I returned to Minnesota a couple of weeks ago to fish with friends. As we passed through Litchfield, we stopped at the cemetery near Lake Ripley to visit the graves of my parents and brother — Wally and Ruth Chilstrom and David Chilstrom.
Having been there many times, I knew where to look for their grave marker. But there were two barriers. First, my 87-year-old eyes don't see well enough to read names on the stones. Second, in preparation for Memorial Day, the grounds crew had not yet swept the grass clippings from the flat markers. My friends looked and looked. In disappointment, we were about to give up.
Just then, a bright red station wagon drove up. A short, well-dressed woman stepped out of the vehicle and asked if we were looking for a grave. When I gave her my name and expressed my frustration, she said, "I'll help you." She promised not to leave until we found our family graves.
As we searched she pointed to a newer part of the cemetery and said her son had been killed in an auto accident not long ago, and she was now dedicating much of her time to improving the entire cemetery. She noted that the Civil War statue had been totally restored. Now she had several other projects waiting to be completed.
After a brief search, she pulled out her cell phone and called the city offices where a plat book of the graves is located. In a short time, she pointed to our family marker, only a few steps from where we stood.
As she scurried off, my friends and I grasped hands and encircled the grave marker. We bowed our heads. I simply said, "He was a good father. She was a good mother. He was a good brother."
There were a lot of wonderful "angels" around Litchfield when I was a kid growing up there more than 70 years ago. There are still many more. One is named Betty Allen.
Next time you see Betty, dig in your purse or wallet and give her a donation for these good causes. And if you live far off, do as I'm doing today — send a check to the Lake Ripley Cemetery at City of Litchfield, 126 N. Marshall Ave., Litchfield, MN, 55355.
They'll see it gets to Betty for her next project.
Green Valley, Arizona
LHS Class of '49