Oh look! One Thing That Shines: Writing the Difficult Stories – The Globe



I couldn’t explain Albert.

I realized this quite early in the process of writing about Albert Matthiesen, better known to all of Worthington, Luverne and our surrounding communities as “Sonny” or simply “Albert”, when I told a friend that he had died in May. 26.

This friend hadn’t lived here very long, and although I arrange the words to make a living, I remembered very quickly that words had their limits when I tried to explain who Albert was and what it meant for the people of Worthington.

I think I ended up saying something stupid, like, “Well, he went to every festival in town, every event. He was at everything.

I’m not even sure I’ve mentioned his most well-known features: his smile, and his greeting of “Hello, friend”, and its variant, “Hi, buddy”, but even if I did, it was hopelessly insufficient.

I’ve written a few articles about people who have died since I started working here last August, and I’ve also written obituaries for a few of my grandparents over the past few years.

I am well aware that you can never really do justice to someone in a single article, whether they lived only a year or, like Albert and three of my grandparents, were past the 80 year mark.

You can usually address the highlights of people’s careers in an obituary, such as city attorney or school secretary, or give people an idea of ​​what was important to them, whether be it children, cats, books or education.

My goal, in general, is to give people who didn’t know the person an idea of ​​who they were and, ideally, to make them wish they had known that person.

I did my best for Albert, but I knew in advance that it wouldn’t be enough.

I even broke a rule or two for him – our newspaper uses AP Style, which dictates that you use someone’s last name to refer to them throughout an article, unless there is a reason not to write it that way. It was wrong, so I didn’t. Albert was like Madonna or Plato: one name was enough.

I spoke with several people to get different perspectives on the story, and everyone was kind, helpful, and sad. I was sad too. I kept crying as I wrote, knowing I wouldn’t see him at another King Turkey Day or the International Festival, and knowing the play wasn’t going to be good enough.

And at some point, my computer ate my notes. I lost my interview with Kathy Lesnar, and she graciously got back to me, but I still remember one line from that first interview: Albert, she said, was the real thing.

And he was. He was truly our friend.

For days after, I had Nick Cave’s tribute to Johnny Cash stuck in my head: “Let the bells ring.” He is the real thing.

I couldn’t explain Albert, and luckily I didn’t have to. Kathy and everyone else who spoke to me helped give those who didn’t know him a little insight into who he was: our friend.

The real thing.

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