Hassler, Jon 1933-2008 (Jon Francis Hassler)

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Hassler, Jon 1933-2008 (Jon Francis Hassler)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 30, 1933, in Minneapolis, MN; died of complications from progressive supranuclear palsy, March 20, 2008, in St. Louis Park, MN. Educator and novelist. For almost forty years Hassler lived a quiet, ordinary life in the northern Midwest, the first half as a schoolboy growing up within the confines of middle-class Roman Catholicism, the last half as an English teacher within the confines of public schools, community colleges, and other state institutions. When he finally began to write, he wrote about ordinary people somewhat like himself, living in similar circumstances, and he had accumulated enough stories to fill twenty novels, short-story collections, and the occasional nonfiction or poetry book. Hassler's works drew a loyal audience, and critics compared his fiction to that of Garrison Keillor, John Cheever, C.S. Lewis, and other authors who succeeded in bringing small-town America and its quirky citizens to life in one book after another. Hassler wrote often of the fictional town of Staggerford, Minnesota, where high school English teacher Miles Pruitt struggled with earnest and sometimes comical intent to fit in. Staggerford was also home to teacher Agatha McGee, who faced a test of morals and faith that, in less objective hands, could have descended into sentimental stereotype. Hassler also wrote of Rookery State College, the fictional campus where English professor Leland Edwards, longing for excitement before he became too old to enjoy it, organized a musical group in the 1960s. The group was short-lived; twenty-five years later, Edwards remained mired in academia, still recording the local gossip and looking for entertainment in the ups and downs of his eccentric colleagues. As Hassler aged, so did his characters, becoming ever more believable and comfortable to the faithful readers who almost came to think of them as friends. Hassler taught in Minnesota at public schools in the 1950s, at Brainerd Community College in the 1970s, and at Saint John's University in the 1980s. His novels include Staggerford (1977), North of Hope (1990), Dear James (1993), Rookery Blues (1995), The New Woman (2005), and several works for young adults.



Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2008, p. B9.

New York Times, March 28, 2008, p. C15.