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Plymouth man writes memoir of his wife through her diaries

A testament found stashed in a steamer trunk

Following the death of his wife of 20 years, Plymouth resident John Freivalds opened a steamer trunk filled with more than 27 diaries hand-written by the woman he loved. And he began to read.


“’Til the River Runs Dry” is available in print and as an eBook March 1 on

After poring over personal accounts dating back to the early ‘60s and leading up to the week before she died, Freivalds took to writing “‘Til the River Runs Dry,” a memoir of the life of his wife Margo Mogush Freivalds.

When asked if he missed his wife, Freivalds replied, “I just found her.”

Margo, born in Hopkins, died of Pleomorphic Sarcoma cancer after years of struggling with medical complications from Osteoarthritis. Margo died within 12 days of diagnosis of the cancer.

Freivalds wrote “‘Til the River Runs Dry” as a testament to her character, including her decision to quit her job at 42 to backpack through 11 countries in Asia on a year-long trip in 1986-87.

“She had a dead-end job at age 42 and dropped out. Everybody told her not to do it because she would ruin her career,” Freivalds said. “This 6-foot woman was traveling through Asia by herself with a backpack. She went to around 500 different places over the course of a year.”

When she returned, Margo was hired to what Freivalds describes as her “dream job” with Mead Johnson Nutrition as an International Development specialist. He said she landed the job as a result of her extensive travel and newfound familiarity with Asian culture.

It was after her return that Margo met Freivalds at American Cafe in Golden Valley over a business meeting, and the two began their relationship.

Margo and Freivalds then moved to the mountains of Virginia, where Freivalds and his wife experienced what he described as “golden years.”

While living in the mountains, Margo continued to struggle with her Osteoarthritis. The genetic conditional caused a gradual weakening of her bones, and Margo experienced frequent spontaneous fractures.

Freivalds and his wife resolved to relocate to Dubuque, Iowa, where they would be nearer to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for Margo’s treatments.

The memoir includes a log of 17 surgeries Margo underwent for her bone condition and an early stage of breast cancer. The log includes numerous knee and hip replacements, a breast lumpectomy, a skin graft and cataract surgery.

Freivalds said that Margo’s bone problems were more or less solved after all the operations. However, all the major work took a serious toll on her health and left the door open for the Pleomorphic Sarcoma that would inevitably kill her.

“Her body was so weakened by all these surgeries,” he said. “This nasty cancer came in, and caused her death in only 12 days.”

Margo died in hospice in Edina on Sept. 17, 2010; she was 65. Services were held at Plymouth Creek Center.

Freivalds was going through a grieving process and began reading the diaries his wife had left behind.

“She wrote these things down not to draw any attention to herself,” Freivalds said. “I got into them and said, ‘man this is neat stuff.’ It took me about four readings of each one, and I went on from there. I said ‘my god, I have to write a book about these.’”

“‘Til the River Runs Dry” is available March 1 in print through Learner Publishing Group of Minneapolis. The book is also available as an eBook on through Vook.

Freivalds continued to say that the book was instrumental in his personal healing process following Margo’s death.

“You have to plunge into something,” he said. “This gave me something to do, and something to focus on. Not that she was impersonal, or that I was weeping over her, she just became this great person to write about. And, my god, I had all this great material right in the steamer chest.”

Freivalds has also authored several other books, including “The Famine Plot,” “Grain Trade” and “Successful Agribusiness Management.”

Freivalds said he hopes those who read the book pick up the positivity Margo saw in the world and learn a new perspective on how to live life.

“The main message is; realize how short life can be,” he said. “People don’t realize that, and if you have a chance to drop out and see the world while your knees still work, go do it. You will be rewarded for the risks you take.”


