Remembering Brad Swenson, One Year Later

One year ago today, I walked into Brad Swenson’s apartment and found him dead, still in bed, at the age of 57.

There was no indication he knew what was happening; he was lying on his back, his sleep apnea mask still on his face. If he had been in distress, he would have pushed that mask away, because he hated the darn thing. I’m glad he was unaware, because he would have thought dying really sucked after all the other crap he’d gone through.

I cleaned his apartment out after he died, and I found half a dozen advanced care directives, none of them filled out. He was one of the few people I know who I think would have wanted pretty much any means necessarily to be taken to prolong his life, as I think he would have wanted to live no matter what. Not because he was afraid of dying, but because he enjoyed living, and while he didn’t have a healthy body, he had his mind, and he used it.

Brad, who was most recently political editor and opinion page editor for the Bemidji Pioneer, worked there for most of his adult life. We are not related, by the way; one of my first assignments for the Pioneer was to cover a political forum for the 2004 election. Brad covered one forum, and I covered the other. Someone later cooed, “Isn’t it nice that Brad and his wife are working together?” We got a kick out of that.

Brad found out he had diabetes at the age of 30. More than a decade later, his failing kidneys forced him to undergo three days a week of dialysis, which he worked in around his schedule. He was an old-school journalist who worked long hours, insisted that things be done right, and always appreciated a free meal. He lived for his work. Journalism, and writing in general, formed much of his identity.

The rest, a lot of people know, but a lot of others don’t.

Here are some things that Brad Swenson enjoyed, in no particular order except for how they come into my head. It is by no means expected to be a complete list. I’m sure I forgot lots of things, and there are plenty I don’t know. But I know some, so here goes:

Star Trek Enterprises in a row

Star Trek. He was a huge Star Trek fan. His kitchen cupboards were topped by starships, he owned hundreds of Star Trek books, audio books and movies, and every year he bought the Hallmark Star Trek ornament. I found in his belongings a Star Trek script he wrote with a friend, who I’ve been working on locating to see if he wants it. I haven’t read it yet, come to think of it.

Itasca State Park. Brad loved going to Lake Bemidji State Park, but he had a special place in his heart for Itasca. He loved to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi, have a nice meal there, and take in the beauty of his surroundings. He collected plates and cups from the park, usually buying one item each year. He was super-happy last year to get the chance to go to the park, when a good Samaritan gave him and another guy in a wheelchair an outing to Itasca. I’m glad he got that trip.

Norwegian stuff. Brad enjoyed his Norwegian heritage. He got involved in the Sons of Norway a few years before he died, and somehow found himself doing the organization’s newsletter. He took the job seriously and enjoyed it very much, although issues with his arm and hand meant he was a true member of the hunt-and-peck club, so he eventually started using voice-to-text software.

As a good Norwegian, he loved going to the Syttende Mai celebration each year. Last year, the celebration fell at a time when he was just starting to be able to put more weight on his broken leg, so I was able to take him in my car and push him in a regular wheelchair (he used a motorized one most of the time, but it was not portable). He had a great time that night, listening to famed Norwegian pianist-accordian player Knut Erik Jensen, and having a delicious meal. He bought a CD from Jensen on the way out, as well as Arland Fiske’s latest book.

Books. Brad loved to read, and he loved to own books. He had dozens of books he never got the chance to read. Not surprisingly, many were about politics, government and history, as well as science fiction. He had books by local authors such as Fiske, Kent Nerburn and Annie Henry. I kept his autographed copy of Henry’s book; I agreed with him that she is one impressive woman with great stories and great passion.

I also have “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” by Laurie Hertzel, who was a reporter in his native Duluth, at the Duluth News Tribune. I met her last year during the Bemidji Library Book Festival, and I wish I’d grabbed that book so I could have had it autographed for him.

