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Dad


Sun, Oct 1st, 2000
Posted in

Monday, September 11, 2000

Last week while tending my booth at the Minnesota State Fair I got the call Iíve always dreaded. "Sit down," my brother Derald said softly. "Dad died just a little while ago."

Waves of emotion. Deep sighs. Tissue paper. Then telling my children.

On Sunday we drove to Shullsburg, Wisconsin, in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, to take Daddy home. He was born on a farm outside of town in 1908, and moved to the Manitowoc/Sheboygan, Wisconsin area during World War II. My mother, a wife of 72 years, gave him his final kiss goodbye and we put him to rest in the Evergreen Cemetery.

Now I know there were only a handful of people in Fillmore County who ever met Daddy, but I want you to tell you a little about this good man, my father Harold Bell.

Dad lived 92 years. He was a warrior. He showed us what strength, determination and grit looked like. Dylan Thomasí poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night," could have been written for him as he overcame unbelievable challenges. At age 54, he suffered his first major heart attack. At age 85, he had open-heart surgery; then at 91 he made it through a bout with bladder cancer. But a few weeks ago his kidneys failed and after trying dialysis his body could take no more.

He served not only as an example of strength, but from him we learned about love and kindness. Daddy loved and treasured Mom. We all knew he loved us and he knew we loved him back. And he loved it when we got together. Both Mom and Dad did their very best to instill the value of family. I believe the best tribute our family can make to them both is for us to continue to function as a family. It may sound simple, but I believe, if we can cry together we should be able to laugh together.

Dad gave me some very special gifts. From the time I was little on I remember hearing him say over and over again, "Youíre only as good as your word," and "finish what you start." Throughout the years I have thought long and hard about these pieces of wisdom. I know by finishing what I start I have built my self-esteem and confidence and I have earned the trust of others. By being as good as my word I strive to tell the truth as I see it.

One of my favorite Dad stories was when I asked him how to build a house. He looked down at the floor, looked up, looked down again and then he looked me square in the eye. "You start by digging the basement," he said. My father was not a complicated man. He was hard working, straightforward and practical. The lesson for me in digging the basement was, donít waste time talkingóstart by doing. And now I take comfort in knowing I was a good daughter.

The last time Dad and I were together he was in terrible pain. He reached out for my hand and asked if we could say The Lordís Prayer, then we said The 23rd Psalm. Then Dad looked searchingly and he began, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Dad was, among other things, a horseman and for my 50th birthday he gave me his saddle. The next time I saddle up and signal my horse to move, I believe my father will be riding with me.

Thank you, Dad, for all the gifts you gave.

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