At Victoria & Mall of America

Back in 1997, Allan and I traveled with my parents to visit Father Ferdinand Jennen, a cousin on my mother’s side, who lived and worked at the time in Hasselt, Belgium.  In 2004, Allan and I visited Father Jennen, again in Hasselt, this time also meeting Theofiel and Josee Keymis at their home in Dilsen, Belgium.  Josee is a Jennen relative.  Theofiel and Father were friends, and Theofiel became our friend.

In September he flew to Minnesota where two couples hosted him — Ann and Bruce Jacobs of St. Paul for the first few days, and Allan and I of Victoria for the last few days.  That’s Theofiel on the right and that’s Ann and her husband Bruce on the left.  Ann is a daughter of the late Johnny and Theona Jennen of Fergus Falls — which means she’s a first cousin of my mother.

Theofiel and the two girls who are Jennen relatives of his wife Josee and his friend Father Ferdinand.

Before they all dug into my pulled pork supper, Theofiel said a prayer for us, the “Our Father” in Flemish.

I had a Dairy Queen birthday cake for Theofiel since he arrived at our home on Sunday, September 23rd, and a little bird had told me his 71st birthday was Monday, September 24th. 

We enjoyed making Theofiel the center of attention.

Probably the biggest fan the Gazette has ever had, Theofiel introduced my paper to Ann.

We moved to the living room for birthday cards and presents.

He especially liked the attractive Minnesota coffee table book from Bruce and Ann.

After coffee, it was time to say goodbye.  Theofiel had spent four days with Ann and Bruce who biked with him in St. Paul, to the Cathedral, and took him to see family and farms in Fergus Falls.

Nobody hugs more than Theofiel Keymis.

Allan and Theofiel got to know each other better while I cleaned up the kitchen that evening.

The next morning (Monday, September 24th), our daughter Jenny arrived from Tioga, ND, via Amtrak and so Theofiel got to meet and know someone from the next generation.

Jenny and I went to Mall of America, and Allan and Theofiel went to Wayzata to see the Water Treatment Plant, Public Works facilities, City Hall, The Muni — things built while Allan was city manager. Here he’s talking to his daughter who flew with him (and her husband) to the USA and stayed on the East Coast.

Before we left for the day, Theofiel wanted pictures of our place from all angles.

Bye, Guys.  Have a good time at the Water Treatment Plant.

Allan also took Theofiel to see our church in Victoria and the bronze Ave Maria sculpture.

He asked Allan to take a close-up photo of the black granite base. Theofiel had read about it online.

The guys met us for lunch at the Rain Forest Café at the MOA, where Theofiel pet the alligator.

We asked for a table in the Monkey Room, our favorite place when we go with the kids and grandkids.

Theofiel kept an eye on the monkeys when they started snorting and screeching

and pounding their chests.

We laughed so hard sometimes that we cried.  Theofiel said the monkeys looked like they had insects (we would say bugs), and then he imitated them.

The table waiters came and sang Happy Birthday to him — since it was his actual birthday that Monday the 24th — but he didn’t let them know how thrilled he was with their effort.

Theofiel spent all his time shopping for Josee and his daughters and grandchildren at the Mall of America, and Jenny and I helped him find just what he was looking for — t-shirts and jewelry, not Lego’s.

When we got home from Mall of America that evening, we went for a bike ride.  It was a beautiful day.

We had eaten so much at the Rain Forest so we just had a couple orders of French fries and wine at the Victoria House and we visited for a couple hours.  Theofiel said it was one of his favorite evenings.

When I introduced Theofiel to Cowboy Tom, who happened to be there, he said, “It’s Mr. Stumpf!”  Tom Stumpf writes for the Victoria Gazette and, as I said, Theofiel reads the Gazette and sees my photos online.

We rode our bikes home in the dark because the days are getting shorter and the nights longer.

And then we all rode to the depot in St. Paul where Jenny caught a return train to Tioga at 11:00 p.m.  Theofiel wanted to see what Amtrak was all about and he had enjoyed Jenny as much as we do.