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Family consigns parents' ashes to favorite site

Joe Dunn blesses the Hale and Head families with a rose ceremony as they prepared to sprinkle their parents' ashes in Lake Bemidji Wednesday morning. The family owns the oldest cabin on Lake Bemidji, built on a Lavinia lot by an ancestor in 1906. From left are Sue Hale, Hannah Hale and Kathi Head. Not shown is Kathi's brother, Lefty Head. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

For Margaret and George Hale and Barbara and Charles Head, their rustic family cabin in Lavinia on the east side of Lake Bemidji was heaven on earth.

The couples have died, but their children spent Wednesday morning sprinkling their ashes on areas of the lake that were dear to them.

"It's a way they can always be here," said Sue Hale.

Sue of South Haven, Mich., was visiting with her daughter, Hannah Hale, and cousins, Kathi Head of Sandpoint, Idaho, and Kathi's brother, Lefty Head of Portland, Ore.

Hannah is the fifth generation to stay in the cabin her great-great-grandfather built on a 75-by-200-foot lakeshore lot he bought for $10 in 1906. Flanked by large, luxurious homes, the cabin, and another family log house next door, are reminders of a simpler era in lakeside living.

"Inside, I've tried to keep everything the same as when our moms were young," said Sue.

"This is an example where less is way more," said Bill Batchelder, a friend of the family, as he toured the cabin Wednesday. "This is the real deal. You can't recreate what you have here."

Batchelder helped arrange the ceremony of the ashes.

The Hale and Head family members cruised around Lake Bemidji with Joe Dunn piloting his pontoon. They sprinkled a few ashes at three significant areas of Lake Bemidji.

Their first stop was near the area off Cameron Park where they had been excited to hear of Garrison Keillor taking tourists ice fishing last winter. Lefty read a poem his grandmother wrote about the beauty of the Lake Bemidji area as loons called nearby.

"My fondest memories as a child are of here," said Lefty. "We couldn't wait to get up here each summer - four days in the car from Oregon."

The family members then motored north to add some ashes to the water off the Lake Bemidji State Park Point. Sue recounted a story of her mother and the Heads' mother canoeing from their cabin to the point for a picnic. They just had their blanket and lunch laid out when a big black bear emerged from the bush. The girls abandoned their food and gear and slid down the bank to jump in their canoe and paddle away. Kathi also read a poem her mother wrote in honor of Kathi and Lefty's parents' 59th anniversary.

The final stop was off shore near the cabin bluff.

"This is really where her heart was," said Kathi.

The last time Margaret Hale visited the cabin was the summer of 2004. She recalled the privy was across the road away from the lake, the deep well that had such good water that the neighbors came to pump jugs full to take home, and her wedding in the cabin living room in front of the black stone fireplace. She said her father wrote her wedding march and played it on the piano, which is still in pride of place nearby.

"It's a shrine," said Sue. "That's why I want to keep the cabin just the way it is."