April 8, 2013

We Remember Dan

Dan Zamlen
Today is Daniel Zamlen's birthday.

Dan was born on April 8, 1990 and disappeared on April 5, 2009 while walking back to his residence after a party on the St. Thomas University campus.

When his old friends from high school and other friends and neighbors from his hometown of Eveleth, Minn. heard he was missing, they arrived by the busload--after a five hour drive--to join other searchers from the Iron Range, St. Paul, and the university. More than 400 people turned out to help. This is because Dan had touched the lives and hearts of many, many people. He was a special young man.

"He was just a good guy...a stand up guy, like the kinda guy you wish everybody was," friend Greg Scharine told Joe Henke of ABC News.

Dan was found May 1, 2009 in St. Paul.

Reading about Dan's life reminds me of the popular children's book, "On the Night You Were Born," in which author Nancy Tillman writes,
"On the night you were born,
the moon smiled with such wonder
that the stars peeked in to see you
and the night wind whispered,
'Life will never be the same.'
Because there had never been anyone like you...
ever in the world."
All of us are in a better place for having had Dan Zamlen here, if even for a brief while.

Today we celebrate Dan's life and the kind of guy he was.

Dan had a kind, gentle manner and enjoyed participating in activities that he felt could make a difference for others. He was an Eagle Scout and a member of Resurrection Catholic Church, where he was an altar server and catechism teacher. In 2004, at the age of 14, he became a devoted DFL campaigner. The following year, he traveled to Biloxi, Miss. with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He was a student representative for the school board and a peer mediator. He also joined the student leadership organization Iron Range Youth in Action (IRYA), where he was a writer and lead editor of its newspaper, Generation W, the largest youth-run newspaper in Minnesota.

He had a lifelong love of learning and a thirst for knowledge in all areas. He was a World War II history buff, an accomplished pianist and orchestra and band member, and an excellent athlete, having lettered in three sports--cross country, track, and Nordic skiing. When he started college, he already had enough college credits to begin as a sophomore, and once there, he continued to participate in organizations and activities and excel. He was a member of the National Collegiate Scholars, a Tommie Ambassador, and he was awarded six college scholarships and at least four awards.

Dan immersed himself wholeheartedly in everything he did.

Every time Dan took on a new challenge, he did so with the idea that there was always more to learn, always more ways to grow. It is little wonder why Dan's favorite holiday was Easter, a time of year to appreciate new life, new beginnings and the joy of new possibilities.

This spirit is alive in each one of us. The gift Dan gave us is that we can always have a new idea or learn a new way of doing things, appreciating life and all it has to offer. Nothing is ever the end, only the beginning of something new.

Happy birthday, Dan. We miss your smile, but we thank you--wholeheartedly--for touching our lives.

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