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Beuna May Bugel: Silver Bay's youngest 'old' soul

Pastor Stew Carlson

Last month, I visited Mr. Jacobs' fifth-grade class at William Kelley with our school guidance counselor, Mrs. Duke. We asked the kids the following question: "What qualities make you want to spend time with adults whether parents, grandparents, neighbors, coaches or others?"

The answers were expected to have to do with being nice, funny and sharing common interests.

A follow-up question was then asked: "Does it make any difference if these adults are 20 or 80?"

What was surprising was how emphatic the class all shouted "no" in response. When Mrs. Duke and I went to visit multiple additional classes of fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, the answer remained the same.

I shouldn't have been surprised at the potential to build intergenerational relationships within our community. A few years back, I was wandering the halls of William Kelley after school. I overheard a phone conversation between a student and his mother. The mom was imploring her son to come home and not stop at the house of a certain lady friend after school. When I heard the lady friend's name, I couldn't help but chuckle as she had a name that had fallen out of popularity with the advent of World War II. The young man who is good friends with so many old ladies throughout Silver Bay is Gavin Leblanc.

When Gavin was growing up, he spent nearly every day with his grandpa Pat Leblanc Sr. They would travel up to their cabin together and drive the truck around town. Gavin and Pat's favorite activity was going to Jimmy's Pizza for ice cream cones. They were then going to hide out behind the Silver Bay arena eating these cones to avoid the wrath of Gavin's grandma, Tootie, after Pat grew lactose intolerant.

Gavin wanted to be just like Pat Sr., who was a social butterfly. When Pat died, his funeral filled not only his church's sanctuary, but also the basement and the nearby Reunion Hall. Spending so much time with Pat made Gavin naturally comfortable around aging adults.

Several years back, Gavin was out for a walk when he started talking to a lady from down the street named Esther.

Esther invited Gavin over for strawberry ice cream and to visit; she was not going to get rid of Gavin after this. Despite having a busy schedule heading into his senior year of high school, Gavin still manages to visit Esther every couple of days and they frequently share meals together. Gavin has built relationships like this with aging adults all throughout Silver Bay.

When I go visit congregational members who have moved out of the area, they will inform me that Gavin regularly calls to check up on them. What makes this remarkable is that Gavin isn't a member of my church. I have heard firsthand how what might seem like a small investment of Gavin's time makes such a difference in the lives of others.

Gavin has been richly blessed through these relationships as they've greatly expanded his knowledge of the world. Aging adults have helped Gavin fix his pickup truck and lawnmowers, while Gavin in return likes helping seniors stay independent by assisting with chores. Gavin has observed aging adults blessed by the energy of youth.

Gavin and his many grandparents throughout Silver Bay remind me of Dale Carnegie's saying a few generations ago that genuine interest in each other is the building block of relationships between young and old alike.

While Gavin sees technology as having its benefits, he points out that it has made connecting with other people different. Hardly anyone knows how to talk to each other anymore, and we lose the knowledge and personality that people like Gavin have gained from their experiences.

Intergenerational relationships have the potential to bless our communities. Every day, I encounter students struggling with complicated home situations along with aging adults struggling with loneliness. For many kids, having someone care enough to know their name can make a world of difference. The great hope is that ice cream can make all these things possible.

If you would be interested in participating in an intergenerational relationship program in Silver Bay, please contact guidance counselor Tami Duke at or me.

Pastor Stew Carlson is the grandson of Beuna May Carlson of Lindstrom, Minn. He is also the board chairman for North Shore Area Partners and pastor of Sychar Lutheran Church in Silver Bay. He can be reached at