Monday, May 28, 2018

Five Generation Legacy of String Music

Sam is on washboard in this picture but also plays mandolin and more

With some of Sam's fiddle club friends starting out to practice in our back yard on Saturday, and moving to the front steps for a well received jam session for the neighbors, then playing at the Val Gallery to open for Greg Gilbertson at the release of his new album with art done by Matthew Bailey, I couldn't help but think of this picture of the Swedish String Band of First Swedish Baptist Church of Oakland, CA in 1906. Not quite like the Fiddle Club, this was the worship ba
nd for that congregation before they could afford a piano or organ. My grandmother Annetta (Nettie) Olson (became Erikson ca. 1919) is at the right of the back row next to the man with the mandolin. Next to her is her sister Olga. Some of these people lived long enough for me to get to know them when I was very young and they were definitely old. The man with the cello and the woman at the left end of the back row were the Burks (I'm not sure if or how they Anglicized their name). I well remember her playing the zither. Their daughter is next to Aunt Olga. So, Sam, after five generations, you are inheriting a great string music legacy!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Stolpe Star 2017

Our New Normal
back row: Rachel Sam Norm Candy
middle row: Leanne Elizabeth David Hannah
front row: Jon Isaac Erik

Last year we reported Candy’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the impending curve in our life journey. Not that we are exactly on a straightaway, but we are settling into our new normal, but the route had many more curves than we anticipated at this time last year.
The house in Dallas that had been our home for 17 years sold more quickly than we anticipated, even with major issues such  a cracked foundation. So we packed quickly and loaded two PODS (with amazing help from Northway Christian Church) and departed Texas the end of January. The PODS went into storage, and we didn’t see our possessions again until August.
Candy with her Aunt Vonnie and Uncle Roger

The duplex that we now share with David and Rachel, Sam and Elizabeth had been selected but the sale was not yet closed. We took a leisurely trip north, visiting with Candy’s Aunt Vonnie and Uncle Roger in Grand Island, Nebraska, Countryside Chapel friends Neal and Carol Brokaw, Dick and Marj Gibson and Marleen Beck in Burlington, Iowa. As we passed through Illinois, we were able to have dinner with my sister, Elaine, and her husband, Max, before visiting Wheaton, Illinois friends Bill and Linda Cates (who opened their home to us before they returned from out of state) and Don and Judy Shutters.
Candy and Norm with his sister Elaine and her husband Max

After a few flex days in a B&B in Milwaukee, a ways into February we were welcomed into the home of Matthew and Mandy Bailey, and their girls Izzy (7) and Emma (4) and Marquette University PhD student Chris Gooding. These friends of Rachel and David’s from Milwaukee Mennonite Church have become our friends too and gave us a home until we could move into the duplex.
When we asked Dr. Diana Kerwin, the memory disorders specialist who worked with us in Texas, if she could refer us to someone in Milwaukee, she smiled and told us she had been at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee before coming to Dallas and suggested Dr. Joseph Govius, who is now handling Candy’s memory care.
Candy with Izzy and Emma Bailey and Erik's dog Isis
who now lives with us and is called Icee