I wish a lot things about Brad, in terms of the experiences he missed out on. If I had known he had so little time left, I would have tried to make sure he got to do some of the things he really wanted to. But I guess I’d always thought in the back of my mind that if Brad died, he would go slowly, with some warning. He made it through his first ordeal of 2011, when he was taken to the hospital with astonishingly high blood sugar and a blood infection and whatever else, and barely pulled through. Then we moved him from his trailer to Northland Apartments, a senior citizens’ apartment building, where he was recovering with a walker. Ten days into that, he fell and broke his leg — on my birthday, June 6, the day before he was to return to work. Back to the hospital, then to rehab, then to the nursing home. Eventually, he made enough of a stink that they let him go home with his electric wheelchair, which he rode all over the place. Pioneer photographer Monte Draper captured a photo of Brad in that chair, bundled up against the cold and snow, looking determined to make it home.

He went to many places in Bemidji in that chair, and when he couldn’t, he took the bus. I occasionally walked with him to nearby Walmart and hung his grocery bags on the back handles of his chair. One trip I took photos of him with enough bags to fill the trunk of a car.

But back to the list …

Food. There was no questioning Brad’s love of food. He loved a good steak, with a good cocktail. That’s what he had the night before he died, which makes me happy. He also loved klub (potato dumplings), especially if it had a piece of ham tucked into the center, and lefse.


Enjoying a hot dog at a BSU hockey game. Note the BSU jersey and UMD hat. That was a tradition for Brad.

His weakness was sweets: mini doughnuts from the carnival, cookies from Raphael’s, Rice Krispie bars, candy, you name it. He could never tame his sweet tooth, which hurt him both in terms of weight and diabetes. He was sheepish and defiant about it at the same time.

Rotary. Brad was a proud member of the Sunrise Rotary Club and was very active in Rotary, both locally and in his travels to regional meetings. He loved every minute of his Rotary involvement and was very supportive of his club. He also enjoyed being a member of the Ruffed Grouse Society and displayed several beautiful grouse prints he either bought or won through the organization.

Awards. Brad was an award-winning journalist, and he enjoyed it. It’s always fulfilling and pleasant to be honored for your work, and he was honored often. His proudest moment was winning the Premack Graven Award, which gives special recognition to a journalist for contribution to excellence in the journalism profession. It was the most prestigious of the three Premack awards he received from the University of Minnesota Journalism Center. He also received the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award and was named Ag Communicator of the Year by the Minnesota Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau award was presented in New Orleans in a trip that brought him great joy, along with a love for Community Coffee.

Minnesota Newspaper Association awards

Politicians. Brad enjoyed dealing with politicians his entire adult life. People often encouraged him to write a book about his experiences, but he said he wouldn’t remember enough of the details. We said it would be enough to remember the people themselves — what he got from his interactions with Sen. Paul Wellstone, for example. He talked often about interviews he had and the stories (yes, often plural), columns and blog posts he could get out of them. He was a political expert, and former Sen. Frank Moe once told me that he would often turn to Brad for information, because he figured if anyone would remember, it would be him. Brad enjoyed his relationships with local politicians, and as a political reporter he was one of a dying breed in small-town newspapers.

TV. After Brad’s first broken leg, he eventually retired from the Pioneer. He broke the leg again during physical therapy, which was a frustrating setback for him as he was getting closer and closer to walking again. And there would be one more break, and one more stint in the hospital and nursing home, caused by an accident with his electric wheelchair when he fell asleep at the wheel.

Why, you might ask? I blame TV, somewhat facetiously. After his retirement, he had the chance to see all the TV shows he missed when he was working nights. He had favorites like the Mentalist, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, etc., and would watch reruns late at night as well as his prime-time shows. He would fall asleep watching these shows, and would forget to put his sleep apnea mask on.

I can understand why you might not want to put the mask on when you weren’t ready to go to sleep, but it became a vicious circle, because he was so tired from the lack of good sleep, that he’d fall asleep relatively quickly. I had been noticing that he’d doze off during conversations at night during visits, which reminded me of the times before his sleep study when his head would bow at work and snoring would commence. Like others who have used a mask for sleep apnea, the difference was amazing once he started getting a good night’s sleep.

