Some editors write personal stories in this space. Others take the opportunity to put their opinions on local happenings or state issues out there. Some are funny, others are more serious. Some are topical, many go for the timeless angle. I just tend to write about what’s on my mind, or something I come across in my winding days.
Going through old papers for the Looking Back column (page 9) always takes me longer than it should. I get caught up in the social columns, imagining the days of yore when people published their neighbor’s business in the newspaper. There are stories about who’s sick, who visited, who made a long-distance phone call. Those are the early papers. In the 1970s, the paper branched out a little more, with consistent coverage of the schools and sports and recaps of what actually happened during city council meetings rather than simple announcements.
Sometimes I have the good fortune to track something throughout the years. That’s what happened when I wrote about the Keep It Clean campaign. I didn’t go searching for its history in our papers – it very happily came to me. Sometimes I see certain names come back week after week, and I wonder when Dick Miller is going to get home from his injury he sustained while serving in the military. I know he does get home, because he started drawing for the paper and writing an outdoors column in the ‘80s.
Sometimes what I see makes me sad.
In 1953, Dale Stempf and his soon-to-be-bride, Margaret, got stuck in a snowstorm when the couple, along with Margaret’s sister, were transporting the wedding flowers from Wahkon to Malmo. Their wedding was to be the next day, but the car got caught in a drift. After Dale walked up to the Oestereichs to get help, the ladies were escorted to the home, too. Presumably, Margaret and Dale got hitched the next day with no further problems; the article notes, maybe a little cheekily, that someday it’ll be a story they can share with their little ones.
Ten years later, in February 1963, there’s a notice that funeral services were held for Dale Gordon Stempf. He was survived by his wife, Margaret, and three children – two girls and a boy.
Of course, there aren’t many details about the life Dale led. It’s not a proper obituary, just a notice that services were held. It noted that he lived in Minneapolis, was formerly of Malmo and was a member of Isle Baptist Church.
This kind of thing gets my mind spinning. The timing indicates that Margaret and Dale would have been married for 10 years, almost to the day. They had three kids during that time. Their time included a honeymoon, probably buying a house, countless trips to the clinic and hospital, maybe some broken bones, dinners prepared, tears shed, fights and laughter. How did those 10 years end up different than they were hoping at the beginning of their lives together?
I don’t have any idea if the Stempfs are still in this area. It’s not a name I’m familiar with. So I fill in the gaps as I think about what life could have been like between Margaret and Dale. Was he kind? Did he have a loud laugh? Was he a dad who helped his kids with school projects? I hope he gave Margaret a break sometimes. I hope they could spend time together as a family on weekends. Maybe the opposite is true, I don’t know, or somewhere in between, which is probably the most likely. I just hope the Stempfs found a measure of peace and happiness in their lives.
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