Post: Readers Respond

I have many fond memories of Tillie Lothrop [Christmas issue, p. 5] and so does my brother, Carl. Carl worked for Tillie at Cromwell Camp when I was a between 10 and 12. I remember how much my brother enjoyed working with her in the kitchen for two or three summers. She was a stern, but gentle, supervisor and, as long as he got his work done to her satisfaction, there was plenty of time for fun as well.

I met Tillie when I worked at Camp Squanto in the summer of 1962. I will always remember the smells coming from the kitchen when she was making her famous “limpa,” or Swedish rye bread. It was heavenly and she had to be on guard so we rascal staff guys didn’t try sneak off with a loaf. The best treat that she could leave out when the staff would come down for snacks after the campers were in bed was some freshly baked rye bread and real butter with cold milk.

By that summer, she was having a hard time walking. I always felt badly for her as I saw her struggling up the stairs of her cabin by Lake Swanzey. Her body was wearing out, but her beautiful Christian spirit was forever gracious and her servant’s heart was a blessing to all. She was open to all—a stranger was only someone she had not yet met. She will always be lovingly associated with Cromwell and Pilgrim Pines. Lovingly submitted, Paul D. Bengtson, Muskegon, Michigan.

Tillie was one those people who shaped my understanding of love, dedication, and piety. I had the wonderful privilege of working four summers in Tillies’s kitchen (believe me in those days it was “Tillie’s Kitchen!”) at Camp Squanto, two as one of her Kitchen Boys and two as her Assistant Cook. Yes, when you worked in Tillie’s kitchen you were hers. She was in charge. She was serious about her kitchen. She could appear cold and stern to persons who didn’t know her. But persons who worked with Tillie soon learned that what appeared as sternness was really her way of caring deeply about those for whom she cooked.

She was a baker par excellence. As she stood over her large thick wooden cutting board in the corner of the kitchen in front of the big commercial ovens, she kneaded her bread and shaped her sticky buns. I wonder if deep inside she sometimes smiled over them. Tillie was always first in the kitchen each morning, around 5 a.m.. But her time of Scripture reading and prayer always took priority over her early arrival. I know she prayed for her kids—her camp kids. Tillie was a very devoted and disciplined person in her faith and in her love for the children and her kitchen boys. It wasn’t often, but when something touched her funny bone, she laughed with the best and it was infectious.

I learned to love cooking and baking from Tillie. But mostly I learned about using our God given gifts to love His children. She rolled her turnover dough thinking of the children who would be nourished. Her meals became legendary at camp. Limpa bread, turnovers, ham with her unique raisin sauce, and there was her delicious salad dressing, the recipe for which she guarded like gold. I remember how much she cared for her kitchen boys—they held a special place in her heart in spite of their wild antics of which I’m sure she did not always approve.

I will never forget the morning when I sat in the Prayer Chapel in Nyvall Hall, when another student shared with us that Tillie had died. Not everyone there knew of Tillie but the announcement brought tears and sadness to me. Her death marked the passing of a true saint who loved the children and had a special place in her heart for the wild and crazy. She was filled with love, dedication, and deep piety. I think of her often. Thanks Pietisten for remembering her. Bake her bread but do it with love, like she did every week for all those summers. Paul Hedberg, Homewood, Illinois

To the Sport Prophet. I want to let you know I loved your pick in the latest Pietisten. Unlike sports writers for other major magazines, your reviews are never tainted or biased toward players from any schools you have attended or people from places where you previously lived. The fact that players who are receiving these great awards had first won the Waldenström, certainly shows that they were catapulted into the limelight by this prestigious award. It has been my very own experience that just upon my mention of the Waldenström and/or the Pietisten that I too have been catapulted. Donald Teed, Eagan, Minnesota.

We always enjoy receiving Pietisten and read it from “cover to cover.” The articles by Elder Lindahl are always interesting and enlightening. I especially enjoyed the account by Norman Dwight telling of Waldenström going to China. Seeing the picture of Henry Gustafson and reading his obituary brought back memories. Henry and I were in Sunday school together back in the 1930s at Dawson Covenant Church in Dawson, Minnesota. Gert (Franklin) and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary September 3, 2008. Elder was one of my attendants and his sister Carol came with him. Elder and I were roommates at North Park. A couple of years ago we had five of our grandchildren attending NPU. We still live in Alaska after 50 years and can’t think of any place we would rather be at the present. Sincerely, Ralph V. Fondell, Eagle River, Alaska.

The latest issue came in yesterday’s mail, and, as usual, contained some very wonderful material. I am impressed by Art Mampel’s poems especially “Springtime For the Nation.”

The Henry Gustafson obituary was particularly meaningful for me because he was my confirmation pastor in the late 40s at Haddam Neck Covenant Church in Connecticut. Henry ran a two year course with lots of homework! Henry and Joyce were much beloved by us rural folks, and my sister, Carol, became the official baby-sitter for “Baby Joan.” When I was at North Park, I often visited the Gustafsons—sometimes baby-sitting after Mark joined the family.

I timed my lunchtimes at Sohlberg Hall by watching out the window for Henry and his pupil, Lowell Johnson, to cross the vacant lot for their lunches in order to be in line behind the two. Often, Henry would invite me to join them at their table. The strategy worked! I became Mrs. Lowell Johnson in September of 1954.

I had phone contact with Henry when he lived in Santa Fe. Another former Haddam Neck pastor, Everett Swedenberg, died in 2008. His widow, Eldora, lives in Albuquerque, and I hope to see her when I visit in March. Everett was the first full-time pastor in Haddam Neck and Henry was the second. Art Mampel is another “Pietisten person” of long ago acquaintance. He was a protege of my husband when Lowell was a student pastor in Minneapolis. Art and I became quite close as young “kids” (because of Lowell) when I was a sophomore at North Park and Art was a freshman. Life is interesting to say the least. Janet Johnson, Concord, Massachusetts.

Dear Phil: I was moved to tears and an enormous lump in the throat reading your eloquent tribute to Henry Gustafson. He opened me to grace and universal salvation as none other had done. For 40 years in three churches I always told stories about him in our member classes and from the pulpit.

I was sitting in the back row in a Nyvall Hall classroom and Henry was lecturing on Paul’s staggering encounter with grace. He said it’s all gift, you can’t measure up to get it, it’s on the house. I never heard that in my home Church. He then said, “God loves Bridget Bardot as much as He loves my wife.” Given B.B.’s sexual escapades I raised my hand asked: “But is that fair?” Reading me like a book, he said, “No, Dave, it’s not fair. Grace isn’t about fairness. You can only lean back and receive it. Relax and let God love you just as you are. Easy does it. Relax.” Never heard that before either! Thus my conversion really began.

I thanked him years later for those words in Nyvall Hall that began to set me free. He went on to encourage me to consider the United Church of Christ (UCC) in his own kind and balance way. The in the 1990s I saw him in Florida as a big UCC clergy gathering when Henri Nouwen was speaking. I told him again that every time we took in new members I told his story: “relax and let God embrace you.” Kind Henry smiled and said “That’s good news, Dave.”

I wish I had written to him in recent years and affirmed him again. He was huge for me. You captured him, Phil. Our Apostle of love—Agape Henry. He’s moving on now! I still have tears in my eyes. Thank you. Grace and peace, David Norling, White River Junction, Vermont.