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Greetings to the Congregation

Dr. Ralph Hillman
Ralph Hillman

Dear Bob,

What a great time for a celebration of St. John’s. My time there certainly impacted my life and has served as my spiritual foundation. Knowing that people were praying for me was a great comfort. Growing up in St. John’s I learned to pray for others without letting them know. The power of prayer became very real and remains that way! The Lord has certainly blessed our lives. We are grateful.


Your letter sparked some memories:

  • Playing accordion

  • Playing trumpet

  • Luther League, regional meetings and the national conference in Chicago.

  • Confirmation Class: the Catechism, what it meant and then reciting most of it in front of everybody.

  • As a pre-teen, sitting in the pews, left side, near the back, with my parents during services sketching faces of other member to the delight of my father.

  • Rev Dahlquist and “Were You There!”

  • Learning “Children of the Heavenly Father” in Swedish with the youth choir.

  • Fantastic meals after significant events in the Church. Those ladies were awesome.

  • Feeling like family when there was an event at St. John’s; it seemed like we were there a lot but it was what we did as believers.

  • Opportunity to lead worship and preach; started at 14 with Rev. Ebb for a Youth Sunday Service.

  • Sue and I celebrated a wedding reception there.

And there are many more filtering back into my conscious memory; wonderful.


For me, I trained in Speech Education and taught full time till 2001.

  • As a professional speaker; delivering keynote speeches across the US.

  • As a communication trainer; working with organizations to improve internal and external communication to improve their bottom line.

  • As a voice coach; working with broadcasters, salespeople, actually anyone who needs to look, sound and feel better while speaking!


All three activities continue. I am so blessed.

Since retiring from Middle TN State University, the majority of my professional time has been devoted to working with ministers of lots of Christian denominations helping them clarify their preaching message and delivering it without that delivery distracting their congregation. (Congregations and the minister’s spouses continue to be the most grateful.)

Serving on our Local Drug Court Board and working with their clients has been an eye opener and helpful in working with many professionals experiencing addiction issues.


You can check out some of what is happening with our lives:   google  “family fosters 100 children”, it is on u-tube. We have had 113.

On Amazon, for a used copy, “Rejoice in the LORD Always; the Jeff Hillman Story”, by Bill Conger.


Sue, who I met at the University of Iowa, is a registered nurse! She has worked as a nurse and when the kids came along, she has been a stay-at-home Mom and a fantastic mate. She has enjoyed part-time work at a stitchery shop and lots of volunteer work. Since 1989, she has been called to take care of new-born babies headed for adoption.


Andy, our oldest, adopted in Hawaii, is a mechanic in Murfreesboro, TN.

Kristin, our youngest, graduated twice from Auburn (Marine Biology 20 years ago and Pharmacy, most recently) married a best friend since high school (Vernon Rutttenbur) last Sept and is a Pharmacist at St. Thomas Rutherford, our local hospital.

Jeff, our middle child, contracted Reyes Syndrome when he was seven, leaving him with physical disabilities; hands, feet and his speech. April 15, he retired from Kroger, working as a checker after 26 years.


Sue, Jeff, Emma (his Golden Retriever, therapy dog which he trained) and I are celebrating his achievements by vacationing in Canada. Our family secured Miracle Island, Sioux Narrows, Ontario in the late 60’s. We have spent most 2 and 3 week summer vacations here. Jeff would have to leave early to fly back to go back to work, no more! Now, in retirement we are free to spend most of the summer here and this time Jeff will be here for the whole summer. He loves it here.


Rather than interrupt that vacation time I have prayerfully chosen to stay here with wife and Jeff rather than attend the celebration and reunion at St. John’s.


Please feel free to share the contents of this e-mail with all those in attendance. I would sincerely appreciate contact information for any and all who are willing to share that information with me. I suspect that many of my contemporaries are no longer with us. Making contact with those that are would be a blessing.


Ralph E. Hillman

615-482-3117 unavailable till late August, when we return to TN  during this summer, I will check in on this account about once a week.

              We do not have Wi-Fi at our Island out on Lake Of The Woods.  my website.  Jeff’s website.

