Everybody knew Elmer. And they all have a story to tell about him. Or two, or three.
Some people are luckier than I am. They were able to know him for years. Me, I only had that privilege for the last three of his 97 years.
I met him shortly after I moved to Blue Earth, and it surprised me just a little that the next time I bumped into him he remembered my name. He also knew my wife’s name and he remembered it immediately each time he saw her.
Heck, I sometimes can’t remember someone’s name two minutes after I hear it. I blame it on getting old. But, if a 97-year-old guy can remember names like crazy, I guess I have no excuse.
Most everyone knows Elmer owned and operated Elmer’s Super Valu in Blue Earth for many years, starting in 1951 when he moved here from Redwood Falls.
But, besides that, he was a huge promoter of Blue Earth and the area. He served on numerous committees and groups, including a stint on the Blue Earth City Council.
Of course, he is also well known here for being one of the founding fathers of the Royal Chiselers woodcarving group. I wonder how many people he has talked into trying a little carving.
And, he was well known as a truly fine person, who believed in helping his fellow man. Many folks have stories about how he helped out people who needed it, and didn’t worry about getting a payback, or getting any recognition for it.
Elmer received numerous awards during his life, and, I am sure, deserved every one of them.
Besides all those other qualities, he had a tremendous sense of humor, which I found to be fascinating.
Sitting next to him at Kiwanis meetings was always entertaining. With a twinkle in his eye, he would tell a story or two, then follow it up with a bit of history, or a comment on something in the current Register.
Several times the stories he told at Kiwanis had to do with newspapers and editors, and of course, he used my name in the story as the editor.
Once, it was about Lena, coming in to talk to Chuck at the Register about Ole’s obituary, asking about the cost.
Elmer said that Chuck told Lena the first five words were free, but the rest would be ten cents a word.
The total was $25.
“Uffda,” Lena told Chuck. “Dat is too much. How about we just say, ‘Ole died.”
Elmer told the other Kiwanians that Chuck the editor reminded Lena she could have five words for free and that was only two.
“In dat case,” the widow told Chuck, “let’s say, ‘Ole died, boat for sale.’”
It got a big laugh.
Elmer was definitely the sharpest 97-year-old I ever met.
Even after he went in to the nursing home, and knew he didn’t have a lot of time left on this Earth, he still loved to visit and trade stories, sharing a laugh and an observation or two.
During one of my last times visiting with him at St. Luke’s he gave me a package. He told me to open it later.
Inside was one of his carved guardian angels, hanging on a string, to hang above my desk at home, to watch over me.
With it was a note, which he said was not meant for publication; it was just a personal note to me.
Now that he can’t come back and complain to me that I published it, I think I will share it with all of you.
Here it is.
To da Editor,
Just a note to congratulate you for your award that you told us about at Kiwanis. You certainly deserve it.
You have done so very much for ‘our’ Register – everyone thinks so, too.
I also thank you for your many articles about me – almost to the point of being embarrassing! Your next write up for me will be my obituary! And don’t forget that when my girls bring it in, that you give them the first five words for free! (Elmer died, boat is sold!)
Thanks again, Chuck, you are the best editor we’ve ever had!
Old (soon to be 97) Elmer
Now, I have gotten a lot of notes and letters in my day, but this is one I am going to keep, maybe even frame – it is pretty special.
And, so was the guy who wrote it.
I’m going to miss those stories at Kiwanis.
While I spent some time this week thinking about Elmer, after hearing of his passing, I also spent some time thinking about life.
Just a day after Elmer died, I had a granddaughter born at United Hospital in Blue Earth.
It was a realization that life, indeed, goes on, and that birth and death are something we all share.
And, that life is pretty short. Even if you live to be 97.
So, my wish for my new granddaughter, Lauren, and to all of you, is that you enjoy life as much as Elmer Knudsen did.