Shared by Georgie Kimball on September 7, 2020
As a kid, Uncle Tom was somewhat mysterious, very much larger than life, and honestly, a bit intimidating to this nephew. He was a father, of course, and an uncle, of course, who brought his family to gatherings such as the one featured in the accompanying photo. 

But he seemed so much more than father/uncle. He was a teacher, for sure, but he spoke and taught Spanish! How exotic that was to me, with my limited exposure to things foreign. And packing up his family and going to Mexico? That was like a movie or something. Later, builder of townhomes? Farming? Beekeeping? And always vocal. I often wasn’t sure what was being discussed but I sensed he held strong opinions and stood his ground. 

Later, when I started teaching in White Bear Lake, the same district as my uncle, I heard stories from staff of the legendary Tom Fitzpatrick and his strong and progressive stances connected to educating and educators. 

I am proud to have been a fellow educator in the same district as Mr. Fitzpatrick, and I’m also proud that, albeit to a much smaller degree than he, I also include $2 bills in gifts to my nieces and nephews and grandchildren. 

Eternal peace to you, Uncle Tom!

Uncle Tom Shared His Gift for Words

Shared by Kristin Mishra on September 7, 2020
In continuing the celebration of Uncle Tom's gift of language, here is one humorous little ode he wrote spontaneously to commemorate the J. Kimball cabin privy.

Ode to an Outhouse

"The Kimball outhouse is really swell.
It doesn't have the usual smell.

An odorous whiff hangs here and there.
There's just enough to cut the air.

It's painted as nice as it could be.
You're all invited to look and see.

A nifty outhouse on Whiteface River
Where you can do your thing with nary a quiver."

Stylish Uncle

Shared by Mary Jo Norine on September 6, 2020
Really Uncle Tom????? Those pants? ....... and coordinating socks and shirt!!??
..... How wild is this??  As funny as it looks now, I must say, it really was the height of fashion in 1971-72.  You were cool, a cool uncle!  Your students must have really loved you.
I remember the Elm Street house and how fun it was for me to have so much room to explore.  I remember the closets of Colleen/Shannon's room connected to Peggy and into her room. Why do I remember that?  Probably because Peggy was not happy to see us! 
I can still hear your voice at a Kimball family reunion, excitedly greeting me and asking me lots of questions about what I have been doing, how the teaching is going, and how my family is..... you were always interested in all of the nieces and nephews.  A year or two ago I visited you at your townhouse.  You had difficulty getting up but you were so generous of your time and making sure I had something to drink and eat!  The host with the most! 
I love you and will miss my Irish Uncle.


Shared by Mike Fitzpatrick on September 6, 2020
Tom was my big brother, and my role model. He didn't always know that, but he was (mostly) .
I could tell stories until you became totally bored. So I'll keep it simple. Tom was easy to love, and I did. But he also was very easy to LIKE. And I did.
Mike Fitzpatrick

5. Hobbies and dreams fulfilled

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
(Excerpt from Fitzpatrick family history, compiled by Mark Fitzpatrick in 2007)

Keen on vehicles of all kinds, Tom went through a series of boats, cars, tractors, vans, campers and motor homes, trading one for another every couple of years.He built a fiberglass canoe at a local do-it-yourself course, and kept it for many years until the canoe was run over by a badly steered tractor. A motorcycle didn’t last long -- Rena strongly disapproved.Tom’s hobbies were wide-ranging.He once bought a heifer, which he kept at a friend’s farm. One time he raised bees, but had to give it up because of allergic reactions to their stings.

They gave us more than money can buy:

A happy home and dreams to the sky.

Ethics and standards, hunger for learning;

To reach for the top, they instilled a yearning.
Tom was also a romantic.He could woo Rena with poetry and entertain any party with his rhyming treasure hunt clues. A fervent Democrat, he instilled in his offspring a sense of justice and compassion for the underdog. And he often talked of adventures. He would take us all off to Alaska to hunt gold; to Africa to join the Peace Corps; to Australia to emigrate. But it was only talk -- or so I thought. In 1968, when he said he would take us all to Mexico for a year, I did not believe it until we actually packed out.

Looking back, the Mexico expedition was a brave venture. Taking a sabbatical leave on half of his meager teacher’s salary, Tom and Rena put their six kids in a used van, attached a pop-up trailer and drove off to spend a year in a new country, language and culture. We spent nine months in San Miguel de Allende, where Tom studied Spanish at Instituto Allende. We kids enrolled in a local Catholic school, Instituto Las Casas where we learned Spanish and took some classes in the vernacular. For housing, we started off in a villa on a bluff at the top of the town, but later moved to a cheaper, more centrally located place where we made do with three small bedrooms, Peggy sleeping on the couch. In the evenings we strolled and flirted in the central square, El Jardin. When Tom’s course of study in San Miguel was finished, we moved for three months to Guadalajara, where he got additional training. A newly started college-level summer school was eager to enroll Rena, Peggy, Mark and Colleen and even Shannon, who was just out of grammar school. The year in Mexico was difficult for Rena, but we all came out the better for it, maybe me most of all. Beforehand, in grant applications to area businesses, Tom explained how the experience would help mold his children. With astonishing foresight, he wrote that one of them might even become a diplomat from the experience.

