Obituary for Loren Lee
Loren Lee, age 94 of Northfield, passed away Thursday afternoon, August 8, 2019, at Reflections on the Three Links Campus. I was looking for a single quotation in “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” I did not end up finding, but found Dads’ Copy so entertaining and “right on” that I just kept reading and writing. In fact this presentation is brought to you courtesy of the publication: not exactly, but close! I wanted to summarize my fathers’ character and life, but accidentally discovered that multiple people had already discovered his underlying strength of character! What I originally searched for was a quote […]
Loren Lee, age 94 of Northfield, passed away Thursday afternoon, August 8, 2019, at Reflections on the Three Links Campus.
I was looking for a single quotation in “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” I did not end up finding, but found Dads’ Copy so entertaining and “right on” that I just kept reading and writing. In fact this presentation is brought to you courtesy of the publication: not exactly, but close!
I wanted to summarize my fathers’ character and life, but accidentally discovered that multiple people had already discovered his underlying strength of character! What I originally searched for was a quote of how remarkable my father’s intelligence improved as I aged. Perhaps it wasn’t Twain/Clemens after all. I already miss him and his judgment as evidenced by my inept search attempt!
Dad and I started spending almost every Sunday over the past several years together sharing a drink and discussing a wide variety of topics, then going out to get dinner, and continuing this far reaching conversation for several hours. Topics ranged from politics to literature, sports, health, medicine, and then an endless repetition! It was our discussions of literature that most piqued my interest and his. I am currently reading, or rereading, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, et al. Though Bartlett’s remains the main source of this presentation it was my son who best captured his essence with his favorite story of lunch with Grandpa Loren when he described Chris (my Mom) telling Dad he couldn’t have any more cookies after dinner. When Chris left the room he immediately grabbed a cookie, put it in his pocket, winked at Raven, and got up to help with the dishes!
Like my mom, Christine, my Dad “had a good run!” He enjoyed something out of his every single day on this planet and made sure someone else enjoyed the day as well. Like all the other people of “The Best Generation”, he knew how to be appropriately bound by the rules of Society, and when it was permissible to escape the dictates of Society with a “wink and a nod!” He knew how to offer his opinion without insult. He knew when “to build and when to tear down, when to sow, and when to reap.” But he also took risks many other mortals would not. He first lay eyes on Christine Murdock as she led the Decorah High school Band down main-street as a Majorette. Dad saw her and elbowed his friend saying he was going to marry that girl. He did and started a life-long love affair that officially began in 1949.
“Always do right! This will satisfy some of the people and astonish the rest!”-Twain/Clemens. This seems to be more close to the truth today, than when it was written.
My best friend, Greg Peterson, told me a story he remembers from his Dad also a salesman. Pete’s dad said, he would show up on Monday mornings, see what problems he faced and needed to handle. Then he actually dealt with them. In addition to solving a problem for a client it was the first step to understanding what he had to do to turn a prospect into a client. My father did the same thing! It took me many years to understand the courage it took to pick the phone up and how heavy that phone would weigh after 20 to 40, “No thank you’s”, and to continue to reach out to people you don’t know, persuade the screener to let you talk to a decision maker to accomplish the goal of solving a problem they often didn’t realize they had; to begin a process of solving that problem.
Dad grew up in a small town of 296 people, mostly Norwegians with a scattering of Catholics in Scandinavia, Wisconsin near Stevens Point; not far from where the Norwegian dietary mainstay of Point Beer, was, and still is, made. Every ones diet was essentially the same: along with lutefisk, lefse, deer, rabbit, game, fish, sausage, and Grandma Lee’s fresh and homemade offerings, including ice cream, homemade pickles, sauerkraut, pies, donuts, and vegetables out of the garden along with the morning gatherings delivered by my grandfather (A.O. Lee) with his grandson (me) traipsing alongside on our daily walk downtown to go to the Creamery for butter and cream, the Butcher Shop for beef and pork, and a slow walk home to a magical stop: the mysterious blacksmith shop that was still in operation!
The town offered two bars and two churches with one of each for the Catholics and one for the Norwegians. Life was very basic, simple, honest, and fair! “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed captured much of this magical time in the small town of Scandinavia that shaped my father, as well as his son.
