96-year-old Westporter publishes fourth book
WESTPORT — Everybody’s got a story, but some are never told.
For Larry Aasen, a 96-year-old Westport resident, he has made it a point to document the story of his home state North Dakota. Born in a log house on a farm near Fargo, Aasen developed a passion for writing at a young age.
“I used to sit out on the farm and watch, for example, a little squirrel and then write a story about it,” Aasen said. “I love to write for my relatives too. I’m always writing about something.”
His latest and fourth book, “North Dakotans Never Give Up A Memoir,” was published this year and outlines what he considers is a key trait among all North Dakotans — perseverance. Aasen witnessed this trait firsthand growing up with his mother, Clara Aasen, who was widowed after her husband was killed in a car accident and left to care for three children and a farm.
“She was stuck with a lot,” Aasen said. “She had to hire somebody to help run the farm.”
Samples from Clara’s diaries helped Aasen capture a view of life in the state between 1916 and the 1950s.
“Today everything is electronic,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people don’t know what these people went through.”
In his book, he describes the risks North Dakotans had to take; while some farmers battled nature to produce their crops, others faced the risks of bankruptcy. Despite all of this, he said, people persevered.
“I want younger people to appreciate and see these people never gave up,” he said. “It didn’t matter if they were farmers or baseball players.”
Aasen continued to visit North Dakota well into his 80s, and drew parallels from changes he witnessed in North Dakota to Connecticut, his home for over 50 years.
“It was a little quiet country town when we got here,” he said of Westport. “Everybody knew everybody and the stores where all mom-and-pop stores. There weren’t any chain stores.”
Similarly, North Dakota has gone through a transformation, with farms being much smaller than they once were.
To put the book together, Aasen used a variety of sources — people, newspaper clips, photos and more — and said he kept stacks of documents and newspaper clippings by his desk.
This archive of information would prove integral for his writing.
“I save everything,” Aasen said. “I could write another book.”
From the culture of cars in the state to the effects of World War II, Aasen covered it all, and makes it a point to keep his writing concise and simple.
“I actually write things four times before it’s printed,” he said. “I get an idea then I start off a draft.”
The project was a family affair, with Aasen’s wife and daughter proofreading his work. After numerous drafts, his family told him his book was ready to be published.
“My daughter said, ‘That’s it, go to the printer,’ ” he joked.
With four books under his belt, Aasen’s passion for writing hasn’t waned, and said it stems from his desire to inform people on his home state’s history.
“I try to tell a story and I hope I succeeded,” he said. “I wanted to write a book on people who have never given up.”