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Family and friends put the ‘fun’ in funerals

March 22, 2009
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Having fun at a funeral just can't be wrong. It can't be.

But if it is, I'm in big trouble.

My parents Pat and Ray Hansch; Bob and Charlotte Willwerth; Roberta and Ervin Michalson; and Rose and Lester Hansel lived along what's now called Xavier Avenue northeast of Vincent for as long as I can remember.

Like any farm folk, they got together occasionally when their families were growing, but when the kids moved away, the parents played. They started a soup supper about once a month, I think it was, and had so much fun together, they started playing cards.

Of the eight, Ervin was the first to go - 1980, I think - starting something I dreaded to face. This was our older generation, and suddenly one of them died.

We buried Charlotte on St. Paddy's day, the last of the eight to go.

"I'm just all alone out here now," she said after Roberta died two years ago, which was two years after Mom died. She was lonely - lonely for Roberta and for Mom, mostly, because the three of them spent hours together, calling each other every day to make certain all were OK.

Charlotte loved Peeps, those little yellow sugar marshmallow chicks so prevalent at Easter, so Mom took her a box every year. I started that, too, since you can never have too many sweets.

For Charlotte's 90th birthday on Valentine's Day, I found red Peeps hearts for her, and at her funeral, I fully intended slide a box of them into her coffin, but I chickened out. I kept wondering what the more proper people would think looking in at her and seeing Peeps looking back at them.

I wish I hadn't chickened out. Charlotte was one of God's greatest ideas - she deserved something to munch on in the hereafter.

At Charlotte's funeral, a bunch of us from the old neighborhood sat together. It was like old-home week, and it made me happy. At the little Vincent cemetery, Charlotte's family shared roses from the bouquet - one for Mom's grave, one for Roberta's grave.

I rode with Marilyn Michalson Kriegh back to the Methodist church in Eagle Grove.

"Do you remember babysitting for us?" I asked.

She groaned so loudly, she nearly drove into the ditch. Seems whenever the folks would call her, she'd beg Roberta to say she didn't have to go.

Marilyn chose her words carefully. "You guys were little houligans," she said. "That's what my mother would call it."

I'm afraid to ask Joan Peterson Kist what she thought of us as a babysitter.

Here, I thought we were nice kids. OK, we chased one another through windows occasionally - I've got scars to prove that. One of my sisters got hit with a flying tin can lid, and she's got a scar to prove that. We knocked more than one light off the ceiling when jumping on beds.

Hmmm. Maybe we weren't the best and the brightest. Go figure.

People in the old neighborhood have got to start getting together for something other than funerals.

I want to hear somebody say we were good kids.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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