Neighbors: ND farm boy was one of many who died fighting in WWI

Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

Today, Neighbors turns to a letter Marge Opperman, Fargo, sent to The Forum about her husband’s uncle, who was killed in World War I.

Christof Brending, the oldest of five children, was a farm boy from the Devils Lake, N.D., area. He wanted to be an artist, Marge writes, and his school notes are filled with his drawings.

After attending Concordia University in St. Paul for a few years, his parents decided it was all right for him to visit Germany to visit his grandparents on his mother’s side. While in Germany, Christof went to an art school in Berlin.

Fortunately, he returned home before the war started, and he went to Seattle, where he lived with his aunt and uncle and again studied art.

When the war began, he was drafted into the Army. Eventually, his unit was ordered to go to Europe.

When one of his friends in Seattle learned of this, and knowing the unit would spend a few days in New York City before going overseas, he asked Christof to look up somebody there.

So he went to the address that was given him, but nobody was there. But a woman who lived next door saw him, told him those people had moved away, but, seeing he was in the Army and since her husband was an Army officer, invited him in, gave him supper and asked him to spend the night with her and her husband and family.

The next morning, this woman had her son, who was about Christof’s age, take him to an art museum.

Then, Christof’s unit shipped out to Europe. And while on a scouting mission a few months later, Christof was killed.

Some time later, the kind woman in New York wrote to Christof’s family to inquire about him. She of course was stunned to learn he had been killed.

“She then wrote a beautiful, touching letter to his family telling every detail” of that time her family had had with him, Marge says. She and her family have that letter.

“We also have a letter written by one of Christof’s German friends to his family after the war was over,” Marge says. “He told of seeing a dead American alongside the road, which made him think of Christof.

“We have sent copies of these letters and other items to the World War I museum in Kansas City, but we still have the originals.”

Marge and her husband have visited Christof’s grave in France.

And there, this day after Veterans Day, you have a story about one of the many area residents who fought — and in many cases, died — fighting for their country during World War I.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.