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Poet, essayist was 'sage of Minnesota'
Bill Holm, 65, the poet and essayist whom Garrison Keillor once called "the sage of Minnesota," died Feb. 26 of complications from pneumonia at Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. He had collapsed at the Sioux Falls airport after returning from Arizona.
Called "the polar bear of American literature" by poet Barton Sutter, Holm was a frequent guest on Keillor's “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show. Some of his poems also were included in Keillor's radio program “Writer’s Almanac.”
Holm grew up in Minneota, Minn., and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. After earning a master's degree at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, he joined the faculty of Southwest Minnesota State University and taught there for 27 years until he retired last year.
His works include "Boxelder Bug Variations," "Coming Home Crazy" and "The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth," a meditation on his hometown of Minneota.
Although his home base remained Minnesota, he traveled widely, teaching English in China and spending a year in Iceland as a Fulbright scholar. He eventually bought a home there, and his last book, "The Windows of Brimnes," recounts his time in his ancestral homeland.
Last May, he was named the 2008 McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year, an annual prize given to artists who stay in Minnesota and enhance the state's cultural life. The prize comes with a $50,000 grant.
Grand Ole Opry crossover star
Ernie Ashworth, 80, a Grand Ole Opry singer whose 1963 smash hit "Talk Back Trembling Lips" was one of the first country tunes to cross over into pop, died Monday at Trousdale Medical Center in Hartsville, Tenn. Hospital officials did not give the cause of death, but the singer-songwriter had recently undergone heart bypass surgery.
Born in Huntsville, Ala., on Dec. 15, 1928, Ashworth listened to the Opry on radio broadcasts and joined a band named the Tunetwisters.
Ashworth wrote songs in the 1950s for the Acuff-Rose publishing house that were recorded by country singers including Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith and Johnny Horton, and wrote "I Wish," which was recorded by pop crooner Paul Anka.
Ashworth signed on with the MGM label in 1955, but his songs failed to catch on and he returned to Alabama to work in the Army's Redstone Arsenal missile plant.
He took his reedy tenor to Decca Records in 1960 and scored with the hits "Each Moment" and "You Can't Pick a Rose in December." Moving over to Hickory Records in 1962, he recorded "Everybody But Me" and a year later scored his only No. 1 hit, "Talk Back Trembling Lips."
The song spent 36 weeks on the country music charts and crossed over to the pop charts -- making it one of the first crossover successes. He joined the Opry in 1964.
Ashworth continued to write and record songs, perform, and appear on the Opry.
-- times staff and wire reports firstname.lastname@example.org