Community rallies behind Rosendahl with Dec. 28 benefit

by Jim Boyle
Harlan Rosendahl retired June 30 from his career as a University of Minnesota Extension educator at the age of 58 with the usual aspirations — spend more time with family, travel and find a part-time job to accentuate his interests in kids and/or nature.
The Elk River man even got in a trip to the Black Hills with family right away in August, but shortly after his return his retirement took a hiatus.
He was having an increasingly tougher time swallowing and digesting  his food. His wife, Connie, sent him to the doctor.
He was diagnosed with esophageal adenocarcinoma on Sept. 16. To address the cancer that had already entered Stage III, he underwent three surgeries related to his feeding tube and began intense, simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
He anticipates having a complex surgery called an esophagectomy in late January 2012. Once the tumor is removed, chemotherapy and radiation will likely resume.
Wife Connie, a director with Tupperware, is Harlan’s primary caregiver and chauffeur from their home in Elk River to Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute in Minneapolis for his frequent doctor visits. Harlan requires daily tube feedings, along with liquid nutrition by mouth and many medications.
“It wasn’t what I hoped for,” Rosendahl said of the abrupt change in the course of his life.
He’s on still on a feeding tube and building up strength for his next surgery, during which doctors will remove a tumor and the esophagus and reconnect his stomach.
Meanwhile, the community is rallying around this man who made a name for himself in several circles, including Central Lutheran Church where he became a part-time janitor, the Sherburne County Extension where he worked for many years, the local 4-H scene and Elk River Community Theatre.
These organizations and Tupperware have combined forces to put on a benefit from 4 to 8 p.m. this Wednesday (Dec. 28) at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River.
There will be a  spaghetti dinner, kids games, face painting and crazy hair, a silent auction for kids and one for adults, as well as four solid hours of entertainment.
Entertainment will include:
•The North Star Boys’ Choir
•Command Performance Choir
•The Watchmen
•Central Lutheran’s Chancel Choir
•Performances by individuals to include Eileen Bowersox, Brian Budhan, Stephanie Heiberg, Georgine Genck, Matthew Brisbin and others.
Contact Sarah Ross for tickets and information 763-433-2649 or [email protected] Tickets are $8 for adults 18 and over, $3 for children 5–17, free for children under 5.
Donations can be made to The Bank of Elk River. All branches can accept donations. Use account: Harlan Rosendahl Benefit Fund. Donations are being matched by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.