People. Brad was so interested in people. When I spoke at his funeral, I told the story of how I dragged my mom along to a visit with him one day at Nielson Place. She protested, saying she didn’t know him, but I said we’d only stay a few minutes and she could take a look at the nursing home, which is beautiful.

We ended up staying an hour and a half and had a great visit. “Brad is so *interesting*,” she said after that visit. And he was. He was really interesting, and could talk for hours. Part of that is because he was also really interested in the other people. He wanted to know what made people tick, how they got to their conclusions, what their experiences were. He didn’t necessarily gush over people, but he admired them just the same. I never heard him wish anything bad on anyone, and he said a lot of good things about a lot of people.

At his mother’s funeral several years ago, he thanked his Pioneer family. At his own funeral, his aunt Florence reiterated that we were family to him. And we were. He was an only child without relatives that were nearby, and he took a lot of joy in the work relationships he had.

In Brad’s last year, I spent a lot of time with him, visiting, watching TV, helping him clean his apartment, setting up his medications. I knew he enjoyed company, so sometimes I would take my laptop there and do some freelance writing while he watched TV. I figured that’s what I’d be doing at home anyway, so I may as well do it over there.

The day he died, my granddaughter and I had spent the afternoon swimming and then headed over to Brad’s for a visit in the early evening. Jada liked to visit Brad; she’d drag us into the craft room at the apartment building or get him to give her a treat from his fridge. Once, we played The Settlers of Catan with him.

He hadn’t answered his phone, so I was a little concerned, but he didn’t always carry it when he went around the building. And on Sundays, he often went for afternoon coffee downstairs. The manager let me in when he didn’t respond to being buzzed at the door.

I’ve never found anyone dead before. it wasn’t really traumatic at the time; I didn’t even know he was dead at first. I just knew I couldn’t wake him. I kept thinking, what if I’d gotten there sooner? But the  paramedics later said he’d been gone for quite a while. One of the hardest things was calling people and telling them the bad news and feeling their pain and disbelief.

I should have written a blog post after that, but I didn’t. I was kind of numb over the whole thing and just set to cleaning up and packing stuff. I meant to write; I had all sorts of ideas in my head, but they just blurred in the aftermath. In fact, this is the first blog post I’ve written since a few weeks before Brad’s death. Until now, the top image on my blog has been my granddaughter delighting in an attraction at the Beltrami County Fair in 2012. It’s been a tough year. First Brad, then my ex had a stroke, then I had shingles, then my dad had a fall and landed in the hospital and nursing home, and then I ended up moving in with my parents to help them. And too many funerals for too many people I cared about. Even this month, I’ve gone to two funerals.

Anyway, the cleaning and packing was therapeutic for me; I like to help, and it was meaningful. I respect the sentimental value of things, both in what they mean to others and what they meant to the person. I kept some little things to remember him by, like a nesting doll and his Roger Moe bobblehead, and then there’s the tiny plastic Garfield and Ode (Brad was a Garfield fan) who still ride in a little cubbyhole in my car, just beneath and to the left of my steering wheel. I’m reminded of Brad when I see them. That’s what they’re there for.

The night before he died, Brad went out with our friend Betty and her husband and daughter to the Peppercorn, where Brad had steak and Long Island tea. He had a great time, and before he went to bed he talked to one of the apartment building managers, who said he was in good spirits. I’m glad he enjoyed his last night, and that he spent it with people he really cared about.

But it remains weird and sad that he’s gone. I was so used to going over there for coffee anytime I felt like it. He was always glad for the company, and the talks were always good. We laughed a lot, shared some grumbles, and I ate way too many Rice Krispie bars and drank way too much coffee.

