DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — A Tale Of The Unused Passport

In the bicycle racing movie “Breaking Away,” the hero’s mother owns a passport she knows she will never use, although the fact that she COULD use it is important to her.

I didn’t use my first passport, either.

In the early 1980s, I was public relations director at the University of North Dakota. One day, my boss, President Thomas Clifford, put me on red alert.

He had just received a heads-up telephone call from a relative of Chester Fritz, the Buxton, N.D., native, former UND student and a later benefactor to the school. Fritz had amassed a fortune as a precious metals trader in China and over the years had funded a library, auditorium, endowments for scholarships and professorships.

But the now elderly Fritz, in his 90s and living in a fabulous mansion in Europe, was feeling unloved, rather like King Lear in the Shakespeare play Dorette and I attended the other day at the Guthrie.

UND, the relative said, would be well-advised to make a public gesture of appreciation.

Clifford’s first idea was to send his PR guy (moi) to research and write a lengthy article for the alumni publication. So I applied for a passport.

But upon reflection, the insightful Clifford changed his mind. Fritz was likely expecting MUCH more than that.

Dan Rylance, historian and director of the Fritz Library’s archives department, was the perfect choice. He had the scholarly credentials as well the kind of self-confidence Fritz would like.

The book, with a title suggested by Fritz, “Ever Westward to the Far East,” was published in 1982.

The strategy did not work perfectly, however. The bulk of Fritz’s estate was bequeathed to the University of Washington, where he had received his degree.

Fritz died in 1983. Shortly after, his cremated ashes were delivered to Rylance in a golden urn. I was among the small group of mourners present at a graveside service at Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Forks.

Which brings me back to my passport, shown above, which will expire in August.

Yesterday, I mailed the application and a check for $110 to the U.S. State Department to replace it.

I’ll use it for the first time this spring when Dorette and I take her almost teenaged granddaughter, Avery Dusterhoft, to Paris.

My new passport is good for 10 years, so it likely will be the last one I’ll need.


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