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Longfellow climate activist walks the walk every day

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Standing in front of her electric Chevy Bolt, Jean Buckley said, “I use my buying power to make an environmental statement. I believe in making educated, responsible choices.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Longtime Longfellow resident Jean Buckley believes each of us can make a difference in the current climate crisis.
She said, “I’ve always been a strong environmentalist. I believe every human being has a responsibility to protect earth’s finite natural resources. Some people choose to be what are called ‘first adopters,’ which means taking on higher costs when technologies or products are new. First adopters are willing to bear those initial costs, with relative certainty that the costs will come down when the technologies or products become more main stream.”
Buckley was a first adopter of residential solar energy, among many other things. Ten years ago, she had solar panels installed on her garage roof. That first set of solar panels produced enough energy to power her house until she bought an electric car last year. She is now adding more solar panels to the roof of her home to produce the extra energy she needs.
Over the next 10 years she will receive rebates from Xcel Energy as part of their Solar Rewards Program, and she won’t ever have to pay for electricity or gasoline again. Visit www.xcelenergy.com to learn more about their Solar Rewards Program.
When the Volkswagen Jetta TDI came on the market, it was the greenest car available. Buckley bought one early on, and was able to sell it back to VW after their emissions scandal broke. With the money from the resale, she purchased an electric Chevy Bolt. This car qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit. She frequently travels to Duluth to visit her grandchildren. Money from the VW settlement is helping build infrastructure for electric vehicles; this includes more charging stations along highly traveled corridors like 35W.
Buckley has made most of her home improvement decisions from the standpoint of what’s best for the environment. She said, “Many of these choices have higher costs up-front, but I believe they are cost-effective over time. The metal roof I chose for my house cost about 20% more than asphalt shingles. It will last at least 100 years though; I’ll never need to replace it. I’ve lived in my house for 25 years and as someone who hopes to age in place, the metal roof made sense both environmentally and economically.”
On Earth Day 2019, Buckley retired from her job with Ramsey County as an Environmental Health Educator. Prior to that job, she worked for the city of Bloomington. Her areas of expertise included renewable energy, building efficiency, water quality, and recycling. She said, “I had a long career as an educator. I’m still finding ways to encourage people to make positive changes for the environment.”
Buckley is involved in her neighborhood as a Block Club Coordinator. Block Clubs are a function of the city of Minneapolis (visit www.minneapolimn.gov to learn more.) The focus of Block Clubs is often on crime prevention, but can include other things depending on neighborhood interests. On Buckley’s block, she has organized a list of neighbors willing to share tools and skills, or barter for professional services.
She said, “We think our network is even better than Next Door, because it’s neighbor to neighbor on our own block.”
Since retiring last spring, Buckley has literally put on a new hat. She proudly wears a cap that identifies her as a River Educator with the Mississippi Park Connections Program: the nonprofit partner of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (the 72-mile section of the Mississippi River that flows through the Twin Cities). The program gives kids the opportunity to get out on the river, and have a national park experience right here in the Twin Cities.
In addition, she volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350.org on various climate issues such as pension divestment from fossil fuels, and investment in clean energy.
When asked what drives her seemingly endless supply of energy for environmental causes, the matter-of-fact Jean Buckley gave a surprisingly sentimental answer. She said, “It’s the Starfish Story.” So here, in closing, is the Starfish Story (author unknown.)
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy throwing something into the ocean. He asked, “What are you doing?” and the boy answered, “I’m throwing starfish into the sea. The tide is going out and if I don’t put them back, they’ll die.” The man said, “Don’t you see that there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” The boy picked up another starfish and gently put it back in the water. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “Well, I made a difference for that one.”

From Jean Buckley
Did you know that every 4th grader in the U.S. can obtain a free pass for themselves and their families to visit more than 2,000 federal lands and waterways for a whole year? The hope is that this “Every
Kid in a Park” will help to
build the next generation of passionate and informed
environmental stewards.
Visit www.everykidinapark.gov to learn more.

