95-year-old Oklee man remembers brother who died last month of exposure
OKLEE, Minn. -- Carl Larson, 95, sits at his kitchen table these days and writes.
Mostly, he writes thank-you notes to people who sent flowers, wrote letters or signed cards of sympathy for the loss of his brother Bill, 98, who died of exposure last month after wandering from the farm home they shared outside Oklee, Minn.
But one terse note, addressed to "the ones that brought cake and sympathy cards to my home," went to the Oklee newspaper, which published it this week.
"You took Bill's billfold," Carl wrote. "I hope your soul will burn in hell."
Carl nearly died in the cold that morning, too, but a neighbor found him in time. William, known to most as Bill, apparently became disoriented in the dark and walked into a field, where his body was found the next morning by deer hunters. Carl collapsed in a ditch not far from the home after he went looking for Bill.
Carl recovered at a hospital in Thief River Falls and then went home -- the last of four Swedish bachelor brothers who lived and farmed in the area and entertained neighbors all through their long lives.
"I'm feeling good," Carl said Thursday, reached by phone at his home.
"It is different being here alone," he said. "But I've had a lot of company, and they've been good to me."
Except for those two visitors, he said, the ones he suspects ran off with his brother's billfold.
"There was a lot of stuff in there that I would like to have," Carl said. "He had Army stuff and different things. There was some money -- I don't know how much -- but it was the other things. ..."
A carefully folded military discharge paper, maybe? A faded campaign ribbon? A medal?
Carl, who had served as a medic in the South Pacific during World War II, wasn't sure, but he knew that his brother was proud of his wartime service, he said, and he probably kept a memento.
Bill fought in Europe. In early June 1944, he went ashore at Normandy.
Carl said he knew he had the billfold out because he needed his brother's Social Security card to fill out some forms. He had left it on the dining room table, he said, and after two of his recent visitors left he noticed the billfold was missing.
"They left a sympathy card," he said. "It's a wonder what people will do. It's kind of a dirty shame."
He said he hasn't made a formal report to authorities about the apparent theft.
"There isn't much you can do," he said. "Anybody would deny they took it."
Roswall Larson, the oldest of the four brothers, died in 1975 at the age of 71. George was 85 when he died in 1992.
Their Swedish immigrant parents homesteaded in the area in the 1890s.
"We lived there for 117 years," Carl said of the family, "and we never lost anything out of the house before."