Great Throng Attends
Funeral of W.T. Ager
Tribute Paid by Pastor and Others at Final
Final tribute was paid Waldemar T. Ager editor
of the Reform and noted author and lecturer, as funeral services were held
Monday afternoon at First Lutheran church. The large church was thronged
with close friends and admirers as the solemn rites were directed by Dr.
S. C. Eastvold, pastor and friend of the deceased.
Besides the eulogy by
Dr. Eastvold delivered in English, the Rev. H. A. Wickmann of Eleva spoke
in Norwegian. Dr L. W. Boe, president of St. Olaf Collage at Northefield
, Minn., also spoke.
Soprano solos were sung by Miss Jansine Haarvel.
were Adolph Sherman, Edward Lenmark, John Haanstad, Gerhard Olson, Haakon
Landmark, and Elmer Anderson.
Scores of floral offerings were received,
and there were many messages of sympathy, including one from Wilhelm Morgenstierne,
Norwegian minister to the U.S. at Washington, D.C., who wired: "I am grieved
to learn about Waldemar Ager's death. He was one of the most gifted and
faithful men of Norwegian origin in this county. I shall miss him also
as an old friend. My heartfelt sympathy to the family."
editor and author, of Decorah, Ia., wired: "Waldemar Ager was more than
one respect a shining light within his racial group here in this country,
known almost everywhere where Norwegian Americans built and dwell, the
spokesman of thousands for sobriety and integrity. His written and spoken
words have brought light and created enthusiasm wherever they have been
read or heard. Personally I have received much from Waldemar Ager to be
grateful for, and I wish to express my small part in recognition of the
loss which the entire Norwegian population in America must be permitted
to share." A note from D.C. Donaldson to the family was characteristic
of many others. It started in part: "It was a great shock to me to read
of Mr. Ager's death in the daily press. The last time that I saw him in
Luther hospital he spoke so cheerfully that I felt that in spite of his
set-back at the time he would eventually recover. Mrs. Donaldson and I
both wish to extend to you our deepest sympathy in this hour of your great
sorrow. We have followed Mr. Ager's activities with much interest ever
since we moved to Eau Claire. I remember him as one of the few really gifted
men it has been my pleasure to meet."
Among those attending the funeral
from out of the city were Mrs. Camilla Cameron of Washington, D.C., a sister
of Mr. Ager; Einar Comfield of Chicago, Ill., a nephew; Birger Gabrielson
of Shawano, Wis., a nephew; Alf Gabrielson of Albert Lea, Minn., a nephew;
Prof. J Jorgan Thompson of Northfield, Minn., and the Rev. Olaf Refsdal
of Cook, Minn.
Text of Sermon
The text of Dr. Eastvold's funeral sermon
follows: "'For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away; his gory shall
not descend after him.' (Ps. 49:17.) Grace and Peace! 'Waldemar Ager is
dead.' This news passed from home to home, it was talked on the streets,
it was sent over wire and radio, and it was blazoned on the front pages
of the newspapers. He died on August 1, 1941 at 9:20 a.m."
not without glory while he lived; his glory shall not descend after him.
It would take volumes to tell the full and complete life story of this
man. To see him crossing the bridge with his pipe in full blaze would never
lead any casual observer to suspect that there walked a genius. His human
greatness was always in disguise because of his natural modesty."
A Self-Made Man
"The real Ager was discovered by a few of
his intimates. Like the true Viking that he was, he was very cautious about
revealing his true and inner self. A self-made man, who stumbled by seeming
accident into his calling, he attained to place, position and rank which
had been recognized by the peasant in his cottage, as well as by the king
on his throne. His merits as editor, author and lecturer have been well-known
for nigh on to half a century. Notwithstanding the lack of a formal education,
which ended in a common school in Graesvik, Norway, he became an amazing
man of letters. He was acquainted with the best of literature from every
age. His natural endowments, and his retentive memory, made him ready with
profound, wise and valuable counsel on innumerable occasions. His experiences
in mere childhood as errand boy and house painter, left him with first
hand knowledge of the common man which never forsook him. He began to cope
with the grim realities of life when his father sailed for America, leaving
his 12-year old boy with mother at Oslo, Norway. At the age of 16, four
years later, he came with his mother to Chicago where he became an apprentice
printer in a Norwegian shop."
"Being a true son of the free-men of the
North of Europe, he felt right at home in the Democratic spirit of America.
