My Grandpa, Oscar C. Eliason, passed away when I was 17, but I remember him as though it was only yesterday. When I think of him, I smell woodsmoke from his kitchen stove that helped warm his rural Minnesota home on 40 degree below zero days, and I can see his plaid flannel shirt that he always wore. I can still feel his soft, wrinkled cheek when I gave him a kiss as a child. He had the habit of patting you gently on the back to show his affection. We called those his “love pats.”
He had a Swedish lilt when he spoke until the day he died. He didn’t say Grandma’s name as “Norma”. It was Nord’ma. The flap “r” betrayed his Scandinavian roots. He came through Ellis Island as a boy and settled with his parents on a Minnesota homestead.
He learned English in the one room schoolhouse where all the blonde, Swedish immigrant children went. He nearly died from tuberculosis as a young man, but was healed miraculously after a humble minister came through the sanitarium, praying quietly for the sick. One lung had already collapsed and his brother had just died from the same illness.
He lived to write Gospel songs at the old upright piano in his living room. Cliff Barrows and the Billy Graham Crusade Choir sang one of them at a crusade in Minneapolis once. It was a thrill for him to hear the song, “A Name I Highly Treasure” sung by that huge choir. Even though he served as an evangelist and itinerant preacher in the Iron Range area, he was also a poet who wrote all kinds of verse, both funny and serious. He wrote “A Modernist Preacher Entering Hell” that made its way around the world.
Today, as his granddaughter, I remember him and honor his memory.