Thursday, October 10, 2013

90 in Life. 65 in Love.

As I sit on my couch in my Chicago apartment, I am struck with extreme envy when Instagram photos display the joyous time members of my family are having together in Alaska at this very moment. My parents, aunts and uncles, roommate cousin, and fairy goddaughter made the trek from the lower 48 to the best of the U.S. states this week to celebrate a joyous time.

Grandpa Ralph turns 90.
Grandma Gert turns 87. 
And their marriage celebrates 65 years. 

(G&G with all five kids and their spouses) 

(Grandma Gert with the Fondell granddaughters)

Grandma Gert and Grandpa Ralph both grew up in the small town of Dawson in Minnesota, where Nathaniel Franklin (G. Gert's father) was the minister of the Dawson Covenant Church.

Their romance began to blossom when Gertrude's father asked Ralph to escort her on the train to Chicago where they both were attending North Park University.

In the early days of their relationship, Gert wondered if Ralph was spontaneous enough for her. In proof that he was, one evening, he slid down a banister at some ritzy establishment. I don't remember where, but the image of my grandfather sliding down a banister in his youth (to woo my grandma) is very clear. As is the imagined smile I believe my grandmother wore on her face that evening.

They married and devoted their life to mission work, which brought them to Nome, Alaska where they established a radio station, KICY.

65 years ... 5 kids ... 15 grandchildren ... 10 great grandchildren

Three of their five children attended their alma mater where they met their spouses. Seven of their grandchildren also attended North Park University where the youngest granddaughter, Aimee, is currently a junior. Though the jury is still out on a few of our spouses, Nathaniel Fondell managed to snag the beautiful Ellen Moore as his wife carrying on the North Park legacy.

The family of Dan and Luanne Fondell currently reside on the Fondell family farm in Dawson Minnesota. John and his wife Truc Lien live in Anchorage with their son Alex. Jessica Fondell spent three years as a missionary in Alaska.

It all goes to show that the life they have led is one worth following - as many of their children and grandchildren strive to follow in their footsteps.

Grandpa Ralph and Grandma Gert are two people who have lived remarkable and beautiful lives. They are an inspiration to all. Their marriage, their faith, and their generosity set an example that I can only hope to emulate in my own life.

They are two of the most welcoming individuals I know. Always willing to lend a helping hand, offer a listening ear, or merely a safe place to stay for the night. Of course a visit isn't complete without copious cups of coffee, a retelling of amazing stories, and most likely a few games. Their home is one of the first I can remember in life, and will forever remain a place I think of with fond(ell) memories. It is where my cousins and I hid in the basement storage. Where we dressed up in snowsuits on a warm summer day. Where we watched the 2012 Summer olympics. Where many a meal was shared around their table. Where we played games of croquet in the back yard. Where holidays, anniversaries and festivities were shared.

It is a place of memories, of love, and of family.

To Gert and Ralph, family is of the utmost importance. Each summer, they make a trip to visit those family members who don't live close by. It is always the highlight of my summer to spend a relaxing week lounging by the pool with them. As I try to keep up with grandma's coffee drinking and speed reading, and I try my hardest to find where the puzzle pieces go!

This week, it is the families turn to travel to AK. Though I was unable to make the trip to visit them, it is a joy to know that family has gathered together to celebrate them, their birthdays and their marriage.

I am proud to be a part of the Fondell family and to call Gert and Ralph my grandparents.

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for all the love and inspiration you have given me in my life. I love you very much.

Happy 65 years! 


  1. Lovely Nikki. Just lovely. You are blessed with a wonderful family :)


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