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Virtual Passport Programs opens doors for people unable to travel

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Chris Mangold said, “Remember the old View Master, where you could see the world at the push of a button? This program is similar, but uses new technology.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Longfellow resident Christine Mangold is a seasoned traveler. Some of her favorite destinations have been Paris, London, Rome, and Venice. When she worked as the Lifelong Learning Director at the Minneapolis Ebenezer Senior Living Campus, she started thinking about virtual reality travel as an option for people living in that community. A virtual travel club could be a way to give them the joy of travelling to new places easily and at no cost.
Because of successful results from a pilot study at the Minneapolis Campus, Mangold started the Virtual Passport Programs (VPP) in 2019, and now brings her Virtual Travel Club to half a dozen senior living communities in the Twin Cities each month. The one-hour sessions are a chance for people who are unable to travel (for a variety of reasons) to view 360 degree videos from far-away places. Participants are issued a passport, provided with a tour guide, and off they go.
Participants fill out a travel profile when they join VPP. They answer questions about what they would like to see in the U.S., Mexico, South America, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, or Antarctica. Mangold said, “The focus of VPP is educational, but it also brings out memories of past travels – as well as longings to see places that were not fulfilled. In each session we offer five destinations to choose from, and they are destinations the group has expressed interest in seeing.”

Virtual Passport Programs Creator and CEO Chris Mangold (left) helped an Ebenezer resident put travel stamps in her virtual travel passport. Mangold encourages people considering senior living options to look at those with enthusiasm for new technologies, as well as traditional activities. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

She continued, “Remember watching the Seven Wonders of the World on a View Master? When you pushed the lever and the circle of tiny slides advanced? This is similar, but with new, advanced technology. Now people can experience an African safari, the Northern lights in Minnesota, or the Castle of Versailles. By turning in their seats or wheelchairs, they can change the view of what they’re seeing.”
Mangold’s goal is to bring the world to people who are living within four walls because of financial limitations, mobility or cognitive issues.
She said, “My sweet spot is that I’ve worked with seniors, and I’m able to follow the thread of their interests. I choose videos from the internet that won’t cause dizziness, and that are audience appropriate. Some have narration, and some don’t. In the middle of winter, it can be nice just to look at and listen to what’s happening on a Mediterranean beach.”
After viewing the video content through headsets, participants discuss what they’ve seen and compare travel notes. Mangold brings along a stack of maps and books about the pre-chosen destinations. Acting as tour guide, she uses her resources to stimulate conversation and to help people connect.
She said, “I arrived as creator/owner of VPP after walking many paths. Over the years, I’ve been a daughter to a mom who was in a care center for stroke-induced aphasia; a volunteer to children, women, and seniors; an art director for an ad agency focused on health and wellness; and a lifelong learning program director for a senior community. These experiences sparked the idea of using virtual reality technology to enrich seniors’ lives. I believe that anything is possible if you’re open to new paths.”
For more information, visit www.virtualpassportprograms.com.

“I’ve been fortunate to travel to faraway places. But I am just as awed by the beauty of the BWCA or the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, the simplicity of a Minnesota farm scene or a sunset. These are the sensory experiences of life that we all yearn for and we all deserve. Virtual Passport Programs brings these experiences to people who are unable to see them in person because of accessibility issues. They can be traveling, seeing, or doing anything that they dream of.” ~ Chris Mangold, Virtual Passport Programs owner

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Informal networks promote community building at Becketwood

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Members of the Cat Consortium around 19-year-old Tally the Cat include: (left to right) Linda Kusserow, Bonnie Porte, and owner Clare Fossum, who relied on the other women during a recent time away. (Photo by Terry Faust)

by Iric Nathanson
Earlier this year, when Clare Fossum had to spend time recovering from a medical procedure, she knew she could rely on her neighbors at Becketwood Cooperative to look after her elderly companion while she was away from home recuperating at a local rehab center.
Fossum’s companion happened to be her 19-year-old cat, Tally, who had made friends with two neighbors, Bonnie Porte and Linda Kusserow. Porte lived down the hall and Kusserow was two floors away. They each took turns feeding Tally, bringing her fresh water and spending time with her while Fossum was in rehab.
“It was a great relief for me to know that Linda and Bonnie were there every day looking after Tally,” Fossum said. “She knew them and they knew her. It was not as if some strangers were always coming and going in the apartment. That would only have upset her.”
Fossum, Porte and Kusserow had been part of an informal network of cat owners at Becketwood who looked after each other’s pets when they were away. The neighbors at the “55 plus” senior co-op bonded over their common connections to their feline friends and formed their own friendship circle within the broader Becketwood community.
The network has evolved into a more formally structured Cat Consortium with two teams, one for each wing of the building. Cat owners email their team members when they need a neighbor to care for their pet.
“It is all very well organized,” Porte explained. “We even have a form that people fill out indicating their kitty’s food preferences, their medication needs, and the contact information for their vets.”

