‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

I had another one of those reminders again the other day.

Slow it down. Be in the present. Appreciate the now. It’s so easy to think, “I’ll be happy when _________.” But the truth is, when that happens, you find something else that puts off happiness again.

My wife & I attended the funeral for Kim Nesselquist on Monday at the Nordic Heritage Museum. It really was a Who’s Who of the Norwegian Community–Norway’s Ambassador to the U.S. was there, former Secretary of State Ralph Monroe sat behind me and on and on. But this isn’t about name-dropping. It’s about Kim and what a reminder his life was of living the right way.

If you knew him, no explanation necessary. If you never had the pleasure of meeting him (and you would know if you did), you missed one of the greatest human beings to occupy this planet.

Oh, sure, there were achievements and honors and awards. But what was always most important to him was his family. And doing the right thing.

It’s tough to lose someone at any time of year, but losing a husband, father and son at the young age of 63 is mind-numbing. The cancer that eventually claimed his life made for a long, slow, painful departure, but a time he maximized as best he could.

Nine months ago, Kim’s body crashed. It was the most terrifying night imaginable for his family as he flat-lined TWICE for minutes that felt like hours. Somehow, doctors were able to save him. But it was what he brought back with him that gave him the peace he needed to accept his destiny.

Kim said that while he was flat-lining, he felt an incredible peace. It made him realize how wonderful that next life would be and as much as he didn’t want to leave his family behind, it helped him in accepting a situation that was out of his control. He also remembered experiencing an earthquake while he was under, waking up to find doctors pounding on his chest.

I’m telling you all this because, basically, that’s what this season is all about. I’m not going to get all religious on you, but for me, Kim’s recollections of what’s to come gave me hope and peace. You know, like the “on earth” kind.

His daughter Elise bravely went up before the crowd of 600+ and delivered a collection of thoughts that conveyed what she wanted to say, but at the same time, honored her late father. It was one of the best, organized, heart-felt expressions of thoughts I’ve ever heard in a eulogy. Among the things she cited were the Paradoxical Commandments, which were news to me and boy, did they fit her late father’s life perfectly. So, I feel I must share them with you.

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Elise concluded the salute to her father with a pre-recorded video of her performing “What a wonderful world.”  She was able to share her performance with her father before he passed. The song will always have special meaning for her because it was one Kim performed for her when she was a kid, in his best Louis Armstrong voice. It was also the song they danced to at her wedding last year, during the Father-Daughter dance.

Whenever there was a Norwegian event, you’d see Kim there. I had the pleasure of grabbing beers with him a couple of times and we were blessed to be able and visit Kim a couple of times during his final months. Even as he fought his internal battle, his face would still default to a smile. Yeah, that smile. It’s the one everyone sees in their mind whenever they remember Kim Nesselquist and will continue to remember, for many years to come.

Thanks Kim for showing us how to do this life thing really, really well. Rest in peace.

Tim Hunter

I Know Those Guys

As the years roll by, there are fewer people to impress by mentioning that I knew Stan Boreson. Knew him?  Heck, I helped write songs with him for his second Christmas album. Stan was a northwest treasure and a part of so many childhoods of people who grew up in the Seattle area.

He was the grandson of Norwegian immigrants. What is it about Norwegians that they have had such an impact on my life?

I had probably only been to Ballard a handful of times in my life prior to meeting my wife, Victoria. An uber-Norwegian, it quickly became clear that if I wanted to spend any time with her, I would need to join all the clubs and organizations she belonged to, which I did.

I said in the beginning that one of the things I liked so much about the Scandinavian community in Ballard is that it reminded me of the area in South Dakota where my relatives live. A folksy, everybody-knows-everybody kind of place. Growing up in the Los Angeles Fastlane, the concept of slower-paced living appeals to me.

But there’s another Norwegian influence out there that I’m dedicating this column to: a fellow named Leif Eie. You may know him, many have interacted with him over the years, but the more I find out about the things he did, I simply marvel.

I met Leif years ago when I was Larry Nelson’s producer at KOMO Radio. Leif was in charge of SAS–Scandinavian Air Service–that flew in and out of Seattle, taking people all over the world. Leif wisely knew the power of getting a popular personality behind his product and so he would often arrange for Larry and his close friends to go on travel junkets. The boys would get to travel to all kinds of fun destinations, which of course, Larry would talk about with his first-hand experience in their SAS radio commercials.

