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UND quartet have fond memories

"Christmas is a special time of year, a chance for our athletes to get home and spend about four days with family," Roebuck said. "I firmly believe that everyone needs to spend time with family over the holidays." Gene RoebuckUND head women's bas...

"Christmas is a special time of year, a chance for our athletes to get home and spend about four days with family," Roebuck said. "I firmly believe that everyone needs to spend time with family over the holidays."
Gene RoebuckUND head women's basketball coach

We bring to you today the first episode of Dale Lennon's "Christmas with the In-Laws."

One of four UND head coaches the Herald asked to share Christmas memories, Lennon didn't hold back.

In the mid-1980s, long before he became head coach of the UND football team, Lennon was on the road headed west from his in-laws' farmstead toward Winger, Minn. He was going along with family wishes, trying to fit in.

Lennon was fairly new to the White family at the time. It had been a while since he was known as the "Rugged Rugby" runner as a North Dakota high school player.

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"Her family is very musical, so on Christmas Eve, they have a tradition of going Julebukking (similar to caroling)," Lennon recalled. "Their tradition is that you dress up in a costume to disguise your identity and then go from farm to farm and sing Christmas carols. Well, the only type of costume available for me was a ladies dress with a wig (no makeup was used), so after a considerable amount of persuading, I agreed to go.

"The first couple of stops went fine, and I was doing OK. Then on the way into town on the main highway, we got a flat tire. My wife's family consists of five girls and two foster brothers from Vietnam who also were wearing dresses. So, naturally, the boys got outside to begin changing the tire.

"It was night and every car that passed thought they saw what looked like a couple of girls changing a flat, thus causing every car to stop to see if we needed help. Needless to say, the look on their faces when I turned to tell them that we were fine and, yes, I did have my mustache; it was priceless. Let's just say, they usually left in a hurry.

"That was the last time I went Julebukking."

Lennon remembers his Knox days

Most of Lennon's childhood memories revolve around him celebrating Christmas in his hometown of Knox, N.D.

"I remember spending most of Christmas Eve day on our snowmobile riding through the countryside," he said. "Then the family would gather in late afternoon to go to the candlelight service in Rugby. After church, we would return to Knox for the Christmas meal with all of the fixings. Then, finally, after the dishes were done and, thank goodness, I had two older sisters to do the majority of that work, we would open our presents."

On Christmas morning, Lennon and his brother would scramble downstairs to see what Santa Claus left behind.

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"One of my most memorable Christmas gifts was a BB gun - just like in the "Christmas Story" movie," Lennon said.

Now, Lennon spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his family at the home of his sister, (Carla Wolf), in Wolford, N.D.

"We still have the same routine of a candlelight service in the Wolford Lutheran Church, the Christmas meal, the cleanup, but now my brother and I do help more in the cleanup, and the opening of the presents. Our three boys are still visited by Santa each Christmas."

Gene Roebuck, UND head

women's basketball coach:

Plenty of lutefisk

Growing up in Velva, N.D., Gene Roebuck would go to his grandmother's home for Christmas Eve with all his uncles and aunts. The menu included lutefisk, lefse and Swedish meatballs.

"There was a lot of burping going on," Roebuck said. "I really don't remember what my gifts were; I tore into them so fast that I didn't get the names of who gave them to me. But, the event outshadowed the gifts."

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Later in the day, Roebuck's family visited his sister Karen's house in Sawyer. It was the same menu. "A great tradition," Roebuck said.

Roebuck said he spends most Christmases in Grand Forks now, because of practice constraints.

"We always practice the day after Christmas, so it makes travel difficult," he said. "But no more lutefisk."

Instead, Roebuck said, "We feast on lobster and steak."

The coach says he enjoys the holidays.

"Christmas is a special time of year, a chance for our athletes to get home and spend about four days with family," Roebuck said. "I firmly believe that everyone needs to spend time with family over the holidays."

Brian Jones,

UND men's basketball coach:

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Farley skits

Brian Jones grew up in Rock Island, Ill., a place he said shaped who he is today.

"My mother was the queen of wrapping presents and forgetting to put name tags on them and, come Christmas morning, she was guessing whose presents were whose," he said. "Most of the time, she was wrong; there were many times I would open a girls outfit or toy (he has a twin sister)."

Later, the Joneses would gather with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

"My grandfather was a spitting image of the Chris Farley character from 'Saturday Night Live,' 'the van down the river guy,'" Jones said, referring to the late Farley's motivational speaker skits. "This is where we would get those gifts from the grandparents that we all acted like we loved, but were really thinking, 'What the heck?'

"I think I got the Joe Namath BluBlocker Sunglasses or Brut aftershave for three to four straight years. Not real cool when you are 13-16 years old."

Jones said his favorite Christmas gift was an Atari game.

Now, as a father, Jones talks about spending many hours assembling his children's toys.

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"Whatever happened to the Big Wheels and the 12-inch G.I. Joes that were easy?" he said. "Today you need a master's degree in engineering to put some of this stuff together. I was notified that Santa was sending my 4-year-old son a drum set; isn't that a gift that stays at Grandma's house?"

Since the Joneses' moved to Grand Forks, they have returned to his wife Danna's hometown, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to spend Christmas with his wife's family, along with his mother, sister and her family.

"Christmas is always short in the basketball world," he said. " Many times we have to play a few days before and a few days after, so unfortunately we cannot relax as much as we want to due to the hectic schedule.

"But those few hours seeing your children's faces light up because of the gifts Santa brought or the one-on-onebattle with the Little Tikes toy you are trying to assemble are well worth it."

Dave Hakstol,

UND men's hockey coach:

Pickup game

Dave Hakstol spent a Canadian Christmas on the family farm near Warburg, Alta.

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He fondly recalls going out and finding a tree every year, attending Christmas Eve Mass and gathering back to the house after church.

On Christmas Day, the family feasted on turkey, with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce.

"I don't really have a recollection of a favorite gift," Hakstol said. "I guess I was lucky, because I always had a present or two."

Today, Hakstol and his family try to return to Alberta for a day or two during the Christmas break.

He spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Grand Forks with family. A highlight is an annual family pickup hockey game on Christmas Day. They play inside or outside.

"The whole family plays - young and old," Hakstol said. "The game is played before turkey is served. It is usually a battle to the end."

Christmas will be even more special this year.

"The biggest thing to look forward to this year is the first year that our daughter will be able to enjoy Christmas," Hakstol said. "She has grasped somewhat of an understanding for 'baby Jesus' and for 'Santa Claus.'"

Christmas Day is a time Hakstol can escape the hustle and bustle of coaching a hockey team and relax with family - until Christmas night.

"About 6 p.m., then work mode kicks back into gear," he said.

Reach Fee at 780-1127, (800) 477-6572 ext. 127 or kfee@gfherald.com . Read his blog at www.areavoices.com/fee .

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