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Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Fondell Family Farm

On Monday the entire family drove out to Dawson, Minnesota, a small farming community west of Minneapolis.  There is something very soothing about driving across rural America.   
I love seeing the big farms, the tall corn, the open landscape. Some of the my photographs are hazy because the steam from the humidity was affecting my camera.  It was a hot and humid Minnesota summer day.
Dawson is where the Swedish immigrants from Doug's family set up a family farm in the late 1800's and where Doug's grandfather farmed the land and where Doug's father was raised.  It is also where Debbie was born and desired to be buried.  The burial itself was a moving occasion, attended mainly by family.  It was noted that Debbie is the 5th generation of Fondell's buried in the cemetery.  No one from the 4th generation is buried there yet but Doug's parents do plan to have their grave sites there as well. 
The gravestones of Doug's father's parents
I've never seen a graveyard where one family has such a prominent presence.  It was actually very special and quite moving.  The first graves were engraved with Swedish, reminding us of our immigrant history. 
You can hardly see it but it does say Född and Död: Born and Died
The verse on this grave was written in Swedish: "I know that my Savior lives"
The corner stone from the original church is also written in Swedish: Missionskyrkan...which is the same kind of church that Doug and I now serve in Stockholm.  The circle of life seemed quite prominent in this small town Minnesota cemetery.  I was happy to listen to Doug reminisce about his childhood, speaking of the fun they had on the farm when they went to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  One of his cousins still lives in the homestead so it was great fun to be there after the service to take in a bit of Doug's childhood.  It reminded me a lot of the small town my mom grew up and the house brought back a lot of memories of the childhood home my mom grew up in, where my grandmother lived well into her 80's.  Our nephew delighted in driving the tractor lawn mower. I had to laugh when I saw the chickens running around the front yard of the Pastor's house.  Our life in Stockholm is just a bit different from this rural farm town!
Dawson, Minnesota is definitely a place of prominence for the Fondells.  To see the generations of people who have lived and died there, to visit the home of Doug's grandparents, to interact with the family and hear stories of their life there was a special part of the experience for me.  Debbie wanted to be buried in the place where she was born, near her ancestors.  It all seems uniquely appropriate for a history teacher.
Our immigrant history came back into full focus once again and left me with warm feelings about our own return to Sweden in this generation.  I may have to read William Moberg's Emmigrants once again.  His story is our story in so many ways.  It was a day filled with the sorrow of burying a sister, the joy of embracing a family, remembering a special past and the awesomeness of seeing how generations of folks have touched that land.