Langdon Long Ago

Several topics were running through my mind including the fact that I wanted to write something about Harvey Sand, who passed away recently. I have known Harvey most of my life, and whether we agreed on everything or not, considered him a friend. I expect I first knew him through his friendship with my next door neighbors. who were his classmates and went to the same church he did.

Posted 8/22/19

By Rita Maisel

However, I got to know Harvey better in the 1990s when he was the treasurer for the Lebanon Cemetery Board. Also serving on the board at that time were George Plummer, Warren Waind, Neil Heck, Dick Eklof and one of my neighbors, Adam Symons. Adam was the sexton for the cemetery, and when people came to town searching for a long ago ancestor’s grave, those visitors would look up Adam for information. If the request came in letter form, Adam would show me the letter and suggest I answer it for him. He knew I was part of the group who had spent years on cemetery records, sometimes borrowing his books in the process. It was not a total surprise when the board asked me to sit in on their meeting one evening and do some secretarial work for them.

The problem was finances, and in Harvey’s words they were “eating their seed corn”. More funds were spent on paying for mowing than were coming in from contributions or sale of lots. They would like to write to the descendants of the people buried there and ask them for contributions, but they needed help with locating family members who might donate to the cause. The cemeteries where my relatives are buried all had plans to cover ongoing expenses. Some places charged an annual fee, some asked for contributions, and some had a perpetual care agreement which went with the sale of new lots. The Lebanon board wanted to combine voluntary contributions with perpetual care and the result became the Cemetery Improvement Fund. By the time that fund was established, some of the original board members were older and in fragile health. The project itself, in a way, revitalized the board.  It had not occurred to the members that the task of folding and stuffing the envelopes or putting on stamps for mailing would be a shared activity. As the first responses were returned the bank balance benefited and so did their spirits.

The word “improvement” led to cemetery visitors suggesting changes in the landscaping, repairing the old gate (now gone), installing a new entrance and after the 2005 storm, replacing trees. The original board remained friends, and new members took over the duties as others passed away. Harvey might have been still serving in the legislature when he passed on the books to others. Younger board members continue to oversee the grounds and make improvements. Yes, they still welcome voluntary contributions.

A letter from Dick Hamann arrived about the same time as news of Harvey Sand’s death. Dick is now 93 and during the last winter was quite ill and in the hospital.  Not knowing if he would recover, he spent some of his hospital time writing down his thoughts on a variety of issues. He saw some things differently than he had imagined them when writing a book about the life and death of his son, John, who died in 2002. In some cases, he thought he needed to forgive people who had treated him badly over the years; in other cases he was very grateful for people who had been important in his life and that he had loved dearly. Sending me some of these thoughts sent me to the shelf at the library where two of Dick’s books are located, and I believe there may still be copies available for purchase in the Langdon community.

While both of us grew up and went to school in Langdon, I did not know Dick Hamann until we began working on the Langdon Centennial Book, and later, neighbors were involved in a big Hamann Reunion at their farm so being interested in local genealogy, we got better acquainted. Dick grew up on his grandparents’ homestead (am not sure if the land was originally his grandmother’s or his grandfather’s as their land was side by side) and writes about the hard times of the Depression in the 1930s, the hard physical work of farming with horses and later tractors, custom combining, and life in Cavalier County down through the years. He signed up for the Peace Corps and went overseas where he met Lina who may have brought him the most joy of all. It is understandable that they pinned their hopes and dreams on their children, Leah and John.

Dick’s first book was Hauling the Biggest Load. The title is a term derived from his work in the threshing fields. He and friends worked hard to have the biggest load on their wagons as they lined up next to the threshing machines. The subtitle for this book was about the personal journey through grief and the loss of their son. John died in an accident not too far from their home. This was a tragedy that could have destroyed the last years of their life and does still mark the way they live. One major outcome was that Dick suffered from the physical symptoms of grief that are not always treatable but are very real and sometimes lead to the death of the grieving person. Fortunately, the symptoms lessened, and after a time, life went on. The family had to actively find a way to remember John. The solution became not a shrine as some families might set up but one room at their house with John’s collection of souvenirs and pictures which reminds them daily of his joy in life and the things he loved to do – a whole lifetime of memories reminding them to smile as they remember him.

His next book, which was smaller, was written a few years later and contains thoughts about grieving for his son, John, and people who have shared their own grief stories with him. In a community with many deaths in recent years, both books are worth your time, and I suspect Dick and his wife, Lina, would be pleased to hear from long ago readers.

I was reading Dick’s letter around the same date as the 60th anniversary of my mother’s death from cancer in 1959. We had known for more than seven years that her illness was terminal, and the first verdict from her surgeon was that she would die the fall after her first diagnosis and surgery. We rode the greyhound bus home, and she went back to work. With 19 more trips to Rochester, many experimental procedures, some of which are now obsolete, she worked until about two months before her death- seven and a half years later. We were prepared for her death but not prepared for the grieving that normal people go through. I found reading Dick’s stories to be insightful and am glad he shared his thoughts with me and mentioned I could share them with readers. If the story helps you, call and tell him so.