The human connection lives on

A shovel works in the Hawkins Mine on the edge of Nashwauk, Minnesota, in 1957.

A shovel works in the Hawkins Mine on the edge of Nashwauk, Minnesota, in 1957.

I was moved to read this post by Minnesota blogger Aaron Rupar, previously of City Pages and Fox 9, but writing this for his personal site. His grandfather, George Raskovich of Nashwauk, died when he was a young boy, but he recently formed a connection with the man’s memory thanks to the writing of another Northern Minnesota writer Joe Legueri.

From Rupar’s touching post:

I never got to know George too well, unfortunately. Both he and his wife Mary died when I was five, so my memories are limited to vague recollections of a burly, friendly, mustachioed man who lived in the cozy Nashwauk home my mom grew up in along with her rambunctious and sometime trouble-making brothers. (The nickname George gave me, “Ace,” still endures on that side of my family. I’m not sure about its origins, though I’m sure my parents could fill me in.)

Only later did I learn that when George was 17, he lied about his age and enlisted in the military. He deployed to Europe, where he was among the first Allied waves to land on the beaches of northern France on D-Day. He later spent more than three decades working in Iron Range mines during the peak of the area’s Iron Ore boom before retiring in the early 1980s.

I might not’ve been able to ask George about any of those things, but thanks to Joe Legueri’s column, I now have a pretty good idea about the remarkable character he had.

Legueri, who has appeared in the digital pages of MinnesotaBrown.com before, was a mixed up kid in Nashwauk, thinking of running away, when a chance encounter with Raskovich in his garage started him down a path of mentorship and character. Legueri penned his thoughts in a 2014 Hometown Focus column. Raskovich took the young boy under his wing in 1956, giving him a job in his garage that was more like a personal mentorship.

From Legueri:

Over the next six years, he worked his magic as he kept me busy. He also gave me gifts. One of them was the gift of learning how to take a car engine apart, replace or repair the worn parts, and put it back together. I did that job so often that I believed I could do it blindfolded. His gifts of knowledge extended to the brake system, the electrical system, and all the other systems that a car has. He gave me the gift of analytical thinking by teaching me how to diagnose the troubles that caused an automobile to malfunction. He taught me how to use my hands and not to be afraid of a little grease.

But there were also many other gifts that he gave me. In spite of the bad things I had done earlier in my life, he treated me in a way I had never been treated before: as if I were a worthy human being, not some kind of a brat kid. He accepted me. He trusted me. All of that helped me to gain confidence in myself. I can see now that his plan worked just as he had wanted it to. What puzzles me is how he knew enough about adolescent psychology to get through to me like that.

Do yourself a favor today and read Rupar’s post, then Legueri’s column. Sure, it might restore your faith in humanity, but also this is proof positive that people who die can come back to life through the people they touch here on Earth.

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