FERTILE, Minn. — We have all driven through them. Maybe you live in one — a small town that would go above and beyond for someone they love and admire.
In Fertile, there's talk of the big celebration for Jon Hovde. He's a well-known Vietnam veteran who just received a horrible cancer diagnosis, but he got a surprise from his town upon returning home from the Mayo Clinic.
On a crisp, cold night, the Fertile-Beltrami Falcons flew past Fosston during its Oct. 23 football game.
But the crowd was light and for good reason.
“Just because of Jon — how can someone who has been through so much, be such a nice guy?" Jackie Erickson said about why she lined up on the street.
Most of the town, with many coming from outside of Fertile, were gathering on Main Street.
"Everybody loves him; that is why we are here," Erickson said.
"Jon is a hero; he served our country and he served it well," Josie Proulx said.
Digital signs at the bank, school and gas station all welcomed Hovde back to Fertile.
"Everyone comes together when someone is in need or just to show love and support; it means a lot," Mary Benson said.
It was like the Fourth of July. There were American flags of all sizes and hand-painted signs. His sisters couldn't believe the crowds.
"When Jonny was hurt, they rallied around us then, and look at this — it is incredible. There are people everywhere," said Cathy Bolstad, Hovde's sister. Back in 1968, buckets were put all over town to raise enough money to send Jonny's parents to California, where he was recovering in a military hospital after his injuries in Vietnam.
"Gut-wrenching — to see all these people who love him and admire him — they are here from all over," another sister, Lana Christensen, said about this latest outpouring.
Hovde was surprised and inspired.
"Thank you, love you," he said.
"They are saluting you, Dad. This is all for you," his daughter said.
The homecoming parade continued for blocks, and as the cars neared the edge of town, his sisters came to greet them.
Family says hospice will now help care for Hovde in his final days.
If you would like to know more about Jon's life and his motivational speaking, click on one of the links below.