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Remembering Hjalle Hellberg

January 19, 2010 - Mike Donahey

Hjalmar V. Hellberg Jr., 85, familiarly known as “Hjalle” died Jan. 14.
Funeral services were held Jan. 19 at Marshalltown’s First Congregational Church.
His death caught me off guard.
“He (name) or she (name) will be missed” is a thought which crosses my mind sometimes when I learn of a person’s death.
When I learned Hjalle had died, it immediately struck me of how he will be truly missed, not only by his family and friends but by others as well.
I will greatly miss his keen sense of humor, friendly greeting, wry smile and firm handshake.
I knew Hjalle for about 14 years. Over that time, we occasionally talked on the telephone. I would see him now and then on Main Street, either on the family store’s business or returning from coffee. Often I saw him in restaurants with Edna, his late wife.
Although he was a businessman and jeweler by trade, he could have doubled as a stand-up comedian.
Because he had the knack for one-liners.
“It’s a pleasure talking to me I’m sure,” or something similar, would greet me after I picked up the phone and said hello.
“I am sure it was a pleasure talking to me today,” he would say, or something like that, in ending the telephone conversations.
If you ran into him in person, it would be, “I’m sure it’s a pleasure seeing me again.”
Those that knew him understand exactly what I mean.
Those that didn’t should get the idea.
He had a mind full of those and other comments to fit many a situation. Hjalle zinged me with those countless times.
Several times he caught me when I had my serious “game-face on” as a result of job-related or other issues. His greeting and comments would quickly and totally get me off that track.
I sense he did that to many others as well.
Once at the store he took time out to show me the many World War II pictures and memorabilia he had collected.
I learned his draft call came just eight days after his high school graduation.
As a member of the Army Air Corps, he had flown 24 missions in Europe as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. As he talked of the war, deceased crew-members and others, there presented itself a somewhat serious side of Hjalle.
For his duty, he earned an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal and WWII Victory Medal.
Another time also at the store, he shared with me the work on arranging a reunion of fellow servicemen. His excitement about that and other matters, was contagious.
Hjalle was a good family man, successful in business and gave back to the community.
Words from Abraham Lincoln comes to mind when thinking of Hjalle now.
“Live a good life...and in the end, it is not the years in a life, it is the life in the years.”


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