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The Glassheim Way: Friends, family gather to celebrate, remember the life of Eliot Glassheim

Family members of Eliot Glassheim, (from left) Amy Vozel, Eagle Glassheim, Dyan Rey, and Joan Glassheim react at the conclusion of Friday's celebration of the life of Eliot Glassheim at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Former Grand Forks County Commissioner Arvid Kvasager looks at a display for Eliot Glassheim during a memorial Friday at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

Kindness, humor, public service, that was the Glassheim Way.

Around 150 friends, family and colleagues gathered at the North Dakota Museum of Art on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 3, to reflect upon the life of Eliot Glassheim, a longtime public servant who spent decades serving Grand Forks on the city council and in the North Dakota Legislature.

Glassheim died on Dec. 25 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 81.

“Eliot was someone that was beloved by almost every single person who he met,” Glassheim’s friend and colleague Kathy Hogan said. “Eliot was one of the most authentic, real people I have met. When you saw him and heard him, he was just who he was.”

Glassheim “didn’t have a mean or pretentious bone in his body,” Hogan said. He was kind and authentically himself and he expected everyone to be the same.

“He made us be better people,” said Hogan, a state senator from Fargo.

While many knew him for his leadership on the city council and in the Legislature, Glassheim was much more than a politician, he was also an author and a poet.

Many of Glassheim’s friends, family and colleagues read some of his poetry during the ceremony. He wrote poems about his travels, his cancer diagnosis and about his time simply “passing through” this life.

Glassheim was also an editor, constantly editing everything from poems and friends’ songs to his son’s essays.

Glassheim was also a father.

Eagle Glassheim, Eliot’s son, said his father wasn’t exactly the typical father. He didn’t build treehouses, throw a football around or cook dinner. Instead, Eliot would take Eagle along to hand out weather stripping at leaky Grand Forks houses or bring him to pile up sandbags on the dike. Sometimes Eagle and Eliot would walk around town, looking at the sidewalks and curbs, trying to make sure the city was accessible for those in a wheelchair.

“Eliot didn’t really parent in the conventional sense,” Eagle said. “He wasn’t into conventions, except democratic ones,” Eagle said with a chuckle as the rest of the room laughed in agreement. “Instead, he just included us in what was going on and whatever he was doing.”

During his life in Grand Forks, Eliot Glassheim made the city his home and was a community activist in every sense of the word, Eagle said.

“He acted on a very local level,” he said, adding his father acted to build community in ways that included and elevated those who faced challenges.

Glassheim made a lasting impact on Grand Forks and those around him, Mayor Mike Brown noted throughout the ceremony. Grand Forks and everyone who met Glassheim are better for it, he said.

"Eliot was a gift to us all but he always wanted each of us to be our very best selves, and we knew that," Hogan said. "I will miss him very terribly; he'll be part of me forever. Our best memorial will be to try and emulate Eliot's authenticity, try and be your best self. Be kind, be hopeful, be compassionate, be generous to make our families, our communities and our nation a better place for all people."