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Minnesota couple travel to St. Joseph for eclipse in memory of son

Where and when to view the Aug. 21 eclipse

The eclipse’s 70-mile wide path of totality means there’s no need to wade into a crush of humanity to view historic celestial event.
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The eclipse’s 70-mile wide path of totality means there’s no need to wade into a crush of humanity to view historic celestial event.

Some three years ago, Travis Brekken started alerting his parents that a solar eclipse — a total solar eclipse —would race across the continent and offer a rare chance to appreciate the paths of Earth, moon and sun.

He'd always been a curious guy, with a particular gift for sorting out computers, vintage cars and science.

He also had muscular dystrophy. The physical limits that placed on him, combined with his interests, meant his parents couldn’t let the world pass them by.

''We always did things we wouldn't have otherwise because he forced us to get out,'' his mother, Marie Brekken, said.

So the family began scoping out how to get from their Minnesota home to the path of totality.

Then, about a year and a half ago, at the age of 38 — “he outlived all of his friends from muscular dystrophy camp” — Travis Brekken died.

Travis Brekken
Travis Brekken, of Crookston, Minn., lived with muscular dystrophy and had hoped to see the solar eclipse occurring Monday. When he did not live to see it, his parents traveled to St. Joseph in his honor. Scott Canon - The Kansas City Star

But the Earth kept spinning and circling the sun while the moon maintained its predictable path around the planet. So Marie and Vince Brekken made the 10-hour drive from Crookston, Minn., to St. Joseph to fulfill one of their son's many passions.

''This was where he wanted to come,'' Marie Brekken said. ''We were determined to make it.''

On Sunday, when they headed into the Remington Nature Center as tourists killing time, they laughed about sending Travis’ sister a selfie where the couple had eclipse glasses on — they were so blinded by the nearly opaque shades that their faces only partly appeared in frame.

And they worried about the gloomy forecast that seemed to suggest all they might see would be clouds or rain.

Yet the parents were cheery, warmed by the memory of a brilliant son whose curiosity about the world they would fulfill in some small way.

On Monday, they figured, they'd step outside the Holiday Inn Express that is their home for a few days and cast their eyes upward. No need to brave traffic at that point, they said. Besides, all they need is a view of the sky.

''We'll be thinking of Travis,'' Vince Brekken said. ''Of course.''

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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