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Almost 60 years later, Barduson gets his letter jacket

At the little Appleton High School in west central Minnesota, Dell Barduson was good at about everything when it came to sports. He was a three-year football starter, a three-year baseball starter and played a little basketball, too.

It was 1940 and, like his classmates, Barduson had to decide what to do next. College? Stay home and work on the farm between Montevideo and Benson? Enlist in the armed forces?

Barduson chose college and went to Concordia College in Moorhead, where he excelled in both football and baseball, earning a letter in each sport as a freshman.

Barduson, though, realized the athletics career didn't have much promise at the end of the road. After that freshman year, he decided to transfer to the University of Minnesota, stop playing varsity athletics and focus on a career in education.

Life was busy then, too, for Barduson, and he didn't stick around to pick up his varsity letters.

Turns out, someone did that for him.

The catch? It was nearly 60 years later.

When he got to the University of Minnesota, Barduson focused on his academics and didn't think much about those letters he earned at Concordia. By 1943, Barduson had enlisted in the Navy and he spent nearly four years serving his country. He returned to the U, earned his degree and got to work.

Almost 60 years later, he was at a Barduson family reunion, getting caught up with friends and relatives. He was talking with a relative, Doug Perry, who coached wrestling and football at Concordia for several years. Barduson mentioned the fact that he lettered but never actually received them, and Perry got to work.

At a reunion over the summer in Willmar, Perry delivered the letter jacket.

"I was surprised, and also kind of pleased, in a way," Barduson said. "I earned those letters, and never received them.

"When I left Concordia after my freshman year, I suppose I lost track of them, and they lost track of me."

How it all happened

When Barduson left Concordia and got to Minnesota, he thought he'd continue playing college sports. That quickly changed.

"I went out one day and decided they were a little bit too big for me," he said. "I was just really interested in going to school, rather than playing sports."

He enlisted in 1943 and ended up spending two years on a destroyer as a leader of the ship's sonar division.

He returned to Minnesota, finished his degree and started teaching in Olivia.

That's where he met Barbara, and they were married in 1948.

Those letters were the last thing on his mind.

"Life was busy, finishing school and getting married and having kids," he said. "I never thought about it."

Eventually, Barduson and his wife moved to Hastings when he got a job with the state's department of education.

They had four children. Scott is a lawyer in Pipestone, Jan (Tripp) owns Jan's School of Dance in Hastings, Jill teaches home economics in New Ulm and Steve is an architect.

Oftentimes in the fall, Barduson watches his grandchildren playing football across the state and now he wears his Concordia letter jacket to the games.

"I've had it on a few times," he said with a laugh.