Love, luck, and fate (5×8 – 2/14/13)

Love stories, a tribute to a musician, hockey politics in Farmington, the people who stop to help, and finger guns.


We are many centuries into the species’ experiment with love and we still don’t have a clue whether it’s a matter of luck, a matter of fate, or a conspiracy between the two. We know this: Nothing can affect history the way love can.

The love story of Gord and Norma McKinnon, of Rochester, MN., provides but one example. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary recently — or their 99th, depending on how you view things.

Norma Macaulay, a South American with a Scottish dad, never would have met her husband had a teacher in college not sat students alphabetically, had she not sat next to Margie MacDonald and Dottie MacHugh, had they not gone to play tennis after class, had they not had a craving for pizza, and had not Gordie McKinnon walked in the door and walked over to their table because he knew Margie and Dottie.

They dated for a year, though he lived in Detroit and she in New York, and were very much in love, she told me. But love can’t conquer all all of the time. As her student visa was expiring, she flew back to Detroit to say goodbye. “It was then, that a mutual friend talked to his mom, about our different cultures,” she said. “And his mom must have talked to him, and the day before I went back to Peru, during that last date, he told me that he was not in love with me, so we broke up.”

Heartbroken, she returned to Peru, bought a dog, and named him “Gordie.”

Because a teacher once sat her next to Margie MacDonald, it’s not the end of the story.

Margie visited Norma in Peru in 1962, and upon returning to the states, ran into Gordie, who got her address and although he sent her letters, she didn’t reply to any of them.

That’s when Gordie McKinnon made the smartest decision of his life, four years after he made a bad one. He apologized. By mail.

“I was cautious, and didn’t want to get hurt again,” she said. “He insisted, that he loved me, and knew how much I loved animals, and knew I had a dog name Gordie. He took it to mean, that I still loved him. I finally said, ‘yes’; I never stopped loving him. He then proposed by mail, we talked on the phone, he flew down, and when we saw each other, time was kind to both of us, there was no change, both of us were the same, very much in love.”

They were married on January 26, 1963 in a civil ceremony in Peru.

There was no honeymoon; he had to leave the next day. When Norma returned to the states a month later, they were married in a church in Detroit. They’ll celebrate the combined 100th anniversary later this month.

But it’s not all because of a seating assignment, a yearning for pizza, and a dog named “Gordie.” There’s the father from Scotland who moved to Chile for the sheep business, who married a woman, the death of a father in the Pacific, a mother who died in childbirth, the relatives who raised Norma, the uncle who administered the inheritance, which allowed a girl from Peru to walk into a classroom one day in Tarrytown, New York.

Great love can be born from great tragedy. And great things sprout from great love.

“I knew thru Margie that Gord had no steady girl, and I was wrapped up in my job. My romantic life took a back seat, my heart belonged to Gordie, and the torch was lit throughout all that time, whether or not, we would ever get back. It was destiny,” she says.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Fate and luck are at work today.

(h/t: Chrissie McKinnon)

Related: Judges have hearts. Today, 10 Hennepin County judges will marry 17 military, first responder and civilian couples in ceremonies in Minneapolis. Judges Elizabeth Cutter, Janet Poston, David Piper, Kerry Meyer, Charles Porter, Jr., Jane Ranum Gina Brandt, Kathleen Sheehy, Luis Bartolomei and Thomas Sipkins will preside over the marriage ceremonies.

It gets better. Judge Ivy Bernhardson will sing “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life,” accompanied by Judge Laurie Miller on the piano.


Eric Larss Peterson died the other day. If you read his obituary in the Star Tribune and read between the lines, you probably recognized a familiar story. He had just been released from the hospital — he had struggled with mental illness, his family said — and a few hours later, he was dead along the Mississippi River.

By all accounts, Peterson was a genius; a gifted musician. At one time, he was principal viola at the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.

His friend, Bill Eddins, the music director of the Edmonton Sympthony, wrote about him yesterday, and the constant battle within…

When mental illness reared its ugly head I called his parents in Minneapolis and told them that I thought Eric needed help, and that he needed to leave USC and come home. Little did I know that just a year later I would find myself living in Minneapolis and in a position to spend more time with him. He seemed to be getting better, and within a couple of years he won the Principal Viola job at the Toledo Symphony. I had high hopes that he could overcome his illness and make a life in music. I threw him a gig party before he left. One of the funniest moments of my life happened that day. A mutual friend of ours brought him a going-away present – the viola part to Bruckner 9. It was a gazillion pages of repeated pattern repeated pattern repeated pattern……. TREMOLO!!!!!…… tremolo softer!!!!……. repeated pattern repeated pattern repeated pattern……. Eric and I fell on the floor laughing.

Eric couldn’t hold the job, though, and eventually returned to Minneapolis. He kicked around doing odd jobs, and played in the Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble and the Helios Ensemble, a chamber music group here. But the power of his illness eventually proved too strong for him. His brilliant mind became more clouded, he started to ramble more, and I’m sorry to say that he and I lost contact.

