Helmer and Leroy

November 11 was a red letter day in Luverne this year. Helmer and Leroy, the two remaining members of the Last Man Club opened the bottle of Bourbon, took a swig, and named  and honored their deceased friends in a last ceremony.

Helmer Haakenson is 98,  and Leroy Luitjens was 93, I believe. Helmer is the thinner man. Leroy died a couple of weeks later in November.  The club was started in 2010, comprised of Second World War veterans who met every day at the grocery store for coffee and mutual support.  My dad was a member. Every guy had a coffee cup with his name on it. Glen, the grocery store owner, provided free doughnuts. When you died, they turned your cup upside down and placed it in the cup rack on the wall.  The rack also contained a huge bottle of expensive bourbon. The bottle was to be opened by the last man, who then was to name his fallen comrades and drink a toast to their memory.

After the founder of the club died earlier this year, Helmer and Leroy decided to open the bottle at the town Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Former Governor Pawlenty’s wife was a special friend to the group, and she participated in the ceremony. Ken Burns, who featured Luverne in his documentary The War, wrote a congratulatory letter, which was read aloud.  Then they opened the bottle, drank a toast, and the name of every member was read and a passing bell was rung.

Helmer insisted that the remaining members in 2014 be honorary pall bearers at my dad’s funeral. He is a hero to me, along with Leroy. I have known them both since my childhood.  I need to write to Helmer.

Who are your heroes?


49 thoughts on “Helmer and Leroy”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Right now Renee and VS are my Baboon heroes, as they pump out daily posts. I do not know how either of you do this.

    My other life-long heroes are the friends, family, and neighbors who helped my family endure the effects of my father’s MS and my mother’s Undiagnosed mental illness. Uncle Jim and Aunt Donna, Revs. Tom Balm and Rev. Harry Thompson (local Methodist ministers) Joe Brice, my music teacher who I will visit Tuesday on our way to AZ, Mildred Brady, Jane Truesdale—my friends’ moms who took me under their wings. They all made a difficult life livable. How do I ever say thanks for all that insight, compassion, and care?

    They are everyday heroes.

    And then there is Carol Burnett who made me laugh.😃💐🥇

    Liked by 6 people

  2. It is difficult to have heroes. These days we know too much about people. People who do exceptional things sometimes are able to do so because of something unusual in their makeup, and that eccentricity can show up in unfortunate ways. Character flaws and character strengths are often the two sides of the same thing.

    Having said that, I embrace my father as a hero. He was loving, honorable and courageous. He rose above the limitations of his difficult childhood. Raised to despise blacks and gay people, he admired the only black guy he ever got to know and he was a great friend to the only gay guy he personally knew.

    My current hero is my daughter. She is loving and wise beyond her years, and I’m proud to know her.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. my dad was a hero of mine. he had a group of buddies he grew up with in fargo who were like uncles to me. they got together every year for the golf stag where they played golf and cards and enjoyed a yearly reunion that lasted until just a few years ago when the group had dwindled down to the last couple of guys and their back swings weren’t what they once were i used to play golf with them in detroit lakes as hunt pheasants ducks and geese across north dakota as a kid their humor and spirit was the stuff the greatest generation was known for. the stories and outlooks on life and this crew had and the joy humor and grace they brought was a model to remember mickey paul coleman conlin snell herbst gibb hakenstead bud charlie freddie mickie vickers … god bless and hats off to a memorable crew that made the gift of returning to my hometown a joy each and every time i visited

    thanks renee


    Liked by 4 people

  4. A lot of people are heroes in small unnoticed ways. Charles Dickens said “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” People who donate their time and money to help other people or animals, or to preserve and beautify the earth, have hero status to me.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. obama
    al frankenstein
    joe biden
    hillary and bill

    in that genre

    tom waits

    shel silverstein
    bill holm

    mark twain

    pat conroy
    amy tan
    and many many more

    Liked by 2 people

      1. One of my lawyer friends from my old law firm who represented Franken during the recount when Al was first elected, was invited, together with about 200 “Team Franken” volunteers, to yesterday’s farewell address. Many tears were shed, he said, but there was also a sense of determination to fight on. We’ve not heard the last of Al Franken or his supporters, I’m sure.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. i often feel like i wish the handcuffs could be taken off and let these guys do the stuff that needs to be done without the reaching across the aisle poppycock factored in.
          so much of what can make the world a better place in obvious but not bi partisan.
          i cant believe the witch hunt is still going on. i am 100% behind the women who have been wronged being but am looking forward to the pendulum being swung back to a reasonable position. we are getting there with blacks gays muslims and now molesters and someday the idea of allowing the things to pass that have gone on un noticed or swept under the rug will be as appalling as smoking a cigarette in the middle of a restaurant is today but i guess we have to turn the corner before you get to the cruise control part of the equation

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Good.

