My dad was born in a farmhouse in Hensel , North Dakota, the 3rd son of Richard and Sigrid Arnason. The farm had been homesteaded by Sigrid's parents in the mid 1800's, proud Icelanders and proud Americans. Dad (Fred) went to school in the nearby city of Cavalier and worked summers on his Aunt and Uncle's farm, Harry and Margaret Johnson. More children came in quick succession, another son, triplet girls, another daughter, and much later one more little boy. As a child, I visited that farm and farmhouse, and he showed me a creek where Peter Valtysson had taught him to swim.
During Fred's high school years, the family moved to California. He worked in the shipyards during the early years of WWII, probably the setting of asbestos exposure that caused severe breathing difficulty in the later years of his life. On return to North Dakota, he graduated from Central High School in Grand Forks, and joined the US Army. Since his brother Ray was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Fred was able to remain stateside. His station was Arlington, Virginia doing cryptography and coding. When I was 9 or 10, he showed me how to write and use a simple code. I think I still remember most of it.
Fred returned to Grand Forks after his discharge from the army and went to the University of North Dakota on the GI bill. He was a proud member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He met my mother, Helene and married her just after his law school graduation. It was a love affair that was to last almost 52 years. I was the first of 7 children who were born over 11 years time.
In March of 1956, tragedy visited the Arnason family. Fred's dad and youngest brother (age 16) were killed in a plane crash on their way back from Fargo, North Dakota. Dad was 28 years old. This established his role as the family "helper" in times of trouble. He became the "go to" guy for his mom and sisters, and ultimately his children and friends as well.
With a budding law practice and a growing family, we moved in October 1958 to a house on Chestnut Street. In conversation we called it simply "2304." It was to be home for 50 years. We grew up through the lean years and into more prosperous times. Though we originally went to St Mary's Church; Holy Family Church was founded in 1960. At that time Mom and Dad promised our new pastor, Father John Axtman that they would send their children to Holy Family School, and all seven of us attended.
Dad took good care of his mother, Sigrid, over the remaining years of her life. She had dinner with us nearly every Sunday for about 40 years. She was often joined by my widowed Auntie Anna Dippee, or Auntie Maude. Father Axtman, Father Potter and a few others were also frequent guests. The Sunday meals I remember best were fried chicken or swiss steak.
Dad and Mom were able to travel in his retirement years, going to France, Iceland, Italy, the Dominican Republic and some places I've forgotten. Dad had several bouts of pneumonia in his later years and his lungs never fully recovered.
Mom died in 2004 after cardiac surgery, and in Dad's own words, his heart was broken. Shortly thereafter, he became dependent on supplemental oxygen as his breathing deteriorated. He continued to drive to daily mass at Holy Family Church, usually followed by breakfast at Perkins. Through most of his final years, he continued to attend UND Sioux sporting events, and milestone events for his children and grandchildren.
In 2010, he moved to a townhouse on Lark Circle. It was all on one level, and easier to get around. He continued to be fiercely independent, driving, writing out his grocery lists and even using the computer until his very last day. He went to join mom, his parents, and some of his siblings on August 15th , 2012. There was a fire of unknown origin, and with his poor lungs, the smoke took his life.
A light went out in the lives of his children, grandchildren and many, many friends on that day. He had huge presence and gave huge amounts of love. I know God welcomed him with open arms.
Daddy, I miss you. The pain is greater than I dreamed possible, but you taught me to live, love, and endure. Thank you. I love you,