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A life story, penned in his final days

Gordon Ekberg, of Herman, always wanted to write a book.

Gordon and Gay Ekberg, pictured in the summer of 2016. The two raised five children and would have been married 45 years on Dec. 23. Gordon finished the book about his life experiences less than a week before he passed away on Jan. 25, 2017. Contributed photo

“For about 40 years, Gordon talked about it,” said his wife, Gay. “He wanted to share his experiences of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, going to country school and being a high school dropout. He also wanted to write about his years of public speaking for churches, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the National Farmers Organization.”

In his later years, Gordon developed NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus), which resulted in a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain. This condition nearly prevented him from writing his book, but a delicate surgery to correct the effects of NPH was performed 11 years ago which let him move forward on his dream.

“This allowed him time to write and share this book with readers,” said Gay. “Gordon completed his book just less than a week before the end of his long and interesting life.”

Gordon Ekberg passed away on Jan. 25, 2017. He was 87.

His story is one of perseverance, emerging from a shy little boy, to a leader with inspirational speaking abilities, willing to befriend anyone and everyone, according to Gay.

Gordon’s autobiography Between the Cattails and the Bulrushes covers a range of time in his life, between 1929 to 2017.

“He covered inspiration of his faith, humor of his learning about the birds and the bees, serious drama and close calls, education of how to set a trap and build a straw house for cattle, remembering country school games, and his recollection of a near-death experience during the Armistice blizzard known as ‘the Storm of the Century’ said Gay, “And many more stories.”

When Gordon was 4 years old, he rescued mallards earmarked for the Thanksgiving dinner. He began raising birds at that age. His love for the outdoors and wildlife only increased as he got older, even traveling to Alaska to collect waterfowl and eggs.

Gordon was married at age 43 and raised a family of five children. He forged ahead in the waterfowl business until he had 57 species of waterfowl from around the world. Wildlife artists photographed the birds for detail. This special collection of waterfowl at Lawndale Farm evolved into giving guided tours to groups of all ages on the seven-acre pond, a bed/breakfast, a gift shop, a Belgian waffle restaurant, frame shop, and later the impetus for a local environmental center, Lawndale Environmental Foundation, Inc.

Gordon Ekberg penned out every page of his book by hand. Contributed photo

Gordon was a writer for over 50 years, writing columns for three publications regarding wild waterfowl, farmers, and Odd Fellow Lodge. He has received awards for his writing from the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society.

“As grand master of the Minnesota Independent Order of Odd Fellows, he spoke in the United States and Canada. In one instance he was spreading manure on his farm near Herman, at 6 a.m., went to the airport in the Twin Cities at noon, and that evening was guest speaker in the state of Maine,” said Gay. “As a lay speaker he filled the pulpit in many local churches of several denominations.”

Gordon’s writing process went through phases, according to his wife.

“His daughter suggested he speak into a tape recorder and she would then type it out,” said Gay. “Other options were to speak into a Dragon’s 9 program on the computer or write on legal pads with sharp #2 pencils. After attempting those possibilities and further research. Gordon chose to write his chapters by long hand with ink pens, working from the mind down through the hand.”

These chapters were typed verbatim by his wife, proofed by Gordon for accuracy, corrected as needed and filed away in a special hinged box until all the chapters were completed. Then all the chapters were emailed to his editor less than a week before he passed away. Gordon received the Legacy Arts & Cultural Heritage Grant to write and publish his book in 2016. After his death, the Lake Region Arts Council voted to allow his wife to work with the editor and printer to prepare the book and to hold the follow-up events, book signings and readings as set forth in the grant proposal.

Gordon’s book was released on Nov. 18, 2017.

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