Just before Christmas, my son, Nick, and Jada and I had Christmas dinner and opened gifts with Brad. I sneaked into his storage locker down the hall and dug out his tiny Christmas tree and decorations and set up the tree. He was so surprised! He said he hadn’t set it up for 20 years. We had a really nice time.

Shortly before he died, Brad did an interview for a story he never got the chance to write. It was going to be an in-depth freelance article for a client other than the Pioneer. He was excited to expand his freelance writing career; he was looking forward to continuing the work he loved. He knew he still had something to offer.

Someone told me after he died that she didn’t think he had a good life; she didn’t think he was happy.

She was wrong. Brad had a great life. It could have been so much better, and a lot of people would have thought that kind of life would suck, but every day, Brad maneuvered himself into his clothes and slid himself out of bed and into that wheelchair because he had a life that meant something to him and he wanted to make something out of it.

Can’t we all relate to that?

I miss you, friend.

Carnivals: Always more fun with kids

This looks like happiness to me. I think that face is worth the seven bucks for the kid bungee ride at the Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival.

That’s my 10-year-old granddaughter, who just missed Monday’s storm when she went home with her mom (my daughter had a windshield wiper ripped off by the wind on the trip home). Jada had an armband for the rides Sunday, and on Monday we did the bungee rides and a few carnival games.

Whee! I bet that is a blast.

This is always one of her favorite rides:

And who doesn’t like bumper cars?

I haven’t done this since I was a kid myself. If carnivals had more rides like bumper cars and Ferris wheels (why don’t I see many Ferris wheels anymore at small carnivals?), I might buy an armband myself.

I’m not much for rides, though. My best friend in high school used to drag me on the Tilt-A-Whirl over and over, which just made me dizzy, and I hate scary rides. The Scrambler is about as scary as I go, and that’s pretty tame even by Jada’s standards.

One ride that makes the armband easily pay for itself is the giant slide, which kids go down over and over again. They must get a lot of exercise climbing all those steps!

I couldn’t get a very good picture of her in that lane, and she said it was the fastest one. No clue if that was accurate or not; I never saw her in any other lane!

The two little girls below were really cute in their patriotic red, white and blue outfits. I wondered if they had been in the Grand Parade earlier Sunday.

We arrived with minutes to spare for the start of the parade, and we ended up walking way past the Courthouse because Jada wanted to get candy quickly and then move on to the rides. :)

Sunday was miserably hot. One of us carried a big drink of water and the other carried a 2-liter bottle of water that we used to cool off with. At one point, Jada just dumped some over her head. There was a short break in the heat as the sun went behind a little cloud. You can see just how short of a break that was, as that was the only cloud of any size in sight.

That about sums up “I’m hot!”

Despite Monday’s storm, the carnival got back on track for Tuesday and Wednesday, ending with the traditional Fourth of July fireworks display.

I don’t know what happened — maybe they accidentally got the fireworks out of order — but the finale ended up not at the end. After the familiar burst of fireworks, another four or so bursts came along and then the display just ended. It was a little confusing, as I was wondering if the finale was a mini-finale and there was going to be a REALLY big one at the end. :)

 

This burst was one of the “bonus” ones that came at the end.

As usual, the night drew lots of people of all ages, and kids were swinging the light-up swords their parents bought them at the waterfront.

Jack Hittinger, the Pioneers’ new sports reporter, stopped over to watch the fireworks. We were laughing over the little girl behind us who kept saying “That one almost came over here!”

I love fireworks. This is my second display of the year. The first was at the Erskine Water Carnival, which has a super-awesome fireworks display for a town of fewer than 500 people.

I suppose that for many people, the Fourth was not so much a holiday but a day off from paid work to do cleanup work. But I hope those of you who were busy all day still found a little time to see a firework or two.

– Laurie

Thoughts from Bemidji’s harrowing storm

This tree at Diamond Point Park presents a triangle.

