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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘McNamara Alumni Center

Final Rest

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Under the wearisome pall of constraints in place due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Cyndie’s family orchestrated a laudable graveside service for a small number of family and friends to say final goodbyes to her dad, Fred Friswold, under a mostly cloudy but otherwise dry Saturday. Masks were required and reasonable social distancing requested for the limited 30-minute window of time allowed by Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

We were instructed to arrive at a precise time and remain in our cars until ushered in a parade of vehicles to the gravesite.

The Friswolds have a family plot where Cyndie’s grandparents, her aunt, and her sister have now been joined by her father’s ashes.

In an unfortunate but inconsequential oversight, the canopy ordered to protect from possible rain was missing. The threat of precipitation waned as the appointed hour drew near and by the time we stood as a scattered group to hear various readings and prayers, there were a couple of brief openings in the clouds that revealed blue sky and bathed us in sunshine.

A flock of wild turkeys idly wandered past as if we weren’t there.

Masks served to catch many tears.

From the cemetery, we all drove to the University of Minnesota where the staff of the McNamara Alumni Center –the building Fred and two alumni buddies were instrumental in shepherding to existence– provided a pandemic-constrained space for a meal and program.

It was a day for which I’m confident Fred would approve, partially because only a fraction of the people who would have gushed over his greatness were able to be present so to do.

He touched a lot of people’s lives and impacted exponentially more who never knew him.

I appreciated hearing three different perspectives from people in his world of financial guidance to the YMCA and U of M, as they revealed to me how little first-hand exposure I had to anything but his home and family life.

Fred died in June from a cancer diagnosed the previous December which only compounded preexisting heart and lung ailments. He was clear-minded and fully aware right to the end. In the months since he died, the new reality of his being gone from us was settling in. Yesterday’s events have served to punctuate anew the depths of how much he is missed.

It’s a shame the end of life celebrations are so difficult to hold during a pandemic.

Cyndie’s family did a fine job of achieving all they possibly could under the circumstances.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

The Celebration

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It is tricky to keep a surprise from someone who is the center of planning family events, but to my utter amazement, Cyndie’s family pulled off a gala celebration last night without Marie knowing about it. I gotta say, that is a load off a lot of people’s minds. Especially to those of us not prone to telling lies. For months.

Cyndie’s parents were supposedly going out to dinner with three other couples, but were going to stop by the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota to see a new display honoring one of the friends. Cyndie and her brothers, and brother-in-law Carlos had decorated the place for a world-class event.

Spread across three rooms, there was space to stand and chat, sit and eat, or dance to live music. Even if Marie had an inkling of something afoot, she had no clue how many friends she was going to be honored by this night.

That’s the kind of thing that brings sweet emotional tears of joy.

After that –and a lot of greetings and brief program to recognize 80 years– comes the dancing.

Till the night is no longer young.

If I can be so bold as to speak for Marie, I’ll say, it was a very happy birthday.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2017 at 8:21 am

Precious Memorial

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The Christmas holiday brought a bundle of family events which required that we do a lot of driving. For three days in a row, we drove the over two-hour-long round trip distance, twice a day on two of those. It was all worth it, but when yesterday arrived with no agenda requiring we leave our home, the exhaustion hit and we luxuriated in the gift of staying put.

IMG_4211eIn the afterglow of the Christmas eve and Christmas day events, Friday the 26th became an additional day of precious activities with Cyndie’s family. We started in the morning by gathering at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, where we visited the graves of some of their relatives, including Cyndie’s sister, Michelle, who died at the age of 4 in 1967 as a result of leukemia.

It took some hunting to locate the grave sites, but with the benefit of the lack of snow cover, it didn’t take long to find the markers. Some flowers were laid and then a few members of the family read portions of a memorial prayer that second brother, Barry, had composed.

IMG_4209eThis is the first time the entire family has visited the graves together, which made this a particularly special occasion. Michelle’s death occurred on December 14th, so the Christmas season for Cyndie and her parents and siblings has a way of bringing with it memories of that time in 1967.

As the middle of the day approached, we headed across the city to take a tour of the new auditorium under construction at the Masonic Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota. The family connection to the U of M is strong, but the connection to the Children’s Hospital is especially poignant.

IMG_4217eThe Friswold family has adopted a room in memory of Michelle. We were able to visit a similar adjacent room which was vacant, to see the special features available to children and their families as a result the financial contributions.

A significant effort is made to give the kids being treated as much control over their environment as possible. A touch-screen monitor is suspended on an arm that, among other things, allows the child to remotely control the window shades and alter the color of the room lighting. Of course, I only remember those features because they are the ones our group played with while exploring the room.

To top the day off, we finished with a special private dinner event at the U of M McNamara Alumni Center UofMAlumniCenteralong with the family of Fred Friswold’s frat brother from the class of ’58, Larry Laukka. The Friswold and Laukka families have been getting together regularly at Christmastime the last few years, and this year the two patriarchs took it up a notch, bringing us on campus to share the full story of their incredible persistence as the volunteers who dreamed up and pulled off the incredible accomplishment of this world-class building.

It was a spectacular way to conclude the flurry of holiday family gatherings. Cyndie’s family is very precious, indeed, and I am a lucky man to be included as one of their own.

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