Comfort Singers
While their small feline friends brought members of the Cat Consortium together, other neighbors at Becketwood have bonded over their love of singing. They are known as the Becketwood Comfort Singers. They bring their music to people at Becketwood or in a care facility who may be house-bound or seriously ill or facing end-of-life issues. Their leader, Ruth Gaylord, patterned the Comfort Singers after a similar group she had formed at the Basilica of St. Mary.
Gaylord, a former high school choral director, lives with ovarian cancer. She said that she has thought about being surrounded by beautiful choral music when she is dying. “I would like a small ensemble to sing beautiful music to me as I approach the end of this life. So I looked for men and women from Becketwood who had experience as choral singers who would want to be part of a small ensemble to offer that gift to others.”
She added, “We offer our singing to those who request it, and then only when we have checked with them or their families in advance to find out what kind of music they would like to hear. Some people don’t want to be sung to when they’re going through a difficult time. We understand that.”

Member activities

Enjoying an excursion to Urban Growler are, left to right, (starting in the front) Carol Bechtel, Mickey Monsen, Gerhard Johnson, Loren Flicker, David Liddle, Lorene Liddle, and Howard Bergstrom. (Photo by Terry Faust)

The Comfort Singers may be a select group with limited membership, but that is not the case with more than a dozen special interest clusters at Becketwood known as the Member Activities Committees. The individual committees are coordinated by an umbrella organization, the Members Activities Council (MAC).
“They may be called committees, but they are activities for people who may not like to go to committee meetings,” says Bob Kirk, a former MAC chair. ‘We have a craft committee for people who like to paint, knit or quilt, a workshop group for people who like to do woodwork and a pantry committee for folks who want to help run our little convenience store. If you are having fun at Becketwood, you are probably involved in a MAC committee.”
Kirk, himself, has had fun organizing a series of pub crawls sponsored by Becketwood’s Excursion Committee. “When all the brew pubs started opening up, I thought people here might want to see what they were all about. They all liked that first excursion so we started doing more of them,” Kirk said.
“Now, when we do a pub crawl, some of us come for the beer, but others come for the camaraderie even if they are not beer drinkers. If you are sitting next to someone who has just moved into Becketwood, it is a good way for you to get to know the newcomer or the newcomer to get to know you.”
Newcomers also get to know their neighbors in Becketwood’s workshop which hosts a coffee gathering every weekday morning starting at 10 a.m. “Morning coffee used to be all men, but women have started showing up and they always welcome,“ said Joel Mortensen, who co-chairs the Workshop Committee with Todd Gulliver.
Ray Mikkelson, a coffee drinking regular, admits that he comes down to the workshop for some male bonding. Mikkelson remembers taking a tour of Becketwood while he and his wife, Helen, were still on the waiting list.
“I kept wondering where the men were; I didn’t see any on the tour,” said Mikkelson. “Then somebody told me that I should go to the workshop in the basement. When I got there and opened the door, I saw a group of men drinking coffee and having a good time. They took me in right away and I felt at home. This is where I want to live, I told myself, and it made our move to Becketwood much easier for me.”

Community building
Wayne Tellekson, another workshop regular, also serves as a tour guide for people who are thinking about moving to Becketwood. “When I talk to prospective members about our community I tell them about the experience that my wife, Sindy, and I had when we first arrived here. We had moved from Mendota Heights where we didn’t have much contact with the people who lived nearby. On the second day we were here, two of our new Becketwood neighbors came up to us,introduced themselves, told that they were having a picnic in the courtyard, and invited us to join them. I looked at Sindy and said, ‘We are home!’”
Tellekson added, “I tend to think that we have this strong community because the people who are looking for a sense of community are the people who come here. They are not just looking for a place to live. The Twin Cities have lots of options for seniors if that is all you are looking for. They have heard that Becketwood is a welcoming place. And so when they come here, they help to build on that sense of community.”
* Editor’s note: Writer Iric Nathanson is a member of the Becketwood Cooperative.

