Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jon Hassler: A Minnesota Treasure

I was notified by Beth Erickson through one of our writing groups that Jon Hassler passed away on March 20, 2008.

For those of you who have no idea who Jon Hassler was, here's the link to find out about his life and body of work.

Those of us in Minnesota know him to be a local treasure. He captured the simple beauty of small Minnesota towns, with their characters and quirks and left a legacy of wonderful stories including "Staggerford".
He was also a teacher at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Beth's mother was one of his students, as were many in the area, and they admired and loved him. He also had the most beautiful eyes, the color and sparkle of blue that reminded me of my Grandfather, Bud Crawford, who passed away when I was fifteen.

Jon Hassler's greatest legacy was not just his body of work or his teaching, but he taught all of us you can live with a terminal illness with dignity, grace, and a sense of humor. And he did it with acceptance without complaint. He also had a perserverance that all writers must have if they are ever going to make it in this world.

Mr. Hassler was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a Parkinson's like disease. He lived with the disease for fifteen years and in that time, he lost the ability to write by hand, see and hear, and finally, to walk. Through his tenacity, he "typed" his final novels, by hitting the keyboard, and then "translating" back to his wife, Gretchen, the "words" he wrote, and she would then type them up. According to the article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he finished his final novel "Jay O'Malley" a few weeks before his death.

Now, writers, what do we have to complain about?? Is there any reason, ANY REASON AT ALL why we aren't writing?! THERE ARE NO MORE EXCUSES EVERYONE, AND THAT INCLUDES ME!

This is a man, who kept going and going, in spite of his pain, his daily struggles to see and hear and write and walk, and once robbed of all those things, HE STILL FOUND TIME TO WRITE!! He wrote NOVELS!! It boggles the mind, and yet, you know deep down that we are all guilty of the the laundry list of bullshit reasons we "don't have time to write." Throw the list away, kids. It's time to get to work.

My only regret is never meeting the man in person, to thank him for all he's done for our state, our country, and our profession. And for giving us all something to aspire to.

God Bless you Jon Hassler, and your family. May you all find peace.
And thank you for inspiring us all.

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