Goodbye, Dad

Dad sent me three letters last week and in one of the envelopes was another edition of his “ramblings” as he called them, stories from his life. I read the letters, but not the ramblings because, you know, I’d have plenty of time before our next Zoom call to do that. Then he up and died, just like that, on Monday night.

By Tuesday evening, I still hadn’t cried. Not the big cry, anyway. I wrote his obituary earlier that day and made some phone calls and inquiries for my mom – the usual stuff you do when someone dies. None of that sparked tears like I expected.

The weather was lovely, so I took his ramblings out to the deck and started reading. I got to a part where I had a question for him and I reached for the phone to call him. Wait, I reminded myself. He’s gone. I read on until I got to a place where he took a break and he wrote, “Until next rambling… Love, Dad. P.S. See you next week!”

That did it. Sent me right over the edge. And it felt good. Cleansing. Painful, as it should. He’d been suffering with labored breathing for months and I was able to feel both relief that he was no longer suffering and deep sadness, side by side. Two-for-one tears. It was magnificent.

The following is his obituary. I hope it gives you a sense of who he was.

Martin Donald “Don” Haraldson, formerly of Jasper (MN), passed away on Monday, April 5, in his home in Albertville. He celebrated his 90th birthday on February 26.

Dad was six years old when his father died, and from that moment, he absorbed the world around him, and remembered every moment, every person, and every detail. It’s how he learned to read an audience and to tell a story that was sure to stick. He cared about everyone, and he learned to find common ground and to talk to people about what mattered most to them.

Dad worked hard all his life. From selling his mother’s homemade donuts to neighbors on a Saturday morning, laboring on his grandfather’s and uncle’s farms or working at Boe’s Grocery as a young teenager, he did everything he could to help his family.

Dad graduated from Jasper High School in 1948 and continued to work odd jobs as a painter and mechanic until 1950 when he joined the U.S. Navy. While stationed at Barber’s Point Naval Base, Oahu, in 1952, he married Ardith Hagebakken. In 1954, Dad was discharged and they moved to the Minneapolis area. In 1971, Dad bought Kenny’s Grocery in Jasper, and in 1977, construction of Haraldson’s IGA was completed.

Dad didn’t grow up with a dad, but he knew how to be a dad. He would put $20 in our pockets even when we were old enough to not need it. He taught us how to drive, how to paint a house, how to bait a hook, and how to make the perfect cheese omelet. But mostly, he taught us how to love. Dad loved his wife, his kids, his grandkids, and his great-grandkids with all his heart. He knew pain and he knew grief, but he never let those emotions supersede his love, which always shined on Valentine’s Day, his favorite holiday. And if we couldn’t all be together on Christmas, he’d make a cassette tape recording of the activities and his thoughts about the day and send it to us.

Dad was a gifted woodworker, and his work lives on in the homes of hundreds of people across Minnesota and beyond. He also never passed up a game of cribbage, a cookie, a lutefisk dinner, or a chance to go fishing.

We hope Dad was welcomed into heaven with a glass of Old Smuggler on ice. Cheers, Marty. You lived a long and good life. You will be sorely missed.

Surviving are his wife, son Marty (Brooklyn Park), daughter Debbie and son-in-law Steve (Seattle), daughter Lynn (Pittsburgh), son Matthew and daughter-in-law Tracy (St. Michael), daughter Emily and son-in-law Dana (Anaheim); eight grandchildren: Carlene, Cassie, Christopher, Michaela, Ian, Gabriel, Andrew and Kevin; four great-grandchildren: Claire, Luca, Maelie, and Audrey Rose, with whom he shared a birthday; sister-in-law Shirley (Hawes) Haraldson; and several nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his father Martin, his mother Signe, son-in-law Bruce Bouwman, and brother, David.

Interment will be at Fort Snelling. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Dad believed no one should go hungry and was a volunteer at the Hanover Area Food Shelf. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to: Hanover Area Food Shelf, Attn: Helen Skutley, PO Box 394, Hanover MN 55341.

16 thoughts on “Goodbye, Dad

  1. I’m so very sorry for your loss, he sounds like a wonderful person and father. The obituary you wrote for him is lovely.

  2. I’m sorry, Lynn. It is so hard to lose a parent. Your Dad sounds like a very loving and giving father. Your obituary is a lovely tribute and shows he will be missed by many.

  3. My thoughts and prayers to you and your family, Lynn. Your dad was a great man. Your tribute was beautiful. 💙💙

  4. Sorry for your loss, Lynn. I know that feeling of reaching for the phone, only to remember they’re not there. It can be so hard, even now 20 years later. My dad had found the wonders of email in his last few years and would offer me “ramblings” as well, which I just loved. When he died, I saved them all to a floppy disk, of all things. I still have it, though no way of retrieving what’s on it. Maybe some day I’ll find a service to do that for me. For now, it’s comforting just seeing that disk on my dresser every morning. My condolences to you and your family.

    1. I giggled a little at “floppy disk” 🙂 I do hope you find someone who can convert that for you. My sister typed up most of Dad’s “major” work and we all have a Word doc, but one of these days I’ll have to put all his letters in order and sort through them for the actual letters and the ramblings. There aren’t a lot of folks left who lived through the Depression and those first-person accounts are fascinating. Thank you for your kind words. As always, your words have a way of putting me at ease.

  5. You had me at “age 90 and at home…” How extraordinary to be communicating with his dear ones until his last days. Can any of us dare to ask for something beyond this and at that age? Blessings to him and his hard-earned legacy!

    1. You know, I hadn’t thought of it that way, and you’re so right. Dad was a talker up to the moment he died, and I mean that in a good way! Thank you for that 🙂

  6. Ardith, We are so sorry for the Family, last time we seen Marty was at the Albertville, farm market, our sympathy to the family.

  7. So sorry to read about the passing of your father. He sounded like a wonderful man. I too lost my father recently back on March 31, very unexpectedly. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my entire life. I was his only child and I was the only family member present at the hospital when he struggled to take his last breath. Despite the pandemic, I had been doing great with eating healthy and staying fit up until this point. I have managed to regain 15 pounds since then. I originally began reading your blog many years ago and was so inspired by your story and your writing. It feels great to have found your blog again and feel like I have reconnected with an old “friend”. Hopefully I will get this weight loss thing turned around as best I can as I navigate this grieving process and new normal. Best wishes to you and your family!

    1. I’m sorry about your loss, too. Wishing you much peace in your grief. And welcome “back” to my blog 🙂

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