          I expect Al to lay low long enough for Tina Smith to establish herself, then start his next chapter in a big way. I can’t wait.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. tina’s got a year
          her voice will be a squeak before she starts to respond to the barrage from the respected colleagues across the aisle
          al can’t wait to let the political world get their act together
          they are broken
          he is free


    1. I don’t “tweet” or have “followers”, but I do follow Obama’s Twitter account and was rewarded with his latest string of tweets, each making note of undereported stories of Americans doing good for others. There were good stories in 2017, but it’s been hard to see them sometimes.

      It helps, it really does.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I don’t generally think of people who perform heroic deeds as heroes. And I certainly don’t have any expectation that because they have acted courageously in some particular situation, that they somehow are free of human flaws. I’m not apt to admire a person just because they have achieved fame or riches. Jimmy Carter is a person I admire greatly, but not because of his wealth, or the fact that he was once president. It’s his humility and commitment to Habitat for Humanity that appeal to me. I’m more apt to admire common everyday people who live their lives with integrity and display kindness and generosity toward others. I suppose it comes down to what character traits I value most.

    Like Linda and Jacque, it’s the unsung, everyday heroes I cherish most, and like Jacque, I’m fortunate to have had many of them in my life. I still do, and I’m grateful.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. i love jimmy
      i was surprised but on reflection agree when a reporter noted that jimmy and the clintons are not friends
      do you think that’s a bernie like response to clinton’s fundraising priorities and tolerance of some wall street types
      it’s all i can think of


  7. Some of mine are single moms and single dads; caretakers of parents, etc., who still go to full time jobs; kids who survive regular abuse of any kind, with their humanity intact… these are the first few that come to mind.

    I probably won’t be on the Trail tomorrow, so Happy New Year, baboons.


  8. I’m up early, just like I was 19 years ago. Then I was fully expecting to get out of the hospital just in time to dash into work, the go see a movie with some of my extended family.

    That’s not how it turned out.

    I did manage to call one aunt later that day, and she got to tell the rest of the party I would not make it as I was in the hospital with a new baby (expected to arrive during the Super Bowl).

    I never thought about this until now, but we have often gone to a movie for the s&h’s birthday. We don’t go to movies often, and usually then we go to the Riverview, but since the Star Wars series has been releasing​ new movies for the holidays, we’ve one way or another held off seeing it until the 31st (which means we live in a cave until then so we know nothing).

    My hero is without doubt my late, great uncle. A GP in a tiny town in western MN for over 4 decades. I knew him as a very quiet man (like his dad, not so much like his older brother, my dad). I did not see him that often, and I really wish that was otherwise, but that’s not how my family works.

    He was part of the group that went to that New Year’s Eve movie, and they all came to see me the next day.

    When your baby is in NICU, you get 20 minutes with them every few hours and you can have one other person with you. The nurse came to let me know it was time while they were there, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who would go with me, the family doc.

    He’d seen hundreds of newborns and his opinion was what we all wanted.

    He pronounced the s&h a fine, strong baby who would bring me much joy.

    My uncle’s funeral was the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. Still painful on both counts.

    I think an important function of heroes is to inspire us to be better ourselves. When things get really rugged, I think of my uncle, pull myself together, and carry on.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. OT – sort of. Yesterday, Liz Masterson, a much beloved cowboy crooner from Colorado, lost her five year battle with ovarian cancer. I admired the spirit with which she fought what was clearly a very tough battle from the get-go. Liz remained hopeful, optimistic, and engaged with her friends and her musical community to just a few days before her death. She never gave up and only reluctantly acknowledged the inevitable in a journal entry to her CaringBridge site that she was unable to complete. R.I.P, Liz, you’ll be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This morning it was -31° with -52° wind chill here. Kudos to the poor ranchers out here who are taking care of their livestock.


  11. We are no weather heroes today. We got everything we needed at the store yesterday, and husband filled the bird feeders. There is no reason to leave rhe house until Tuesday morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good thinking. I can’t think of anything that I would need badly enough to leave the house, although I will probably have to start my car sometime today just to be sure I can.


  12. Happy New Year’s Eve kids!
    We drove to Trempealeau WI and spent the day with Kelly’s brother, wife and kids. Had a nice visit. And honest, Kelly’s migraine had nothing to do with them. So she’s sitting in the dark, Daughter is watching the New Years celebrations on TV and cheering with all the musical groups. I’m sitting in another room with my headphones and my own music.

    Heroes. I’ve been thinking about this. I have some mentors that are almost heroes to me but I don’t think they’re necessarily the same thing. I mean they might be.
    I’m pretty proud of my son choosing to become a police officer. Actually, all the people I know in the law enforcement field are pretty much heroes to me.
    I know my son is not going to use the “Heroes” parking spot at HyVee though.

    Liked by 1 person

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