I took a drive through parts of Bemidji today, because I hadn’t had a chance to see much of the effects of Monday night’s storm, which we at the Pioneer experienced as more of giant sheets of water rushing toward the window we were peering through, rather than trees toppling. That night, we were struggling to put a paper together, which we ended up doing in the publisher’s kitchen because we had no power at the Pioneer. I was glad to be a part of that; those seat-of-the-pants adventures that combine camaraderie and accomplishment are rare and memorable.

Then the next day, I did all my interviews downtown, learning more about what happened between the carnival and downtown, and then headed to work to finish out a 14-hour workday, so I didn’t see firsthand the extent of the damages that day either.

So today, I did a little stop-and-go driving, checking out Library Park, Diamond Point Park and Nymore.

Tree snapped off in Library park.

Yes, Diamond Point Park is closed, but that isn’t keeping people out. I saw dozens of people taking photos in the half-hour or so that I was there, some standing on the sidewalk, others walking around in the park, sidestepping the occasional branch. They were quiet, just taking in the devastation.

Seeing tree after tree just tipped over has a sort of science fiction feel.

The bench looks fine, considering the devastation next to it.

I had a nice visit with Chris Christensen and his friend Alisha Barnett. Chris, who grew up here, lives in Rochester, Minn., but also has a place between Bagley and Bemidji. Alisha is from Iowa. They just came into town today, not realizing what they would find, and headed for Diamond Point Park. That was an effective introduction to the storm’s power. Alisha said the most powerful message for her was how the trees were ripped from the ground.

Chris was shooting photos and video and planned to look around for more to see. He has started his own business, Chris Christensen Video Production (www.chrismakesmovies.com). I checked out some of his videos; they are pretty sweet.

This house and yard in Nymore looks like it was really hit hard.

The trip through Nymore was about what I expected, from what I had seen from the photos Monte had shot for the Pioneer, but it’s always different to see it firsthand. Some of the fallen trees are still lying on houses and garages; others have been cut up and stacked on the curb to be hauled away next week.

It made me think not just of damage, but of danger. These trees could have caused injuries, even death. Noemi Aylesworth told me yesterday that branches were stabbed into the ground like arrows, and were so firmly planted they were difficult to pull out.

I talked to Noemi, owner of the Cabin Coffehouse and Cafe, yesterday for my downtown story, Noemi lives in Nymore, as does her son, her daughter and her in-laws. All lost trees Monday night. Noemi said her son had a tree in his house, her daughter had a power line on her garage, and her in-laws had a tree on their garage. That is one busy family now.

Here’s a house in Nymore where trees were spared. The trees obviously had some importance, with one holding a swing and two others a hammock.

Another thing that comes to mind when I see all the trees down is the loss of favorite trees, whether in one’s yard or in a favorite place to go. Roy C. Booth is mourning the loss of his favorite tree in Library Park, a tree he would lean against to read.

Brenda Mayer, who was at the carnival with family when the storm hit, lost 30 trees at her home, including one that crashed into her living room. After they waited out the storm at Toasty Beavers, they drove home. Her dad, who lives next door, had told her, “It’s not good,” but didn’t convey the extent of the damage.

Brenda’s sister, Karen Fuller, showed up later.

“When I got there, she cried,” Karen said. She added that it felt like Brenda done what needed to be done (including calling her insurance agent and leaving a message at 8:15 a.m.) and she could finally relax and let it all out.

At Keg ‘N’ Cork, I chatted with a couple from Fargo, Chris and Ray Rohde, who were staying in a townhouse at a resort on Cass Lake. Unfortunately, they were still without power there, so they came to Bemidji to see Bemidji Woolen Mills.

“It was incredible,” Chris said of the storm. “Nothing I’d ever want to go through again.” At the resort, she said, “everyone pulled together.”

At Lake Bemidji State Park, it was a different story. “We were very, very lucky and had virtually no damage,” Sue Olin, the assistant park manager, told me Tuesday at noon. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls this morning,” she added. “We’re looking forward to a busy holiday.”

DNR foresters and firefighters were busy assessing damages on state forest roads Tuesday, said Greg Vollhaber, assistant area forester. At noon Tuesday, he said 10 foresters and three seasonal firefighters were at work, opening roads as best they could. A helicopter was also assessing damage, he said.

RandiSu Tanem, chairwoman of the water carnival, said a tree had fallen on a trailer owned by the Jaycees. They’ll have to fix it, she said, but right now they can’t afford it.

This afternoon, I stopped by the Pioneer to retrieve the cell phone I’d forgotten there last night when I charged it. While I was visiting with Kayla and Jack, we heard thunder and walked outside to see ominous clouds, but none of the green haze that was around before Monday’s storm. Bemidji, fortunately, was on the edge of it, but I read later on the Pioneer website that today’s storm knocked out power to hundreds of people in the Red Lake, Kelliher, Turtle Lake and Waskish areas.On this final day of the water carnival, the fireworks will cap off the festivities in Bemidji. I have to break with my tradition of going to opening night at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse (which I love, partly because of the after-party where I can visit with actors and other theater lovers), because I also love fireworks.

Best wishes to all those cleaning up from the storm. Be well.

– Laurie

Unwelcome Adventure

I had thought my 2 a.m. adventure on the way home from work would start and end with the crazy icicles on the outside of the building.

But the icicles were just a hint of the cold yet to come.

When I got home, I noticed a glow in the snow outside my door, before I could see the actual door.  I was relieved when the snowplow passed by, taking its lights away, but the relief was short-lived, as the glow was still there.

Apparently, I had not shut my door tightly when I locked it on the way to work  The door was wide open, and a 2-liter bottle of diet Pepsi was frozen and exploded in the entryway. There was dirty snow on and around the cat’s scratching post. A shrill squealing noise was coming from the living room. After a couple of minutes of frantic searching, I discovered it was coming from my exercise bike. I hit a couple of buttons and it went away.

Then it was time for heat. I have two excellent space heaters, thank goodness. I pulled my bedroom one into the entryway and turned it on. The display read 32 degrees.

I turned the one on in the living room. It also read 32 degrees, even though the living room was warmer, so I figured 32 must be the lowest it registers. The actual thermostat on the wall in the entryway only goes down to 40, so that was pointless to consult.

The living room heater read 34 almost right away, then 38, where it stayed for a while, creeping up as time passed, one degree at a time.

I had encountered my regular visitor, the stray cat I call DK (short for  Dumpster Kitty), on the way in. Obviously he had let himself in. He and my two cats were wandering about, acting a little odd — probably that shrill noise had scared them, I figured.

But after I set the living room heater and turned to the other end of the room, I saw another reason.

There was a FOURTH CAT, a smallish black short-haired cat, sitting in the corner next to my couch and looking up at me.

“Well, that’s great,” I thought. I already have one stray cat I don’t want to keep. Why not another?

And one by one, my cats came to greet her.

She and Max touched noses, and Max then climbed up on the arm of the couch to peer down at her.

Zelda came nose to nose with her, too, which surprised me a little.

It was pretty obvious the new cat was terrified, too.

Then along came DK, who growled at her. Yay — the stray cat is getting territorial with a new stray cat.

The cat did not want anything from me — not food, not treats, not petting, but she did want out. At some point, she made her way to the other end of my apartment, screaming at one, two or all three of the cats along the way, and entered my bedroom, where she sat on a cat pillow in the window and started trying to claw her way out. When I tried to befriend her so I could show her the door, she ran back the other way, down to the spare bedroom. I was about to go open the outer door and grab a broom to shoo her outside when I saw she had gotten halfway down the length of the apartment again. I maneuvered her into the entry way, walked past her, opened the door and watched her make a beeline for outside. She ended up under the neighbor’s truck, so I am hoping she is the cat I see often in their window.