Turned off by the imperious priests at St. Pious X church, Tom and Rena became central members of the congregation at a new church in nearby Maplewood, Holy Redeemer, headed by Ft. Paul Palmitessa, a longtime family friend who was a childhood friend of Rena’s brother George through seminary school. Our son Tommy was baptized at Holy Redeemer, with Kevin and Patricia Rose as his godparents.

In 1976 Tom received a realtor’s license and in 1979 he opened his own brokerage and formed a syndication to develop and build a townhouse project on the land next to our house, temporarily leaving teaching to do so. It was bad timing, as the housing market went into a depression from 1980 to 1983. It made Tom a graduate of the school of hard knocks. Meanwhile, he also began a series of wise investments in rental properties in the Twin Cities, although managing and maintaining the low-rent units took a toll on his time and patience.The largest property was a seven-unit apartment building on University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, near the University of Minnesota. Colleen, Shannon and Patty Rose all lived there for a time while they attended the university, in exchange for acting as managers. Tom added three new apartments in the basement and took Kyoko and me on as co-owners to help us build an investment portfolio of our own.

In Spanish classes, he taught grammar tense;

As parents, Dad and Mom imparted sense

Of right and wrong instilled in our gut,

So none of us became a right-wing nut.
Tom taught Spanish and English at the junior high and high school levels until he retired in 1990. Hearing about a nice community in Winter Have, Florida, where several of his fellow retired White Bear Lake teachers had property, Tom and Rena set up winter camp there themselves, first with a motor home then buying a mobile home in 1994 and living there about half the year. In 1993, they sold 1818 Elm and eventually moved to a condominium in White Bear Lake Township, within ten minutes drive from the northern suburbs where Kevin’s family lives.

In 2001, Kevin’s office was the venue for a 50th wedding anniversary party for Tom and Rena.Celebrating with them were six children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, and a host of relatives and old friends. Shannon presented a slide show with old family photos set to music, and Colleen topped all the gifts with an art quilt featuring our family’s cultural history. The themes of our family life over the years included mail order catalogues, cucumbers, strawberries, pumpkins, pets, piñatas, trips, camping, canoes, Florida, and funny Christmas trees. Tom and Rena felt like millionaires.

Inheritance is not just wealth.

Good genes, sound sense, and lifelong health,

Philosophy, the love to read:

What they passed on is rich indeed.

4. White Bear Lake

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
(Excerpt from Fitzpatrick family history, compiled by Mark Fitzpatrick in 2007)

In 1961, Tom and Rena happily moved back to the Twin Cities when he got an offer from the White Bear Lake School District. While life in Cambridge was pleasant, Rena never liked the distance from her first nest, especially when Tom was away at school. For the Kimballs, then and now, no joy is greater than the family together.

Tom and Rena bought two and a half acres of cornfield at the unpopulated, unpaved end of Elm Street, and Tom began to build another house. As in Mendota, only the basement was ready when it came time to move in, to begin the school year, but this basement at least had a walk-out door. Actually, the basement was not ready either, but it had a laundry tub for water and a bathroom with the other plumbing necessity, even if there was only a curtain for the door. It did not have a workable heater to ward off Minnesota’s autumn cold, so a newfound friend lent a portable oil heater. A few months later when the top was finished, it was like moving into a whole new house.

Peggy and Colleen (and later Shannon) were enrolled right away in St. Pious X Elementary School, but there was no room for me. Instead, I went to Gall public school for two and a half years until St. Pious had an opening. My shorter time with the nuns may account for why I stayed with the Catholic Church much longer than my sisters did.

White Bear Lake’s racial composition befitted its name. In the 1960’s, however, civil rights was the issue of the day here too, and Tom became chairman of the local civil rights league. He had long since broken with his father’s conservative streak and become a lifelong Democrat. His social conscience would later lead him to take on the presidency of the church council, among other responsibilities. Meanwhile Tom finished a Master’s Degree in education, in 1964. En route, he spent the summer of 1962 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He could not have done any of it without Rena, who deserves credit for maintaining the hearth and health of the family.

No allowance we had, but cucumber pickles,

We sold by the bushel, and counted our nickels.

The homestead grand, eighteen eighteen Elm,

Our memories there, our thoughts overwhelm.
With so many kids, and teaching not a lucrative profession, times were often tight. Tom had to moonlight, sometimes on construction jobs, once as a night watchman. Rena fought a constant battle to keep money enough in the checking account. More than once she had to borrow from her kids’ piggy banks to pay for milk. The practice of children getting an allowance was unheard of in our household, but we had something better: our parents found ways to let us earn pocket money. For several summers it was cucumbers; we planted, hoed, then picked the prickly things and Dad brought them and us to a pickle factory, where we were paid a couple of dollars a bushel. We also had strawberry and raspberry patches, but those we picked for our own consumption. Some years we planted sweet corn, and sold it door to door or to passing cars in front of the Leibels’ house on County Road E. Later, when the youngest kids were ready for farming, Tom hit upon pumpkins as an easy cash crop. They only had to be picked and sold during two weeks of the year.

In late winter, the lower pumpkin patch often flooded then froze to provide a skating rink, reminding us how in earlier years Tom created a real skating rink in the yard next to the garage. Eventually the low land in the back became a permanent pond. By then, the small pond Tom built in front of the house where we kept gold fish was buried over. Meanwhile, the house at 1818 Elm Street expanded, to include a larger basement, a new room over the garage, a deck and a second garage out back. Trees planted as saplings after we first moved in grew large with the children. The furniture, as well as clothes, was often hand-me-downs from relatives.

The parents sometimes brought their kids camping, but they didn’t all enjoy being away from the comforts of civilization. On one infamous outing, Tom took the kids off for what was supposed to be several days of canoeing and camping on the St. Croix River. Rena would have a vacation from children, though she planned to put the time to good use by painting a bedroom or two. When the girls found out that there was no toilet facility other than the woods, however, they made such a fuss that the camping trip ended not long after it began, and Rena ended up finishing the painting while minding the kids. From then on, most of the family camping was done in tents in the backyard.

The rummage sales were a weekly routine,

Who cares if it’s old, as long as it’s clean?

Mom sought out deals in classified ads.

We’d wait several years to catch up with fads.
When Patty, the last child, started going to school, along with the rest of the kids and their father, Rena decided to make it unanimous. Rena had always wanted to be a nurse; now she took steps to become one. At age 37, she took college entrance exams alongside her 17-year-old son.Rena then entered Anoka Community College and in 1973 earned an Associate Arts Degree in Nursing. Ever conscientious, she rarely stopped studying since. Her first job was at a U of M cancer clinic; her second at an office in Roseville. She gave notice in order to go to my wedding in Japan, and then went to work at Midway Hospital in the surgical field for four years before eventually moving to a demanding position at the Ramsey County Nursing Home.

3. Becoming a teacher

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
(Excerpt from Fitzpatrick family history, compiled by Mark Fitzpatrick in 2007)

When Tom and Rena turned their backs on his 12 months of agricultural school, they were not sure what to do, only that they wanted to make something of their lives. It was not an easy time. They had two kids, another soon on the way, no money, and few prospects, and now Tom developed a severe stomach ulcer and had to be hospitalized.

At such times, momentous decisions are made. A young parish priest, Father Mullerlieli, persuaded Tom that he would make a wonderful teacher for the new parochial school in Mendota. His 33 months on active duty in the Naval Reserve made Tom eligible for the GI Bill, so at age 26 he restarted college at St. Thomas. To be near the campus and the post office, where he continued to work full-time throughout his schooling (in the package department, known, not affectionately, as the “hernia factory”), the Fitzpatricks swapped homes with Fr. Mullerlieli’s mother who owned a nice upper duplex at 1093 Portland. From day one, however, they learned that the mother was not cut from the same saintly cloth as her son. In fact, she would have been most appropriately attired in a black dress and pointed hat with broom.

No money, few prospects, they didn’t have more

Than love abundant, and more kids in store.

Next Shannon, Kevin, and last Patty Rose,

Tom counts himself richer than anyone knows.

After a few months of terror, the Fitzpatricks fled to the sanctuary of the “Huts.” To house married students on campus, St. Thomas College had erected several Army surplus Quonset huts (of the semicircular corrugated steel roofs). Tom and his family got half of one. These were the regulation-sized quarters, although Tom had a larger family than any other student on campus. Colleen had been born on October 4, 1955 and Shannon arrived on March 12, 1957. The Huts were cramped: two small bedrooms, a living room and small kitchen. But they had the basic necessities, including a swing set for the children. Tom and Rena smiled when they looked back at their three months there. In fact, they smiled at most of their early days. It was hard to make ends meet with so many kids, but they claimed the investment has paid off many times over.

