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Bill Carrigan

It was 1956 when I first met my great uncle, Bill Carrigan. Bill and

his wife Ramona visited our home in Humboldt. We livedin a little town in

Northwest Minnesota, 8 miles from Canada, and 8 miles fromNorth Dakota.

Humboldt then was a town of 160 in durum wheat countryin the Red River

Valley. It was a rather primitive village by any standard. We had an

outhouse rather than indoor plumbing. One of my taskswas to empty the

chamber pots each morning.


We did not have paved roads or street signs. It was alittle

agricultural town in Kittson County. My Dad's job (beforehe became

postmaster) was to assist my Grandfather on our farm 11/2 mile outside of

town. My parents, Pat and Rustee Rustad, dressed us inour Sunday best.

My brother Tony was 5 or so and Jamie was less than two. I remember that my

sister Jamie was dressed in a beautiful red dress and lookedvery precious.


Bill and Ramona were quite taken by Jamie and seemed veryglad to see all

of us. My Mother made a nice roast beef dinner and wehad a very pleasant

evening. Bill and Ramona were just back from a grand tourof Europe. During

World War II, Bill was an official with the Red Cross. During his travels in

Italy, he became friends with Padre Pio. Padre Pio wasa monk who had the

stigmata. The stigmata manifests itself by bleeding fromthe wounds in the

same location as Jesus Christ at his crucifixation. Whetheryou believe in

the stigmata or not, it is quite an intriguing thought. Persons with the

stigmata would bleed from Christ's wounds sustained atthe crucifixtion.

Padre Pio would bleed from his palms and I remember seeingslides of this as

a 6 year old. Many of the slides Bill showed that nightwere memorializing

his friendship with Padre Pio. He gave us all picturesand prayer cards of

the old monk. Padre Pio was later to be nominated forcanonization by Paul

John Paul II. My Uncle Bill was single handedly responsiblefor promoting

the candidacy of Padre Pio. He must have distributed 10,000prayer cards and

given 500 talks on his friend, Padre Pio.


Uncle Bill and Aunt Ramona visited us at a time when wedid not have

indoor plumbing. However, we did have electricity thoughand they set up a

slide projector to show us hundreds of slides from Europe. I remember being

quite fascinated by the slides. However, I noticed thatUncle Bill was quite

annoyed at his brother Leo who was sounding snoring afterslide number 125 or

so. My Dad asked lots of questions about Bill's travels. One of my Dad's

endearing qualities was his interest in how others lived. I think that my

Dad's great popularity stemmed from his ability to askleading questions

about others. My Dad was genuinely interested in UncleBill's travels and I

now know that he had some of the curiosity which makesintellectuals.


I knew Uncle Bill only by my parent's stories for manyyears. For

example, I knew that he was a very religious person andhad studied to become

a priest as a young man. Bill met his wife Ramona whenhe was in his 40s or

so. Bill and Ramona were devoted Catholics and very proper,digniified

people. Bill was on the Board of Catholic University ofAmerica. I also had

heard that Bill was a real estate magnate who helped todevelop post-war D.C.

I got to know my Uncle and Aunt later when I was a graduatestudent at the

University of Maryland. I spent each holiday with Billand Ramona. I would

take the bus into the Kensington from College Park. Iremember being so

awestruck by the size of their homes and the beautifulfurniture. Bill had

furniture imported from Italy and very fine china. Eachholiday I would

drive with Bill and Ramona from Kensington to Washington,Virginia.

Washington, Virginia was located in the Shenendoah Mountainsof Virginia.

The town of Washington,Virginia was located only about60 miles from D.C.

The meals were all served by the hired help on the finestchina.


Bill's white-pillared mansion is located in Washington,Virginia. Bill

Carrigan was one of the developers of post World War IID.C. He became a

very wealthy man and owned the building that was laterto be the Little Inn

at Washington, Virginia which was one of our only fivestar restuarants. Bill

Carrigan is now in his 90s and quite infirm. I like toremember him when he

was in his his late 70s. I visited Uncle Bill and AuntRamona many times

when I was a graduate student at Maryland. Later, I broughtmy son to stay

with him at his mansion in Washington, Virginia. UncleBill was then in his

mid-80s and still mowed his lawn with a tractor mower evenwhen it was a

humid 100 plus degrees. My son, James, was then only 9but had his own

opinions. He told Uncle Bill that we were Unitarians whowere interested in

many religious traditions. Uncle Bill told James thathe thought that the

Unitarians had crazy ideas about religion. My son Jamesdefended the

Unitarians and argued with Bill. I was very proud of myson for standing up

for his beliefs at such an early age.


Uncle Bill was my Grandfather Leo's youngest brother andwas very well

known for his Fourth of July parties hosted with his belovedRamona, my great

Aunt. Ramona Carrigan was National President of the Daughtersof American

Colonists. My Great Aunt Ramona died in the late 1980s. Bill decided that

he no longer wanted to host his Fourth of July partiesfor the entire county.

My favorite Fourth of July was in 1974. Uncle Bill flewin one of Jesse

Helms aides to give the Fourth of July address. Ramonahosted a roast beef

dinner for more than 75 person. Everyone in the Countywas invited to see

the fireworks shot over their small lake.


Although I did not share my Uncle Bill's conservative Republican

politics, I did admire him for his achievements. In manyways, his life is

that of America at its best. He grew up on a farm in Iowaand had a Horatio

Alger like life. He admired his older brother Leo whowas my grandfather.

He never had children of his own but admired how his brotherand wife (my

grandmother Mildred) were able to raise a family with sofew resources during

the Depression years. He told me how he visited GrandpaLeo and Grandma

Mildred in their dank, basement apartment. What impressedhim was how

Mildred sewed dresses for the girls out of flour sacksand what good manners

his nephews and nieces had. Later these little boys andgirls married and

all became good citizens. My Mother was the oldest ofLeo and Mildred's

kids. She and my father had quite a successful family. My Uncle Jim became

an esteemed federal judge and Colorado Supreme Court Justice. His brother

Mike became a journalist. My Aunt Gin and Uncle Al hada large successful

family. My Aunt Norma and Uncle Charlie moved to Tacomaand are doing


Those little nephews and nieces did just fine in life despitetheir humble


Submitted by:

Prof. Michael Rustad, 13 Jun 00


Those little nephews and nieces did just fine in life despitetheir humble


Submitted by:

Prof. Michael Rustad, 13 Jun 00