Though many of us walk under the Wind Chime Memorial Tower on a regular basis, it is perhaps not so frequently that we think about the people this structure memorializes.
They were students, just like us.
Before they died, they might have played on the basketball team or sung in the choir. Maybe they ordered pizza every Saturday night. They lived in the same residence halls we do. Like us, they studied abroad, and occasionally they did not finish their reading.
“At 21, most people are so, kind of, future-oriented and self-oriented that they just don’t think about death,” Pastor Matt Marohl said, but the 30-foot Wind Chime Memorial Tower in the center of the quad calls us to reflect on our peers who have gone before us.
The memorial was conceived by Vice President Greg Kneser and built by 11 faculty and staff members over the summer of 2003. The tower was dedicated on Sept. 28, 2003.
Currently, 116 chimes ring to the tune of “Beautiful Savior.” Each chime is engraved with the name of a student who died while enrolled at St. Olaf or who would have been enrolled at St. Olaf had he or she not dropped out to enlist in the military, according to Jeff Suave, associate college archivist.
The very first chime commemorates Jens Muus, son of St. Olaf founder Bernt Julius Muus. Jens died on Nov. 6, 1878, of typhus.
Most recently, in 2007, a chime was added for Ruth Leona Norvold, who expected to graduate in 1925, but died the summer after her first year at St. Olaf. She drowned in Lake Oakwood, near Volga, S.D., trying to save two younger girls. Norvold’s family brought her story to the attention of the college, which immediately set to work in order to right this omission. This is not the first instance that the college has retroactively added chimes.
Since the memorial service took place 85 years after Norvold’s death, Suave was not sure what the turnout would be like, but Oles filled the chapel to commemorate this woman.
“It showed . . . the St. Olaf community at its best,” Suave said. “I was almost in tears because they had the women’s swim team walk out with her chime.”
“The chimes are a constant reminder that these students will always – will always – be a part of the St. Olaf community,” Martin Raabe ’14 said during a daily chapel service on Oct. 31, the day before All Saints Day. Raabe, Aleece DeWald ’14 and Marohl asked those assembled in Boe Memorial Chapel to reflect not only on these students’ deaths, but also on their lives.
Here are four of their stories:
Kelly Marjanen ’85
Marjanen died in a car accident over Thanksgiving break in 1981. According to the archives, Marjanen was returning from a ski trip in northern Minnesota with her boyfriend when the accident occurred. She was a first year living in Ellingson Hall, and her entire corridor drove up to Duluth, where Marjanen lived, for the funeral.
Christin Mead ’94
In January 1992, Mead traveled to China over interim to take the course “Shanghai: A City Between Two Worlds.” During a weekend excursion, on Jan. 18, Mead complained to Professor Robert Entenmann of a cough and slight fever, but her symptoms quickly worsened. She was hospitalized the following Tuesday and her parents were notified. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The International Studies Office assisted her family in obtaining passports so Mead’s father, mother and sister, a junior in high school, were able to join Mead in Shanghai. Before her family arrived, students from Mead’s program took turns staying in the hospital with her. After a 10-day hospitalization, Mead was set to be transported via a plane equipped with life support to the United States. Four doctors and her mother joined Mead on the plane, but her heart stopped before the plane landed in the United States. A sophomore Asian studies major, Mead intended to spend a semester in China the following year. She taught swimming and played piano.
Sgt. Donald Nelson ’42, Cpl. George Anderson ’44
These two friends left St. Olaf to enlist in the army at the same time, in 1941. Nelson completed his junior year, playing the trombone in both the St. Olaf Band and Orchestra. Anderson played on the tennis team. The men were stationed together on Corregidor, an island in the Philippines, when it fell to the Japanese and they became prisoners of war. Together they formed an Army-Navy choir. In October of 1944, the men were put on separate Japanese ships, the Arisan Maru and Hokusen Maru, respectively, along with nearly 3,000 other prisoners of war. As the ships were unmarked, U.S. submarines torpedoed these ships, killing nearly everyone onboard, including Nelson and Anderson.