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Riding across Minnesota at 84

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

While Wayne Tellekson didn’t really enjoy biking 40 miles a day this last year, he did enjoy the people, the scenery, and the experience. And when you ride through the big orange arch at the end it feels like quite an accomplishment, he said. (Photo by Terry Faust)

By Iric Nathanson
Wayne Tellekson had convinced himself that last year would his final ride with Bike MS.
Most years since 2009, Tellekson had joined a group of avid bikers who rode 250 miles over five days raising funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He was 83 in 2018. It was time for him to hang up his bike for those long distance treks, he told himself.
But Tellekson’s resolve to stop riding crumbled when one of his biking buddies asked him if he was going to do the Bike MS in 2019.
“Right then, I realized that I needed to do it again, even at the age of 84. I changed my mind in an instant,” Tellekson recalled.

Doing more than writing a check
The Longfellow resident first becomes involved with the Multiple Sclerosis Society when his son was diagnosed with MS in 1996.
The next year, Tellekson’s daughter Karin participated in a roller blade event, skating from Duluth to Hinkley to raise funds for the national health organization. Karin moved on from roller blades to bikes when the Multiple Sclerosis Society switched to long distance biking as a fund raiser. The group started TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota), now called Bike MS, the five-day, 250-mile ride held each summer in July.
Tellekson had always written checks in support of his daughter’s participation, but one day he decided that he could do more than just write checks. If he rode in the TRAM himself, he could raise even more money to combat MS.
When he floated the idea by his wife, Sindy, and his three children, they objected, saying that the old, heavy bike he had ridden around town was not fit for a 250-mile trek.
But they knew his heart was in the right place, so they got together and bought him a new bicycle fit for long distance riding Still, Sindy was uneasy about the prospect of Wayne going off that first year and riding for five straight days.
“Sindy knew I was stubborn and she worried that I would keep riding until I fell over, so Karin agreed to ride behind me to make sure that I stayed vertical.”

Doubts about his decision
During this year’s ride, Tellekson, himself, had some doubts about the wisdom of his quick decision to do the Bike MS. again. He had second thought after another biker, who was also 84, had to drop out after two days because of some heart problems.
“I ended up being the oldest person, out of 450, on the trip,” Tellekson said. “And I was probably the slowest. People were passing me all the time because my legs just wouldn’t move very fast. I knew I wasn’t in good shape for long-distance biking. I only decided to do ride about three weeks before it started so I hadn’t trained for the ride as I had in the past.”
Each day during the five-day event Tellekson was able to take advantage of the sag wagon, a van that picked up riders and drove them along the route for a while, giving them a break from peddling. He used the sag wagon for about 10 miles each day, but that still left about 40 miles that he needed to bike.
“Those last few minutes just before rest stops were the hardest,” he remembers. ”That’s when I said to myself: ‘This is really foolish. Should I really be doing this?’
“But I never thought about stopping. I was never ready to give up as rough as it was to keep going.“
Tellekson said he envied the younger riders who kept passing him by. “Those guys whizzed by me and their legs were just like pistons. They were going 25 miles an hour. I looked at their legs and I said to myself ‘How do they go that fast?’ At the most, I could do 19 miles an hour and that was going downhill.”
“My knees are probably the weakest part of my body when it comes to biking. I just don’t have the strength to push as hard as those younger bikers do. I don’t wear clips that help with the upswing. If I did, I am afraid I would forget that I have the clips on. Then, when I start getting off the bike, I would fall and land in a heap. “

‘A real feeling of accomplishment’
Tellekson confessed that he really didn’t enjoy biking 40 miles a day.
“I enjoyed the people, the scenery and the experience, but biking that far is really not fun, at least not for me.
“That long ride each day is a real strain, but when you ride through the big orange arch at the end of the five days, and people are there cheering you on, there is a real feeling of accomplishment. More important than the cheers is knowing that the money I raised — $4300 – will be put to good use combatting Multiple Sclerosis.
“I realize there are not many people my age who are doing something as foolish as riding 250 miles in five days. But my body can handle it, at least for now. I don’t feel 84 even though I am 84. I really can’t take credit for my condition, maybe it’s genes. I eat healthy but I don’t obsess about what I eat. I walk and bike, but I don’t spend a lot of time exercising just to stay in shape.
“This year, I told everyone it would be my last ride But I made it this year, so if I train maybe I can do it again next year. Maybe I will break my pledge again not to ride. Who knows what next year will bring? I’ll just have to wait and see.”

