Celebrating their mother’s varied life

Son, daughter to discuss their mom’s memoir at Lake Elmo library

Ernie Gunderson presents his book, "Hartland to Capitol Hill: The Journey of a Wounded Healer," at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Lake Elmo Public Library (Photo courtesy of the Lake Elmo Public Library)

Ernie Gunderson presents his book, “Hartland to Capitol Hill: The Journey of a Wounded Healer,” at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Lake Elmo Public Library (Photo courtesy of the Lake Elmo Public Library)

LAKE ELMO — The book, “Hartland to Capitol Hill: The Journey of a Wounded Healer,” is based on an unpublished memoir by Ernie Gunderson’s mother before she died in 2000.

Gunderson and his sister, Eunice Collette, will introduce their mother,  Mary Gunderson’s, recently published memoir, share excerpts from the book and show slides and Collette will sing songs she said were inspired by her mother at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Lake Elmo Public Library. The book and a CD will be available for purchase.

The daughter of Danish immigrants, Mary Gunderson’s memoir describes settling in rural Minnesota before the Great Depression. Hartland is the small town where her early memories began. She describes her career as a country schoolteacher in the 1940s, then her life marrying a farmer and raising 11 children, two of whom succumb to mental illness and suicide.

Mary’s recovery from this family tragedy began when she founded a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter in her hometown, becoming a personal and political advocate for others suffering from mental illness. Her NAMI work led to Washington, D.C., where she was invited to lobby for mental health parity and tell her story to congressional delegates on Capitol Hill in 1990.

In addition to her work as a farm wife and a mother, Mary Gunderson was a prolific writer. She recorded her entire life in diaries, letters, journals and the unpublished memoir. After two life-changing trips to Denmark, she wrote “The History of a Danish Family.”

Ernie Gunderson, the third of Mary’s 11 children, quit his 24-year engineering career the same year she died. He entered graduate school in social work to begin a new career. In the process of researching and writing papers, he said he discovered his love for writing and became fascinated with the large collection of his mother’s written work. A tour of his mother’s childhood home inspired him to resurrect and publish her story.

The Friends of Lake Elmo Library are sponsoring the program. Lake Elmo Public Library is at 3537 Lake Elmo Ave. N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042.

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