BEMIDJI, Minn. — A smile and a wave through a picture window.

If you walked past Donald Anderson’s house on 14th Street near the Bemidji State University campus, that’s what you got from the man in the window.

Anderson died this month at the age of 93, and his family has been comforted by hearing from many of the passersby who were touched by that smile and that wave.

“So many people said they didn’t ever talk to him, they just waved and smiled through the window and it made them feel good,” said Tim Anderson, one of Don’s five children. “They’d go out of their way to get their daily wave and smile from the man in the window.”

One example of that was delivered in a card from a recent BSU graduate.

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“I have been waving to your dad for I believe four years,” the sender wrote. “It made my day so much that I would find myself going out of my way to either drive by or walk by your dad's house to smile and wave to him, even if I needed to be on the opposite side of campus.”

Anderson lived in that same house since 1964 when he and his wife, Norma, moved to Bemidji. He took a job at Beltrami Electric Cooperative and eventually became its general manager before retiring in 1989.

In retirement, he enjoyed watching sports on TV and listening to big band music. He did so mostly from a seat next to the picture window, where he could keep track of people walking and driving past.

“For more than 30 years he’d sit in that window and he’d wave at all the students and all the faculty who parked in that area and walked past,” son Tim said. “There are a lot of college rental houses in that area now, so all these students would walk by and they would wave at him and he would wave back.”

Donald Anderson's smile will be missed by those who talk past his house near Bemidji State University. Anderson died earlier this month at 93. Submitted photo
Donald Anderson's smile will be missed by those who talk past his house near Bemidji State University. Anderson died earlier this month at 93. Submitted photo

Tim said his father went into the hospital three months ago to have a cancerous tumor removed, but never recovered, and died on Oct. 13. During that time, family members learned how much their dad was, and will be, missed.

Some members of the BSU softball team, who live in a rental next door to the Andersons, sent flowers to him in the hospital, along with a team photo and words of encouragement. Others stopped by the house to ask why they hadn’t seen “the man in the window” for a while.

After Don’s death, family members put a poster in the window. “He has made his last ‘earthly wave,’” the sign reads. “You made his day and we hope he put a little smile on your face too.”

Tim said it was the family’s way of showing appreciation for all those passersby.

“We didn’t know how to thank them all,” he said, “because we don’t know them. But he knew them through the window. In today’s world, we need that kind of connection. It’s been neat with all the divisiveness going on in the world now that these are people from all walks of life going by and waving and smiling at each other. We probably need a little more of that.”

One of the cards the family received from two BSU graduates affirmed that point.

“Even though we both only shared brief smiles and waves with your dad, he meant a lot to us and was a source of constant positivity throughout our college days,” the card reads. “He was an amazing man.”