BEMIDJI BONDS: Brothers in their 80s still connect nearly every morning
Brothers Dave and Duane Christensen have always been close. They were born three years apart, the 14th and 15th children in a poor North Dakota farm family. Now in their 80s, as two of three remaining siblings, the Bemidji men get together nearly...
Brothers Dave and Duane Christensen have always been close. They were born three years apart, the 14th and 15th children in a poor North Dakota farm family. Now in their 80s, as two of three remaining siblings, the Bemidji men get together nearly every morning to reminisce and talk about the news of the day.
“We each have our own feelings about things,” Duane said.
“And we don’t always agree,” Dave added.
They meet in the deli at Lueken’s Village Foods North, grab some coffee, buy copies of the Bemidji Pioneer and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, catch up on the latest news, and then discuss.
“We’ve solved a lot of problems here,” Duane said with a laugh that was echoed by his older brother.
From their days on the farm in Kenmare, N.D., both men touched many lives in their careers before retiring in Bemidji. They now appreciate their closeness, both in terms of relationship and geography.
Dave, 87, left the farm to attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis. He taught school in Atwater, Minn., for four years and served in the U.S. Army before enrolling in Luther Seminary in St. Paul. He was a Lutheran minister at Adams, N.D.; Warren, Minn.; and rural Pelican Rapids, Minn., before retiring and moving to Bemidji in 1990. His wife, Joyce, died in 1999. Their three daughters all live in Minnesota: Minneapolis, Ellendale and Moorhead. Dave has three grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and one great grandson.
Duane, 84, followed his brother to Augsburg. After graduating and later serving in the U.S. Army, he began a career in education as a band and choir teacher in Danube, Minn. He went back to school at the University of Minnesota for master’s and specialist degrees, then worked as a school principal in the Minnesota communities of New York Mills, Mabel, Sherburne and Faribault. He and his wife, Elaine, have four children and five grandchildren. Their first-born were twin girls, but one died at 8½ months from a heart ailment. Their oldest son was born with a mental handicap, a condition that prompted Duane to change career paths.
Duane came to Bemidji in 1969 and started the Bemidji Regional Interdistrict Council, an agency that provided special education services to 18 area school districts. He headed the BRIC for 18 years before retiring.
In 1990 the brothers decided to build Maple Ridge Golf Course south of Bemidji. That’s when their regular morning visits began.
“Before we went to work on the golf course, we would get together at the Cenex South convenience store,” Duane recalled. “We’d have coffee every morning and discuss the day’s work, then go off to work.”
These days they share memories of their large family and their fascinating childhoods on the North Dakota prairie. They talk about their other remaining sibling, sister Ruth, who is 99 and lives in Kalispell, Mont.
“We were poor as dirt,” Duane said, “It was a very good time in many respects. We had a garden that covered a quarter of a block. We planted potatoes by the tons. Our mother would can. Every Fourth of July we had a gallon of ice cream. We played in the high school band. It was a good time.”