Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lots of memories to share

As I am sorting through the boxes that came from Dad's apartment, I am finding so  many memories.
Old photos and memorabilia that had been tucked away.
The beauty of the internet is how easy it is to share images of these items with friends and family.

Here are a couple of photos of The Johansen kids with Dad.

As time goes by, I'll be scanning more and more to share, but for now, this is a nice start.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Who's to say

An eagle flew over our heads at the West Denmark Cemetery as we said goodbye to Ev in October. 

 The morning after Dad passed away, an eagle did a fly-by the window where Kyle and I sat eating breakfast as we struggled with our emotions.  

A male cardinal lands at my bird feeder to remind me of my good friend and other mother, Betty Rosenow. 

 As I sat sorting through Dad's personal effects in my living room the other night, two raccoon showed up on my front deck, where there have never been raccoon before.  They look at me as if they thought they should come in the house (I of course knew that they should not!)  But they made me smile with their cuteness.

Sometimes these events seem to be just too specific to be random acts of nature.  
I prefer to think of these happenings as messages from a loved one, sent via Mother Nature.  
And after-all, who's to say.

Nephew Kyle sent a text on Monday morning from the woods.

Nephew Kris sent me a text on Tuesday morning,

Lora followed up with an email last evening.

Kris says this one is for Grandpa! He shot it with Grandpa's gun!! He had seen a buck last week and couldn't get a shot and said, "Grandpa always said it's not always about being good, but being lucky." 
He thinks Grandpa Wally brought him some luck today. :-)

Maybe if you look for a sign now and then, you'll see one.
If it brings comfort and a fond memory, all the better.
After all, who's to say.

Friday, November 21, 2014


With Dad and Ev both gone, their apartment had to be emptied.  A job like that is not easy and of course, it comes with a deadline so as to avoid paying rent for 'the stuff' to sit there.

The O'Toole kids really worked hard and all of the housewares found new homes, either with family or local charity thrift store.

I knew I would have to go and sort through Dad's things and haul back to Wisconsin all that we wanted to keep.  My Grandfather's rocker was something we want to keep of course and then who knows what else Dad had saved over the years.

Much to my surprise, my best friends, Rochelle & LeAnna told me that they wanted to fly back here and help me with this process.  They felt that they could help me do this and it would be more important than having them attend the Memorial Service in December.  I still can't believe that they did it, but it was a special gift to me.

I picked 'the girls' up at the airport in Minneapolis on Monday afternoon and we headed South.  We stopped and ate lunch and took our time, which in hindsight, maybe wasn't the best plan.  All was going fine until about Albert Lea, when the snow started, the wind was blowing and the sun was setting.  Once it was dark, driving was pretty difficult.  We were very relieved to reach Clear Lake safe and sound.  The motel was full that night as many travelers had abandoned the interstate in favor of safety and warmth.

Tuesday we woke to better weather, although it was cold and windy.  We headed to Belmond to start on the work at the apartment.  I was really impressed with how much had been done by the O'Toole kids.  After making a quick plan, we got to work.  Jeff, Ev's son, came down and we did a few, post office, etc, then headed back to work.  By day's end, we were sure we could finish on Wednesday, so we loaded the car and headed to the drop off at a thrift store in Clear Lake.  We made a donation of sizable quantity there.  

We met Jim and Janette for dinner that evening.  Dad even bought (with Glenn's blessing)!  The 5 of us spent the evening reminiscing about Dad & Ev, laughing and crying and toasting our good fortune to have had Dad and Ev for so long.   We enjoyed our time together and made plans for future visits, but very sadly we were NOT smart enough to have the waitress take our photo!  

Wednesday morning, we were back in Belmond and finished up the packing up of Dad's items.  The residents of the apartment complex were all so kind and spoke so highly of the folks.  By about noon, we packed up the car with as much as would fit and headed back to Clear Lake.  Glenn will return to Belmond to get the remaining items.

