Missing Dad Earl: Five Years Gone

On August 28, 2012, in Family, by Jody Ewing

This article has been cross-posted on the Iowa Cold Cases blog.

Mom and Earl

Five years ago today, my family received news no family ever expects to hear. We were fortunate, however, in that we received a gift few families get to experience when crime comes knocking on one’s door; we each got the opportunity to see and speak to our loved one — and him to us — one last time in conversation not focused on any final goodbye, but words of hope, love, and the promise of many more tomorrows.

Those tomorrows lasted just four more days before my stepfather, Earl Thelander, succumbed to burns sustained in a home explosion brought about by copper thieves. He died September 1, 2007, four months shy of his and my mother’s 25th wedding anniversary.

Mom and Earl had been out the night before working on the rural home they were preparing for a renter — the same country home where my maternal grandparents used to live — and the late-night or early-morning burglars who cut and stole propane gas lines and let the home fill with gas have yet to be apprehended or charged in the crime. My stepdad’s case remains unsolved.

Earl and Mom early on, fixing up a rental property.

Two months after his death, my mom, Hope Thelander, wrote about what she missed most about her husband and best friend; with permission, I’d posted her story to my blog. Read the blog post here.

Today I’d like to post the things I miss most about a good man I felt privileged to call “Dad Earl.”

I miss the way he always looked at my mom.

I miss how he’d always throw back his head in hearty laughter.

I miss the way he so carefully pushed up his glasses, his fingers wrapped around the outer edges, when deep in thought. 

I miss watching him carefully tend to his tomato plants and point out those he had marked for BLTs.

I miss watching his face when speaking on the phone to one of his kids.

Earl getting ready to plant tomatoes.

I miss witnessing his meticulous attention to detail whenever he went about fixing something … anything … he made sure things got done right the first time.

I miss hearing the way he’d begin a sentence with “If a guy were to . . .” because he never stopped considering new ways to approach a task at hand.

I miss seeing him sitting in his favorite chair at the kitchen table, sipping coffee from his favorite blue mug.

I miss his silent disapproval and how he’d slowly look down into his lap whenever he heard someone make a judgmental comment about another. 

I miss him at family birthday parties, at family barbecues.

I miss seeing him in his favorite pink oxford shirt that always made him look so handsome.

I miss seeing him behind the wheel in his maroon and silver Dodge pick-up truck.

I miss him. 

Earl enjoys a day at my grandparents’ farm outside Onawa, Iowa.

Mark Warner in Onawa – 8-28-06

On February 3, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Virginia Gov. and Presidential candidate
Mark Warner in Onawa, Iowa

Aug. 28, 2006

Gov. Mark Warner visits with Monona County Democratic activists during a campaign stop in Onawa, Iowa.

Photos by Jody Ewing

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Joe Biden and Family in Onawa – Nov. and Dec. 2007

On February 3, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Senator Joe Biden and Family Campaign in Onawa, IA

 

Democratic incumbent Senior U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware made a stop at Janz Restaurant in Onawa, Iowa, on Nov. 11, 2007, to meet and visit with Monona County Democratic community activists. Those in attendance asked some tough questions, and Sen. Biden wasn’t afraid to look them in the eye when he anwered.

Following Sen. Biden’s visit, his son Beau Biden (Delaware’s Attorney General), met with Jody Ewing and Dennis Ryan in their home on Nov. 25 and again on Dec. 9 with other local activists. Sen. Biden’s wife Jill also met with area Democrats at the Onawa Public Library on December 28, 2007.

At the time of his bid for US President, Sen. Biden was serving his sixth term as US Senator, the sixth longest-serving amongst [then] current senators. Delaware’s longest serving Senator, Biden also served as Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in the 110th Congress.

He went on to become the Vice President of the United States.

Photos by Jody Ewing and Dennis Ryan

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Bill Clinton in Onawa – 11-08-07

On January 30, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Photos from President Bill Clinton’s visit to
Onawa, IA

November 8, 2007

 

On Thursday, November 8, 2007, President Bill Clinton spoke at the West Monona High School in Onawa, IA, in behalf of his wife, Senator and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Seated on stage behind President Clinton were West Monona Seniors, who had the opportunity to visit with and have photos taken with the President immediately following the address.

Also speaking at the event were former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and Jim Schaben, Jr.

Photos by Dennis Ryan and Jody Ewing

NOTE: Click any photo to view larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Bill Richardson – Onawa 12-26-07

On January 24, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Governor Bill Richardson

Onawa Public Library, Onawa, IA

December 26, 2007

Photos from New Mexico Gov. and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson’s visit to Onawa, IA, on December 26, 2007.

Photos by Dennis Ryan

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

John and Teresa Kerry – 12-31-03

On January 24, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Senator John Kerry in Onawa and Sen. Kerry and wife Teresa Heinz Kerry in Sioux City

 

New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2003

On Dec. 31, 2003, Sen. John Kerry’s Monona County campaign chair Jody Ewing hosted an event for Sen. Kerry at Janz Restaurant in Onawa. Jody and her family later attended the New Year’s Eve gala at Sioux City’s Community Theatre, hosted by Sen. Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Photos by Dennis Ryan and Jody Ewing

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Dick Gephardt in Onawa – 3-9-03

On January 23, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Rep. Dick Gephardt in Onawa, Iowa


March 9, 2003

 
The Monona County Democrats hosted a coffee for Missouri Rep. and Presidential candidate Dick Gephardt at the Onawa Community Center on March 9, 2003.

Photos by Jody Ewing

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Teresa Heinz Kerry at Thelander Home – 12-21-03

On January 23, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Teresa Heinz Kerry at the Thelander home in Onawa, Iowa


December 21, 2003

 

On Dec. 21, 2003, Sen. John Kerry’s County Chair, Jody Ewing, and Jody’s mother, Hope Thelander, hosted a coffee for Teresa Heinz Kerry in the Thelander home. Teresa was there campaigning in behalf of her husband, Sen. John Kerry, who was seeking the 2004 Presidential nomination.

Photos by Jody Ewing and Dennis Ryan

NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

Howard Dean in Onawa – 3-27-03

On January 23, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Gov. Howard Dean in Onawa, IA

March 27, 2003

 

Vermont Gov. and Presidential candidate Howard Dean met with Monona County Democrats in Onawa, Iowa, during a coffee at Janz Restaurant held March 27, 2003.

Photos by Jody Ewing

* NOTE: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.

John Edwards in Onawa – 8-13-07

On January 23, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Senator John Edwards

“Fighting for One America” in Onawa, Iowa

August 13, 2007

Were I to try and summarize what it’s like living in Iowa during the height of presidential candidates’ visits, this particular slideshow — of John and Elizabeth Edwards’ stop at Dan’s Pizza in Onawa, IA, on August 13, 2007 — captures the very essence of what it’s all about…

… the set-up, the anticipation, the arrival and greeting of candidates, the media, the heat and hope, the existence of something greater than ourselves when we unite as a whole, and the people who make it all come together. It’s an experience many will remember all their lives.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to Field Organizer Kyle Warneck and all the other John Edwards campaign staff for their exceptional efforts in organizing this event, to Phil Morrow and my sister Kysa for all the great photos, to Dan’s Pizza for hosting the event, and of course to John and Elizabeth Edwards for their commitment to making a difference in all our worlds.

* Note: Click any image for larger slideshow with photo descriptions.