Dad was an old fashioned gentleman with decorum, awe, bravery, decency, humor, intelligence, manners, delight, mirth, integrity, and yet he rarely drew attention to himself. In addition he was more than a fair to middlin’ baseball player in his day, and a decent golfer in his years as an “Elder” who accomplished many things he rarely mentioned, like the “BLAP invitational Golf Tournament” (only Will Brosz, Loren Lee, Don Axelson, and Donovan Pautzke were ever invited)! He rarely drew attention to himself as he was far more interested in hearing your story if he could persuade you to voice it.
This reluctance to intrude or interject self-praise, often kept him in good stead with many dear friends and family, but sometimes he could take this too far as displayed during this last period of trying times. For example he would refuse to call the nurse to seek his pain medication late at night as he didn’t want to interrupt the sleep of staff serving him. I was given a small peek into his world of pain as he began to wind down. I stayed with him for several nights, and listened to him moan and wince at the pain in the most eerie of ways, waiting for the morphine and other medications for pain control and sleep enhancement to arrive. He had told me originally he “only had a mild stomach ache” that was just a minor problem. He didn’t think it was worth seeing the Doctor for such a minor complaint though it kept him for the first time from attending the Lee family reunion: he didn’t want to be a drag on the festivities. I believe many would call him “stoic”!
My informal education at my Dad’s side was often viewed by me as tedious and annoying at the time. I could see I was going to have to help my poor father with some of his antiquated ideas as he chauffeured me to the University of Minnesota to get my Bachelor of Science degree at his expense! As stated earlier I was surprised at how smart my father became as I grew older. In these hour long travels each way. I got to listen to KQRS on the way home and Dad chose Boone and Erickson on WCCO on the way in. Life was fair though I seemed to bear most of the weight of the burden being forced to listen to those two miscreants and Troglodytes! My, but I was a pleasant fellow!
One of many lessons I saw repeated and suffered through endlessly was reported by Mark Twain: “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Though I suffered reluctantly, I proved trainable and Dad was and remains a good example of how to be in this world.
I leave you with these two anecdotes of how my father could look at a problem and then create a solution in a New York minute! I had the honor of serving as the Captain of the Washburn High School football team of 1967. While there were many additional tasks that needed my attention, the one I remember most vividly was the letter I had to write to parents on behalf of my 60 plus teammates and I to ask parents to contribute to a fund that would cover the cost of filming our games for the coaches and team to review the previous weeks games: unheard of for High school football at the time. I just copied the letter sent the previous year and was prepared to mail it, but my Dad politely asked if he could read the letter before I sent it. Again, reluctant to submit myself to his unerring eye and love of English I gave him the letter with the warning that last year’s request had garnered the cost of three whole games and I was sure we couldn’t do any better. He noticed just one “minor error”. Fortunately he only added one sentence where he had the gall to ask for money directly. We immediately (snail mail) received an unheard of amount that covered all ten games we played that year in one weeks-time.
As an additional footnote one of my favorite activities growing up was playing “hardball catch” with my Dad when he got home from work. I waited in a high state of attention and anticipation, while practicing all day to be able to handle the sting of the hard ball in a mitt without padding! He didn’t even change clothes when he taught me how to play shortstop and not stand up before fielding and throwing to second base for a double play! Who says you don’t need a Dad!
I will finish with a brief poem and one more example of my father’s exuberance for life as relayed by his brother Art, who wrote of this episode in “The Lutefisk Ghetto”. After finishing his stint in The Army Air Corp, a predecessor to the U.S. Air Force where he served as navigator in WWII in a B-24, my dad was asked to again play for the town team in a baseball game. He agreed and was later at bat when he did the oddest thing: took his bat and pointed it to the field he was going to hit a ball. The crowd, mostly made up of hometown supporters, began to boo “this little show off who thought he was such a big deal! Real “Norsk Men” only doff their cap (literally and figuratively) AFTER they have done something of note. My Dad was able to doff his cap both before and after he hit a home run right where he said he would.
A service to celebrate Loren’s life will be held at 11:00AM on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield. Military Honors and a luncheon will follow. Visitation will be at the church one hour prior to the service.
Survivors include his children: Greg of Mendota Heights, Heather (Peter) Hanssen of Lighthouse Point, Florida, Tamara (Kim) Holm of Wilmington, Delaware, Jody of Minneapolis; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home. www.northfieldfuneral.com