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Bob Lind column: Neighbors: Nursing home employee saved rascally Sinner from blizzard

It was a blizzard-like December day a number of years ago. It was a day you didn't want to linger outside, and you didn't want others to, either. So Lucille Konen took pity on the man who was pounding on the door of the Fargo Nursing Home. But on...

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It was a blizzard-like December day a number of years ago. It was a day you didn't want to linger outside, and you didn't want others to, either.

So Lucille Konen took pity on the man who was pounding on the door of the Fargo Nursing Home. But only to a point.

Lucille, of Fargo, worked in the activity department of the nursing home (now called Rosewood on Broadway). The activity room was near the north door, at which people often knocked to gain entrance instead of coming to the main entrance.

But the nurses had been troubled lately by the number of people they encountered wandering the floors; people who were absolute strangers. So the administration sent out the word to the employees: Do NOT let anyone in the north door unless you know them.

So, on this stormy night, Lucille heard pounding. She cautiously opened the door and found a man standing there wearing a thin black coat and a black cap, with only skimpy loafers on his feet and no gloves at all on his hands. And it was cold out there.

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"Caution went out the door and compassion kicked in," Lucille says, and she let the stranger inside.

She had him sit on a chair outside the activity room and gave him a cup of coffee and a cookie. And then she grilled him.

"Are you visiting someone here?" she asked.

Yes, the man said; he had people on the second and fourth floors he visited.

Lucille, good investigator that she was, said OK, what are their names?

The man told her. Well, that was good; there were people by those names living there. Maybe this guy really was legit.

By now the man was getting warm, so he unbuttoned his coat.

Yikes. He was wearing an inverted collar.

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"I felt a little relief then," Lucille says.

The man then got up and headed for the elevator. "Then he turned around with a big mischievous grin on his face," Lucille says, "and he said, 'By the way, I'm Father Sinner.' "

That would be the Rev. Richard Sinner, the Catholic priest who served several congregations in North Dakota and Minnesota and who was famed for being an activist for a number of causes, who died Jan. 28 at age 78.

But Lucille's story continues.

A little while later, Lucille and others were waiting for the elevator. As it approached their floor, they heard music coming from it. When the elevator door opened, there was Father Sinner with the residents he had named, heading toward the dining room for coffee, and all singing Christmas carols.

"Some years later," Lucille says, "I met Father Sinner at the Villa Maria Nursing Home (in Fargo) where my husband was a resident. Father Sinner approached me and said, 'I feel I should know you.'

"I said, 'Yes, I s'pose you do. Years ago you passed my entrance exam at the Fargo Nursing Home.'

"His eyes started to sparkle with mischief as he recalled the incident. We had a big laugh. What a sense of humor he had."

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Thinking back on the Fargo Nursing Home incident, Lucille says, "When I saw his mischievous grin and the fact he didn't identify himself right away, I think he enjoyed the question-and-answer test I put him through, knowing I had no idea who he was.

"He was a rascal. But a very likeable one."

Indeed he was.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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