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10 years on, Greg Sellnow's voice still resonates

Once or twice a week for 20 years -- maybe a thousand columns, maybe a million words -- Greg opened up his home and his heart in the Post Bulletin.

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Greg Sellnow -- longtime Post Bulletin columnist and friend — died 10 years ago this week.

It was a terrible time for him to go, mostly because he owed me $8.

That might sound cold, but you’ll have to trust me that’s the kind of line Greg would have loved.

Also, he really did owe me $8.

It was March 10, 2012. Greg, 54, spent the day doing something he loved -- attending the Minnesota High School State Hockey Tournament with one of his kids and a friend. He died of a heart attack that night.


Once or twice a week for 20 years -- maybe a thousand columns, maybe a million words -- Greg opened up his home and his heart in the Post Bulletin.

It rarely felt like you were reading Greg’s column. It felt like you were listening to a (slightly cranky) good friend tell a good story.

We listened to him proudly describe his kids as they grew up. Or as Greg told us in one of his last columns: “I’ll tolerate just about anything my kids want to do for happiness -- up to, but not necessarily including, a face tattoo.”

We heard Greg’s take on some of his other loves -- baseball, Bruce Springsteen, Missouri basketball.

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But Greg’s writing was not all touchy-feely and positive.

You didn’t want to get him started on cellphones, cigarette butts, or seat-savers.

You didn’t dare ask about special sessions of the Minnesota Legislature.

Greg could be brilliantly cranky, bitingly insightful, politically charged, and surprisingly tender. Sometimes all in the same column.


Longtime columnist, editorial page editor Sellnow dies
Longtime Post Bulletin columnist Greg Sellnow died 10 years ago this week.
Post Bulletin file photo

Greg’s real writing gift, though, emerged in his profiles of people.

If you get a chance, go back to the PB archives and listen to his story of Sarah Hackenmiller, a young woman waiting for a double lung transplant.

Here’s an excerpt: “Sarah can’t taste or smell food right now, but she can imagine the heavenly aroma and flavor of her mom’s fried chicken and milk gravy. That’s not what she craves, though. What she wants most desperately is the ability to breathe on her own.”

A real reflection on Greg’s writing is the fact that he made people who had never met him consider him a friend.

Here’s one of the hundreds of comments that poured into the Post Bulletin on the days following Greg's death:

“Hearing of the death of Greg Sellnow hit me like a punch in the gut,” wrote one reader. “Though I’ve never met him, I keep thinking about the column where he stood in line for an insane length of time for a ridiculously expensive hot dog in Chicago with his kids…”

“We’re all glad he stood in line,” that reader wrote. “From now on, so will I.”

There’s never a good time to die, but that day 10 years ago seemed like an exceptionally bad time for Greg to go.


Springsteen’s new CD had just come out. Missouri had landed a top seed in the NCAA tournament. It was Spring Training for the Twins, and Joe Mauer was not yet injured.

And, from a selfish standpoint, we still wanted to hear another million words in Greg’s voice:

About those damn seat savers.

Or about that young woman desperately wanting to keep breathing.

Or about waiting in line for an hour to buy $12 hot dogs, just for the excuse of spending a little extra time with your family.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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