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Another voice lost, but not forgotten

I think the first time I met Mike Berglund was when I was interviewing Shirley Magnuson, an extraordinary local volunteer who was 75 at the time and vigorously ringing her bell in below-zero temperatures outside of Wal-Mart to help raise money for the Salvation Army.

“I hope you’re writing about her,” he said. “She does a lot of good will all year long, visiting the elderly and infirm.”

Mike was like that. Thankful. Interested. Sincere. Kind. Formal and friendly at the same time.

He was also a good writer. The next time I remember meeting Mike was in the Pine Journal office, maybe six months later. He wanted to try writing an opinion column for that paper. “The Right Slant” was born that very month.

Mike Berglund died Friday, at his home in Cloquet, passing away peacefully albeit unexpectedly, according to his sister. He left behind grieving family, friends and readers, and one more column for the Pine Journal, which is printed below this editorial.

Like he did that day in the Wal-Mart parking lot, Mike often took time to shine a light on people he thought deserved attention in his columns, or sometimes to remind readers of moments of historical significance.

The Civil War. The importance of Memorial Day. His role model, Ronald Reagan. Immigrant ancestors. The 1963 Cloquet basketball team that lost to Marshall by 1 point back when there was only one state champion, no matter what size the school.

Whether he was writing about national or local topics, Mike always managed to make it personal.

In May of 2015, Mike wrote about visiting the graves of his deceased family members, and how such visits are “comforting to the soul.”

He wrote how he would talk with his grandfather, who influenced his writing, and would be addressing his father at his gravesite for the first time since he died the summer before.

“The 10 minutes you spend at a family member’s gravesite will return to you a lifetime of precious memories which will flood back into your heart and mind,” he wrote. We hope those Mike leaves behind will find comfort in their memories of him.

Mike also took time to do a four-part series on Alzheimer's disease, in the hopes that those stories would help others who found themselves — like he had — caring for family members losing their memories and health to the devastating disease. He didn’t want payment for those stories, but it was very important to him to write them, so other people would better understand the disease and what to expect.

Mike Berglund shared part of his soul with the community he loved when he wrote his columns and stories, and made the Pine Journal a better paper in the process.

He understood that it takes many voices to make a healthy community, and he was brave enough to put his thoughts out there for the world to see.

His voice will be missed. But we’re happy we got to share it for awhile, and hope you’ll take time to read his column below.

~ Jana Peterson