Text and photos by BOOKIE BALOGH
To recognize the contributions to Second Life of Lena Kjeller (RL: Dave Mewhinney) as well as the affection that Second Life residents had for her, the Deadwood Memorial Library presented the first Lena Kjeller Memorial Lecture, in a series that is intended to continue annually. During the course of her residence in Second Life, Lena became widely known for her elaborate period clothing. Besides library-related activities, Lena was a citizen of the Western role play sim of Deadwood. She was on the city council as treasurer and frequently helped out new Deadwood residents and created the Deadwood Public Library. In Lena's memory, a literary lounge has now been opened.
In a moving tribute to Kjeller, Poohneil ‘Neil’ Streeter, Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday talked about ‘Truth and Lies in the Pioneer Press: How the West was Worded.’ Streeter discussed how concepts of truth changed during the evolution of newspapers in the 19th century; Hickok and Holliday both talked about how they used, and were used by, the press in their day.
Interestingly to those of us who have been brought up to believe that the press should report the truth, Streeter pointed out that newspapers in the 19th century were expected to be advocates for one political position or another. Even more extreme, they sometime created news in order to make some desired outcome happen. He said, “ There are many stories of newspapers that were published before the town even existed. The newspaper was calling a town to be….It was permissible to mix visions and prophecies with current and negotiable realities when it was all certain to become true.” In the 19th century, sometimes you lied to make something happen, sometimes you died for it, and sometimes all went well.”
Wild Bill Hickok (role-played by Butler Heckroth) and Doc Holliday (role-played by JohnHenryHolliday Helendale) both gave accounts of events in their colorful lives that had been distorted by newspapers that were either for or against them and their actions. According to Hickok, his reputation as a gunslinger kept him safe for a time, as the population was terrified of him, but “I never killed no man cept in defense of myself” was his explanation of the truth. According to Holliday, the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral didn’t take place at the O.K. Corral at all, but rather on Fremont Street in Tombstone. He and Wyatt Earp shot two armed men who refused to disarm themselves. However, the newspapers at the time branded them murderers, claimed that the men were unarmed, and generally took positions contrary to the truth.
Streeter’s presentation evoked an interesting discussion of how trustworthy primary resources might be, if the writers were deliberately shading the truth or outright lying. It was agreed that one would have to ‘triangulate’, using multiple sources and resources, to determine what the actual truth might have been. Diogenes Kuhr: pointed out that one can read the version in the paper and not only compare it to other papers of the time but also any other less opinionated documentation such as: police or coroner's reports, letters ,diaries, or any other primary sources that might verify or support the story. However, as she said: “sometimes part of what was interesting wasn't that something was true or not;; it was important that someone WANTED it to be true.”
The program was followed by the dedication of a plaque in Kjeller’s memory in the Deadwood Memorial Library. CarrieAnne Dubrovna read the dedication in the words of Kjeller’s real life wife Holly Peters (Hollyjean Allen in Second Life):
Lena Kjeller was ‘sired’ by the imagination of Dave Mewhinney. In a way she was his third daughter. Dave joined SL in July of 2007 and created Lena in the following October. Dave loved being Lena. She was smart, sassy, well loved and had great outfits! Lena was also cancer free.
Prior to becoming a citizen of Deadwood, Lena was an active volunteer at the Alliance Virtual Library reference desk. She spent hours helping new residents to SL, and reaching out to others needing help. It was her experience at this library that inspired her to create the Deadwood public library. Lena TP’d in many RL librarians who were not Deadwood residents to see the library.
Deadwood was Lena’s home. She was honored to serve on the town council, and simply loved the great people she met there.
Dave was born in Hibbing, Minnesota in 1937. His mother’s family was in fact, like Lena, Swedish, and he had a great aunt Lena. Dave was in the U.S. Navy and had a degree in Electrical Engineering. He has two daughters from his first marriage. Dave’s career was in the broadcast television industry, first as an engineer, later in sales management.
Dave’s real passion was trains. He was a highly skilled craftsman and built over 500 cars and engines in his chosen scale. His home model railroad is over 2,400 square feet, and features about 20,000 scale rail road spikes, each placed by hand! He read everything he could on trains. He was a volunteer at two railroad museums in the Midwest for over 40 years. He was certified to run steam locomotives and trolley cars. Dave also created one of the largest rail websites in the world. Davesrailpix.com features about 50,000 photographs of electric rail cars in America. The web site has been featured in magazines, referred to in college classes, and used by historians.
Dave was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in July of 2006. He was treated with every form of chemotherapy approved for his condition, and radiation. He was strong and fought hard, but the cancer kept returning. Last autumn, things progressed to a point where Lena had to give up her post as treasurer of Deadwood Town Council. Dave was optimistic throughout the ordeal. It was only last December that he mentioned that he was becoming slightly discouraged.
His health deteriorated rapidly after that. And, on February 13th, Dave and Lena passed away.
Second Life was an amazing blessing for Dave. He was able to connect with people the world over without having to leave the house. The many friends that he made here enriched his life beyond measure. While in SL, Dave was able forget his disease and the effects of his treatments for a while.
You have my profound appreciation for the many gifts you gave Dave. The love, laughter and support you gave him meant more than any words can convey. Be assured that you truly helped a fellow human being feel better during the worst of times. Thank you.