MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all look for ways to pass the time, and a 97-year-old Wayzata man has found his.
Harlan Riedesel writes up to six hours a day to his great grandchildren. He’s written over 90 books for them about history, current events and even finding love.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how a member of the Greatest Generation is helping the next generation.
Harlan Riedesel’s great grandchildren go to school in Georgia. But their history teacher lives in Wayzata.
“There are 100 pages in a book,” said Harlan while writing.
You could say chapter one of Harlan’s journal writing dates back to World War II. He was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where his young soldier entries were clear, concise and often eye-opening.
“We saw the prisoners coming back from the Philippines after the war was over and they were really in bad shape,” said Harlan.
But it was during the war that Harlan met his wife Mary after a friend sent a letter and a picture through the mail.
“We wrote a year and a half before we met. And honest to God, you fall in love through the mail,” said Harlan.
As life happened, the journal entries essentially stopped. Then, after a 60-year break, Harlan picked up his trusty fountain pen and began writing to his great grandchildren — Carter and Sophie.
“Well, both of them. We have a great relationship. Thank God I lived long enough. They know who I am,” said Harlan.
They know who he is because since 2004 he’s written over 90 “life books” to each of them. There are senior moments, family history and current events, but also life lessons and pick-me-ups.
Harlan ends each chapter with a weather report. He uses “Alexa” to get it and it’s the only time he uses technology.
At 97 years old, Harlan will sit for up to six hours writing, focusing on the milestones and the moments.
“He cuts his newspaper clippings he puts in with these 100-year-old scissors,” said daughter Cathy Moen. “It’s very tender, emotional. Humorous.”
Cathy has helped her father with countless ink refills for his fountain pen. But she knows not every chapter is easy to write. In March, after 72 joy-filled years of marriage, Mary passed away in her sleep.
As hard as it was, Harlan made sure his great grandchildren learned a lesson about true love.
“We kissed each other good night. I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me. I left her to go back to my room on the second floor. That was the last time grandma and I spoke to one another,” said Cathy as she read her father’s entry.
“She was no average 94-year-old woman. She was with it. She paved the way for me,” said Harlan.
In so many ways, these books have helped to heal. The final chapter is yet to be written. And until that day comes, Harlan will keep putting pen to paper.
“Having them written down is a legacy to our famil — is such a blessing. I’m extremely thankful and I’m very proud. I’m very proud of my father,” said Cathy.
Harlan said he hopes the books inspire his great grandchildren to help make the world a better place.