Once or twice over the past 10 years he called. The messages he left were not very coherent. I was torn – I had a family and a career, and I couldn’t……. didn’t make the time to try and help again. I hoped that Eric would eventually find his way with the help of his family and mental health professionals. My hope proved unfounded. Eric was found on Saturday near the old Stone Arch bridge in Minneapolis. He was 42.

Now that list of brilliant musicians who struggled with mental illness and lost is longer. Those who knew him are left with wonderful memories, sad memories, and an obligation. We must continue the fight in the memory of those who are on the front lines. We must be willing to help them when we can. We must be compassionate towards them. And we must never forget that, no matter how hard our lives are, there are those friends, family, and colleagues who have a much harder fight to make a good life. Mental illness is a horrible thing. It deprives the one who has it of a “normal” chance at life, and it deprives the rest of us of the chance to see those people better the world around us.

Mental illness is a horrible thing, Eddins said. “It deprives the one who has it of a ‘normal’ chance at life, and it deprives the rest of us of the chance to see those people better the world around us.”

(h/t: Mary Schaefle)


The chances are you did something emotional and stupid when you were a kid. But there weren’t cameras there to record it.

Farmington senior hockey goalie Austin Krause doesn’t have that luxury. He purposely scored a goal into his own net, then flipped off his coach before quitting on Tuesday night in Farmington.

On Facebook, Krause said he had a dispute with his coach over playing time, and had planned the display before the game. The goal allowed Chaska to tie the game at 2. Chaska eventually won 3-2.

It’s the kind of situation that besets high school hockey and the parents who watch it. The Farmington Independent has some reaction (where, not surprisingly, the comments section is alive):

There has been plenty of behind-the-scenes controversy surrounding the season for the Tigers, who have a record of 11-12-1 heading into the final week of the regular season. Speaking to the Independent, one senior parent who asked that he not be named claimed that several senior players have been demoted to playing JV half-time, while a group of four freshmen have been given special treatment and seen lots of varsity time.

“Krause has been the goalie for the A team all through youth hockey and put in so many hours and been a great goalie and never caused any trouble,” the parent said. “He got the shaft and got it taken away from him.

“It’s nothing against the younger kids, it’s not their decision. They’re good players, but they’re not any better than the juniors and seniors they’re replacing.”

Parents also speculated that the coaching staff’s motivation is preparing the program for its debut in the South Suburban Conference in 2014.

“Parents have talked to the coaches and they said they don’t make decisions based on the individual, but based on the entire team,” they said. “I said that I thought they were making decisions based on the 2014 team and they didn’t agree with that.”

The school district says it’ll investigate the incident but won’t reveal what action — if any — it takes.


You’re out driving in 12-below weather in New Brighton when you notice an elderly man in light clothing walking along the road. Do you stop?

One guy did.


In Montana, a couple of 11-year-olds were playing in gym class when they began aiming their index fingers at each other as if they were guns. They were suspended from school for the day.

Now there’s a dispute in the community. If they pointed their fingers at other students, does that make a difference?

“What if the school hadn’t done anything and there had been an altercation later between one of the student who was punished and one of the victims who had the finger gun pointed at them? What if someone was badly hurt?” one commenter said.

Another says the school shouldn’t pick and choose when to be concerned about guns.

“… if the school has a problem with promoting young people using guns around schools, we need to question if recruiters are also promoting the use of guns on school property,” he/she wrote.

(h/t: Ben Chorn)

In Oakdale, meanwhile, a woman who survived the real thing says it’s a miracle she’s still alive. “We could have all been dead, just like that little boy,” Karen Knoblach told KARE.

Bonus I: The things Nick Nelson, who works for Saint Paul, has to do to keep hydrants clear. Beat this, Minneapolis.

Dig Me Out from St. Paul Ofc. of Communications on Vimeo.

Bonus II: Lily the black bear’s second cub may be a girl, the North American Bear Center in Ely reports.

Bonus III: Oh, hey, look! More snow overnight. Here’s your antidote. The gardens of the Twin Cities. (

Bonus IV: Is this good news or bad news? The Walker’s cat-video film festival is moving to a larger venue at the state fairgrounds. But it also opens it up to the prevalence of people who may not like cat videos. You decide. (State of the Arts)


A bill introduced in the Legislature would establish a poem called “Minnesota Blue” as the official state poem. Minnesota already has an official state song, muffin, mushroom, grain, apple, gemstone, butterfly, flower, tree, photograph, bird and more. Today’s Question: Do designations of official state symbols serve a useful purpose?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Traveling with kids.

Second hour: Has Facebook, online dating and social media ruined romance and love as we once knew it?

Third hour: Great romantic films.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Dr. David Agus, oncologist & medical technology researcher, on his book “The End of Illness.” He spoke to the Commonwealth Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The new debate on torture. The Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty” opens with a declaration that the story is based on first-hand accounts of actual events. But senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain say the film got it seriously wrong when it showed suspects giving up information under torture.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Some communities cheer the closing of a nuclear plant. But a Florida community is mourning the loss of one. The power plant was also the area’s economic engine. Now, local businesses and more than a million people are going to feel the pinch. NPR studies the economics of closing down a nuclear facility.

Two independent consultants hired to review the Saint Paul Police crime lab found major errors in almost every area of the lab’s work. MPR’s Madeleine Baran will have the update.