Forum columnist Bob Lind used to say 'everybody has a story.' Now you can read his
Late Forum columnist Bob Lind always wanted you to be the star of his "Neighbors" column, but now his story is getting told in a new book featuring his columns.
FARGO — When Laurie Lind was a little girl growing up in Larimore, North Dakota, she found herself in the role of cub reporter to her newsman father.
“If there was a siren, he'd grab the camera and sometimes me,” she said. “We'd go out in the country while he was taking pictures of a big car accident or a fire or something and I'd be there. And then later he’d even let me write.”
Fast forward more than 50 years and Laurie and her dad are sort of working together again — this time making something pretty extraordinary.
Laurie’s father, the one-time Larimore newsman, was the late Forum columnist Bob Lind. Just in time for Christmas, she (with help from others) has compiled a book chock full of Bob’s best from his more than 60 years in the news business. Not the stories of those car accidents or fires, but stories about kindness, friendship and connection that help define his career.
Most of the stories in the book come from his 25 years of writing his “Neighbors” column from 1996 to 2021, thus the name of the book; “Bob Lind’s Neighbors.”
“I thought it would be kind of interesting and fun to pull together a sampling of this column and just preserve a little of what he did,” Laurie said.
Welcome to the 'Neighbors' hood
The column was born in early 1996 after Lind, then a features writer for The Forum, wrote a story about National Random Acts of Kindness Week. In a preface to the book, former Forum Features Editor Cathy Jelsing said the response to Bob’s call for acts of kindness stories from readers was so great that The Forum didn’t have room to publish them all.
“We needed to come up with a way to get those extra kindness stories into the paper and we needed (I wanted) to find a place where Bob could share all those other little stories he ached — maybe felt called — to tell,” Jelsing said.
Laurie said the column started running once a month, and eventually ran three days a week. His last column ran on Sept. 4, 2021, about one month after he died from complications of a stroke he had suffered in April. Bob always worked several weeks, if not months, in advance. That’s why The Forum was able to publish his work even after his death.
The birth of the book
Laurie, the oldest of Bob and his wife Marcie’s four children, said she never previously thought about writing a book of her dad’s columns. But fate seemed to have other ideas, starting when she and her mother were going through Bob’s things after his death.
“He kept every email. So we had file cabinets full of papers,” Laurie said. “Clearly we can't look at every single piece of paper, so a lot of them just went right into recycling. But a few things would come and jump out at you.”
She said they found emails from readers asking Bob to write a book and Bob would write back, “No, I would never have time to do a book. And besides, nobody would ever read it.”
The words from those emails stuck with Laurie during Bob’s visitation at the funeral home when one woman stood up during the sharing time and said “Where’s the book?”
Former Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski replied "there wouldn’t be enough paper in the world to do a book of Bob’s columns.” (It turns out there was enough paper and Zaleski is featured on the back cover endorsing the book).
“It was just kind of a big joke,” Laurie said. “But that was the first time I heard it said out loud. Then the next day, we go to the funeral, and someone chases me down and said, 'You should do a book.' So like two people in two days?”
Maybe it was fate. Maybe a sign. But Laurie was about to have a very busy year, putting a book together about her dad.
A multitude of riches
Laurie said her first task in putting the book together was narrowing down her subject matter. After all, Bob had been writing professionally since the late 1950s.
“I just had to say columns only. Except for a little sample of what he wrote as a younger guy,” she said.
So Laurie included small stories from Bob’s days at the University of Minnesota, the Spring Valley Tribune and the Larimore Pioneer. She even included a column Bob had written in Larimore in the days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But the bulk of the hundreds, if not thousands, of writings she went through were for the Neighbors column in The Forum. She organized them into chapters including: The Good Old Days, Holidays, Local People, Food and Restaurants, Mysteries and Humor.
I started to see there was a depth there, an appreciation of the region’s history and the people and their stories. He always would say to me everybody has a story.
Laurie said she had never read many of the columns.
“I wasn't the biggest follower of the column when he wrote it. I wasn’t a big fan of it,” she admits.
Laurie said it seemed too “light” to her, but that changed as she gave herself to the project.
“I started to see there was a depth there, an appreciation of the region's history and the people and their stories,” Laurie said, “He always would say to me everybody has a story.”
Laurie said she wasn’t able to pick out a favorite column, but she was amused by his "corny" dad jokes throughout the columns.
For example, lines such as:
“We’ll try to keep misteaks (purposefully misspelled) to a minimum. But if we make them we’ll keep them rare.”
The book has been for sale for a couple of weeks and has garnered positive comments from readers who say it’s similar to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books that allow you to read a short snippet whenever you need a little pick-me-up, maybe as a nice way to unwind before bed or first thing in the morning to get the day off to a sunny start.
Getting closer to dad
It took Laurie the better part of 2022 to put the book together, a process she found cathartic.
“There were times when I was working on it when I just stopped because I would start to cry. Or I'd laugh out loud. Some things were funny. And some just made me think about him or remember him in another way,” she said.
Laurie said she couldn’t help but feel a deeper connection to her father because many of his columns were not digitized, so she had to channel his words again through her keystrokes.
“I was literally transcribing it. I was rewriting the words he had written years ago. And just thinking his thoughts practically and what was important to him along the way,” she said.
What would Bob think?
Any reader of “Neighbors” could tell you the names of Bob’s subjects were always in bold print and he never wrote in the first person. He wanted “his people” to be the stars of the columns.
That’s why Laurie said Bob might even be a little uncomfortable having his smiling face on the cover of a book.
“I think he might be embarrassed. He didn't want to be in the spotlight. So he'd probably be like, 'Oh, no, don't do that.' But I don't know, maybe deep down, he'd be pleased.”
Bob's book, "Neighbors," can be purchased at the front desk of The Forum, 101 5th St. N., or by calling 701-451-5668 and paying with a credit card. Purchases can also be made online at https://bit.ly/boblind.