The residents of Lard Lake and Aitkin, mourn the passing of another great American, Joan Christensen, 90, mother of sons Jim “Minnow” Christensen and Brian, and daughter Julie Nordean. Their mom passed away peacefully in her sleep only four days after the death of her eldest son, Bill, 70, my friend and wild rice guy. Joan’s close friends tell me that she said “I don’t want to bury my son.” What a wonderful and motherly way to go.

Joan and her husband, Bill “Minnow” senior, for many years ran the best bait shop in Aitkin County. Joan was also the “foster grandmother” to generations of Aitkin kids by virtue of the day care she ran out of their home. It was a wonderful place for the kids, they could stroll into the attached bait shop and watch the minnows, frogs and even the occasional snapping turtle in the backyard pen being fattened up for turtle soup.

The place was a hotbed of “toddler romance” with many preschool crushes starting there, why, when our young “Venison Ben” was just a buck fawn, he fell hard for a gorgeous Finnlander doe. Ben tells me that when the tots would become especially unruly, just the sight of Joan wielding her wooden spoon would be enough to quell the insurrection.

The day care wasn’t only for the kids, as you would find many parents hanging around Joan’s kitchen after work, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze.

Joan’s hospitality was famous. I had the pleasure last year to return to Joan’s kitchen just to sit and talk, I even enjoyed a cup of her coffee and I don’t drink coffee. She was so interested in what my sons were up to now that they are approaching middle age. I brought Joan her very own “Lard Lake Bitin’ Sows Five Man Semi-pro Football Team” sweatshirt (one of only two in existence).

Joan was the biggest fan of my “Lard Lake” column, the day after the latest tale would be published, my phone would ring and it would be Joan telling me how much she enjoyed it. How I will miss those calls! I have been putting together an anthology of those yarns and had just finished writing the dedication to Joan when I heard the news.

We ask God’s blessings and consolation for the Christensen family and pray that someday we will all be together again in our Heavenly home, coffee, conversation and all!

Bill Stein is a retired dentist, shepherd of random thoughts and an observer of the general situation.

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