The Brothers' Keepers, a modern literary novel, was written by John H. Paddison and his brother-in-law Charles D. Orvik. Orvik, a retired attorney, practiced law in Rugby for over forty years. Paddison is the husband of Orvik's half-sister, Jeanne, whom he did not grow up with, but met later in life.
In sharing their separate childhood storieswhich in Orvik's case along with his four brothers, involved a life of child neglect and foster care Jeanne and her husband, John, and Charles and his wife, Bonnie, talked at great length. Jeanne Paddison was the daughter of Orvik's father after his parents had gone their separate ways.
"About five years ago, I said to Charles, I would really like to write your story," said Paddison. He added that it was such a compelling story it had to be told.
Dr. Paddison is Professor Emeritus at Central Arizona College. He has a doctorate in English and a writing career that started with non-fiction educational publications before branching out to fiction.
Orvik thought about it and eventually agreed. They decided to collaborate on the book and make it a work of literary fiction. To protect people involved from embarrassment, the names have been changed and the details rearranged.
Paddison said he hopes the book captures what he was trying to do which is shed light on the questions, Does child neglect ever stop, and who is responsible? Thus the title The Brothers' Keepers.
"I don't have any answers, but in the literary tradition, it should hold a mirror up for people to see and ask questions," said Paddison. "I hope it would make a difference."
The book is written based on a 96-page report on Orvik and his brothers when they were in foster care, and a little from Paddison's experiences growing up. Orvik was able to read and receive a copy of the 96-page report on his family when he later served on the board of the social services agency that had worked with the boys' cases.
The book, according to its back cover, is "the saga of the five Lambson brothers which takes place in the fictional town of Farmington, N.D., during and after the Great Depression. In a sensitive yet realistic way, the story line develops around the neglect and then abandonment of five young boys by their alcoholic mother and drifter father, as well as their development under adverse physical and social conditions and their eventual outcome. Events of the story are structured so as to bring light upon two social ills that plague America todaychild neglect and child abuse."
In 1942, Orvik's biological mother, who had been raising her children alone after their father left, called social services and told them she was leaving with her boyfriend at 2:00 p.m. and someone would need to come and pick up her five sons or they would be left alone. The children were taken to a children's home at that point. In the next several years they were passed from foster home to foster home.
Charles Orvik moved to Rugby in 1948 when he was placed in foster care with a Rugby family who already had his youngest brother. He was in the eighth grade when he came and he graduated from Rugby High School in the Class of 1954. Back then there were no laws to terminate parents' rights so the boys could not be adopted by the Rugby family.
Later when the law did come into affect, Charles was a senior and his brother who had lived with the family since the age of 2 was in school, social services told the family they could adopt the younger brother but not Charles as he was aging out of the system. The family didn't think it would be fair to the older brother since they loved both children as their own so they chose to keep them as foster children. Orvik thinks of this family as his family in addition to his brothers and half sister. His younger brother became a teacher, receiving "Teacher of the Year" before switching to the work of an orderly in St. Paul. The oldest brother was a decorated military veteran, two of the boys were painters, one a lawyer, and one a teacher.
The five brothers were reunited once as adults in 1967 at their biological mother's home where she lived with her fourth husband. Orvik said, interestingly enough, the boys all used the same slang expressions and all had the same laugh even though separated when they were very young. It was the only time all five would be together as the oldest brother died about ten years later.
When Orvik moved back to Rugby after he married and became an attorney, he served as state's attorney, attorney and counselor for the United States Supreme Court, the United States Federal Court and the Supreme Court of North Dakota. He was a crusader against child abuse and neglect and worked closely with Lutheran Social Services, the North Dakota Mental Health Board and the various North Dakota Human Service centers. He formed the corporation for the North Central Printing Plant in the basement of the Pierce County Tribune in Rugby. Later the plant moved to its present location.
Orvik met his wife, Bonnie Ellingrud, when he got out of the Navy. She is a 1957 Rugby alumna, but he didn't really know her in high school as she was younger. He and Bonnie have one daughter and two grandsons. He wanted his story told so he would have something for his grandsons to read.
The Orviks plan on coming for the All-Class Reunion in July.
(The Brothers Keepers can be purchased by web searching paddison-orvik.com)