Volume 125, Number 10
Becky Wald leaves legacy of courage in the face of suffering
Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the Sunday, March 23 issue of The Bismarck Tribune. It is reprinted here by permission of The Tribune.
By KAREN HERZOG
The Bismarck Tribune
Never doubt the power of one life. And how that power can reverberate into the world even through the unlikely door of suffering and death.
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This Easter, it was nearly a year since Becky Wald received her diagnosis of terminal cancer.
In the seven months between Easter and Thanksgiving, the Maddock mother of seven underwent chemotherapy, lost her father at age 93, welcomed her first grandchild and celebrated her 33rd wedding anniversary. Through it all, Wald kept writing about her journey of suffering and faith on CaringBridge, a Web site through which patients and their families can post information. Becky Wald’s journal shared more than information about tests and pain and chemo: It became a profound testament to the power of faith to create good from the harshest of materials: Cancer. Twenty-four hours after Becky Wald died on Nov. 29, 2007, her entries had received more than 46,000 hits, said her daughter, Mary Wald.
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Becky Wald wanted nothing so much as to be a mother, said her husband, Gary.
The Wald home on the outskirts of Maddock, where Gary Wald teaches ag education at Maddock High School, is filled with plants: Becky loved growing things, Gary Wald said.
The walls are filled with family photos of the couple’s seven children, of Becky and Gary’s first grandchild, Jaden, and devotional images of Becky’s strong Catholic faith. On the kitchen wall hangs a tender pencil drawing of Jesus holding a lamb. It was an anonymous gift to Becky, sent by one of the thousands of people moved by her story.
It was one of Becky’s favorite things, Gary Wald said. It reminded Becky both of the gentleness of her own father and of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, he said.
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The Wald children are Jeremy, 31; Andrea, 29; Molly, 28; John, 25; Mary, 23; Jeffrey, 21; and Megan, 14. Becky had found it in her heart to homeschool her three younger children, Gary Wald said, not because she had problems with public schools, but because she was totally devoted to her family.
The others were out into the world when her mother got sick with severe stomach pains last spring. But Megan, the youngest, is still an eighth-grader.
With the trauma of losing her mother in November, the family wanted Megan to not have to start public school in the middle of the year, Gary Wald said.
So Jeffrey, a junior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., made the decision to take off this spring semester to come back to Maddock to help Megan finish out her eighth-grade year of homeschooling. Megan’s sister, Mary, also is at home helping out before starting school in the fall, likely at close-by Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.
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It’s been a year now, Gary Wald said, since that Easter Sunday, April 8, when Becky’s pain, from what she thought might be a bad case of the flu, became severe enough that she decided to go to the hospital.
When the family went to the emergency room in Fargo, however, the doctor was immediately alarmed. Testing soon showed colon cancer that had spread to her liver. Incurable, the doctor told her, with tears in his eyes.
Becky Wald was 55. So young and as vibrant as the red that was her favorite color, Gary Wald said.
He cried. "Why you?" he asked. His wife’s reply was, "Why not me?" From the very start, Becky felt God was calling her to a purpose with this suffering, he said. She was planning on beating the cancer, planning on a miracle. By the time she died, having reached her 56th birthday on Oct. 25, she had beaten it, Gary Wald said – "It never took away her faith."
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Word spread quickly about Becky’s writing on CaringBridge, Gary Wald said. "She knew God was telling her her cancer was for a reason," he said. Through her sufferings, her pain, her treatment, she made a commitment to offer up her suffering to God for her family, her friends and anyone in need, he said.
The theology is called "redemptive suffering," Jeffrey Wald said. She committed her pain as others would prayer, for family and friends, "offered it up to anyone who needed prayer," he said.
Becky’s faith not only helped sustain her family, Gary Wald said, but encompassed everyone from the nurses for whom Becky always had a smile and positive word, to the Maddock community, Catholic and Protestant alike, who followed her journal entries, waited for them every day, to those who, in Becky’s last two weeks, came to the Wald home to pray with her, Jeffrey Wald said.
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By August, the end of chemotherapy had reduced Becky’s cancer by 75 percent. Though doctors told her it had reached the end of its effectiveness, she opted for two more rounds in hopes of eliminating it. But by November, doctors told her family that she probably had two weeks to live. Thirteen days later, she died.
That Thanksgiving, all her children were able to be home and 25 people came out to pray with her, Jeffrey Wald said. Not all were Catholic, but all prayed. Hospice came. At the very end, Becky opened her eyes and tried to speak, words that Mary believes were intended to be, "I love you all."
The community that had followed her story came together to support her family afterward as well, Mary Wald said. Women from all the churches brought food to her funeral, just as two of her friends had brought the family dinner every Friday, she said. Even now, months later, her mother’s reassuring presence still finds her; at anxious moments, her mother’s words come back to her and she is warmed with an inexplicable peace.
