King fisherman Kermit H. Wick celebrates his 101st birthday
"A day spent fishing," the old saying goes, “is a day not subtracted from a man’s life.”
Kermit Wick was an old fisherman who had been fishing all his life and most every day since he retired from Boos Dental Laboratory after 50 years. He loved being out on Sweeney Lake in Golden Valley, Minnesota, just a couple hundred feet from his home. As a gift for his 101st birthday, his family took him on a snowmobile out on the lake ice on a winter day in December 2010.
Sitting on the sled and clutching an icy fishing rod, Kermit said to the television team, “This is the greatest sport that ever was, I tell you.” Suddenly the rod bowed and everybody got excited. However, the bass was too big for the hole and the line snapped. Kerm did not want to give up. “It is too cold for you women here. Why don’t you just leave me here,” he said and continued fishing. Everyone cheered when another large bass came through the hole. “That’s a very good eating fish right there,” beamed Kerm.
(See the video at: http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=894032)
Kermit Wick was born on December 16, 1909, of Swedish and Norwegian heritage. At 20 years of age he and his friend drove an old Model T Ford the 250 miles to Ely in northern Minnesota. It took them a day and 14 flat tires. Up there Kermit met Sigurd Olson, and they shared a lifetime of friendship. Olson became a well-known author and environmentalist. Kerm’s son, Chuck, a forester and college teacher, is now living in Olson’s house.
Many are the myths and legends about Kermit Wick. One legend is true. As a young man he was having a picnic with some friends. After the meal Kerm said: “You girls go out and talk. Us guys will do the dishes.” That landed him his greatest catch, Lordean Stattine, with whom he was married for 71 years. Kerm continued doing the dishes after saying to Lordean, “I love you, honey.”
Lordean is the daughter of Jonas Stattine from Nordingrå and Hildur Lord from Östergötland. Hildur was my mother’s aunt. During my 20 years in the U.S. I have missed my family back home in Sweden, my work as a physician, my language, culture and nature. I go to my Stattine/Lord relatives in Minneapolis when I need to recharge my batteries but cannot go to Sweden. I now have known five generations of the Lord/Stattine clan.
Kermit Wick enjoyed retirement so much that he used to say, “If I had known how wonderful it is to be retired, I would never have worked.” He worked in the dental lab, having started as a mail boy and advancing to designing and overseeing the production of partials and bridges. His passions were fishing, family, gardening, hunting taxidermy and painting. As a 20-year-old man he took evening classes in drawing. His drawings of old Fords are meticulous. While canoeing and hunting with his friends up north, he would draw deer in the woods.
When he retired, he learned fish taxidermy. You may not know that fish lose all color when they come out of the water. He had to carefully paint the right shades and every dot on the delicate skin draped over styrofoam. He mounted all sizes of fish and more than 1,500 miniature fish on caps and magnets, which he sold and gave to family and friends.
Kermit Wick died seven weeks after that birthday expedition on Sweeney Lake. He died peacefully, surrounded by his close knit family.
At a lovely memorial service at Champlin United Methodist Church, 178 people came to celebrate his life. Kerm's children, Chuck and Geri, as well as his grandchildren Per, Robyn and Karyn, gave moving and charming testimonials. Geri said, “My dad never lost his childlike wonder and enthusiasm for the beauty of a day on the lake, a fish meal, garden tomatoes and corn, whatever was outside the car window. In his last days he rhapsodized about the intense beauty of each dot on a northern pike and about how wonderful Lordean was.”
Chuck said, “Except for the last few years, he enjoyed the full benefits of life, driving his own car, fishing nearly every day, exaggerating the weight of nearly every fish, eating lutefisk at Christmas.”
From life Kerm learned to accept his limitations. When glaucoma took his left eye at 84, he calmly gave up deer hunting. His garden became progressively smaller.
From ages 94 to 100, he added to his passions painting fish and bird pictures. Geri made the beautiful bird paintings into cards, which are so lovely that many of us mounted them in frames for the walls.
Another of Kerm’s passions was music. His mother played the guitar and piano and his father played a wooden flute. He and Lordean traveled to barbershop conventions from Pittsburgh to Dallas to Calgary.
During his last days Kermit Wick listened to his favorite barbershop choir, the Vocal Majority, sing Amazing Grace, the most loved Christian hymn of all.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we've first begun.”
His favorite was “When the roll is called up yonder.” His tears fell. He was ready for the roll call up yonder.
Lisbeth Berg-Nordstrom-Lerner, M.D.