It’s been a very tough week in Minneota, where we’ve been losing friends right and left.
It started when I found out Virgil Ufkin had passed away at the ripe old age of 100 — just a week after he’d celebrated his 100th birthday. In fact, he passed away the day a photo of him and grandson Tony came out in The Minneota Mascot.
Tony, gracious as always, was thankful for this last photo in the newspaper. When I greeted Virgil’s son Bill, former Mayor of Minneota, he smiled and said Virgil accomplished what he wanted — to reach 100.
Then I found out we’d lost Conrad Hennen as well.
I was told last week when his grandson Thomas made his 1,000th point in basketball that Grandpa Conrad was aware — although he was struggling in the hospital. Then, just a day after Conrad died — his two grandsons Thomas and freshman Jacob, went out and scored 59 points between them against Renville Co. West.
Thomas scored 32 and Jacob 27. How’s that for scoring a tribute for their grandfather. Both of these men were the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met.
Both were quick to tell me how much they appreciated The Mascot and that happened each and every time I saw them.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I get the news “Norm” had passed away. This “Norm,” came only with a first name to most of us.
He was Norman VanOverbeke of Ivanhoe and this congenial fellow won his way into many a heart — including mine.
Norm was a bus driver who did the route from Minneota to Ivanhoe more times than Jimmy Carter has peanuts. Yet, he always did it with a smile on his lips and a joy of serving the kids and families.
Apparently, Norm just found out very recently that he had bone cancer.
And so very quickly he was gone from us. A former hardware store owner in Ivanhoe, VanOverbeke drove for the kids he called, “Precious Cargo”.
Kids all over the school district are mourning the loss of “Norm.” Many a time I’d see him when he’d delivered kids to a game, or back and forth from Ivanhoe.
He was a passionate man with a love for kids.
It’s hard to believe these three men are gone from our midst.
Can’t say we could get more out of Virgil after 100 years, but it’s particularly alarming when we lose a 69-year-old man like “Norm.” I recall one thing Virgil told me one time. He said it had gotten very lonesome around here in recent years. “All my friends are dead,” he’d chuckle.
As for Conrad Hennen, I’ve got to say all the members of the Hennen family have gone way out of their way to make me feel like a true Minneotan.
Conrad was certainly one of those. And he had a contagious smile. We’re going to miss you Virgil, Conrad and Norm. But while they’ve left us in body — we’ve still got the thought of their sparkling, wonderful personalities.
I’ve loved being the newspaperman in Minneota for nine years. It’s people like Virgil, Conrad and Norm who fuel my love for the community. And there are so many more, too! Thanks Minneota — but we’ll all miss our friends who have gone before us!
LAUGH A LITTLE: Getting married. Woman: They say marriages are made in heaven. Man: Yeah, but so are thunder and lightning.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As My Ole Pappy used to say, “You’re an intellectual if you can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking about the Lone Ranger.”
I grew up with the Lone Ranger as a television series and loved it. When Ole Pappy heard the Lone Ranger theme song, he knew it was from the William Tell Overture. I was a simple Lone Ranger fan so Ole Pappy’s insight was valuable. Thanks Ole Pappy!