My Friend, Earl Bakken

10/24/2018 by Rebecca Toews

What a gracious, humble and thoughtful man, was my friend, Earl Bakken!

I first met Earl through Bridging’s partnership with Medtronic for “Furniture Fridays.” Bridging is a nonprofit I founded in 1987 that helps furnish homes for people who are transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. Every Friday, people would come together to build furniture to be distributed to clients.

Medtronic held a blanket drive, and it was snowing hard that day! Still, Earl drove out to Blaine to see his employees folding hundreds of blankets to be given to Bridging. I watched him and I thought—‘my gosh, what a wonderful man to drive through a snow storm to help the poor!’ I will never forget that.

When I met Earl, I never would have thought how important his invention would be to me, personally—I had just been so grateful for his steadfast care for people who needed help. But, at almost 94 years old myself, I have outlived my first Medtronic pacemaker, I’m on my second one and I am still going strong! Because of Earl, I have had the blessing of seeing my grandchildren grow up, and I’ve been blessed to meet 15 great grandkids! I cannot say enough how much I love this man for what he has done for me.

When I got my pacemaker in 2007, I knew it was the beginning of a new life for myself. “Now that I have that electricity running through me, I said, “there ain’t nothing stopping me!” I have lived by those words.

In 2016, I received the Medtronic Foundation “Live On Give On” award for founding Bridging. Fifteen of us were flown out to Earl’s home in Hawai’i to share with him what we have done with our “extra life” after we received our medical device implants. I thanked Earl and told him, “I am here today because of this pacemaker, and I love you.” When I walked up to get my award, he said, ‘I love you too, Fran.” I will never forget those words. Just think what a beautiful world it would be if everyone could greet one another that way!

It is people like Earl Bakken that have helped make Bridging what it is today. Since 1987, we have served over a quarter million people in the Twin Cities area! I will never forget Earl, and am in absolute amazement over the number of people whose lives he is responsible for saving. What an honor it was, to be considered his friend.

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