"I remember your Grandparents," the email message said.
At times, someone will respond to a column I’ve written, but not often. This one was a response to a column I’d written about growing up with a father who gave as much as he could to his three children despite a life-long battle with a weak heart.
In the column several weeks ago, I’d talked of a childhood in the Stratford area, which – although a long time ago – still brings back fond memories.
This particular message drew my immediate attention when the writer identified my Grandparents as Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Haglund.
"Our families went to the Stratford Lutheran Church. I saw them in the 1930s and ‘40s. I have lived in Boone since 1965," the message continued.
It went on to tell of his own family and told of a Great Grandfather who had settled in Hamilton County north of Bells Mill Park (on the Boone River) in 1868. Five years later, after a home was built, his Great Grandmother and five children also came to America and the family was reunited. Traveling along with his Great Grandmother and her five children were 49 other Swedish immigrants, all of them from Leksand, Sweden.
Upon their arrival, the family name was changed from "Andersson" to "Leksell." That was a common occurrence among immigrants, especially those from Scandinavia.
When the writer told me of the family name change, it immediately piqued my interest. The Haglunds and Leksells are tied by marriage. I have no immediate blood relatives with the Leksell name, but I do, certainly have family ties.
The man who read my column on that particular day was Erling Larson, who has lived in Boone since 1965. He had, naturally, been raised in Stratford. His grandmother was one of the children who traveled to join her father in 1873. She married one of the 49 Swedish immigrants in 1877.
My own Grandfather was born in 1878 and also came to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1900. He traveled by train across the country and settled in Stratford, even though his ticket was purchased to Denver.
The email message from Erling Larson concluded: "If you would like to visit more about the Stratford Swedes maybe we could get together over a cup of coffee."
That’s all the encouragement I needed.
Quickly replying, a coffee was arranged last week in Boone. My wife and I met Erling and spent an hour talking about Stratford, the Swedes, the Haglunds and the Leksells.
I told him that my first teacher, in a country school west of Stratford, was Arlene Meyers and that my parents rented the Meyers place west, and down the big hill, from there. The farm near the Des Moines River had an artesian well that provided lots of cold water, fun and trouble opportunities for two young boys.
He had been a freshman in high school when Arlene Meyers was a senior, he told me.
There were plenty of other tales we shared, some of my very, very early memories somewhat clouded by time.
It’s quite enlightening to find someone who shares the same background as you and it is even more enlightening to hear some of the same stories, but with a different view.
Thank you, Mr. Larson, for sharing a part of your day with me. It was thoroughly enjoyable, if far too short a visit. Sometimes being a Swede isn’t too bad after all … even though my wife of Norwegian descent has a magnet on the refrigerator that says, "You can always tell a Swede, but you can’t tell him much!"