Thursdays From 10 am to 2 pm Candy goes to “Mind Effects” at the Lutheran Home, just minutes from our house. It is a program for people with early memory loss to help keep their brains working. Candy loves it! Though she has holes in her memory, she still beats me at Scrabble 3 or 4 to 1. We play several nights each week.
In March we celebrated Candy’s Dad’s 90th birthday in Minneapolis. In June he fell and broke a hip, so we spent June and July helping him with transitions from hospital to rehab back to his own home, where his former renter, Sue Brooks, is now his caregiver.
family music Friday after Thanksgiving
The sale of the duplex closed in April, and David and Rachel moved in upstairs. But tenants with a lease stayed through July, and we move in downstairs in August.
Milwaukee Mennonite Church has welcomed us warmly and helped us with our transition. They worship at 4:00 pm on Sundays, and especially now with northern autumn and back to standard time, it is dark. You may know about sundowners and Alzheimer’s, so Candy doesn’t always get there, but we have been walking the four blocks to Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church in the mornings. They are a small congregation able to cope with our quirks, and we receive much joy from them.
Thanksgiving was a major milestone marking the climax of this leg of our journey. Jon and Leanne, Hannah and Isaac drove from Pennsylvania. Erik flew from Texas. Our niece Helen came down from Madison, Wisconsin with her son Andrew on Friday. The talking and music and eating confirmed our path. What a wonderful time we had with all three of our sons and all four of our grandchildren!
With all of the twists and turns of our 2017 journey, we have been acutely aware of God going ahead of us and guiding us when we couldn’t see around the corners. Yes, “Emmanuel” God is with us.
Merry Christmas!
Norm for Candy too
Isaac's Eagle Scout Court of Honor

Erik On His Own
Of course, Erik had to find housing. He has sequentially shared space with two men from Central Christian Church. The first in his 80s and now with one in his 70s. Erik worships with Central Christian Church, where I was the pastor for eleven years.  He contributes to their music ministry by singing in the choir and playing piano, guitar, and bass for worship and their dog park outreach service.
He has been promoted to Assistant Music Director for the School of Rock where he teaches. His performing with Troy Cartwright has taken him many places, as far afield as Idaho and Oregon. He’s had other performing opportunities as well.
Candy and Icee at Lake Michigan in early spring

The Wisconsin Stolpes
Rachel and David rented out their other house when they moved into the duplex. So they are double landlords.
David has a new role at Lane Intermediate School in West Allis, Wisconsin as an impact teacher developing a new program for at risk students.
Besides being fully engaged with Sam and Elizabeth’s school, swimming, and music lives, Rachel nannies a few days a week and evenings too. She plays a significant leader role in Milwaukee Mennonite Church.
Sam with his varsity letter for swimming as a freshman

Sam continues to swim, earning a varsity letter as a freshman. His life features music: cello and mandolin. He has also started driving. Grandpa Kent helps him get lots of road hours.
Elizabeth also swims and is adding flute to her violin music. She and Grandma Candy have connected well and share the joy of a new kitten, River Song.
The Fifty Ninth Street Bridge
(check out Simon and Garfunkel )

The Pennsylvania Stolpes
Jon has written a book with his observations from their 2016 time in Guatemala and the goal of  building 100 homes for widows. The title is Rooftop Reflections and will have been released before you get this. It can be ordered through Amazon or at
This year Leanne is teaching kindergarten. Leanne and Jon worked together leading a marriage group.
Stolpe Cousins
Hannah is a sophomore at Messiah College. She will be studying abroad in Chile in the spring and in Paris next school year for her double major of Spanish and French education.

Isaac is a high school senior looking at colleges for music (piano and trumpet). He achieved Eagle Scout in November.
Norm with his niece Helen

