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This Day in History – May 29th – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… MAY 29

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On this date, Memorial Day weekend 1994, at age 81, my father, Emmert Jenneke, passed away. It was a sad time, of course, coupled with relief, and guilt at feeling relief. He had been in ill health and pain for many years and had expressed his wish that it would be all over. An elderly aunt had died suddenly several months earlier of a heart attack and Dad said, “How can anybody get so lucky?” I think my mother’s emotions were the same as mine, sadness and relief.

The arrangements were made, a wake at the Lester Prairie funeral home, church service at St. Paul’s Lutheran church, and internment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery per Dad’s wishes. He had served in the army during World War Two. Dad and I had our differences, like many fathers and sons. Ours were political and lifestyle. I embraced a counter-culture attitude and veered far to the left. We had our battles, but eventually settled on a tenuous peace. In his latter years his face would brighten with happiness when I showed up to take him fishing. That’s what we did in the summertime, fish and listen to the Minnesota Twins on a portable radio. Two safe topics, fishing and baseball, that put us in sync with each other. He had taken me fishing a lot when I was a kid, so it was there our worlds most easily came together. It’s my favorite memory of my father, of him and I sitting quietly together on a lake.

Dad had a good sense of humor and whether fishing was good or bad, it gave him a chance to use it. Once we were having a good day catching fish. I said we’d have to remember this spot as I tried to triangulate our position with landmarks on shore. Remarking that would be easy, he said, “We’re about a hundred feet north of where those ducks are swimming.” Another time, after fishing, he suggested we go get a beer. We were sitting in a beer joint when what was obviously another father and son came in. Both father and son were respectively ten years older than Dad and I. The older man, well into his eighties, was a bit unsteady. He had trouble getting up onto the barstool and his son had to assist him. Dad leaned toward me and whispered, “When I get that bad, for god’s sakes don’t bring me to a saloon.”

For me the wake was just part of the ritual I had to get through. I had been to more than a few of them so knew the procedure well. I’d stand around and nod gratefully while townspeople and relatives said kind things about my father. At one point my mother, who was more than a little unconventional, and I were looking at Dad laid out in the casket. Probably a moment when something touching should be said. Instead my mother looked around to make sure nobody was listening, then whispered to me, “When you think about it, funerals are pretty bizarre, aren’t they.” I had to laugh. That was my mother. I intend to write a blog post about her some day.

The wake was well attended, for my father had been a respected man in our small town. He was an elder in the church and a member of the school board. So I spent the evening accepting, along with condolences, words of praise for my father. But then a man I knew as one of the town reprobates approached me. I’ll call him Henry. He was sober, an unusual condition for him, and had made an effort to be presentable. Henry was the only man there in a suit, the world having gone more casual by this time. The suit was perhaps four decades out of style, and ill-fitting. His tie was poorly knotted, and he had missed a spot while shaving. But he had made the effort. Henry walked up to me, put out his hand and I shook it. Then as he tried to speak his face began to contort. I realized it was with emotion, which caused my emotions to flood to the surface also. He released my hand and we both looked away in embarrassment. He turned away without saying anything and before I could give it more thought someone else grabbed my attention.

Later in the evening Henry approached me a second time. I could see that his jaw was set as he made an attempt to compose himself. “I just have to say this,” he said. “I know I’ve never amounted to much, and people in town don’t think too highly of me, but whenever your father saw me he always treated me with respect. So I had to be here tonight.”

I can’t think of any better measure of my father as a person. Of all the tributes paid to him that evening, that is the one I still carry with me.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

We’d like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (National Cemetery)  –  Scruggelgreen / Shutterstock.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

December 16

December 18 

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 28

* December 30

* January 3

January 4

January 6

January 7

January 10

* January 11

* January 14

January 15

January 16

January 19

January 21

January 22

January 24

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

February 3 

February 5

February 6

* February 9

* February 10

* February 11

February 14

February 15

February 18

February 20

February 21

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 3

March 6

March 9

March 10

March 12

* March 14

March 16

March 17

March 19

March 20

March 21

March 23

March 26

March 27

March 29

March 31

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 7

April 11

* April 12

April 13

April 18

April 19

April 22

April 23

April 25

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

* May 4

May 6

May 8

May 9

May 10

May 13

* May 17

May 18

May 19

May 23

* May 24

May 26

* May 28

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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