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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | May 23, 2008

When Nicholai Ibsen, brother of the immortal Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, died just about exactly 120 years ago in Estherville, residents saw to it that his affairs were taken care of and that he had a good Christian burial.

Ibsen’s grave marker shows where he rests with the epitaph, “By strangers honored and by strangers mourned.”

Estherville genealogist Ruth Hackett has put forth the question that possibly Nicholai’s brother, Henrik Ibsen, the renowned Norwegian playwright, penned those words that were written on a piece of paper in Nicholai’s pocket. And perhaps Henrik did.

One wonders, though, if Henrik Ibsen would have written those exact same words if he had met the people of Estherville.

What he would have found, undoubtedly, as did his brother Nicholai, would have been that the people of Estherville were the warmest that one could have met. Unlike some of the cold, uncaring men of his plays, Henrik would have found people with hearts as big as the wide-open prairie.

That is why they took such care in putting his brother to rest, facing the west, the constant direction of pioneer hope and yearning.

That same spirit of caring remains today in Estherville. Of all the communities in the Relay for Life division comprised of Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Estherville was first in fundraising per capita. It was fifth in the nation.

We know of one family whose house burned, and before the fire was out, an account was already established to assist them.

When someone has an accident, a grave illness, or loses a family member, there is always a large group of people there to help out, immediately.

“By friends honored and by friends mourned” would perhaps have been a more fitting epitaph.