An Irishman’s reflections on the Sons of Jacob Cemetery Dedication!

Mike Connor
His family was among the neighboring homesteaders and he still lives there.

It all started in the early spring of this year when Denny Kitsch stopped by my office and started talking about the idea of ‘putting a monument at the Jewish cemetery’ near our farm.  He mentioned how Hal Ettinger was working on it with him and asked for my assistance, which I readily agreed to provide, since the cemetery has always been just ‘down the road’ from our farm as our family grew up.

Denny left me with a copy of a letter from Hal with some information about the project and I noticed his e-mail address on the bottom of the page, so until September 17th Hal & I corresponded by e-mail on almost a daily basis (with just a few telephone calls thrown in for good measure)!  

The Devils Lake Area Foundation (DLAF) has a special ‘Centennial Fund’ created after the city-county centennial in 1983 which is earmarked for helping worthwhile community projects, so we started working on getting an application put together to the DLAF for some funds.   This DLAF requires an ‘official sponsor’ (a legitimate non-profit organization or governmental agency) so I requested the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board (a nine county governmental unit which employs me as their manager) to agree to sponsor the project which they agreed to immediately.

A local bank account was opened (again using the Joint Board helped by providing their Federal ID #) and contributions seemed to start flowing in almost immediately!
The best news was when the Devils Lake Area Foundation notified me that they had approved a contribution.   Shortly after that, Denny Kitsch stopped by with some substantial contributions from the Kitsch Family Reunion!   Soon both Hal and I could stop worrying if there would be ‘enough money’ to order the monument by the deadline date in order to have the work completed by September 17th!

All of a sudden the summer was gone and the dedication day was growing closer.   North Central Granite staff did a great job of placing the monument and putting in the river rock we had decided would work the best for minimum maintenance around it.   Steve Shark was a great help with several suggestions on how to make the actual dedication more comfortable for the folks attending!   That morning I was up early to haul over the yard chairs and put the flag up, it was raining and windy while setting things up at the cemetery, but shortly after I left the rain quit and the day started to improve!

Back to the cemetery about noon for the ‘final check’, Denny Kitsch arrived to help and than I finally met Hal in person!   The funny thing was we just started talking like we had always been around each other, which was one of the greatest things about being involved with this project, meeting so many wonderful folks from all over the country!

All the local folks were impressed with the inspirational and informative message that Rabbi Kobrinsky, from Temple Beth El in Fargo, shared with everyone in attendance.   A twinge of guilt hit me as she explained how those visiting their family and friends buried in a Jewish Cemetery will leave some small stones on or near the person’s memorial.   Earlier on Sunday, while doing my ‘final check’ I had brushed off what at first appeared to be a bit of bird droppings on the memorial, now I knew why the pebbles were there!

It was my privilege to bring greetings from Governor John Hoeven, US Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad along with US Representative Earl Pomeroy to everyone in attendance.   I found myself becoming a bit emotional, after Hal introduced me, looking down at the memorial immediately in front of me there were the names of so many people my grandparents and parents had known and worked with and I had grown up knowing.   The names of others from Devils Lake came to mind also…..Mose & Bessie Meretsky who lived across the street from my parents, Sam Kessler who had the meat plant and frozen storage lockers where we stored our meat, Kopel Lentzer who had the army surplus store that all Devils Lake kids loved to shop in as they played ‘army’,  Ikey Adelman, the car dealer who had my Mom and her sisters drive back some new cars from the port of Duluth (but they had never driven before!),  Dave Glickson, Louie Friedman and of course Myer Shark, all clothiers who helped outfit our families through the years!

But, what really triggered my emotion was remembering how an individual whose family name is on the memorial here at the Sons of Jacob Cemetery helped my parents through a very stressful time during their early married years, when my Dad asked “how can I ever repay you?”  the individual replied “Your parents helped my parents, now it is my turn to help you.”   My Dad told me that story many times in his later years before he passed away in 1980.

What more can one say?

Michael Connor
Starkweather, ND
September 28, 2006

Photographs and more information can be found at: