Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An obit: I didn’t know Jim, but now I do April 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A fence surrounds the Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery in the Sogn Valley area.

A fence surrounds the Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery in the Sogn Valley area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010 used here for illustration purposes only.

MORE AND MORE, I READ OBITUARIES. Probably because I am aging and more people I know are now dying.

I didn’t know Jim Mueller of Clearwater, though. Yet I still read his 22 column inch obit published April 21 in The Gaylord Hub, a small southern Minnesota weekly where I worked as a reporter for two years right out of college. The Hub arrives in my mailbox each week, a tangible reminder of my past and of the passage of time.

James Henry Mueller left his hometown of Gaylord in 1973, five years before I arrived. If he had still resided there, I likely would have interviewed him. He was that kind of guy. Socially active. A storyteller. A businessman. A character. He would have made for an interesting feature.

Consider this line from the beginning of his obit: Jimmy grew up doted on by his ma and arguing with his pa.

But it is the ninth and final paragraph of this lengthy obit which makes me wish I’d known this 88-year-old:

Jim’s many hats included: Veteran Navy Man, Well Driller, Grain Bin Mover, Beer Seller, Horse Wrangler, and Postmaster. He was a smooth dancer and an ace at bridge. He will fondly be remembered as a Teller of Tales, A Spinner of Yarns, and a Preacher of Sermons.

In addition, paragraph eight notes that Jim donated his body to science. Even in death, his story continues.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. How would you like to be remembered? What hats would others say you wore? What do you think of this trend to personalize obituaries with insights and commentary?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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18 Responses to “An obit: I didn’t know Jim, but now I do”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I like the trend to personalize obits if they do not ramble on and on endlessly. I have always hoped that my obit would be a true representation of my life and what I would love it to say is that “she loved well and without reservation”. Chris and I plan to sit down and write our own one of these days but ah not made it a priority yet.

    • I agree. You have loved well and without reservation.

      That is an interesting thought, to pen one’s own obit.

      I think the trend toward personalizing obits came, at least in smaller papers, when newspapers started charging for publication. Up until then, obits were mostly written in a standard journalistic style. I wrote many an obit back in my days on the staff of newspapers.

  2. Marneymae Says:

    The elder I used to work for went to Radcliffe College (long before it was all Harvard), & she’d receive mailings from her alma mater which contained obituaries from former graduates.
    She’d read them out loud, & it was astonishing, humbling, beautiful to hear these generous stories of people’s very lives!
    Some were quite “impressive”, with the offerings to society/humanity/community/etc.
    These were ordinary people, living rich lives, & I find the current obituary writings to be a generous offering, a micro-memoir or mini-bio in a sense, that i enjoy reading. As if I get to know just a drop of a fellow person’s essence that I’d otherwise never come to honor.
    Short reply: I’m a huge fan of the obituaries of recent times.

  3. That is AWESOME – a Jack of all Trades!!!

    I want my obit and memorial to be a CELEBRATION of LIFE 🙂 I enjoy a great story with pictures included. There is nothing better than creating your story and journeying along to explore, adventure and travel in many ways.

    Thanks so much for sharing. It reminded me of my Uncles who recently passed – military, funny as heck and both a jack of all trades.

    Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • I believe I would have liked your uncle.

      Yes, the celebration of your life needs to be joyful, reflecting your sense of adventure and passion for life.

    • My Uncles were MN born with deep MN Roots. One was a Vietnam Vet and the other one an Iraq Vet (my uncle’s ashes reside in an ammo box). My dad served in the Vietnam War, but in the U.S. since he had a brother deployed. 6 of the 7 brothers served in the Air Force and 4 or 5 all at the same time at one point. My grandma must have been a nervous wreck at times – strong lady though in having to keep all the boys in line – ha! A bunch of jokers that did not have to look hard in getting up to trouble since they had a gang of their own.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    I have saved this clipping for years.

    “Blanchard, Michael “Flathead”

    1944 ~ 2012

    A Celebration of the life of Michael “Flathead” Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone\’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors\’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.”

  5. Julie Says:

    The world is really so small. Jimmy as he was known to me is my Aunt Katie’s (Listed in the obituary as Kathleen Peterson) brother. I saw him last summer in Northfield when some of my aunts, uncles and cousins gathered together in Northfield at the complex where Aunt Katie resides. We laughed at Jimmy as he was taking a snooze after dessert and coffee!! This family of Mueller’s was a good looking group. Jimmy’s mother Mary was a beautiful woman that always styled her silver hair up and wore dresses. My Aunt Katie looks just like her today. We all decided we must have bored him to sleep! Anyway, I just had to share.

  6. I’d like to hear more about the individual who wrote that obit. Sounds like they are a great story teller too. As for myself, I’d like to be remembered as a Mom who loved her children beyond measure and as a woman of faith who always tried to brighten someone’s day.

  7. Margaret Says:

    I read an obit of a 58 yr. old businessman in WI in Jan. 2016. What grabbed me was the line “passed peacefully as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctor’s orders, and raising hell for more than 30 years”. This line appears to be a trend among stubborn men.


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