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Chapman: Living life to fullest worthwhile

By Staff | Oct 3, 2014

It is difficult to imagine living an entire century. The amount of knowledge and experience gained in one year can be impressive, but 100 years?

Kermit Blessum is being remembered this week after a full life of nearly 104 years. Stories of his life are fascinating and make one ponder how the brain can process that much time on earth.

He was born in 1910, well before the proliferation of TV, computers, Internet and other inventions like massive, modern farm equipment. Yet, Blessum kept up with the changes while harvesting an inquisitive nature and appreciation for the many resources the earth provides.

If each one of us could live half the life of Blessum, we’d be proud.

Listening to his daughter, Bette, share her memories was heartwarming and enlightening. Listening to his sister Inez, who is 102, left me yearning for a time machine to catch even a glimpse of how this family of longevity embraced life to overcome the many hardships of 20th century prairie living.

I wish I would have had the chance to meet Kermit. The few times I’ve sat with Inez have been wonderful and I?can only imagine similar experiences with her siblings.

The wisdom that comes with age is unmatched. As humans, we’re always seeking a better understanding of why. Why does this happen or that happen? Why do some people live for 100 years and others barely past the womb? Why do we follow this dream and not that dream?

I never knew my grandparents, who died before I was old enough to remember, and it without a doubt fostered a never-ending curiosity of what was. Sure, my folks can share their memories and tales passed down to them, but that’s not quite the same. My grandparents would be close to Kermit’s age and the oral history would be invaluable. They grew up in bustling, centries-old New York. The Blessums grew up in young North Dakota.

To be able to compare and constrast Kermit’s view of early 1900’s America to that of my grandparents’ views would be a remarkable study in anthropology. I love the upper plains and embrace the relatively young history of a state just 125 years old. My grandparents lived in an area granted statehood 100 years before North Dakota. Fewer details have been lost in North Dakota’s oral history, and that’s also a credit to the rich appreciation for family and heritage.

It’s vital to our development as humankind that we continue to cherish and spread the stories of our families. Families like the Blessums are great examples. Good genes play a role, but for three siblings to live past 100 and another pair in their 90s, that tells us they did a lot of things right.

Kermit was known for many of his great qualities beginning with hard work – a staple of many great communities in this state and all over America.

He was a great husband, a great father, a great brother and a great son. Family describe him as selfless. He cared about more than himself and loved animals and the earth.

Anyone who plants trees for the betterment of their community has a special place in my heart. Kermit clearly had an understanding of stewardship.

Just from reading about him and discussing his life this week, I feel a spiritual connection to this man, who meant so much to so many people in the Rugby area. I’ve lived here less than a year, but am grateful for the vision and qualities he passed on and instilled in others.

The stories of Kermit’s life, included in this paper, can only scrape maybe a percent of the surface.

Like with many other great figures, who have passed on, the stories are endless. Consider sharing your stories of great figures in Rugby history with the Tribune through letters to the editor, guest columns or interviews with reporters.

Thank you to family members of Kermit Blessum for taking the time to share your thoughts, feelings and stories during a difficult time. We’re better for having him in our collective history.

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