Colleen Danielson, 88, died Tuesday in Decorah, Iowa.
On the surface, they might not have much in common given their differences in age and where they lived. They did not know each other. He died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She died of cancer.
But beyond the surface, I see perhaps a different picture.
“Dick loved the outdoors, was an avid woodworker, and a coach for two generations of soccer players,” according to his obituary. “He will be remembered for his great sense of humor, his neighborliness, his forthright manner, and his honesty (except regarding the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and a parking ticket or two).”
“Colleen enjoyed quilting, music, crafts, spending winters in Arizona, and especially time with her family. Her home was always open to family, friends, and friends of family,” according to her obituary.
I never met Dick or Colleen, but I’ve been thinking this week about them and their children and grandchildren. And since I can’t make it to their funerals or visitations because of time and distance, saying something here seemed like the next-best thing to do. I hope their families won’t mind.
Dick’s son, Dave, has been a friend for nearly 25 years. We met as young newspaper staffers at the Ottumwa Courier. Dave — a husband, father of four and now the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star and a cancer survivor himself — has become who I wanted to be when we grew up. We don’t talk as much as we used to, but you’d never find a better person than Dave Bundy.
Unless it was Julie Rose, one of my closest friends in the Melon City Bike Club in Muscatine. She is, I think, Colleen’s second-youngest daughter and the third-youngest of her seven children. Some of Julie’s siblings — Bill Iverson of Decorah, Joe Iverson of West Salem, Wis., and Barb Borglum of Winona, Minn. — have become my friends through the years, thanks to RAGBRAI. If I could belong to a different family, I might pick the Iversons. And I often think of Julie as the older sister I never had.
That doesn’t mean I want to trade my family or the way I was raised. Nothing could be further from the truth.
But I have been thinking this week about my friends — who have lost their father and mother, respectively — and the lives those friends lead. It says a great deal about how they were raised and the jobs their parents did as parents.
In my job at Muscatine Center for Social Action, I sometimes see the result of what happens simply when someone isn’t lucky enough to be the son or daughter of someone like Dick Bundy or Colleen Danielson. To whom we are born might be the single most-important thing that happens in any of our lives. And it’s the luck of the draw.
That’s something to think about the next time you see someone who has perhaps been less fortunate or if you’ve not recently taken the time to thank your own parents. Do it before it’s too late.
Many of us often take too much of the credit for the success in our lives, thinking it is the result of our hard work, intelligence and skill. Luck also often plays a role. And so does having parents such as Tom and JoAnn Steinbach, in my case. Or Dick Bundy or Colleen Danielson.
I’m sorry I can’t be there today and Saturday to console my friends. But I have been — and will continue — thinking about them and their parents — great people I never got to meet whose ordinary greatness is displayed every day in the happy and successful lives their children live.
At the end of anyone’s life, I can’t think of a better legacy for which to be remembered.