panorama of Thanksgiving dinner, Leanne and Jon are to right of frame

Friday, December 16, 2016

Stolpe Star 2016

Taken at Memory Support Group
Turning a Corner

Good drivers know to slow down when they can’t see around a corner and accelerate as they come out of the curve to see the road stretching ahead of them. As we entered 2016 we knew we were coming up to a new direction and the events of Holy Week forced us to slow down as the way ahead of us was obscure.
When I accepted the call to a half-time interim pastorate for 1st Christian Church of Albany, Texas, we expected it would be my last, and we began thinking about the trajectory of the curve ahead of us. I went to Albany (165 miles west of our home) Friday-Monday, but Candy stayed in Dallas. On Palm Sunday weekend twice she wandered away from the house in the middle of the night. I drove back to Dallas as quickly as I could, and Candy spent Holy Week in the hospital.
After an exhausting battery of tests, she was diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. I immediately resigned as interim pastor, and for the first time in years I neither preached nor led worship on Easter Sunday.
Candy had planned to fly to Milwaukee to spend spring school break with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. Instead, David flew to Dallas to help us with this unexpected turn in our path, the details of which are just too intricate to spell out in a Christmas letter.
Most days are mostly good. We cry some. We laugh a lot. We give thanks for the gifts and surprises on this journey. Candy is doing well, and the changes in her medications have been helpful. We are thankful for Dr. Diana Kerwin and the staff of the Memory Disorders Clinic of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for their excellent care and the home health nurses and physical therapists. For Elizabeth Kent the counselor who is accompanying us on this journey. For the encouragement I receive from the memory caregivers support group, also at Presbyterian Hospital.
We are deeply thankful for the staff and people of Northway Christian Church with whom we have been members since my retirement from Central Christian Church. Pastor Doug Skinner has given us wonderful spiritual support both in his preaching and personally.
We are thankful for surprises that have come along the way. I must commend Candy for talking openly about her diagnosis. The responses of people help us receive each day as a gift and encourage others who deal with mental health challenges. In one such  conversation Candy became friends with Cheryl Cook, whom we discovered was the sister-in-law of a good friend of mine, and now Candy and Cheryl walk and talk together.
Prior to Candy’s diagnosis we had considered moving to Milwaukee to be close to Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. Though slowed down by turning this corner, we are probably accelerating toward that goal in coordination with Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis and Erik who will stay in Texas as his music career continues to gain traction. To mix a metaphor, making this turn has a lot of moving pieces that need to fit together. So we move forward with prayer and patience, trusting we will be able to discern how God wants all of this to fit together.
As we come around the curve, we are shifting to Gmail for our email. Email, IM, or text me, and I will send you our Gmail addresses. The sbcglobal emails will work while we are in Texas, but you can keep in touch with us by Gmail even as phone numbers and physical address change.
I know this is a lengthy discourse, and even though it leaves out a lot of details, we wanted to inform you of the significant corner we are rounding. We want to give at least a brief update on the rest of the family too.
Connecting all of this to Christmas may seem something of a stretch. The annual reviews that we (and many others) send out at Christmas time do give some perspective and assurance that God has gone with us on our journey so far, so we are confident we can continue to trust God to be with us from here forward too.
Matthew (1:23) interpreted the angel’s announcement to Joseph of the impending birth of Jesus as a sign of Immanuel – the promise from Isaiah 7:14 that God is with us. So whether our personal and family journeys or the turmoil of the nation and world, Christmas assures us that we are not alone, but God is indeed with us.
Merry Christmas!
Norm for Candy too
Erik’s Music Career
Erik continues to play bass for country singer Troy Cartwright, which is accelerating. He also teaches piano, guitar, bass and performance. Moving out on his own is one of the major steps in the corner we are all taking on our journey.

Pennsylvania Trip in June
We both went to Pennsylvania in June for Hannah’s high school graduation. Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth met us there for the festivities. Hannah is a freshman at Messiah College in Mechanics-burg, PA majoring in Spanish and French education and runs track. Isaac is a high school junior and almost done with Eagle Scout and devoted to music with piano and trumpet.
We are thankful they will be with us for Christmas.

Candy Did Get To Wisconsin
Though not at spring break, Candy did get to Wisconsin by the end of summer to enjoy time with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. Sam is a high school freshman. Both Sam and Elizabeth are active in music and competitive swimming.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Stolpe Star December 2015

The Ever Circling Years
Aware of our own “ever circling years,” we join It Came upon the Midnight Clear yearning for peace to fling its ancient splendors over all the earth.
At my annual physical exam, my doctor remarked that I had recently turned 69. I joked in return that I had one more year before qualifying as an elderly gentleman. He replied that Medicare already considers me an elderly gentleman and proceeded to ask me about depression, balance and falling.
Perhaps that this is going out on Christmas Eve is one sign of how we are (or are not) dealing with our stage of life. “The ever circling years” since the birth of Jesus affirms for us again God’s hand in the unfolding of history both in the turmoil of the world and in embracing the vistas opening in our time of life.
Merry Christmas to all of you!
Norm Stolpe (for Candy too)

Grandchildren Grow
It doesn’t seem that many years have circled since Hannah was born as our first grandchild. But she is now 18, a high school senior and actively in the college hunt: Eastern, Grove City, Messiah are the candidates. She intends to continue running track in college.
Isaac is a high school sophomore excelling in piano and trumpet and on the verge of Eagle Scout (and driving when he turns 16 in May). He is almost as tall as his Dad.

