Minnesota Has a New “Literary Landmark”

On Friday, May 16, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends – together with the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library and Central Lakes College (CLC) Foundation – had the great honor to dedicate CLC’s Jon Hassler Library as Minnesota’s fifth official “Literary Landmark.”

Literary Landmarks are sites with a strong historical connection to prominent American authors, recognized through a partnership between United for Libraries' Literary Landmarks Association and local affiliates. As anyone familiar with his body of work can attest, perennial bestseller Jon Hassler is as deserving as any.

kellerman.jpgHassler, a teacher by training, burst onto the writing scene in a big way in 1977 with the publication of his first novel, Staggerford. The debut garnered Hassler accolades from all corners – for a strong narrative voice, engaging plot devices, and, above all, a refreshingly authentic look at dynamics in a small Midwestern town. Over the next three decades, Hassler contributed another dozen novels to the corpus of Minnesota literature, in addition to several well-received nonfiction works, short stories anthologies, and children’s books.

Hassler passed away in 2008, at age 74, after a long and courageous battle with a Parkinson’s-like disease. Shortly after, Central Lakes College, where this multitalented man taught for many years, rechristening its central library the “Jon Hassler Library” in his memory.

CLC Librarian Emeritus Larry Kellerman served as master of ceremonies at May’s Literary Landmark dedication, which was attended by 75 guests. These included Hassler’s wife, Liz, and son, Michael. Board of Directors members Joan Larson and Joe Owens were on hand to represent MALF.

The afternoon’s poignant highlight came when Hassler’s long-time friend Joseph Plut (author of Conversations with Jon Hassler) read aloud a letter from one of the author’s former students, Dr. Patrick Hicks. The latter credits his own writing success to Hassler’s teaching and guidance. Plut also read excerpts from Simon’s Night, a recent and popular posthumous work by Hassler.

This Literary Landmark designation puts Jon Hassler in a league with only three other Minnesota names: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maud Hart Lovelace, and, most recently, Sinclair Lewis. (MALF, in partnership with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation, dedicated that author’s boyhood home in Sauk Centre as a Literary Landmark in 2013.)

Which author and historic site are next on the docket? Stay tuned to find out!  Photo Credit: Larry Kellerman/CLC.