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Bob Lind, Published July 28 2012

Lind: Honoring memory of accomplished area reporter Wayne Lubenow

The date: July 16, 1969. The place: Cape Kennedy, Fla. The occasion: The launching of the Apollo 11 spacecraft carrying astronauts who soon would be the first to set foot on the moon.

The date: June 29, 2012. The place: Fargo. The occasion: The presentation of the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s Distinguished Service Awards, including one to Rosie Lubenow, who accepted it on behalf of her husband, the late newspaper writer Wayne Lubenow.

Wayne, who died in 1991, was honored for his years of writing for The Forum, and for area weekly newspapers and other publications.

Wayne was born in 1926 in Lidgerwood, N.D., grew up in Northwood, N.D., graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1950, worked for the Bismarck Tribune and then for The Forum.

His reporting and his columns hit home time and again with his readers.

One of his stories was sent to Neighbors by Jane Loeffler, Moorhead. She’s kept it for years.

It was of the launching of Apollo 11.

Heat, hamburgers

The Forum sent Wayne to Florida to cover the historic event. Here’s part of his story that Jane sent in, to give you an idea of the Lubenow touch:

“For 50 miles, all up and down the beach, they are squatting in tents and cars and lean-to’s and some are just standing.

“They come from Hawaii and Alaska and Ohio and all the other states and they have been here since Monday – suffering in the heat and eating hamburgers and letting the kids go to the bathroom in the water.

“Who are they – and what in the world motivates them to drive here from places like California?

“It is not just to see the shot. They can see the launch much better on their TV sets at home.

“What it is is just being here. They sit on the water’s edge and their eyes are always looking across to where Apollo 11 sits.

“A man from New Jersey … drives all the way down here … and he explains, ‘See it on TV? No. You have to be here to feel it.’

“A couple from Indiana, young, not much money, are paying $2 a night for a parking place on the beach. They sleep in their car.

“’Why are you here?’ I asked them.

“She is blonde and her slacks and blouse are wrinkled from sleeping in the car and she appears puzzled by the question. She answers, ‘Because this is where it is.’

“He looks to be about 23 and his eyes gleam. He says, ‘We’re goin’, man. We’re goin’ to the moon.’

“WE’RE going. This is how they feel. This is their rocket.”

Wayne and Don

There isn’t room here to run Wayne’s entire story. But enough to say it meant enough to Jane to make her keep it. After all, she writes, “Our family felt great pride in our country on that day.” Wayne’s story reflected that pride.

Postscript: In his later years, Wayne’s writings were distributed to newspapers in the Dakotas and western Minnesota, starting with weekly papers in Grafton, Crosby and Garrison, N.D.

Don Gackle, publisher of the McLean County Independent in Garrison and once the president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, helped him get this distribution system going.

It was Don who wrote a tribute to Wayne for the presentation of the newspaper association’s award.

That tribute was read by Roger Bailey, Bismarck, executive director of the newspaper association. Don couldn’t be there to read it himself, as he was seriously ill.

He died just a few days later.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com