Sam is a 14 year old 8th grader who plays cello and in a ukulele group with other kids. His math and science curiosity keeps expanding. His voice and stature are of an emerging young man.
Elizabeth will turn 10 just after I email this edition of the Stolpe Star. She is advancing in piano and is poised to pass Sam in piano competence. She recently went with her Dad and their beagle Bella to Minneapolis to visit (great) Grandpa Miller.

Erik Focuses on Music Career
 During 2015 Erik’s music career began to build momentum, so he left food service to focus full attention on music. He plays bass for Troy Cartwright, a country singer, and keyboard and guitar for other occasional opportunities. He started teaching but the music school closed. So he is seeking private students and other performing opportunities. He is also giving attention to building his music proficiency. This transition is both exciting and stressful as the income is uneven.

Candy’s Year at Home
After two years on the road with Norm’s interim pastorates in Midwest City, OK and Odessa, TX, 2015 has been Candy’s first full year back in our Dallas home. She has enjoyed reconnecting with friends. Addressing concerns of the house after that hiatus and supporting a home base for both Norm and Erik occupies a lot of her attention.
Norm’s Ministry Transition

In May Norm finished his interim pastorate with Highlands Christian Church in Dallas. His plan had been for one more interim pastorate, but despite a couple of leads that has not come to fruition. He has been driving funeral cars (limo and hearse). This seems to complete a family circle. When Norm’s Dad died in 2007 we learned from his Navy discharge papers that he had hoped for seminary and ministry but went into the funeral business. Now 40 years after Norm’s ordination, he is in the funeral business. A 3 day a week interim pastorate may open up in 2016. We’re tuning into God’s direction.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Stolpe Star December 2014

Christmas Again, Already?
Ever notice how adults often fuss about how quickly Christmas comes around, as though an extra week in December would help us be ready? and children fuss about how long it takes to get to Christmas as though subtracting a week from December would make waiting easier?
Despite the denigration of Christmas letters as brag-sheets, we enjoy the annual catch-up with friends and family, and send The Stolpe Star as our way of affirming the wonderful relationships we have had with so many people over the years.
But even more than the family news, we want to extend to each of you our greetings and prayers for a Merry Christmas. May you find that contemplating the birth of Jesus each year never gets old but renews your spirit again.
Norm and Candy Stolpe
Helen Doris Stolpe
We were able to see Norm’s Mom in August when we traveled to the Midwest. Her health and strength had been declining since Norm’s Dad died in 2007 and accelerated the last couple of years. We all knew this would be our last visit, which we found deeply satisfying rather than depressing. Besides time with Mom, we had good conversation with Norm’s sister Elaine and her husband Max to thank them for their years of on-site care for her and to prepare for her departure.

She left us in peace in the early morning hours of September 30 (Norm’s 68th birthday), content with a full life devoted to Jesus without regrets, unresolved relationships or unfulfilled dreams.
The Family Gathers
We took a couple of weeks off between Norm’s interim pastorates with 1st Christian Church of Odessa, TX and Highlands Christian Church in Dallas, TX. We flew to Milwaukee and had quality time with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth as we used their home as basecamp and their car for transportation to visit Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis and Norm’s Mom in Batavia, IL.
Leanne, Jon, Erik, Sam, Candy, Norm, Elizabeth, Isaac, Hannah, David, Rachel
The banner behind us was done by Tim Botts, an artist I knew during my Wheaton days. It says, "Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving" which we all thought was appropriate for my Mom as we gathered for her memorial service at Evangel Baptist Church in Wheaton