The motel was quiet on Wednesday afternoon, so we sat in the lobby and played 3 handed Bridge until supper time.  LeAnna is just learning and Rochelle & I have played but are also still learning.  It was a nice afternoon with friends.  We decided on Cancun for Mexican food that evening, it was just ok, as we 3 all like our food with more spice.  That evening we relaxed in our rooms with our iPads and visited as we played our silly games.  We experimented with an on line bridge game site and hope to have an online game one of these days.

Thursday morning, we packed up and headed for Minneapolis.  The flight was later in the day, but the plan was for me to be heading East by 2pm so I could make it home in the daylight.

We took a pit stop at Cabela's in Owatonna.  Neither Roche, nor LeAnna, had ever been inside a Cabela's.  (Something the Johansen family finds to be almost unbelievable.)  
I persuaded a shopper to take a photo of us in front of the exhibit of taxidermy.
Cabela's - Owatonna, MN
I arrived home just as the sun was going behind the trees.

Today I hauled everything in from Dad's van and tomorrow I'll start sorting out Dad's affairs.
I'm thinking my tear ducts will get yet another good washing.

I'm so thankful for Roche & LeAnna's visit and all their help, it was good medicine on top of the work we got done!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On Monday, 11/11/2014, it snowed about a foot.
Then the temperatures dropped, so this snow is not going anywhere.
A couple more inches of snow have fallen since Monday,
and the driveway and sidewalks are a mess with ice and snow.
But, today, the sun was out and a blue-jay was busy snacking at the feeder.

 These photos were taken through the dirty living room window.

Blue-jays don't get a lot of love from bird watchers, 
but I've always thought they were a beautiful bird.
 One of the resident cats was on the alert and keeping an eye on the busy bird feeder today.
Slowly, the normal stuff of life is starting to creep back into my day.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Story of Valdemar "Wally" Peder Johansen

Valdemar “Wally” Peder Johansen
4.27.1922 – 11.2.2014

Valdemar was born in Luck,Wisconsin to parents Jens Ansgar & Frederikke Johansen.  He was one of 5 children.  Halvdan, Ane Marie, Christian all preceded him in death, leaving sister Johanne to mourn.  He passed peacefully early Sunday morning, 11/2/2014 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire from complications of surgery.   His heart slowed to a stop as if he gently had his foot on the brake as he approached his destination.  Valdemar lived 92 years with good health and a big smile.  He was living in Belmond, Iowa at the time of his death.

A memorial service & internment of ashes will be held on December 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm at West Denmark Lutheran Church in Luck, WI.  Coffee will follow at West Denmark Parrish Hall.

Valdemar attended school at Laketown School & Luck High School in Luck, WI.   School was important, but community in those days revolved around the West Denmark Church and the youth groups associated with the church.   His mother was one of 9 children with 7 sisters; all but one of those sisters raised their families in the West Denmark area.  About 39 first cousins called West Denmark home and they were all close friends and enjoyed spending their youth together in work and play.

Wally enjoyed folk dancing as a young man and he was part of a group that performed in Danish costume.  But he really loved dancing of all kinds, and he shared fun stories of Dunham and Wilson’s, Calderwood, West Sweden, and other dance halls in the area.  Valdemar played the violin as a young man and just recently put new strings on it and was hoping to give it another try.

He went by ‘Wally’ but he always preferred Valdemar and it made him smile when new acquaintances pronounced it correctly.  Conversely, he did not appreciate when anyone pronounced it as ‘Vlademeer’, and he would give the unlucky person the business if they made that mistake.

As a young man, Valdemar spent time in the Dakotas during threshing season.  Old photos show him there with his first cousins Aage Petersen and Vernon Petersen.   A few years ago, he reconnected with the family where he had stayed and worked in Lidgerwood, ND.

He told of one winter when he and his Dad, Ansgar, cut fence posts out of a Tamarac swamp near their home on Country Trunk N.   Wally said this was the most fun he ever had in the winter, working with his Dad everyday.  He worked with his Dad and Niels Mortensen on many projects around the community, as he fine tuned his trade of cabinet making and learned a few other trades.

