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Fargo Pastor Shared a Gentle Humor

Lind, Bob. "Fargo Pastor Shared a Gentle Humor." Forum, 11 February 2003, sec. 2B.


Arnold Marzolf told the story: The pastor of a church in Linton, N.D., told him he was having a problem lately of forgetting things he heard or read.

"When I asked him if he had visited a doctor about his problem," Arnold said, "He said, 'What problem?"

Arnold H. Marzolf

Arnold, of Fargo, had hundreds of such stories, many of which he used in his church sermons, or when talking to his German class at North Dakota State University or when writing one of his books.

The longtime teacher and pastor was professor emeritus of languages at NDSU when he died five years ago last month.

A boy, working on the church grounds, accidentally dropped a penny into the cesspool.

The pastor, walking by, saw the kid then throw his watch and his billfold into the cesspool.

"Why did you do such a stupid thing?" the pastor asked.

"Do you think I would go down there just for a penny?" the boy replied.

Arnold compiled dozens of such church- and family-related stories for his book, "Parson to Parson: Good Humor for Nice people." Since he was 81 when he died, he had a good many years in which to gather them.

He was the son of a German from Russia who was a blacksmith in Anamoose, N.D., where Arnold was born.

He helped put himself through Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa, by shoveling coal in the heating plant for 15 to 20 cents a day.

He became ordained and served several denominations: the Moravian Church, the United Church of Christ, among others.

A Quaker was having trouble with his cow. She threw her tail into his face and kicked him.

Finally, out of desperation, the Quaker said to her, "I cannot beat thee and I cannot curse thee, but I surely can sell thee to a Presbyterian."

And he did.

Arnold served churches in Lehr, Bismarck, Hillsboro, Wahpeton, Argusville and Gardner, N.D., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in Ohio. He taught at the North Dakota School of Forestry, Bottineau, and at NDSU for 25 years.

He originated an annual German language worship service at St. John's Church at Bonanzaville USA, West Fargo.

He loved to sing and he loved to eat ... except, perhaps, when it came to lutefisk.

The Norwegians in North Dakota have a unique way of fixing lutefisk.

They go out to any old barnyard, find a half rotten board, nail the lutefisk to the board, boil the board with the lutefisk, then throw the lutefisk away and eat the board.

In his later years, he continued to speak in churches, lead German language services at Bonanzaville and at the Fargo Moravian Church, and often worshiped at churches of denominations other than his own.

He didn't have much money, but he was known to give funds to Christian missionaries even though they were not connected with the churches he served.

And always, he retained his sense of humor.

A woman, living far from her children, finally managed to visit her son's home.

A little boy answered her knock at the door.

"I'm your grandmother on your father's side," the woman said.

"I can tell you one thing," the boy said. "You're on the wrong side."

And so it goes in "Parson to Parson," Arnold's book of gentle humor relating to pastors, churches, faith and families.

It seems appropriate to wind up this segment of Neighbors with a couple of his stories related to marriage, since Friday is Valentine's Day:

Then there is this Norwegian who thinks an epistle in the New Testament is the wife of an apostle.

And this one:

"You know," the new bride gently hinted to her Scotch husband, "flowers and jewelry have a special way of tenderly speaking to wives about love."

So from that time on, her husband talked about flowers and jewelry every night.

Reprinted with permission of the Forum.

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