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Bob Lind, Published April 28 2013

Lind: Poem stirs many memories for readers

“A Letter Home,” a poem written years ago by North Dakota’s late poet laureate James W. Foley, still rings a bell for many people.

A Neighbors reader wondered who wrote the poem. A mention of that request led to several replies, published here earlier. Here’s more:

“My mom was born in 1925 and can still recite that poem, top to bottom,” writes Duane Midboe, Climax, Minn.

Dick McGarvey, Fargo, says Foley taught at William Moore Junior High School in Bismarck and later wrote for the Bismarck Tribune. Dick said the poem is available at the Fargo Public Library.

Bonnie Bowman, Moorhead, writes that, “In the 1960s, my mother, Genevieve Bowman, from Bowman, N.D., was instrumental in having Foley’s poems published in two volumes in conjunction with the Federated Women’s Club of Bowman. The poem you referenced in your article is included in those books.”

Dorothy Hanson, West Fargo, says “A Letter Home” was a favorite of hers when she was living in Robinson, N.D., in the 1930s.

Jim Hambrick, Fargo, found the poem in a journal kept by his uncle, Arnold Aaland, when he was growing up in New Rockford, N.D. Jim’s mother, Genevieve Klein, Arnold’s younger sister, gave the journal to Jim.

The poem, though, had raised a question from a reader who wondered if Foley was writing about North Dakota in his poem, because he was living in Indiana when he wrote it. But Virgil Hans, Davenport, N.D., notes that Foley mentions “Dakota” near the end of the poem. “So I would think that no matter where he was living, he was writing about the Dakotas,” Virgil says.

That line reads, in part, “But there’s something in Dakota makes you live and breathe and feel.”

Andrew Fischer, Fargo, one of several who sent in the poem, says he memorized it when he was in an eighth-grade English class taught by Sister Julia at the old St. Mary’s School, Fargo.

Andrew, by the way, is back in Fargo’s fold after being gone for more than 50 years, having left in 1961 when he joined the Navy. Welcome back, Andrew.

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