Saga of the Ride
In 2019, as he has done other years, Wayne Tellekson composed a poem—a saga, he calls it— celebrating the five days he spent on his bike, raising funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Here is the final stanza from this year’s saga:

The Orange Arch of Triumph, we rode through with pride.
Tired, proud and happy, it had been a very good ride.
We’d raised $400,000, we’d peddled 250 miles.
We’d raised funds for MS research, that explains our smiles.
A quick lunch and we hurried off. A hurried goodbye to friends.
Next year will be another ride. Will you? That depends.

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‘Green’ cemetery opens in Twin Cities

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Executive director Joan Gizek stood on top of the plot she has already purchased in the natural burial section of Resurrection Cemetery. She said, “I love the idea of coming into the world, and leaving the world, simply. I look forward to going back to the earth, to being part of creation. More than 100,000 tons of steel and 1,600,000 tons of concrete are used in the U.S. for traditional burials each year. Natural burial is the original recycling.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Catholic Cemeteries begins offering natural burials in three-acre restored prairie
By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
In the Catholic tradition, the body upon death is re-committed to the earth, “for we are dust, and to dust we shall return.”
Some people are taking this belief to heart again, with a desire to have a more organic, less industrial approach to death and burial.
The Catholic Cemeteries consists of five locations that have served the Twin Cities Catholic community since 1856. Their Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights has recently become what is known as a hybrid cemetery. It contains a traditional cemetery, and a newly created natural burial allotment on a nearly three-acre restored prairie.
As the gravesites in the allotment become occupied, native perennial flowers and grasses will cover them. Eventually, the natural burial area will become a peaceful, uninterrupted prairie maintained in perpetuity along with rest of the grounds.

What is a natural burial?
Catholic Cemeteries Executive Director Joan Gezik said, “We’ve been studying the natural burial concept for the last eight years. Our allotment was just blessed and dedicated by St. Paul Arch Bishop Hebda on Memorial Day 2019. Our mission is to bury the dead – not just Catholics. The first of several sections that we’ve opened can hold 40 graves, and we have sold over half of them.”
A natural burial cemetery can use machinery to dig graves, but no chemicals are used to prepare the bodies of the deceased or to maintain the cemetery grounds. In the natural burial process, the bodies of the deceased, and the earth to which they return, are treated with reverence.
In a natural burial, the deceased is placed directly into the ground where it decomposes naturally — without embalming fluid, and without a burial vault. The remains of the deceased are placed directly in the earth, allowing the body to decompose naturally.
If the body of the deceased is clothed, the clothing must be made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk that will decompose over time. The garments must be free of all plastic and metal such as buttons, zippers, and hooks. Jewelry, belt buckles, and other materials that are not biodegradable cannot be buried along with the deceased.
The body of the deceased may be washed, wrapped in a cloth shroud made of natural fiber, and placed in a grave – which at Resurrection Cemetery is dug to four feet deep. The wrapped body can also be placed in an open or closed container made of biodegradable material like pine, wicker, or bamboo.
Rather than placing individual headstones or markers on grave sites, the names of the deceased, along with their birth and death years, are listed on a permanent community monument in the natural burial area. The cemetery office will also maintain burial records, and a grid map with the approximate location of each burial site.
Costs associated with a natural burial are less than those of a conventional burial. The purchase of a gravesite includes a contribution to the permanent burial site care fund, and the cost of memorializing a name on the common memorial. The internment (grave opening and closing) fee is paid at the time of burial; with natural burial, no outer burial container is required by law.
The natural burial area at Resurrection Cemetery is located at the southwest corner of the Chapel Mausoleum. Access it from the front of the mausoleum by following the sidewalk along the west side of the building. Resurrection Cemetery is located at 2105 Lexington Ave. S. in Mendota Heights.

From then to now
When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross, it was washed, wrapped in a cloth shroud, and placed in a tomb. For many years, most burials took place in a similar manner. These practices changed in the U.S. around the time of the Civil War, when bodies were transported long distances for burial. By treating the body with embalming fluids to prevent decomposition, the body became suitable for transportation and for viewing.

Renewed interest in natural burial is influenced, in part, by people’s desire to honor their loved ones in a manner that is sensitive to the environment. The first “green” cemetery in North America was opened in South Carolina in 1998.

Inspired by Pope Francis
Pope Francis – whose reverence for nature led him to choose his papal name inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, is committed to the sanctity of nature and the need to protect it. The Pope asks Catholics to be mindful of the natural world, and to dedicate themselves to having a gentler impact on the planet.

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