Decades after brother's death, sister seeks those who knew him in DuluthChar Brevik was just a year old when her 16-year-old brother and only surviving sibling, Harold Paavola, died in 1951. Now she’s hoping to find some of his Duluth friends and classmates who can offer memories and stories of the brother she never knew.
By: Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune
Char Brevik was just a year old when her 16-year-old brother and only surviving sibling, Harold Paavola, died in 1951.
Over the following decades, Brevik heard a few anecdotes about Harold from her parents, now deceased, and from cousins and other relatives. But there’s more she’d like to learn, and few places left to turn.
So now, 62 years after Harold died in a Minneapolis hospital after a long illness, she’s hoping to find some of his Duluth friends and classmates who can offer memories and stories of the brother she never knew.
“It’s always been out there,” Brevik, who now lives in Isle, said of wanting to know more about her brother. “I just thought it’d be neat, if somebody knew him,” to be able to learn more about the kind of person he was.
Harold Paavola was born in Eveleth, the son of Carl “Charlie” Paavola and Erma Huttunen Paavola. When he was about 6 years old, the family moved to Duluth, according to his obituary that ran in the News Tribune in October 1951.
The family lived in the Central Hillside, at 18½ E. Fourth St., at the time of Harold’s death; that’s now the location of Central Hillside Park and Community Center.
Harold attended Washington Junior High School, less than a block from home. The Paavola family attended Messiah Lutheran Church, a Finnish congregation in central Duluth that existed into the 1990s, when it merged with Kenwood Lutheran.
When Harold died on Oct. 4, 1951, it was after years of illness.
“A couple cousins told me he was sick with rheumatic fever since he was 11, and he passed away at 16,” Brevik said. “They said they used to visit him at the hospital, and he had accepted the fact (that he was gravely ill). He knew what was going on.”
The condition led to damage to Harold’s heart valves, ultimately causing his death.
In the years that followed, after the family moved to the Twin Cities, Brevik’s parents shared a little information about Harold, but he wasn’t discussed at great length. One time her mother gave her a New Testament that belonged to Harold, and told her to keep it in the glove box of her car. Brevik has done just that, in every vehicle she’s had, to honor her brother’s memory.
That New Testament had names of some of Harold’s friends written inside — Virgil Pollard, Bonnie Anderson and Virginia Erickson. They’d now be in their 70s or 80s, but Brevik wonders if they might have any memories of Harold.
Brevik also found a letter to her brother from a friend named Ginny — no last name — written just a couple of weeks before Harold died. Ginny writes about some goings-on at school, including having to play in the band for a football game even though it was raining, and attending morning prayer meetings.
Those kind of everyday details are things Brevik might like to hear about her brother. She was told Harold liked sports, but she doesn’t know which ones. She’d like to know about his hobbies, and interests and faith.
Through relatives, Brevik heard Harold was easy-going and calm, “someone you’d know five minutes and think you’d have known him for years.”
After all these years, Brevik hopes there’s still a chance she can get to know Harold a little better.
If you knew Harold Paavola — or if you know someone who did — you can leave a message for Char Brevik at the News Tribune by calling (218) 720-4102 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name and contact information, and we’ll pass the messages along.