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As the anniversary of Becky’s diagnosis comes around, it is difficult, Gary Wald said. A grace that has been given to him is that all that they wanted to say to each other, all the forgiving that needed to be given and received – they had time for.
Becky told him during her illness that they had talked more in those months than in 25 years, he said. They believe that she is still loving them, but in a different place
– "Becky is right there to intercede for us," he said.
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The family had no idea that Becky would be so well-known, that so many would be comforted and moved and touched by her words and her faith, Mary Wald said. But to her kids, she was "just mom," Mary Wald said, the kind of mom who would bake chocolate chip cookies at 11 p.m. if her child needed some sweet comfort.
"We are truly humbled by the depth to which Mom’s story has reached," Mary Wald said.
"Though many may view her as a remarkable lady because of the strength, courage, love and faith by which she conquered her cancer battle, to us, she is just ‘Mom’: A wonderful, beautiful person who always put her children before her own needs. It is because of Mom that I know what it means to truly love unconditionally."
Reach reporter Karen Herzog at 250-8267 or [email protected] marcktribune.com.
EXCERPTS FROM BECKY WALD’S ONLINEJOURNALS
"This has been an amazing spiritual journey for me. It is a mystery, but I really experience more joy and freedom of soul now that my body is laden with cancer, than I ever did when my body was cancer free. I just long to do God’s will and to share His magnificent love. (Of the community benefit held for her, Becky writes) "Those of you who thought I was radiant observed two things: First, the joy of God’s love has never been more real to me than now. It is His grace poured out on me, that enables me to be who I have been now.
"Yesterday … I have never had pain that excruciating before … it was the most prayerful day of my life, because I offer all the pain and suffering to God in union with Christ’s suffering for the salvation of souls. In doing so, none of my suffering is wasted, but in God’s kingdom it accomplishes more than I could ever imagine. I can endure it a little easier knowing that it is not just pain for pain’s sake. It is a prayer for others." (Becky Wald’s full journal entries are at
Gary Wald, front, poses with children Megan, 14, left, Jeff, 21, center and Mary, 23, in their home near Maddock. Gary is holding a drawing of Christ holding a lamb that was a favorite of his wife, Becky, who died Nov. 29, 2007 at the age of 55 after being diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. She was the mother of seven children. (Photo by Tom Stromme of The Bismarck Tribune)
Erling Karlsbraaten, left, retired from the Esmond Rural Fire Protection District at its annual meeting March 17. Darrell Mitzel, right, presented a plaque for more than 40 years of service as a director of the organization. Karlsbraaten was on the board in the early days of the district and when the present fire hall was built in the late 1960’s. Karlsbraaten left the district and moved to a farm south of Maddock.
Honored for art
Grades 2, 3 and 4 at Leeds entered the 2008 North Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Contest recently. There were 819 entries from students across the state this year, making this a record high participation. Students receiving 1st, 2nd, 3rd and honorable mention will be exhibited around North Dakota at national refuge events, major malls, the 2008 ND State Fair and other locations this summer. Winning honorable mention from Leeds were third graders Spencer Follman, left, who drew a red-breasted merganser and Kaylee Lybeck, right, who drew a greenhead mallard.
Tournament champs were the 1998 to 2002 team. Team members were, back row, left to right, Eric Olson, Justin Swanson, Erick Lunde, Brian Engebretson and Bryan Kenner. Front row: Eric Hoffner, Josh Swanson, David Brown and Dustin Hoffner. Not pictured is Mark Simon.
Winners of the women’s game by two points, the ladies alumni team from 1999 to 2008 consisted of, back row, left to right, Heidi Simon, Kendra Lunde, JoLynn Fautsch, Bridget Lunde and Julie Ellingson. Front row: Autumn Georgeson, Kassandra Griffin, Elisa Buehler, Shana Tollerud, Jalissa Hovland and Courtney Foss.
The runner-up team was the 1990-1995 alumni. They are, back row, left to right, Lance Alexander, Kyle Sabbe, Aanen Bergrud, Michael Sorlie, Chris Arnston and Bryan Leier. Front row: Brad Kallenbach, Mark Williams, Billy Arnold and Mikel Kallenbach.
Third place winners were alumni from 1995-1997. Pictured are, back row, left to right, Davin Leier, Ryan Knatterud, Jeff Daeley and Damon Finley. Front row: Gerald Anderson, Andrew Arnston, Cory Rader and Justin Maddock. Not pictured, John Barnard.
The youngest alumni team, who graduated between 2005 and 2008, consisted of, back row, left to right, Shawn McCloud, Aaron Smith, Brandon Lunde, Andy Bergrud and Caleb Backstrom. Front row: Levi Griffin, Mark Wack, Kyle Nelson and Adam Aanderud. They placed fourth.
