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Let’s Cook: An unexpected change

By Staff | May 20, 2016

Each day, each of us encounters hundreds of words in our world. Many of them slip breezily past our consciousness, as chatter in the everlasting blizzard of meaningless chat, text and talk. But last Monday, the words from my nephew, Chris, unexpectedly snatched my breath away. His words compelled my attention-forcing me, willing or unwilling, to become a participant in a conversation involving his Dad, my oldest brother, Tom. He told me that his Dad had died that morning. Tom, who was 62, had walked into the Underwood Clinic because he was not feeling well. Moments later, he collapsed. His passing shook our entire family and the community of Underwood.

Writing has always brought me a sense of comfort, and today I want to give you an understanding about my brother who was such a big part of my life. Tom had a passion for many things: family, cars, writing, the lake and, in the last several years, photography. Tom may not have realized it, but he was creating images long before he picked up a camera. One very important element in photography is to create a feeling to involve the viewer, and he did this so very well with his four younger brothers. He took the lead in our home by helping raise his four red-headed brothers. He willing engaged in household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, to name a few.

Now in photography the true measure of success involves emotional response. When Tom showed us that cleaning house could be done much easier while listening to the Beach Boys, Beatles, and the Supremes on the record player, we were in! The shine on the dining room floor was largely due to the fact that he had us all doing the twist, wearing white socks while shaking it on down. I can still see Tom waving a dust rag in hand and with his hip movement that could have been mistaken for Chubby Checker as he shimmied on the linoleum. It is worthy to note this all occurred not in the presence of my parents, and when they did return unexpectedly, it brought another emotional response which we can discuss later!

Our home was active with five brothers putting forth heaps of energy. Our cousin, Linda Scholl-Nelson, in reflecting of Tom, mentioned that when they came to visit, there were little red heads popping out of doorways, jumping out from tables, and Marian trying to make everyone behave for the company. Before long, she said, Tom was growing up and giving good help to his parents. Since we all had red hair, I suppose we all ran together for Mom at times. She often would have to call all of our names before getting to the guilty party. Not so with Tom, he knew us and nailed us within seconds of tipping over the flour bin.

Tom effectively captured the mood around water or camping. He purchased an aluminum teardrop camper as an eighth grader for $18. This compact unit had a popup front, wooden floor and a mattress that could be rolled up. Our travels were extensive-we moved it from the west to the east side of our backyard. Our watercraft was a homemade raft, which our parents never laid eyes on until they saw all five of their sons floating in “Lake Repnow” behind their home. It should be noted that Tom had Charlie and Kelly in life jackets as they had not taken swimming lessons yet. This early introduction to camping has remained a lifelong enjoyment to all of us.

Tom’s first working car was a tan 1963 Dodge Polara with a push button transmission that had us going places. In time, he owned a 1963 Ford Galaxy-white with an aqua top. He painted, very nicely I must say, aqua stripes down on the hood and trunk of the car. In the night our family cat walked on the not-yet-dry paint, thus leaving paw prints on the hood. When his classmates noticed these prints, they gave him the nickname of Tiger! He loved a shiny car and taught us how to properly wax a car-with music blaring and perhaps some of us wearing too- short cutoffs. This time on the front lawn gave us time to consider the finer things in life: jelly beans, orange slices and why we use Turtle Wax and SOS pads to shine up whitewalls. Tom would remark as the crowd gathered how he hadn’t seen that many people since he doubled the car wash soap and created a huge suds cloud. Little did he know, our brother Oliver was over in the laundromat handing out free pop to all the girls.

Skilled is the photographer who shows you to see things differently, and Tom did so by bringing home his one true love, Delila, who in time became his loving wife and the “first Repnow girl” in our home. And yes, she was a red head! Together they were a source of endless fun, allowing us to attend the county fair with them, go for rides in the country, watch movies with popcorn, and they made Christmas special for us. When they had children-Melissa, Chad and Christopher-it was liking having a younger sister and brothers. They lived next door, which allowed for daily visits, play time and for all of us to be young at heart.

You cannot be involved in photography and not have favorite subjects. For Tom, that was his family. He enjoyed spending time at Blue Lake, north of Mercer, at their cabin, which is fondly called Willow Lodge. This became the gathering spot, for not only their family, but other family members as well. He delighted in being a Grandpa to Alex, Kennedi, Aricka, Gage, Levi, Aidan and Lane. He had the touch for picking up a crying baby or child and bringing them to comfort-which brought many a smile to his son-in-law Derrick and daughter-in-law Melody. This image remains with me-the golden sun dancing on the water and then melting into Blue Lake as Tom relaxes on the porch, surrounded by the indefinable beauty of buttery willows.

Tom and I came along way together, especially after we set off fireworks in dad’s new Dodge. Additional interests we shared included refinishing furniture, writing letters, and laughing together. When he worked at the soda counter at Evander’s Rexall Drug, he introduced me to cherry phosphates. He knew who I really was and what made me so. We could be in the same room for hours and never look at our watches. We accepted and loved each other faults and all. I appreciated him being there even when miles and time separated us. His recent voice on the phone and his neat penmanship on an envelope reminded me of the caring and concerned clasp he had on me. A friend told me this at the funeral, “Tom will be with you in the places you go, in the things you do, besides being in your heart.”

As in photography, patterns often repeat. Last Sunday at First Lutheran in Minot we sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” as our recessional hymn. We as brothers had sung that hymn at our mother’s funeral seven months earlier.

I leave you with these words by Billy Graham. Just as we gathered on the raft as brothers, we also did when Billy Graham was on television. Mom made sure we watched and no exiting until George Beverly Shea sang “Just as I am.” “The Bible says this world is not our final home, and we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Our true home is Heaven. And that is where God’s path leads.”

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