Wally also lived in California for a few years and worked as a milk tester.  There were friends and relatives living in the Solvang area and he really enjoyed this work.  He had an offer to return to California after the war to take a job as county agent, but stayed in Wisconsin instead.

Valdemar served proudly with the US Navy Seabees, 62nd Battalion, who were attached to the 5th Division of the US Marines during the battle at Iwo Jima.  In preparation for arriving in Iwo Jima, he spent time on Maui and Oahu, Hawaii to break in big equipment and also to learn their operation.   He was honorably discharged in 1945 on December 17 as a Carpenter’s Mate Third Class.  He endured many years of delayed stress syndrome and after finding treatment in his later years, was a strong advocate of mental health for returning soldiers.

Also in 1945, he married Pauline Bjornton Carlson of Minneapolis.  Four children were born to this marriage:  Ralph, Glenn, Wanda & Laila.  The Johansen family lived on County Trunk N just West of Luck, Wisconsin, across the road from Valdemar’s parents, Ansgar and Frederikke.

As a young married man, Wally had a business in Milltown called Indianhead Woodproducts.  Their main products were church pews and other church furniture.  Unfortunately that business ended with a fire in December of 1960.

He moonlighted as a bartender at the Mill Inn on main street Milltown for a few years and made many friends.  He joined a hunting group, The Highland View Lodge, with other Milltown friends Ray Shern, Carol Cogswell, Al Sorenson, ‘Shorty’ Beaulieu, John Dann, Swede Johnson, Bob Blumgren, Erling Nielsen, & Art Shern.  All of his life he enjoyed deer hunting in Wisconsin, and even made a few elk hunting trips out West.  The most fun for Wally were the hours spent with his sons and grandsons at ‘the shack’; he loved to play poker or cribbage, to enjoy a cocktail and to tell a tale or two.  Laughing was his trademark; he was quick to smile and to make others laugh.  In later years it was more the cards, the storytelling and spending time with his boys that made hunting so much fun for him.

After Indianhead Woodproducts was gone, he worked for many years installing for Ossit Furniture out of Janesville, WI.  This work took him all around the country.  He spoke often about working in New York City, but he also could name a church in many Wisconsin towns where he had installed pews or chancel furniture.

In 1968, Wally & Pauline moved to Lakewood, CO.  Wally took a job working for former Luck businessman, Clyde Brown, running Western Seating, a church furniture factory located in Golden, CO.

While living in Lakewood, Wally joined American Legion Post #17 in Edgewater, Colorado.  He was very involved in the post, including the design and building of a new facility and was elected Commander.  He was a lifetime member of the American Legion and the VFW at the time of his death.  He took great pride in the fact that his front license plate on his car was the VFW Lifetime Member plate.

In 1970, he and Pauline divorced and he moved to Wheat Ridge, CO.  One of his employees at the time was from Belmond, IA and eventually, there was a job offer from Four Seasons Cabinetry of  Belmond, IA.   So, in 1975 he moved to Goodell, IA and began making new friends.  He golfed at the Klemme Golf Course and eventually joined the Board of Directors there.  He spent time with friends at the VFW, where he met the bartender, Evalee O’Toole, which started the beginning of a relationship that was meant to be.

Eventually, Valdemar opened Johansen Cabinetry in Belmond, IA and began doing custom cabin work.  His product included the design, handcraftsmanship and installation of fine wood products.  Business was good, & his work was in demand until he decided to retire.  His shop space was rented from Jim Swenson, who soon grew to be like another son to Valdemar, and when Jim later married Janette, another daughter was added to Valdemar’s family.

