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Bidding farewell to Maria Johnson

Fair Oaks Lodge was busy this week with all the regular things as well as a birthday party and an afternoon of music. An annual treat that happened on Wednesday was the many rhubarb treats baked by staff. They were great, with many pies, cakes, cookies, as well as rhubarb upside-down deserts.

This was the week we had to bid Maria Johnson farewell as she retires. Maria graduated as a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis in 1964.

After graduation Maria worked at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, nursed in both Minneapolis and St. Cloud Veterans' hospitals for 15 years , and at Tri-County. She began working at Shady Lane Nursing Home in 1989 as assistant director of nurses.

John and Maria have three children and five grandchildren. They have kept busy with their elk farm for the past years. Last Wednesday afternoon, there was a staff dinner party for Maria, with many good wishes. She will be missed.

John and Maria plan to start on their trip to Alaska in their RV on Monday morning. They will take their time on this trip that has been on a back burner for a long time.

This being the week of Memorial Day, I considered asking our veterans to recount memories of those years. On the heels of that thought came one asking myself why? How unfair and thoughtless to ask them to relive what had to have been the most stressful time in their young lives.

I can say "young lives" because war is only interested in taking the best young lives, cream of the crop.

My own favorite war story is one experienced by my father, Russell Linnell, who was a doughboy in World War I, with two scars to prove it. One left a puckered hole in the palm of his left hand while the other ploughed a deep furrow from shoulder to shoulder across his back.

I can still hear dad telling that story one of the few times he talked about the war. He said, "I ducked into the gutted basement of a bombed-out church in France, to catch my breath, check my weapons, when out of the dusty gloom another bedraggled soldier materialized.

"We were both young, in our early 20s. We were filthy dirty, hungry and couldn't remember when we had slept last. That's where our likenesses ended because he was in the nondescript gray uniform of the Kaiser and I wore the stars and stripes. We took a long minute looking at each other over before our eyes met. I've often wondered, what happened to him?"

I know this scene must have happened many times to other doughboys, but this is dad's story.

What would happen, do you suppose, if soldiers all over the world, after being honed into killing machines, marched up to the front, laid down their guns and bombs, and shook hands? The message in a handshake is universal the world over.

Let the big shots in a country solve its problems by fighting each other. Don't bet the grocery money that the choice of weapons wouldn't change fast from sophisticated affairs capable of night-sight to sling shots with a range of 200 feet, to be shot at high noon the last Sunday in leap year only if it is raining.

I know it won't happen, but what if?