N.D. Town Mourns Loss of Native Son

MacDonald, John. "N.D. Town Mourns Loss of Native Son." Associated Press, n.d.

STRASBURG, N.D. - The farm where Lawrence Welk was born and the streets where he walked as a boy were quiet Tuesday, as residents of this small town mourned the death of their famous native son.

Evelyn Schwab, Welk's niece, and her sister Edna take care of the Welk homestead, which is being refurbished in time for a grand opening June 7. It stands at the end of a gravel road outside of Strasburg, about 75 miles southeast of Bismarck.

Other than an occasional visitor, Evelyn Schwab said it was very quiet at the homestead Tuesday. A memorial service for Welk was scheduled at the local Roman Catholic church Thursday night.

Workmen showed up as usual to continue restoring the barn, and a single memorial wreath stood beside the life-size cutout of Welk in the dining room of his boyhood home.

Katherine Borr remembered that when Welk came back home for visits, folks would join him at a local dance hall.

He was very much a North Dakota kid, she said. "He would come back and visit. There was nothing uppish about him."

Evelyn Schwab said townspeople knew Welk's health was deteriorating.

"I felt really sad last night when I learned the news," she said. "But in the back of my mind, I guess I knew it was coming."

Joyce Christenson, a nurse at the Strasburg Nursing Home, said many of the home's residents were good friends of Welk's and were saddened by the news.

"A lot of these people grew up with Lawrence, they were proud of him," she said.

Margaret Heron, Welk's longtime personal secretary, was among those at his bedside when he died Sunday. She said the decision not to publicly announce his death until Monday was his own wish.

"They (the family) absolutely did not want his death to become a circus," Heron said. "I know he expressed it to me that he did not want it to become a public spectacle, and we are trying to maintain the dignity and honor that the man deserves."

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.

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