Eloise Hoff and Martha Quanrud are thinking about Nov. 11 with a mix of anticipation and sadness, and maybe a bit of relief.
On Veterans Day, their late husbands, both military veterans and former mayors of Preston, will be the first to be buried in the new Minnesota Veterans Cemetery in Preston.
"It's quite an honor, not something we expected," Hoff told the Post-Bulletin.
Before their deaths — Earl Hoff on Sept. 25, 2009, and Clarence Quanrud on May 3, 2011 — the families knew about plans to turn the 169 acres of the former Fillmore County land into the state's second veterans cemetery. Both men were cremated, but neither was interred because their families waited for the new cemetery to open.
"Before Earl died, we knew that was the possibility so Earl wanted to be buried there," Hoff said.
"It was a little bit more of a sure thing when Clarence died," Quanrud said.
The two former mayors "would think it's wonderful," Hoff said. "It's such a beautiful spot."
When Quanrud visited the site, "I thought it would be very beautiful," she said. "The view, mostly the view."
But knowing the day of interment is coming soon brings those mixed emotions. In an interview at Quanrud's Preston home, the two said it's a bit of a relief knowing their husbands' wishes are going to be fulfilled, and it's an honor that they will be first.
When thinking about it, however, "I get kind of nervous," Quanrud said. "I hope everything goes OK."
Thinking about it has brought renewed memories, Hoff said. After his death, "I would dream at night that he was there and reach for him," she said. That faded, but with the day of committal coming, "that is coming back now," she said.
"I supposed we will get more anxious as they day comes," Quanrud said. They are "more eager to get it done" and have their husbands' wishes fulfilled, she said.
Hoff said her husband enlisted in 1947 and served nine years in the Air Force. "He was in radio relay," she said. When in Korea during the Korean War, he wasn't on the front lines, but "he could still see bombs going off," she said. Like many veterans, "he didn't talk about it," she said. She wishes he had. "I think the boys (her sons) would have liked to hear him speak of it," she said.
He was mayor from 1991 to 1994.
Quanrud served in the Navy, starting in 1952, his widow said. He was on the Aircraft Carrier Oriskany off Korea during the war. He worked on ordnance, taking bombs that didn't release off the planes and dumping them into the ocean. It was cold, and "it was a pretty dangerous job," she said.
"He really didn't talk a lot about that, no," Quanrud said. "I guess I didn't ask a lot of questions about the combat part of it."
He took over as mayor after Hoff and served eight years.
The men knew each other because Preston is a small town and both served on the city council together. They were friends but not close friends.
It was because of their time as mayors that they are being honored with being the first to be buried in the cemetery, said Duane Bakke, a Fillmore County commissioner who suggested their names.
He knew they were interested in it, and the cemetery is in their town, he said. Plus, he knew their widows were interested. "Every time I would see them (they would) ask how it was going," Bakke said. Someone has to be first, so why not the two veterans who were also active in local veterans groups and mayors?
Bakke said he made the recommendation to the head of the state cemetery system, and it was approved.
Hoff said besides being an honor, she looks forward to Nov. 11 "for closure, I guess."
And they know their husbands would be happy with the honor and to be buried there with hundreds, then thousands of other veterans.
"Absolutely," Quanrud said.
An AP Exchange feature by John Weiss, Rochester Post-Bulletin.