Column: The people behind the stories

Human beings have the power to make a large impact on one another, as a mentor, classmate, co-worker, friend, family member or stranger.
Last week, I introduced readers to several inspiring individuals. What you don’t know is that each one left a lasting impact on my life.
Emery Erickson, the 90-year-old World War II veteran who threw the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins game, is no stranger to me. This was the fourth time he was featured in my paper during my four-year career at the Sun Post.
I initially learned about Emery in 2015 when he and his wife, Ruby, were training an assistance dog at their Covenant Village apartment.
In 2016, I met Emery for the first time while interviewing him about participating in the Twin Cities Honor Flight, a one-day trip to Washington D.C. where World War II veterans have the opportunity to view the war memorials.
Later that year, he built a Little Free Library with fellow Covenant Village resident Dick Davideit, and was featured in my paper once again. When I met with him two weeks ago he was energetic, gregarious and smiling ear to ear.
As we talked about his health scare that lead him to create a bucket list and how special it was for him to achieve one of those dreams, I could not help but pause and reflect on how precious my life is, on how I should also strive to achieve my ultimate dreams.
You see? I started crafting my bucket list years ago.
My list includes rescuing a puppy, volunteering at an animal shelter, writing a book, getting married, having children, visiting the 9/11 memorial, attending cooking classes, visiting Glacier National Park, standing at the top of a mountain, going on a spontaneous road trip, seeing the northern lights, going scuba diving, white water rafting, zip lining and sky diving. My list is always growing.
I have accomplished some of the items but there are many more I have yet to pursue.
Emery taught me how precious life is and that you are never too old to pursue your dreams and have a good time doing it.
Ted Freeman, the 66-year-old Golden Valley man living with disabilities, is also no stranger to me.
I met Ted in 2015 at Good Samaritan Society – Ambassador’s Senior Prom. Ted was a the facility for short-term care.
Dressed in a button down shirt and bow tie, his signature accessory, Ted danced with two University of Minnesota sorority members. I was happy to capture the joyful moment for my paper.
He displayed the same teeth-baring grin then as when I arrived to his house two weeks ago.
Funny thing is, I had no idea I was going to interview this Ted, the Ted I had met two years ago.
Then, I met Claire and Rob Alber, a young couple who dedicate three days per month to visiting with Ted.
They all inspired me. Ted’s enthusiasm for life, connecting with others and having a good time moved me.
I live such a blessed life and yet many times I find myself feeling down about my situation and ignore those closest to me. Ted taught me to enjoy the little things and mostly, to enjoy the people in my life.
The Albers inspired me to share time and relationship with others even when my schedule is busy. Giving of your time can be the greatest gift of all.
David and Rose Holland, the couple pictured laughing at Good Samaritan Society’s senior prom, were everything I want for my future relationship.
Immediately after meeting the dynamic duo, I was intrigued to learn more about them. Where had they come from and how did they get here?
The couple started dating at age 13, attended their senior prom together in 1957, were married, and had three sons, two of whom have died. They have endured health scares and now live together at Good Samaritan Society.
Yet, here they sat, 59 years married, giggling like high school sweethearts at senior prom.
Rose told me the secret to a long and happy marriage is to take it one day at a time and never go to bed angry. Observing them taught me more than that.
The Hollands taught me to love unconditionally through every obstacle and to continue laughing and playing.
A journalist’s job is not glamorous on most days, but the days I met with Emery, Ted, the Albers and the Hollands were life changing.

Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]