John Freivalds looks through his late wife’s diaries, which were the inspiration for his new book “‘Til the River Runs Dry.” (Photo by Brian Rosemeyer – Sun Newspapers)








This is a self-portrait done by Karen Hakel

Sara Turngren Lohaus co-edited this book:

Colorado Christmas, co-edited by Sara (Turngren) Lohaus, published in 1990 by Partridge Press, St. Cloud, MN.  An anthology of Christmas stories, poems, letters, historical anecdotes, and recipes relating to Colorado, including selections by Baxter Black, Clive Cussler, John Denver, Gudy Gaskill, Enos Mills.  Used copies available by googling the title. 
From Sara: "A cousin and her husband in MN had a small publishing company which compiled anthologies of writings that related to Christmas in a particular state.  They published Christmas in MN, IA, WI, IL and asked me to work on one for CO. A friend, who had an interest in such a project, and I compiled Colorado Christmas.  We had a ball researching stories and historical docs. at the Western History Room of the Denver Public Library.  Our biggest coups were getting stories from a few notables such as Clive Cussler, and creator of the Colorado Trail, Gudy Gaskill.  Cussler actually showed up to read his story at one of the book signings!  Ultimately, it wasn't a commercial success (sold 8,000), but we had a lot of fun!"  


 By Emrys (Grant) Current

  by Emrys (Grant) Current.  Winner of the Midwest Book Award, 2011 (Children's Picture Book catagory), eLit Award Bronze medal 2012.
Emrys (Grant) Current

Description: Lucy is grandma's kitty cat.  We just love to play with her, but she is always hiding.  Grandma says she is "skitterish".  Come help us as we explore Grandma's farm, looking for Lucy.
Available through, (as Ebook), or through http//www.beaverspondpress, or personally by sending me an

This song was written by Will (Bill) Donicht:

Published on Jun 12, 2012 by 

This song was written by Will Donicht a few decades ago. It is sung in memory of both him and Dave Ray, who happens to be in a picture in the video. It is dedicated to the Riv, the West Bank neighborhood, his family and all those who knew and appreciated Will. And especially, it is dedicated to Mary DuShane and others who were part of "Fools Gold".
Will shared this song with me back in the 70s when "Fools Gold" was rich and strong. The song has stayed in my mind, and I believe, crept into my soul.





Standard YouTube License


 I am attempting to include here four songs recorded by Will (Bill) Donicht, courtesy of Jayne Milana.   I am still working on a way to link them to our site.  If anyone knows how to do this, please email me at  They are audio files but currently in movie format.  Thanks!

"Some of You People Been Smokin' My Dope" 
is off a CD called "Battle of the Jug Bands,
Minnesota Home Grown Volume 2" recorded live at the Cabooze in 2000. The
liner notes' last paragraph:

The final cut is dedicated to Will Donicht. Bill died just two years ago,
March of 1998. Allmost 30 years ago he recorded this version of David
Morton's classic, "Some of You People Been Smokin' My Dope" with his jug
band, Mama's Home Cookin.

The remaining three songs were recorded with the Joel Johnson Band in July
of 1995 on an album entitled "Turnin' Heads." While he performed on all of
the songs on the CD, Bill actually wrote these three. They're all a little
gimmicky, not necessarily representative of his best work, but they're
playful and charming and he does shine through.

He was a brilliant guitar player, a knowledgeable musicologist, a composer,
a poet, an artist, an all-around Renaissance man. He played for years with
Dave "Snaker" Ray (of "Blues, Rags and Hollers" fame) and some of the
finest (primarily blues) musicians in the area and became an institution on
the West Bank. I know almost nothing about his personal life. He is
survived by one son, Orion Donicht, a musician, who lives in Alaska, and two brothers.
The songs are:  Blues on the Bank; My Girlfriend's Kinda Vacant; Some of You People Been Smokin' My Dope; and Legs.
 Drawing by John Grussing.

This drawing was used for the cover of our 20th year reunion booklet.  

 Quilt made by Karen Stenback 

The quilt was made as a fundraiser for a dog rescue organization, Halfway to Home.  It made $864.  The picture shows Beverly, representative of Halfway to Home, on the left, and the winner of the quilt, Sue Hartman, on the right.  

 Mary Zakariasen McLeod

This is one of Mary's pastels.


Here is a link to photography by Tamara (Rapps) Frank:

Tam Frank
Tam Frank

Tam Frank
Tam Frank


Here is photography work from Cheryl Walsh Bellville and here is a link to her website:

Cheryl is also a member of this organization:

Cheryl Walsh Bellville
Cheryl Walsh Bellville
Cheryl Walsh Bellville
Cheryl Walsh Bellville

Kent Severson

Here is some photography work by Kent Severson.   He did not include a viewing website, so I am including all he sent me:  Thanks, Kent!

Kent Severson
Kent Severson

Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson
Kent Severson