. The slice in the photo above is calling me. Time to sit by the fire and enjoy it with a cup of java.

Until Soon