It’s now 5:30 a.m. The temp in the living room is 58. The entryway warmed up to 38 half an hour ago and now has hit 44.  I’m still wearing my jacket, and I added a pair of snowpants  and an extra pair of socks. My blanket and comforter from my bedroom are warming up on the floor in front of the living-room heater. The spare bedroom that I will sleep in is the farthest part of the house away from the door and will probably be OK to sleep in.

And there’s cat puke on the top sheet.

So much for a top sheet. At least the puke was dry and easily scraped off.

On a more positive note, I am eating klub (from a mix, not homemade, so not nearly as good, but still tastes delicious). It was exactly what I’d planned to do when I got home, although it was going to happen three hours ago while sitting back with my feet up watching an episode  of “Wire in the Blood” from my Netflix Instant Watch queue.

A day for Ann Daley

Ann Daley stands beside her 80th birthday cake, which reflects her years on the piano.

I got a bigger window into the big world of Ann Daley Sunday afternoon at her 80th birthday party.

I’ve known Ann for a few years through my work at the Bemidji Pioneer. I’m not sure when we met, but it might have been at the Bemidji Senior Center’s (now the Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center) annual style show that was done as a beautiful tribute to the late Ann Stennes, titled “Hats off to Ann Stennes.”

I also visited with Ann when her granddaughter and a friend recorded a CD of piano music. It was then that I learned of Ann’s love for and talent in piano and her musical influences on her family.

Then there was the Senior Scene, the monthly publication for and by senior citizens that is now called PrimeTime. A while back, Ann started writing a column every month, and it grew to the point that we now usually plan to use it on the front of each month’s edition.

Ann calls me once in a while to ask questions or make a change in an article, we had lunch together once at the Senior Center, and we’ve seen each other occasionally at various functions. Plus, I’ve run into Ann two or three times during our separate noon walks (I walk with Bethany Wesley from the Pioneer, and we blog about our walks at www.trailmix.areavoices.com).

So we don’t see each other very often, but I admire the heck out of Ann Daley. She works so hard for other people, and she just never slows down. You’d think that at 80 years old, she’d feel entitled to sit back and relax, but she just keeps adding more to her plate.

She is always busy with the Senior Center, where served on the board of directors from 1999-2008 and was president for five of those years. She volunteers with Nielson Place and serves on the boards of the United Way of Bemidji Area and Northwoods Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers and Adult Day Services. She brings music to residents at Goldpine Home. And I’m sure there’s more.

Ann also works with RSVP/America Reads, through which she reads to Paul Daman’s class at Northern Elementary, where she also set up a wonderful pen pal program between the children and seniors at the Senior Center. She wrote a PrimeTime article about the program when it started, and wrote about the program again when the pen pals got the chance to meet one another. What an awesome way for kids and elders to brighten each other’s lives! That’s the kind of thing that Ann Daley does — brighten people’s lives.

Not too long ago she became a “girl singer” with Dennis Doeden and Jim Thompson — I love it! The enthusiasm that woman has should be bottled and sold. :)

I haven’t known her very long, but on Sunday I got to visit with people who have known her for many years.

This is Anne with her longtime friends. Their kids grew up together and the families are still close. Scotty is on the left and Marie is in the middle. They were both delightful to visit with. It’s wonderful when people can maintain long-term friendships with others, especially when they stay nearby for years and years. My old friends are scattered, and we rarely talk. It’s nice when we do talk, but there’s a distance there that wouldn’t have existed if we’d been around each other the way these lovely ladies and their families have been.

Ann's son played guitar while she played piano.

I met Ann’s son and daughter-in-law, both of whom work in music education, and I visited with her daughter, who was the one who invited me to the party when she asked me if I could print out some articles about her mom to put up. I was so glad for the invitation. It was a beautiful party on a beautiful day with a lot of beautiful people.

Happy birthday, Ann, and best wishes for many more great birthdays!