Happy Birthday, Pop

Hey, it’s my dad’s birthday.

He was born up in Marshall County, Minnesota, the same year that Warren Harding became president of the United States. Who’d ever have thought we’d get a president who’d make Harding look so harmless? But enough of the politics. Although Dad was born in Warren, the county seat and where the closest hospital is, Dad’s parents (Sjur Ingebretsson Brekke and Otilia Sieversen Brekke) lived in Alvarado, where my grandfather was pastor of the Lutheran parish from about 1917 through 1925 (he had at least one other congregation he served, too, at a rural church called Kongsvinger).

The area had a certain ethnic flavor: Alvarado was half Swedish, half Norwegian back then, and started out in the late 19th century with two different congregations. Services at Kongsvinger were said in Norwegian exclusively up through the 1930s. From Alvarado, the family moved to Chicago, where Sjur had attended seminary (on the site of Wrigley Field) after arriving in the United States in 1893, age 17, and where my grandmother’s very large family lived (she was the first child in her family born in the States, in October 1884). In Chicago, my dad became fluent in English (very useful), became a Cubs fan (not so useful), met my mom (indispensable development, from my point of view), played for the Chicago Bears (tuba, in the marching band they used to have perform; I’ve been working that line for decades), worked at Spiegel’s when it really was Spiegel’s, raised a big, challenging family of his own, and has generally been a remarkable, interesting, fun guy to be around.

OK, that’s it. Happy birthday, Dad!

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