Roosevelt High School Class of 1963
Minneapolis, Minnesota



Elaine Erickson Larson

On the Saturday morning of last April 26, Elaine Erickson Larson was signing copies of two books she wrote on a growing subject of interest, “I Am Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism” and “The Kaleidoscope Kid.”

An 8-year-old boy with severe autism attended the event at Barnes & Noble Booksesllers in the Galleria of Edina with his father, Elaine recalled, and, “When I was autographing the boy’s copy, I asked him how to spell his unusual name. He was sitting across a table from me and wrote his name upside down so it would be ‘easier for me to read.’ I was reminded never to underestimate an autistic child’s functional level.”

It’s a world Elaine knows firsthand. Her 8-year-old grandson, Sam, has Asperger Syndrome, or, high-functioning autism. She wrote “I Am Utterly Unique,” issued in 2006 by Autism Asperger Publishing Company, to assure Sam that he and others on the autism spectrum have very admirable—even amazing—qualities. She wrote “The Kaleidoscope Kid,” out in 2007 from Autism Asperger Publishing, focusing on the special traits of children who have high functioning autism.

“Parents and educators alike say my books give a positive boost to the self-esteem of children with autism or Asperger Syndrome,” she said. “Those who were aware of my upcoming book, ‘The Chameleon Kid,’ are looking forward to its publication. The book explains to young children ways they can deal with their emotional meltdowns before they get out of hand.”

“The Chameleon Kid,” her third book from the same publisher dealing with the brain development disorder that often impairs social interaction, is due out this summer.

“Sales are continuing to grow,” reported Elaine, who writes under the name Elaine Marie Larson and is married to ’63 classmate Norm Larson. “My books are purchased by schools and libraries as well as the general public. There is growing awareness of the increase of autism over the last several years and a need for books on the subject.”

Making her pitch, Elaine concluded, “I bring my books to the attention of any Roosevelt Teddy who might have a grandchild, young neighbor or friend with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism.”

A former schoolteacher, Elaine has also written “Up and Down,” a book about gravity, as well as stories and poems for the children’s and adult markets. She lives near Lake Minnetonka.

She can be contacted at

Bill Swanson

Another Roosevelt ’63 grad, Bill Swanson of Minneapolis, had one of his first book signings at the very same Barnes & Noble store, only his appearance was two years earlier, March 9, 2006.

He was promoting “Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson,” about a well-liked St. Paul housewife and mother who has beaten and stabbed in her Highland Park home March 6, 1963. Her husband, T. Eugene Thompson, was convicted nine months later of arranging the killing and spent nearly 20 years in the State Prison at Stillwater.

Thompson, according to the state’s case, had hired a hit man to stage what would look like an accidental bathtub drowning. The man had second thoughts, however, and without informing Thompson sublet the job to a third man, who botched the drowning and savagely attacked Mrs. Thompson. She managed to escape the house and make it to a neighbor’s, but died in a hospital emergency room four hours later. Among the evidence tying T. Eugene, a prominent attorney, to the crime was a $1.1-million insurance policy on Carol plus a woman he was seeing on the side.

Because the killing happened just across the river and was on the front page of the local papers for nearly a year, it was difficult even for us as Roosevelt seniors normally engrossed in sports, music and members of the opposite sex to not be touched—rather, shaken—by such brutality. It’ll always be a part of us.

The deed certainly held Bill’s attention. He said after the hardcover book introduction in 2006, “It’s a story I’ve been thinking of since I was 18. It is arguably the most infamous crime story in the Twin Cities ever. And it’s just something that, for a lot of reasons, I could never get out of my head. As a writer, stories grab you as much as you grab them. That was the case. It was something that wouldn’t let go of me until I wrote it.”

T. Eugene always maintained his innocence. Bill’s book covered about 40 years--from the killing of Carol, to the sensational trials of T. Eugene and co-conspirators, to the father’s attempts to remain part of his young children’s lives while in prison, to the four grownups they became with their own opinions about the guilt of their own flesh and blood. The long history is what gives the book such relevance even today, and we’re not about to spill all the details. “Dial M,” under the formal byline William Swanson, is still available in stores and online. It came out in paperback in 2007.

“The book has sold, best I can figure (the publisher, Minnesota Historical Society Press, provides an official tally only at the end of the year) about 12,000 copies. Which is pretty good for a regional book and, frankly, a little better than I expected. I’m still speaking to civic groups and book clubs around the state, though less frequently than I was a year ago.

