Melvin Simonson remembered

Published 9:50 am Friday, June 11, 2010

Melvin Simonson’s name may revive a few memories for Tribune readers.

One comes about because this man was a veteran of the U.S. Army in Korea in 1960 and 1961. Another may come as the result of an incident that took place on Feb. 13, 2009. On that date he was the recipient of a poignant salute from Albert Lea’s Leo Carey Post 56 of the American Legion.

Simonson, born in rural Hartland, died Monday at Broadway Care Assisted Living Plus, and his obituary appeared in the Thursday issue. He was 72.

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Simonson, a resident of the retirement home since 1996, received just two presents from “outsiders” for Christmas 2008. One was a poinsettia plant and the other was a card, both from the American Legion post. Sometime later he lost or misplaced the card and reportedly became rather upset.

Todd Utpadel, club manager for Post 56, heard about the lonely veteran and the lost-card incident and decided to make Valentine’s Day really special for Simonson.

He said Simonson was an average guy who didn’t want to be alone. He had extended family but never married, so he never had any immediate family to visit him.

“I think there are a lot of Melvins who exist in and out of Albert Lea, and we noticed this one,” Utpadel said.

What resulted was a Valentine’s Day campaign involving students at Halverson, Sibley and Hawthorne elementary schools in Albert Lea, Glenville-Emmons and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva schools, KATE’s “Party Line” program, Salvation Army After School Program, members of Post 56 and its auxiliary, and especially the Legion’s Honor Guard unit.

The students created more than 300 Valentine cards, many specifically addressed to Simonson. Other gifts presented to the surprised veteran and retirement home resident on the morning prior to Feb. 14 last year included a stuffed puppy, several dollars for coffee breaks and treats and other gifts from area citizens. And adding a special touch to the event at Broadway Board and Care last year was the appearance of the Post 56 Honor Guard in uniform.
Simonson’s obit

Utpadel said the Legion wanted to make sure that no veterans are forgotten.

While most people throw away the card and keep the plant, Simonson was upset he lost the card that went with the poinsettia.

“To him the card was just as important as the plant,” Utpadel said.

Simonson graduated from New Richland High School in 1956, and he moved to Albert Lea in 1980. He lived at Broadway Care Assisted Living Plus since 1996. He frequented Diana’s Diner, enjoyed following the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins and liked to follow politics.

The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.