In October we were back in Illinois for Mom’s memorial service with Erik, David and his family and Jon and his family and had a potent bonding time. Norm’s sister Elaine had all of her children and most of her grandchildren there as well. We got to see dear friends from our years in Illinois too.
Moving On
After 2 years for interim pastorates in Midwest City, OK and Odessa, TX, we are happy to be back in our Dallas home and serving Highlands Christian Church.
Erik’s career is also taking an important turn. His musical opportunities are expanding, and he has gone back to food service with Rusty Taco, with prospects of advancement.
Contact Us

Norm: 214-793-5224

Candy: 214-793-2572

Friday, October 10, 2014

In Memory of H. Doris Stolpe

I had arranged for two Sundays off between interim pastorates in August 2014. Candy and I flew to Milwaukee for several enjoyable days with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. We borrowed one of their cars to make short trips to Minneapolis to see Candy’s Dad and to Batavia (about 50 miles west of Chicago) to see my Mom. She had been weakening for some time, and we suspected this might be the last time we would see her, which turned out to be true.

Mom joined the glorious company of the saints in light on September 30, my 68th birthday. My sister, Elaine, had been staying with her for several days. Her daughter Helen came from Madison, WI to give her mother a bit of a break, as did our daughter-in-law Rachel who went down from Milwaukee for an overnight. Helen was with her grandmother in the early hours of the morning when she died. The family gathered to remember her and to connect well with each other.
Candy, Jon, Erik, David, Norman

Isaac, Jon, Sam, Erik, David, Norman

Hannah, Elizabeth, Rachel, Leanne, Candy

When I was growing up I always thought of my mother as a stay-at-home Mom. In retrospect, I realize she was a work-from-home Mom. Having worked for a classy custom dress shop in San Francisco after high school until getting married 9 years later, she was an accomplished seamstress. She made custom clothes for a clientele who wanted unique, quality clothes. They came to the house with patterns, fabrics and specifications. They returned for fittings as the clothes took shape.
Family lore is that Grandpa Erikson rescued this rocker from the trash. We still have it, and some of our grandchildren have sat in it.
When I was in high school and college, she turned her sewing skills to making tents and sails for boats for the boys’ (Christian Service Brigade) group at church. She made two custom winter jackets for me, the second of which I wore for many years in Minnesota and Illinois.

Mom confirmed what my grandmother told me several times. Mom had skipped two grades and graduated from high school at 16. The principal of Oakland High School thought she should go to college and was sure a scholarship could be found. However, my grandfather couldn’t quite grasp his daughter going to college when 8th grade was as far as anyone else had gotten. He couldn’t understand skipping grades; you had to take them in order. And he couldn’t understand or accept that someone else would pay for her to go to college.
Mom had made her own wedding dress, which she didn't get to wear until 9 months after the wedding since Dad shipped to Okinawa in March, ahead of their planned June wedding. They married in Tacoma, WA, but had a reception in Oakland, CA in January after Dad's return from Navy duty. 
I sometimes wonder what she might have done had she gone to college, but that didn’t keep her from becoming a wise, learned woman. As our daughter-in-law observed several times, no matter who else was there, Mom was always the smartest person in the room.

Though eminently practical and not given to luxury or extravagance, she was game for adventures that the rest of the family drew her into. We camped in many places in Northern California and a few farther flung sites. I remember well climbing Mt. Lassen the summer between my 5th and 6th grades. We cut our camping trip a day short when she had to break the ice on the water bucket to fix breakfast.

That year was a turning point for her and our family. In the fall she contracted meningitis and was in isolation at the county hospital for some time. She came home just before Christmas but wasn’t up to our usual celebrations. Mom and Dad apologized to my sister and me, but we were just happy to have her home and on the mend. All of my other childhood Christmas memories blur together, but that is the one that stands out in my mind. Her rheumatoid arthritis erupted soon after.