Meanwhile Bill is a senior editor of Mpls St. Paul Magazine, yet always thinking about another project: “As for what’s next, book-wise, there are always things perking when I’m not tending my day job at the magazine, but none far enough along to talk about quite yet.”


Principal Wells dies at 98

John “Jack” Wells, principal at Roosevelt during our high schools years, died Oct. 26, 2002, at the age of 98. During his career as an educator, he was at his Roosevelt post for 17 years.

A memorial service was held Nov. 9 at the Jack Wells Gymnasium at Roosevelt.

At a high school with more than 2,000 students in three grades, it’s unlikely many of us had personal contact with Wells during our three years there. That is, unless you had done something either extremely good or extremely bad that drew the attention of the principal.

He is remembered as an affable but serious and methodical man. Those latter two traits were never more evident than when he presided over the student assemblies to announce the disqualification of Roosevelt from the 1961 state high school basketball tournament.

Wells was also a teacher and coach during his career. He served on the Minnesota State Athletic Commission, was a Shriner and a Mason, and also was a hunter and fisherman.

Wells was born in Minneapolis. He outlived two wives, a daughter and three brothers. He is survived by a brother in Pennsylvania, a granddaughter in Colorado, three stepchildren and nine stepgrandchildren.


Mr. Ohno dies during hospital stay

Tom Tomeo Ohno, a math teacher and athletic coach at Roosevelt for 26 years, died Oct. 11, 2002, of a heart attack during surgery at Fairview Southdale Hospital. He was 74.

Ohno was at Roosevelt from 1957-83. He was initially assistant baseball coach to Bob Johnson. When Johnson left after our senior year to coach hockey at Colorado College, Ohno became head baseball coach for the Teds and won three City Conference titles. He also coached girls softball and soccer at Roosevelt.

He retired from the Minneapolis Public Schools in 1983, then spent another five years teaching math part time at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

Ohno, a Bloomington resident, coached and officiated sports in the Bloomington and Edina recreation programs. His son, Robby, played in the state high school hockey tournament for the Jefferson Jaguars.

Ohno is also survived by his wife, Reiko, a daughter, Pam, and four grandsons.

As an American of Japanese descent, Ohno was interred in a World War II relocation camp in Washington state as a teenager from 1942-44. He was born in Seattle. He graduated from Augsburg College in 1953 and first taught at Lincoln Junior High.


What’s for dinner at the Halls’ house?

You’ve read other coming-of-age nonfiction, but certainly not a story that hit so close to home. Roosevelt grad Tom Hall (’58), who wrote “Brucey Gravy,” was known to many of you in the Longfellow neighborhood in the 1950s.

Yes, Tom is the brother of our own classmate, Jon Hall. But the Hall siblings receive scant mention in the book. Rather, Tom focuses on his relationship growing up with Bruce Wakefield. Their parents play a part—the nurturing Halls for their often setting an extra place at dinner for Bruce (Mrs. Hall’s gravy was his favorite, so it became known as “Brucey Gravy”). The distance between Bruce and his own father and mother undoubtedly led to his unfulfilled promise as he got older.

The chronicle opens when Tom and Bruce are preschoolers living across the alley from each other in the 4100 block of 24th and 25th Ave. S. The Halls later moved a few blocks west, which surely proved more of a loss to Bruce.

In the beginning, though, Bruce was the fearless one. Young Tom idolized him for his sense of adventure, his energy, his athletic skills, his confidence. The two became inseparable through Standish Elementary School, whether it meant a day playing hooky from third grade or an evening playing football under the lights at Sibley Park.

They eventually became teammates on the Roosevelt hockey team and played in the state tournament together as juniors, but by that time the boys had started to drift apart. And it was Bruce, the hero, who was doing most of the drifting.

You can see where this is going. Maybe some of you knew Bruce too. The boys’ friendship didn’t last. But Tom tracked Bruce down and asked for and received his blessing before writing this book.

It’s a good read. John Edmunds (‘63), who also spent a lot of time as a boy at the Halls’ later home on 21st Ave. S., said, “It was fun reading ‘Brucey Gravy’ and to relive growing up in a safe, protected neighborhood. I almost felt as if I were in the book too. Sibley Park, Harvey’s Market—they’re all so familiar.”

If you’d like to obtain a copy, you can order directly from Thomas F. Hall, 509 62nd Ave. N., Brooklyn Center, MN 55430. Phone 763-560-3295. Cost is $12, which includes mailing. It’s worth it.

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