Friday, June 14, 2024

Father's Day Tribute from a son...

This is Voula, Jim's wife writing on his blog. Our son surprised us with this guest opinion column (see link below) appearing online today in the Duluth News Tribune. Jim deserves this sweet tribute from our son. He is now-and was back when the kids were young-a great dad. 

This Sunday is when we honor dads and those men who have mentored kids everywhere. My own dad was pretty special and his legacy is with me forever. And we notice how giving and supportive our own son and son-in-law are in their roles as dads to our six grandkids. We are surrounded by awesome dads!

I did research in my grad school education on dads who parent kids with special needs and learned through that process the significance of dads in children's lives, whether they are living with them or not. Dads give so much to our kids and we appreciate you all. Kids need you in their lives!


Click HERE to read the DNT column: Behind the Wheel With a "Local Celebrity" by Patrick Heffernan.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Attack of a 50-foot woman and other travails...

Source: Wikipedia
Written by Jim Heffernan for DuluthNewsTribune/6-1-24

I woke up extra early the other morning and clicked on the TV. It was tuned to a classic movie channel where groups of terrified men and women were running to and fro, apparently escaping from some dreaded horror.


Then it showed a shapely woman wearing a somewhat scanty white outfit akin to what some woman tennis players sport. She was wandering through a forest and I noticed she was taller than the trees.


It piqued my curiosity so I checked to see what movie it could be. The title was “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” made in 1958. I missed it at the time.


Lacking compelling interest in dangerous 50-foot women, I clicked off the TV remote and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee, turning on the countertop radio as I passed it en route to the electric coffee pot on the counter, eager for some morning action. Action is right.


“I couldn’t get my pigs to slaughter,” was the first thing I heard, from a loudly screaming woman on National Public Radio who sounded like she could be 50 feet tall.


Welcome to the world on this bright, sunny spring day, Mr. H. (Nobody calls me Mr. H.; I just threw that in because I like the way Dagwood Bumstead’s neighbor boy Elmo calls him Mr. B.) I turned off the pig woman without learning why she couldn’t slaughter her pigs and went about the business of brewing the morning coffee. Oh, and also life.


But those scenes haunted me all morning (when this is being written), and might continue into the afternoon, who knows?


My first thought upon hearing the plight of the pig woman was that maybe I should consider becoming a vegetarian. You can enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich without thinking about where they got the ham, but if you do think about it, it’s apt to cause reflection. BLT anyone? Thoughts like how lucky those un-slaughtered pigs were that day drifted into what’s left of my brain after maybe being invaded by an invasive worm. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.


In my youth, a long time ago (around the time the 50-foot woman was first lurking about), I had a friend whose summer job at the former Elliott Packing Company in Duluth was herding sheep to their ultimate demise — just like leading lambs to slaughter, you could sing. Didn’t seem to bother him. He was very good at mathematics, so I suppose counting those sheep at bedtime helped him get to sleep.


Hoo, boy. I’ve got to cheer things up here. Hostile 50-foot-tall women, pigs and lambs being slaughtered, brain worms…not subjects for a “humor” column, which is usually my goal, like it or not.


We could revisit the morning coffee, an absolute must to start the day. It wasn’t always that way for me, though. I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was almost in my 20s. The reason? I wanted to live a long healthy life without burning out my insides on my mother’s coffee.


She was the daughter of Swedish immigrants, a couple who met in Duluth after emigrating separately from different parts of Sweden well over a century ago. I always blamed my mother’s strong coffee on that heritage.


Here’s her recipe: Fill a stove-top pot with water after throwing away the percolating apparatus, bring it to a bubbling boil, dump in an undetermined amount of ground coffee without measuring it, let boil some more, pour it into a waiting cup and sip it, if you dare. She liked cream in it.


Both of my parents drank it, and my father wasn’t even Swedish, but when I came of the usual age that one might start trying coffee I couldn’t. Just couldn’t. I always imagined if you spilled some on the ground it would bore all the way to Communist China.


So I went without, until I got to college. Seeking to become a pseudo intellectual, I wanted to fit in with the crowd who hung around the cafeteria drinking coffee and discussing compelling world problems like starvation in Africa, which seemed to be in vogue at that time too. They were thinking about organizing an actual “symposium.” So I tried some university coffee and it was fine. One lump of sugar and I was satisfied. What, no Swedes in the kitchen? There’s a relief.


It led, of course, to a lifetime of drinking copious amounts of “normal” morning coffee, including on the day a 50-foot woman was invading my life and pigs were not being slaughtered somewhere, not to mention the enduring concern about worms invading the brain inspired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in his finest hour.


Finally, I don’t mean to cast aspersions on my own late mother so I’ll take this opportunity to make up for it. She was a sweet woman of average height who didn’t keep pigs, made extra-strong coffee and could play J.S. Bach on the church pipe organ in a way that could make you ponder your eternal soul.


I sometimes wonder what my children will remember about me long after I’m gone. That’s up to them, of course, but I hope they don’t go publishing it in the local newspaper, for crying out loud.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at