She was a woman of great and quite sophisticated faith. Her Bible knowledge was second to none, and she taught Bible Study Fellowship for many years (having been trained by BSF founder Wetherill Johnson herself). But she did not passively accept pious or naïve theology, and I think I learned from her how to think theologically in the spaces between Scripture and life.

During my high school years, one of the most distinct images I have of Mom is her sitting at one end of the dining room table (that had been hand made by her father) typing my school papers on a small, portable Smith-Corona manual typewriter. I sat at the other end hand writing. Besides deciphering handwriting, correcting spelling and grammar, she challenged my logic, which I’m sure improved my grades at least a half-step. These sessions seemed often to go late into the night.

My Dad’s work schedule at Albert Brown Mortuary varied considerably, and my sister and I rarely had the same school schedule. Mom always prepared breakfast for us and ate with each of us, taking her breakfast in two or three small courses. She did have a schedule of what she fixed for breakfast each day of the week (which I have conveniently forgotten), which made breakfast predictable for us and simplified preparation for her.

Mom and Dad were quite a team. Once our daughter-in-law Rachel videoed them washing dishes in perfect coordination. Mom washed, and Dad dried and put them in the cupboard in the tiny efficiency kitchen in their independent living apartment at Holmstadt. No speaking, no bumping, but reaching over, under and around each other as though choreographed. By working together they were able to stay in independent living quite a bit longer than other couples with similar limitations.

After Dad died she struggled, not only with the difficulties of physical decline, but with maintaining a sense of purpose in life. After Dad died, when she went from assisted living to skilled care at the Michaelson Health Center, she took her sewing machine. She made a few clothes for herself and mended to other residents and staff. When she had to give that up, she felt useless and questioned why God kept her around since she wasn’t accomplishing anything. During her active years, prayer had been vigorous. One day I suggested that God might be keeping her around to pray for the rest of us. She lamented that with her mental faculties slipping she had a hard time concentrating enough to pray.

Once she passed 90, Mom frequently said to me, “Nobody else in this family had to live this long, why do I have to?” While I believe that even a desire to pray is prayer, I don’t really have an answer to Mom’s question. I do know that even as she was fading before our eyes, all of us were enriched by every visit and phone conversation (even the ones when she was very confused). 

At about 90 she was talking about being ready to leave this life to be with Jesus. She expressed thanks for the full richness of her life, for the relationships with family and friends, for the opportunities she had had to serve. Then she said to me, “The only thing I haven’t done is die, and I’m ready to find out what that’s like.” While she was very realistic about death, for her personally, it was not something to dread but was her next great adventure.
Joe Bayly was a good friend who mentored me in the early years of my career. His book "View from the Hearse" tells what he learned when death claimed his children. He knew whereof he spoke and wrote. When his heart would not restart after bypass surgery, he took this great adventure, but I still find it difficult to grasp a world without him and without my parents.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Signposts and Milestones

Mt. Shasta by Robert Wood
While Yosemite always held a magical power for me (I know I'm hardly alone in that), I didn't get there very often or get to explore many of its special places. For a host of reasons, I got to and was more familiar with the lesser known mountains of Northern California and the Redwood Coast (redwood trees are also magical). Mt. Shasta symbolized much of that part of California for me. I had ambitions of one day climbing Mt. Shasta. I bought a USGS topo map and read a number of trail and route guides. But it never happened. At this point in my life I'm releasing a lot of unfulfilled youthful ambitions, not with grief or regret but with gratitude and joy at the paths on which my journey with Jesus has taken me that I could never have imagined growing up. This Robert Wood print of Mt. Shasta hung in my parents' living room for many years and symbolized for me both my memories and ambitions of those younger days. It has now come to our house but does not have a real place of its own. After mentioning it on Facebook this morning, I wanted a little deeper reflection and more enduring record, so am adding it to my blog.