Valdemar & Evalee were married in 1988 and enjoyed 26 fun filled years together.  They loved ballroom dancing and spent many evenings on the dance floor, in fact if there was a flat surface, they would likely dance on it.  They bought a travel trailer after they retired and began to spend winters down South.  One of Valdemar’s goals was to wear shorts every day of the year.  Several years were spent in Arkansas at the Charlton National Forest Campground where they served as host & hostess.  Wally was the handyman and the two of them groomed the campsites to perfection.

Several more winters were spent in Hemphill, Texas, camping in a fishing village and enjoying the mild weather.  Then they found a spot in Rockport, Texas, Harbor Light.  This was a fun village of snow birds with events catering to that group.  They made life long friends during these winter stays.

Once they were done pulling a trailer to Texas, they continued to drive down and stay in an Inn near Rockport, TX that catered to folks from Up North who wintered in the warm climate.  Close friends were made over penny poker games and good Mexican food.

Cribbage was his game.  He loved to play and many times he was the winner and then could have fun teasing his losing opponent, which usually led to another game or two.  He played weekly with a group at his apartment building in Belmond, and often came home a winner.

Many summers were spent in Sterling Township in a cabin owned by son Ralph.  Wally & Ev loved feeding & watching the birds, seeing the wildlife, keeping the cabin grounds maintained, having coffee on the front porch and a night cap on the back porch.  They loved their time in the woods and took care of this cabin as if it was their own.

In the early 1950s, the 62nd Battalion of the Navy Seabees began having reunion gatherings.  Valdemar attended as many of these as he could.  His Seabee mates meant a lot to him and he was proud of his & their service during WWII and on Iwo Jima.  Somewhere in the 1990’s, Wally & Ev became the custodians of that group and their reunion planning.  It was a labor of love and something that they were devoted to.  The last gathering of this group marked their 61st reunion.  Wally was known as “Joe” to this group and he was the glue that kept folks in contact through the years.  He was patriotic to the bone; he respected the flag and he loved his country.

In 2009, Wally was part of an Honor Flight to Washington, DC.  This was a thrill for him and an amazing opportunity provided by volunteers.  In one day, they flew from Iowa to DC, visited the WWII Memorial and most, if not all, the other major memorials, and then flew home that night.  He smiled the entire time.

Wally and Ev looked forward to Lawrence Welk every Saturday night and at the end of each program, Lawrence would say "Keep a song in your heart".  This has been inscribed on the Johansen headstone bench at the West Denmark Cemetery.

Valdemar is survived by his sister Johanne (Thorvald) Hansen of Des Moines, IA, sons Ralph (Lois) of Luck, WI & Glenn (Kathy) of Spring Valley, WI and daughters Wanda of Rice Lake, WI & Laila of Aurora, CO & step children: Rick (Pat) O’Toole of Cedar Rapids, IA; Teri (Al) Jenniges of Garner, IA; Larry (Diane) O’Toole of Forest City, IA; Jeff (Pat) O’Toole of Fertile, IA

Also left to carry on his legacy are grandsons Ryan (Camilla), Kyle (Heather), Kris (Lora), Andrew (Michelle), Dana (Erin) and granddaughters Angie (Aaron) Chivers, Krista (Mark) Loyas and Kaija (Mike) Vanasse and more than 25 great grandchildren, 2 step-great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren.  Additionally the O’Toole family grandchildren and great grandchildren, along with Valdemar’s nephews and nieces mourn his passing.

He was preceded in death by his Father & Mother, Ansgar & Frederikke Johansen, brothers Halvdan & Christian, sister Ane Marie James and great grandson Drew Chivers.

Just 56 days before his death, he lost his beloved wife of 26 years, Evalee O'Toole Johansen. This was a shocking blow to Wally and he missed her so very much.  But, he said of this loss “I have accepted that this has happened, I realize I cannot do anything to change it, and now I just have to get the right attitude about it.”  These words have brought comfort to his children as they deal with the shock of losing their Dad.

Wally & Ev never missed watching Dancing with the Stars together, no doubt missing the dancing that they had done together for so many years, so now, together again, we believe that they are Dancing In the Stars.