He hated all forms of sham and especially the terrible evil of the liquor
traffic. He urged his countrymen, in speech and press, to use the ballot
to combat the evil of strong drink. He aligned himself with the temperance
movement and contributed much to the cause which ended in the prohibition
era. He never once admitted that the era of prohibition equaled in moral
depravity either the period which preceded it or that which has since followed
its abolition. Thousands of homes have been help to sobriety and decency
because of Ager's speech and pen. Such honor will never descend even if
it should some day fail to mention. He was deeply concerned for the name,
honor and welfare of his Norwegian countrymen. He knew that the saloons,
night clubs, and taverns, of the past and present, could only serve to
degrade the race and ruin our civilizations. His convictions usually always
placed him in the minorities. He was not always right, but he was always
honest. He resolutely took up the crosses involved. He never regarded it
below him to peddle hand bills for an unpopular cause when it served the
truth. He stood for a free America, and America can only be free when its
citizens are free from any and all moral depravity. Ager had not immigrated
to America to become a parasite. With liberty and freedom, he realized,
went along responsibilities and duties. He could not enjoy the one and
shirk the other."
A Leading Citizen
"Ever since 1892, Waldemar Ager has been one
of Eau Claire's chief citizens - it should be added, in disguise. His innate
modesty kept him from pushing himself forward. He was, like many of his
kind, better known away from home than in his own community. He was called
upon to lecture throughout our nation and his editorials were quoted by
the press far and wide, including his home land, Norway. He had a double
passion, 'temperance and racial heritage.' He believed his fellow countrymen
of Norwegian descent, could contribute most to America by keeping alive
the best that had come from the culture of the Norsemen. These facts are
clearly displayed in the four novels from his pen as well as in his short
stories, essays, and editorials. While he was quietly and modestly raising
monuments for others, he was in fact rearing a monument to himself because
of the ideals he preached and practiced."
"All of this could not be concealed
until the hour of his death. His name and fame spread before him. His native
modesty left the people of Eau Claire pretty much in ignorance about the
honors which came to him. Few here knew that the King of Norway twice decorated
him in 1923 and 1939, respectively; that he was given a degree, Doctor
of Laws, by St. Olaf College in 1929; that he was given literary awards
by the Norwegian Society of America and the Norwegian Literary Association;
that he was honored by his fellow temperance brethren to have him run for
lieutenant governor of Wisconsin; that his biography has appeared in "Who's
Who in America" since 1912; that he has served on the local library board
for 3 years, and in many other important places."
"But his honor will live
longest because of his family of nine children, unto whom, together with
his wife who survive him, his principles were successfully taught. Bodies
die and perish from the earth, but great truths live on in succeeding generations.
you may ask , what has all this got to do with a funeral sermon in a Lutheran
church? Should we review such secular things and apparently praise the
Faithful Church Goer
"We feel today, that these things do have
a place! Waldemar Ager could never have been what he was without the fundamentals
of the Christian faith. During my eight years as his pastor, I saw him
on innumerable occasions in the congregation. He was one of those who most
faithfully attended upon the Norwegian services, held here every Sunday
morning. He used only two pews during all those years, and his presence
was most noticeable. Only during the summer weeks, when at his summer home,
did he miss the services. He was always well enough to be in church. I
visited him frequently at the hospital, during his last illness. At each
visit, we prayed together. Tearfully he spoke of his childhood training
and his 'Barnelaerdom.' He said, 'Sunday is not Sunday when I have failed
to be in the house of God.' A man is usually honest on his death bed. He
realized the great meaning of sin and grace. He had his intellectual difficulties,
but, trust that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to him a saving faith."
Ager knew full well that all the marks of distinction to which I have briefly
referred, could never give him a passport into the mansions of heaven.
He knew the meaning of our text: 'For when he dieth he shall carry nothing
away.' All earthly distinctions are only earthly. And while we insist that
some of these are the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are not,
in themselves, any kind of merit which saves a man's soul from sin. No
man can sit under a Lutheran pulpit for nearly a life time and escape knowing
these gospel truths. None of us can judge how much of appropriation there
is in some of our brethren who retire with their inner thoughts. He had
worshipped in season and out of season in the church of his choice. He
had often heard the great gospel, 'But now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the first fruits of them that slept' (Cor. 15:20). He who accepts
that truth, in penitence and faith, in word and sacrament, in obedience
and in life, will escape the world of the lost to live forever with Christ
in His eternal glory."