The old timers took fifth place this year. The 1972-1987 alumni are, back row, left to right, Aaron Johnson, Corey Bergrud, Dan Odden, Brent Gustafson and Ron Erickson. Front row: Keith Smith, Tim Kallenbach, Rod Maddock and Tom Gilbertson.
The alumni team from 2003-2004 was made up of, back row, left to right, Shane Maddock, Nathan Faleide, Kyle Olson and Jamie Kallenbach. Front row: Dave Stensland, Kasey Kallenbach, Jesse Stensby, Cameron Abrahamson and Tom Abrahamson. They met defeat at the hands of the old timers.
The 1980-1998 ladies alumni team was anxious to take on the younger gals so they quickly gathered for this picture. Team members were, back row, left to right, Dawn Hermanson, Pam Rangen, Beth Olson, Annie Bergrud and Ranelle Warcken. Front row: Kim Backstrom, Rachel Maddock, Becky Kallenbach and Karen Smith.
Harlow Elevator has healthy profit picture
The Harlow Co-op Elevator held its 80th annual meeting at the Maddock Community Center April 5. The event began with a breakfast catered by Maddock Caf? & Lanes.
President David Sears gave the welcome and introduced auditor Blaine L. Christianson of Christianson & Associates, who read the audit report. The co-op had a local net income of $225,903 and a net income of $438,582. The co-op paid out $51,872 in patronage dividends in cash at the annual meeting. This is money that is returned to the local economy.
President Sears told patrons that it can be very easy for elevators to lose money when the markets are so volatile. He said management needs to be careful with hedging. He told patrons that they do have rail to Maddock but that they are mainly a truck station.
Kathy Knatterud, ND Farmers Union field staff gave a report on North Dakota Farmers Union programs. She said that the Carbon Credit Program was doing well and that more than $2 million dollars was earned by North Dakota farmers and ranchers through this program. She said Natural Beef, a partnership between NDFU, NDSU and other investors was doing well and that they are looking for farmers and ranchers to participate in these programs along with The Dakota Pride Cooperative. She said anyone interested should contact the Farmers Union state office or go on the Web to www.ndfu.org and click on to the appropriate program. She congratulated manager Myron Uttermark, the board of directors and the patrons on their good year and wished them the best in the coming year.
Manager Uttermark thanked the board of directors, the truckers and the patrons for helping to make this year successful. He recognized the employees and thanked them for all their hard work and dedication. He told patrons that 2007 had been a frustrating year, but rewarding at the same time.
He said he saw many farmers watch the prices go up and yet be unable to take advantage of them.
Uttermark said that the co-op is limited in the amount of bushels it can handle and ship and this makes it more difficult to market the grain. He said these are changing times and the co-op must change with them and be ready to make these changes. One change will be that phone conversations on contracting may be recorded and accounts receivable will have to be tightened. He said 2008 will be another interesting year and marketing will be volatile. He explained how a margin call works and suggested that those who had questions should stop by the office and visit with him.
Duane Thompson of Cenex-Harvest States congratulated the co-op on its good year. He said Uttermark was doing a good job managing and that managing has been a very difficult job for everyone with the volatile markets. He explained the fees that had to be paid when hedging and that the elevator must be prepared to pay the fees. He said many small elevators had been forced to liquidate due to these fees. He explained that many changes are taking place in the industry and that these changes will always come back to affect the farmer. He said we must be prepared to meet these changes and adjust. He encouraged patrons to visit with Myron if they have questions on hedging and margin calls. Election for two seats on the board of directors was held with Keith Smith and David Sears both re-elected to three-year terms.
Directors of the Harlow Co-op Elevator are pictured left to right: Vice President Matt Gilbertson of Maddock; Randy Silliman of York; Secretary Keith Smith of Maddock; Bill Streifel of Oberon; and President David Sears of Minnewaukan.
Drum group performs at convention
The Rhythm Riders drum group of Fort Totten gave the opening blessing at the ND Dem-NPL convention in Grand Forks April 4. Members of the group are, left to right, Russ McDonald, Chad Driver, Derrick Jackson, Victor Jackson Sr., Brooks Goodbird and Elmer White III.
People filled the Alerus Center in Grand Forks over capacity to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama speak at the ND Dem-NPL convention April 4. An estimated 16,000 to 18,000 people were present. Minnewaukan natives Brian and Rita (Thompson) Halvorson were standing in line to get a ticket when they were approached by a representative from the Obama campaign who asked if they would like to stand on stage directly behind Obama. Naturally, they agreed. After the speech, Brian Halvorson is shown shaking hands with Obama (back to camera). Rita looks on at left.