Memorials to West Denmark Lutheran Church, 2478 170th StLuck, WI 54853 or
Luck Alumni Scholarship Fund Association, P.O. Box 251   Luck, WI  54853

Great Great Niece Alaina

Alaina is already 1!
It's crazy how time flies.
Rusty and Payton had a birthday party at Baldwin @ The AmericInn.
Pizza and swimming.
What a sweet little girl.

Alaina with something to say, like "Give me back my nook!"

 Poolside photographs are impossible for me but here is a snapshot of Alaina and her mom, Payton, as Alaina decides if she wants anything to do with this swimming idea.
Payton reported that after I left, Alaina decided she liked it.
Alaina and her mom, Payton

All the kids had so much fun.

Linsey and Vinny
It was fun watching how brave, or not so brave the kids are.
It does make me nervous though and I'm not a lifeguard, so I didn't stay poolside too long.

Payton made a cute cupcake birthday cake.  These cows were kind of melting, but they were very clever.
I did not stick around to eat cake but did take this 'selfie' with my great nieces before I left.
Alyxis, Wanda, Breanna
Fun family gathering.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

7th Grade Girl's Basketball

I drove to Amery on the 8th to watch Alyxis play basketball.  
A close friend of mine and I were talking about how hard it is to grieve the loss of a parent while the rest of the world keeps turning, and everyday I find that to be so very true.  
So, while I am deeply saddened about the death of my Dad, young people are continuing to do what they do, and for Alyxis, that means basketball.

So, I took a drive on a nice day and watched her play.

Tip off!

Alyxis driving

Backing in

Going for the steal.

The shot


Good follow through

I'm open!

Spring Valley was the home team, so a good result!
I was impressed with the play by this group.
The girls have skills.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Services for Dad

We have set a date for a Memorial Service for Dad.

We will celebrate
Valdemar Peder Johansen, 
 West Denmark Lutheran Church, 
burial at
 The West Denmark Cemetery 
followed by 
fellowship at the West Denmark Parish Hall 
December 13th, starting at 2pm.

West Denmark Lutheran Church 
2478 170th St, 
Luck, WI 54853

Memorials to
West Denmark Lutheran Church
2478 170th St
Luck, WI 54853
Luck Alumni Scholarship Fund Association

P.O. Box 251   Luck, WI  54853

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


It's been a very hard couple of days, I keep going over in my mind every decision we made at the hospital, every action I took, as well as the actions of the medical folks, I keep wondering where it all went bad.  Of course, this kind of thinking is futile but I can't seem to really let it go either, and it makes me so sad to think 'what if?'. 

I remembered that Dad made a comment to me when Ev was first in Hospice and at the time I wrote it down.  He said "I have accepted that this happened, I realize I can't change it, and now I just have to get the right attitude about it".  So, I think these words were Dad's last and most important bit of life advice to me. 

I'm working on the 'right attitude' part.

The attached photo is from Sunday afternoon, 10/26 at the Lucky 7 Lodge, Kyle's cabin in The Barrens west of Luck.

Wanda Johansen
from my Note II

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A fond farewell to my hero

Wally and Ev are now Dancing in the Stars

This morning, 11/2, at 6:30am, Dad's heart peacefully slowed to a stop.  

He had gall bladder surgery on Friday and by Saturday afternoon he was in trouble.  

It all ended in ICU with him intubated and on a ventilator.  
Even with that support, his body could not go on.  

It is the saddest day of our life.  He was a good Dad to us and a fun friend.  

We are grateful for the past two weeks we had together, not to mention his life of 92 years,  and we are also grateful that he did not suffer nor linger.  

As his heart slowed, it was as if he was slowly putting on the brakes until he finally came to a stop.

  Valdemar  "Wally" Johansen is now once again with Ev.  
They were a marriage that was meant to happen.  
We miss them both with all our hearts.  
Now instead of watching Dancing With The Stars, Wally & Ev are Dancing IN the Stars.


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