For four and a half years, I did the early rise as Lar’s producer and we became quite close. I use to love telling him that he was like a great-great-great-uncle to me. That’s also where I first got to know Leif. Now, we’re talking four decades ago, but what I remember most is here is the guy with the Seattle keys to an airline, and he was simply a nice guy. Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. He sent me a copy of a CD he had recorded. He’d pass along things he thought I’d find funny.

As I became more and more involved with the Seattle Norwegian community in recent years, I met more and more people who had a Leif Eie story to tell. He was the guy that negotiated the lease for the Nordic Heritage Museum with the Seattle School district. He had written some books. He had recorded some songs. He had started a Norwegian dinner 40 years ago that continues to this day at the Normanna Lodge in Everett. He worked with friends like Ozzie Kvithammer and John Hughes in the early development days of Bothell. He was a founder of the Seattle Sister City Association and made our first official relationship happen with Bergen, Norway.

That’s why I so thrilled when I heard Leif finally finished a book on his life story. “Modern Viking: The Traveling Tales of a True Norwegian” just came out this month and you can order it right here. To be honest, I don’t know how it got it all in one book or if this is just going to be the first in a series.  In any case, should you ever have the good fortune to meet Mr. Eie, you will never forget him.

I see online that he’s heading towards his 90th birthday next year and you seriously wouldn’t know it. The mind is still so sharp–his wit, the charm, the pleasantries, they’re all there.

I did some digging and even though it’s out of season, here’s one of the great moments in Seattle radio that includes all three of those men I mentioned above and admire so much. It’s from one of Stan’s visits to KOMO around Christmas and we stuck Leif up in the KOMO Air Patrol with Ted Garlatz for the morning.

I’m very proud to say I got to know Stan, Larry and Leif. I’m not saying that in a boastful way, but with appreciation and the realization I know I am very blessed to have had my life path cross theirs. Each has had a long-lasting impact on my life and how I live. Thank you, gentlemen. I am forever grateful.

Yep. I know those guys.

Tim

It’s Going To Be Big!!

Something huge is coming to the Pacific Northwest and you may not have even known about it.

Due to the fact I was swallowed up in the Nordic community as a result of my marriage to a girl from Ballard, I know that there’s a lot of excitement about the first weekend in May. Yes, this year, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday. And, if I may digress just a bit further, did you know that whatever day St. Patrick’s Day falls on is the same day as Cinco de Mayo?  And in 2018, BOTH are on Saturdays!

OK, now back to the subject at hand–that first weekend in May, Seattle is going to be celebrating the opening of the brand-new Nordic Museum right there on Market Street in Ballard.  Let me try to help you realize just how big of a deal this is:

  1. This has a been a dream for years, with some convinced it would never actually happen. In the early days, there were two factions–one that wanted the museum at it’s new site and another group that wanted it to be where the Museum of History & Industry ended up on Lake Union.  The ones who wanted it closer to Seattle thought it would be best for the sake of tourism, but the long Scandinavian history of the Ballard area seemed to make the Market Street location more appropriate. Market Street eventually won out.
  2. The new museum was designed by Mithun. Among their more famous works, the National Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C..  They also designed the Seattle Aquarium and the Januik/Novelty Hill Winery over in Woodinville, among many other projects.
  3. That opening weekend could bring quite a few Scandinavian celebs to town, and even heads of state. We’ll see how the guest list shakes out.
  4. The New York Friggin’ Times even named the yet-to-open museum as one of the Top 52 Places in the World to visit in 2018!

The new Nordic Museum is going to have a larger performance hall with better acoustics, more room for exhibits that they couldn’t bring in to the previous location at that abandoned Seattle elementary school. (which is being refurbished and put back to work as a school in the near future)

Sadly, one of the things not making the move is the “Dream of America” Exhibit. As I understand it, the exhibit was given on loan to the museum by Denmark and apparently, it is going to head back there now. A lot of the things that “Dream” demonstrated will now be done electronically, as the move is made into a high-tech environment. I was fortunate enough to video-tape the final docent tour of the Dream of America and by watching the video below, you’ll be able to enjoy the full experience of what that exhibit offered, thanks to the expert commentary by one of the long-time supporters of the museum, Mari-Ann Kind Jackson.

I’m a big fan of everyone living their dream. The new Nordic Museum has been a long-time dream for so many Seattle people who have dedicated hundreds of hours to making it happen.

And in just a couple of months that dream becomes reality. The celebration is set for that first weekend in May. Hope to see you there.

Tim Hunter