With a very heavy heart I bid adieu this week to my buddy, John Edstrom. Our history goes back a long way. I have known John Edstrom for well over half a century, dating back to my kindergarten days at Central Elementary school in Winona. John, or Johnny as I came to call him in later years, was elder to me by four years, but his twin siblings, Nick and Nancy, were my age, and so the relationship with the Edstrom family began.
Memories get foggy when you have to go back that far, but my recollection of those early days in the 1950s is that Johnny was competing for the attention of his older brothers, Lee and Tom, rather than paying much attention to his younger siblings and this kid (me) who kept coming over to his house for Cub scout meetings (that John’s mother organized), to watch “The Three Stooges” on the Edstrom’s black & white TV, and general camaraderie with the younger siblings.
As the years went by, Johnny and I completed high school, went off to college, got jobs, started families and our lives separated somewhat. In the early 1980s Johnny and I reunited when our mutual interests of hunting and fishing drew us together again like attracting poles of a magnet. Back in the day, grouse hunting in Southeast Minnesota was outstanding and that was something Johnny and I really enjoyed. We also both enjoyed fly fishing for trout and we did that a lot…hundreds of trips over the years. I got Johnny started with deer hunting and that was something that we mutually enjoyed with our hunting buddies for the past 25 years. Duck hunting was great too for a time, and we took many pheasant hunting trips as well. I have great memories of it all.
Johnny and I also had a huge mutual interest in music. Both of us had parents and grandparents who were musical and both of us had musical inclinations. I played the trumpet and played with Ernie Reck’s polka entourage in my younger years, and Johnny was a trombonist and keyboardist extraordinaire, playing with several local bands as a youngster. I think we played in only one gig together, that with the “M. I. Blue” band for some Mississippi River hooligans on a hot summer day back in the 1990s, but that was a hoot!
John and Fran enjoyed traveling to Mexico and Johnny got pretty conversant in Spanish with those yearly trips to Acapulco. Not to be outdone, in the 1990s while working at Ashley Furniture, I had the good fortune of hiring a Mexican gal named Maria, from whom I picked up the Spanish language pretty well. Sometimes Johnny and I would have conversations in Spanish over several cervezas until we got to the point where neither of us made a whole lot of sense, at which time we regrouped back into English.
In 2000, Johnny asked me to write a football column re the Green Bay Packers. The Winona Post had a long history of publishing professional football columns mostly about the Minnesota Vikings, but Johnny knew of my passion for the Green and Gold and thought a Packer column would be a good addition for his Cheesehead customers. The “Packer Partisan” has since been featured in the Winona Post for the last twelve years and it has been a fun run.
Johnny and I didn’t agree at all about which football team to cheer for on Sunday and we occasionally had political differences too. My Libertarian-leaning philosophy often didn’t line up with what Johnny thought to be right, but we never really got mad at each other. We just worked out those differences and got on with it. It was a great relationship with lots of mutual respect that kept us close all these years, and I miss my friend dearly already. R.I .P. amigo.
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