Norman Malmberg
Norman Malmberg

Dear Bob,

Thanks for remembering me with  your invitation to St. John’s Anniversary.  I am sorry that I will not be attending.  Too many things happening here at our new home here in The Scott Valley, Siskiyou County, California, 26 miles long and 1/4 mile to 10 miles wide.  This is a farming & ranching area with abundant alfalfa fields and cattle grazing.  Surrounded by mountains, it is located at 3,000 feet elevation near the Oregon border.  We are adjacent to 300,000 acres of virgin wilderness, The Marble Mountain Wilderness Area containing about 100 lakes.

I am married to a gal from Louisiana, Pam, that I met in San Francisco and courted from there across the Pacific to Japan and Hong Kong.  We have 2 children, a girl, Anne (42), and a boy, Ryan (40) and 3 grandchildren, all girls (10, 6 and 3)

I have many fond memories of St. John’s.  I’m afraid, though, that I don’t remember my baptism 78 years ago.  It’s interesting that even though now I can’t seem to remember what I did yesterday, Yet I can recall events of 50 years ago, or more, with amazing details.  Does anyone there resemble that?

For example, confirmation class.  For 2 years our class met on Saturday mornings in the church basement with Reverend Dalquist drilling us in all details.  Then I would find seclusion at home on our farm memorizing those details while relaxing in the sun on the roof of the pig house.  And finally 2 years later we were assembled at the front of the basement reciting to the congregation.  We all passed!  At least no one told us that we failed.

But what a start that learning gave us as 4 years later I headed for Iowa State University where I pledged a Lutheran Fraternity, Beta Sigma Psi, my special home for 4 years, including our house mother, Mom Ann Thoelke, who was a positive influence.  And then there was Rev. W. J. Fields of the Memorial Lutheran Church in Ames who guided us as our Pastoral Advisor.  I found a solid foundation and nurturing in my Iowa roots and Lutheran heritage.  And 4 years later still I received my degree in Mathematics along with a Navy Commission.

In 1990, thirty-four years, 7 ships and 9 shore stations later, I retired as a Captain, U. S. Navy, still solid on my St. John’s firm foundation.  I claim my roots to be at St. John’s and in Essex, Iowa.

We now attend the Scott Valley Berean Fundamental Church in Etna, California, at a population of 750 people, the largest of 4 towns here in The Scott Valley, and a spit’n image of Essex, Iowa.

Wishing you all the very best,

Norman R. Malmberg, Captain, USN (Ret.)
                        now dba
NORM MALMBERG, Ranch & Land Broker

John Bengtson (Rev. Bengtson's son)
John Bengtson

Dear Bob Anderson,


Thank you for the invitation to the reunion. For various reasons, I and others in my family will not be able to attend. (My sister Phyllis lives in Tacoma, WA.)


My father, Rev. H. Bernhard Bengtson, was pastor of your church from about summer of 1959 till the summer of 1962, as far as I can gather. I was one of the confirmands in 1961. We have many good memories from that time, including the generosity of the congregation toward our family.  


Pastor Bengtson died in 1967, less than five years after leaving Essex. His 100th birthday anniversary was March 2, 2013. For that occasion I compiled a biography of him to distribute to his relatives and friends. For whatever it is worth, I attach a PDF of the biography. His time in Essex is mentioned only briefly, on page 20, and photos on the next page. I guess the photo with his father and brother was taken near St. John's on a Sunday, since Dad was wearing his clerical collar.


You may print the biography for the celebration, if you find that appropriate.


Our brother Mark passed in 1999 (age 47), and our mother Doris in 2002 (age 80).


I have also been invited to the 50th reunion of the Essex High School class of 1966, even though I was not there for the graduation year. I am still uncertain whether I can arrange the trip (Labor Day weekend), but if I do, I will be sure to visit St. John's for the Sunday service.


Thank you,


John D. Bengtson, on behalf of H.B. Bengtson's family.

5108 Credit River Drive

Savage, MN 55378 


Phyllis Twedt (Tacoma, WA) 

Paul Bengtson (Maple Grove, MN)

Delores Lemmon (Farwell, MN)


And 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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