Jon Hassler's books and paintings at Central Lakes College sit in a library that now bears his name.
Hassler taught at English and humanities at Brainerd Community College, CLC's predecessor, from 1968-1980. On Sunday, with family, friends, former colleagues and admirers present, the Central Lakes College library was officially renamed in honor of Hassler, who died in March at the age of 74.
Hassler's daughter, Liz Hassler, said the family was excited and proud of the honor. She said her dad would have also been pleased.
Jerry and Bev Lahr of Cold Spring admired the portrait of Jon Hassler hanging outside the library at Central Lakes College. They were friends of Jon and Gretchen Hassler and attended the ceremony Sunday at the college where the library was renamed in Hassler's honor. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"He was a very proud man," Liz said following the celebration and dedication ceremony in the John Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College.
"I want to thank Central Lakes for naming the library for Jon," said his wife, Gretchen Kresl Hassler, who read passages from Hassler's novel, "Simon's Night," that she said struck her in their relevance to Hassler and current events.
The idea behind renaming the library in honor of Hassler started with Liz Hassler, who approached CLC Librarian Larry Kellerman about doing something in memory of her father.
"I was sure we could do something in the library, that was part of him, part and parcel, in his heart," Kellerman said.
Kellerman said CLC President Larry Lundblad suggested naming the library in honor of Hassler.
"This is indeed an exciting day for the college as we have the opportunity to honor one of our former faculty members who gained national fame and recognition for his entertaining and uplifting works," Lundblad said. "We gather today to recognize Jon Hassler's contribution to the literary world and CLC by naming the library in his honor."
Hassler's former friend and BCC colleague, Joe Plut, who'd interviewed Hassler about his works, talked about the connections between Hassler's novels and paintings to Brainerd. He also related several anecdotes about Hassler's time at BCC and of his dry humor.
Plut closed with a review of Hassler's "Rufus and at the Door" that appeared in a Mankato publication.
"We are indeed richer, better and more complete for Jon Hassler's provision of characters to care about deeply, characters who remind us of loved ones and acquaintances, characters who come to life and dwell among us, characters we grieve losing at the close of each story," Plut read. "And, in the end, Jon Hassler himself remains the most loved character of all."
Former CLC president Sally Ihne talked about first coming to Brainerd and not knowing anything about Hassler. She bought "Staggerford" as an introduction and soon became a fan of the author, buying as many Hassler novels as she could get her hands on.
She said she became a great admirer of Hassler, bringing the author back to CLC for writers' workshops and taking trips to Hassler's summer home in Nevis.
"He certainly brought a richness of life to this college and he brought a richness to my life, too, because he was such an entertaining, delightful person," Ihne said. "I cant tell you how happy I am this college is dedicating the library to Jon Hassler."
Sunday's ceremony, attended by about 75 people, closed with the dedication of a portrait of Hassler that will adorn the library's entrance and a reception in the Jon Hassler Library.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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