From KTIV News Channel 4 in Sioux City, Iowa
May 10, 2008
Onawa, IA — A year ago on May 9, 2007, Earl Thelander was happily celebrating his 80th birthday with his wife and 11 children.
Sadly, Earl died in September from burns he suffered in a house explosion caused by copper thieves.
Through Saturday’s steady sound of rain, Earl Thelander’s family dedicated two evergreen trees planted in his memory at the Monona County Veteran’s Memorial Museum. Earl had served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Norway and Colorado Spruces were gifts donated by the Internet Writing Workshop — an online community where writers submit and critique written works — and Doug Kuhlmann, who worked for Earl’s plumbing and heating business for 10 years before Earl retired. William Wonder, curator of the museum, worked with the family to have the trees planted at the museum where Earl’s flag resides. A memorial bench will be placed near the Norway Spruce at a later date.
The explosion that claimed Earl’s life occurred in a rural home he and his wife Hope were preparing for a renter. No arrests have been made, and the case is now classified as a cold case.
“He was a very special person,” said Hope. “He was loved by everybody. They took a very special person from a lot of people’s lives.”
Six days after Earl’s funeral, Hope was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It wasn’t that big of a thing at all,” she said. “It never has been because it was so minor to what else I had gone through, and missing Earl was more important. I just was never worried about the cancer.”
“She drew strength from Earl, he drew strength from her, and she’s never let the cancer get in the way of what she’s doing,” said Hope’s daughter Jody.
Nor does Hope feel bitter. “I don’t sit around and just feel bitter about it because you can’t do that,” Hope said. “I just pray that the person will do the right thing.”
Despite missing Earl, the family is hopeful that one day the person or persons responsible for his death will be caught.
Until then the Thelanders will remember their loving father and the legacy he left behind.
If you have any information about the copper robbery that led to Earl Thelander’s death, please call the Monona County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-859-1414.
Callers may remain anonymous, and there is a $5,000 reward for information. The Earl Thelander family extends their deepest thanks to the Internet Writing Workshop and to Doug and Cindy Kuhlmann for the beautiful memorial trees. Your generous gifts will ensure Earl’s memory lives on in the great outdoors he so loved. The family also extends a special thanks to William Wonder for providing the perfect location for the trees to grow and thrive.