Roy Bengtson

1920 — 2007

by Lois Vetvick

At North Park College, my Uncle Roy had a nickname because he was hit by a car on Foster Avenue. For some friends and family this nickname did not stick. But on my side of the family he has been known as “Uncle Bong.”

Dassel, Minnesota, was home during his formation years. Hannah and Oscar, his parents, were Swedish immigrants who had ten children—two girls and eight boys. Ruth Swanson, and one brother, Gordy, survive him. Uncle Bong had a rich and full life in Dassel. In the Dassel Covenant Church his faith was nurtured, grew, and became the core of his existence.

O.E. Olson, North Park Physics Professor, suggested to Uncle Bong that the dentistry allowed a good amount of freedom. He attended the University of Minnesota Dental School. The first from the Bengtson clan to attend Dental School, he was followed by his brother Gordy, sons Paul and Ten, and numerous nephews and grand nephews.

He met Auntie Lu at Bethlehem Covenant Church in Minneapolis and they were married in 1944. Roy was called into the U.S. Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After discharge, he completed Dental School and began his 38-year dental practice in Bemidji.

After the births of Paul (1947) and Jean (1949), Uncle Bong was called into active duty during the Korean War. Ted was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1952. They returned to Bemidji where Betty Lou was born in 1955.

My mother and Auntie Lu were close sisters, the children of our families were the same ages so our families were very close. We spent summer and holidays in Bemidji. When Betty Lou was diagnosed with a tear in her heart, everyone was devastated! After she died, Auntie Lu and Uncle Bong spent time away for healing, praying, grieving, and sharing their faith. In 1959, a third son, Keith, was born.

Auntie Lu and Uncle Bong were instrumental in growing the Bemidji Covenant Church and the Church was a foundation for their faith. They always supported their clergy. Uncle Bong and a friend took their pastor to lunch weekly.

He used dentistry to help others. He made a voyage to Hudson Bay to give dental care to natives. When Covenant World Missions asked for his help, he traveled with Lu and brother Gordy to Ecuador, Peru, and Jerusalem to express his faith and reach out in love to anyone in need.

His adventurous nature and his love of the outdoors gave him experiences like flying his plane, fishing in the Boundary Waters, hunting elk in Colorado, and deer at the cabin. They traveled to Sweden, Africa, and made many trips to England. He was an avid reader, he loved poetry and could recite long passages. He had a great singing voice which he used to the Glory of God.

Late in life Uncle Bong found Darby again. They had grown up together in Dassel. Their spouses had died—so, on February 1, 1993, they married. But for Darby’s loving kindness, Uncle Bong’s last years would have been desolate. She visited him every day and met his needs in a kind and gentle manner showing her love for him.

Uncle Bong shared his faith in many ways. He loved us all, but loved God the most. Thanks be to God for the adventurous and loving spirit of Roy Bengtson.

Lois Vetvick is an Interim Pastor for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ.

See all articles by Lois Vetvick