"What solemn thoughts came to us when we stand
by the bodies of the dead. 'A railroad car once carried a man whose mind
had faded into a blank and whose end was to be an asylum; a criminal whose
destiny was a dungeon, and a bride on her way to her new home and the welcome
of new friends. Time will soon bring all, the good, the bad and the irresponsible
to the last stopping place.'"
"Bossuet says that life is like a road that
ends on awful precipice. We know that at he beginning. We would gladly
stop, but there is a irresistible force which impels us to walk, and finally
to run. The speed increases as the end draws near. Objects that attracted
at first, lose their distinctness and beauty. The flowers are less bright,
the meadows are less blooming, and everything fades. We begin to feel the
fatal gulf, but we cannot return, and the shadow of death finally falls.
Chrysostum says that life is but a scene in a theatre. We are actors. We
play our part for a moment and disappear. The curtain falls, and all is
over. The only thing valuable about us is the soul, and that is the very
thing about which we occupy ourselves the least."
"My friends, we must
not attempt to die with a human guess as our pillow. Let not death be a
star sinking into the darkness of the night, but let it be a faith in the
living Christ which changes the blackness of death into the morning star
which is itself lost in the view of the brightness of God's eternal day.
In that faith, death will be a release like the breaking of a chain, the
close of a long confinement, and the opening of a prison door. One dying
saint said, 'Let me pass out!' As his soul fled, like an imprisoned bird,
away from an opened cage. 'The Thracians wept whenever a child was born,
and feasted whenever a man went out of the world, and with reason. Death
opens the gate of fame and shuts the gate of envy, after it; it unlooses
the chain of the captive and puts the bondsman's task into another's hand.'
Death touches only the body. As the spirit becomes disengaged, the body
falls into ruin. "There is a spiritual death more terrible than physical
death. We see the crepe fluttering at the door, here and there, as we walk
the streets. Somebody is dead! Had we eyes like God, we should see other
dead among the living-beneath the guise of dress, of rosy health, of ample
wealth, of high position, as well as under he humbler forms of concealment.
Dead in trespasses and sins, as really insensible to the higher verities
of life as is the sheeted corpse to its daily activities.'
Death Has No Favorites
"Death has no favorites. 'It seizeth upon
the old man, and lies in wait for the youngest.' It is told of Charles
the fourth, King of France, that, being one time affected with the sense
of his many sins, he fetched a deep sigh, and said to his wife, 'By the
help of God, I will now so carry myself all my life long that I will never
offend Him more,' which word he had no sooner uttered, but he fell down
and died. Thus death is as near the great man's back as to the poor man's
"Death is a part of the order of the universe, a part of the like
of the world. No strange thing has happened in our midst in the death of
"When once a gentleman of culture, dying in the prime of
life and surrounded with loved ones, said 'Death! I see no death at my
bedside. I would not have a fear. Christ, not death, is about to take me
from earth! There is no death to the Christian. The glorious gospel takes
"Yes, we are born to die, and we die in order to live. It
is the veil of the flesh which separates the Christian from heaven, and
not distance. The moment we lay the flesh aside we enter the presence of
our Lord. There is no horrible passage-way for the Saved soul."
to correct the theology of many in the world. When you see a new gray hair
in your head thank God, and when you see another wrinkle on your cheek
thank God, and when another year is passed thank God. What does it all
mean? 'Why, it means that moving day is coming, that you are going to quit
cramped apartments and be mansioned forever. Those Christians in this world
who have lost their friends, and lost their property, and lost their health,
and lost their life for Christ's sake, will find out at last that God has
always (been) kind.'"
"I wish to direct your thoughts to Christ the Savior
and to the heaven. He is getting ready for His people, and for none others."
this world we meet to part. It is hello! and good-by! Farewells are always
floating in the air. Something we say good-by in alight way, while at other
times with anguish in which the soul breaks down. It ends the thanksgiving
banquet and it is cried at he grave."
"It will not be so on heaven. It
will be 'welcome' at the gate and 'welcomes' at the house of many mansions,
but never a 'good-by.'"
"We will carry nothing of earth with us to heaven,
and we will need nothing from earth. The glory we earned in this life will
at last descend forever, while our glory in the next life will be the glory
of our Savior, bridegroom and king. May that glory be the glory we all
seek after now and forever."
(Printed in the Eau Claire Leader
August 5, 1941)