Beloved author Jon Hassler, whose unconquerable will to write became as much admired as his novels steeped in small-town Minnesota, died early Thursday of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a Parkinson’s-like disease. He was 74.
Hassler, of Minneapolis, battled PSP for almost 15 years, a disease that progressively stole his ability to write, to speak and, finally, to walk. But, fueled by the sheer force of will and the love and support of his wife, Gretchen Kresl Hasssler, Hassler devised ways to keep at it.
A spirited problem-solver, Hassler wrote his most recent few novels by “typing.” His fingers, however, would fall randomly on the keyboard, and only he could read the resulting “gibberish.” He’d translate the typewritten pages to Gretchen, who would then retype them.
“Through all this, I loved him for his courage and his pluck,” Gretchen Hassler said. “He just kept going and going. He had a book to finish, and, by golly, he finished it, too.”
A new novel, “Jay O’Malley,” was finished in the weeks before his death.
Hassler was born March 30, 1933, to Leo Blaise (a grocer) and Ellen (a teacher), of Staples, Minn. His career path took him from schoolteacher in Melrose to a regent’s professor at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
Along the way, he published more than 15 works of fiction for adults and young adults, including “Staggerford” (1977), “The Love Hunter (1981), “Grand Opening” (1987) and “The New Woman” (2005).
He is survived by sons David Hassler (Joyce), of Alexandria, and Michael Hassler, of Brainerd; daughter Elizabeth Hassler Caughey (Lonnie), of Brainerd; stepdaughters Catherine Cich (Geoff), of Robbinsdale; Elizabeth Seymour (Chris), of Richfield; stepson Emil Kresl, of Austin, Texas. and five grandchildren.
St Paul Pioneer Press article