In August 1957, Tom and Rena found a buyer for their Mendota place and for $10,000 traded up for a house at 894 Dayton Ave. It was a nice home. Ever handy, Tom made an extra bathroom out of the pantry. The neighborhood off Selby near Lexington has since fallen victim to white flight but it was good at the time. 
In 1959 Tom became the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. “Earn” it he did. While working full-time at the post office, he finished his BA in three years.Tom majored in English with a minor in Spanish (opting for a foreign language in lieu of the alternative mathematics requirement) and a teaching qualification. As a mature father, Tom proved himself a considerably better student than when, at 18 years old he dropped out of the University of Minnesota after one miserable quarter when he did not know how to study properly. Later he did additional course work at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Sonoma State College in California and the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Not the least of what Tom learned at St. Thomas was the satisfaction that comes with learning and with the determination to accomplish the deed. Tom and Rena instilled both in their offspring -- Rena by her own example at returning to school in 1971 for a nursing degree. Among the many gifts they imparted, the educational drive was one that probably got the most use. Each of the six children finished four years of college, and then went on for a post-graduate degree.

After graduation, Tom was offered a job teaching high school English and Spanish at Cambridge, Minnesota, a small town (pop. 3,500) in Isanti County, 40 miles north of St. Paul.  Until he could sell the house at Dayton, however, he commuted for a couple of months for what was then an almost unheard-of hour each way. In October 1959 we all moved to Cambridge where we lived for two years in a large, rented house at 210 2nd Ave., across the street from the water tower. Every week, Rena brought her kids to the public library a block away. For local festivities, she dressed us up: once in Mexican costumes and once as little Dutchmen, wearing wooden shoes that Grandma Fitzpatrick brought back from a trip to Holland in summer 1959. Kevin was born in Cambridge on June 11, 1960. Just after his baptism Tom went to Mexico to improve his Spanish so he would be better prepared for a higher-paying job teaching Spanish in a metropolitan school district and with more self-confidence.

2. Fitzpatrick meets Kimball

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
(Excerpt from Fitzpatrick family history, compiled by Mark Fitzpatrick in 2007)

Their story unfolded in St. Paul, Minn.,

Where Tom met a gal whose heart he would win.

She was a beaut, with mind even better;

He, no dope either, could put pen to letter.
The two main trunks of my family united October 20, 1951, when Thomas John Fitzpatrick married Maureen Joan Kimball. He was dark-haired and dashing and two months shy of his 21st birthday. She was just under 19, a teenage beauty with looks that have never left. Maureen -- Rena for short -- had temporarily put off her plans for college and a nursing career and gone to work for the state employment bureau. Tom was an aircraft mechanic on active duty with the U.S. Naval Air Reserves at Wold Chamberlain Field, where he spent 33 months beginning in late 1948. When I was about five, I asked my Dad what exactly he fixed on planes. Could he put a wing back on if it fell off, like he could with my toy plane?

Like his father and father-in-law before him and his first son to follow, Tom fell in love with his wife-to-be on a dance floor. It was in February 1949, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, a gathering place for young Catholics. Tom later compared the scene to Troilus at the market place: the Trojan of Shakespearean legend who swore never to love but who was struck by Cupid’s arrow when he saw Cressida across the square. Tom saw Maureen across the floor, and said: “there’s a girl I’ve got to meet.” They danced, more than once. He apologized that he wasn’t dressed very well because he had been working on the boat he was building at the Naval Air Reserve base. She expressed interest, and that sealed their fate. Rena accepted his request for a date, but first he had to cut the mustard with her father. Tom passed inspection, and they began to go steady. Once, they decided to stop seeing only each other, but that experiment quickly ended.

Tom courted Maureen in a Model A 1930 Roadster. The convertible was a spiffy car in its day, but when Tom bought it for $40 it was past its prime. He later sold it for $33. The speedboat Tom had built was the other mode of transportation in their dating days. Out for a spin around the lake on the Fourth of July, a quarrel broke out and Tom carelessly tipped the boat. Rena could not swim and thought she would die but for Tom’s rescue. In the water Rena also thought she had been struck blind -- with love, maybe, but also literally -- until Tom heroically brought back her sight by lifting the veil (a wet scarf) from her eyes.

Tom and Rena became engaged, waited for nine months, and tied the knot at St. Luke’s Church at Summit and Lexington. A few months before the wedding they bought a lot in an empty field in Mendota for $550. On the lot Tom and friend Dean Lieberman began to build a house, with a friend of Tom’s parents, Gary Barret, retired from the construction trade, supervising from the car. Before the home became livable, however, the newlyweds had to stay with Rena’s parents for a couple of months.

When Tom finally carried his bride across the threshold, there was not much on the other side. Only the basement was done, and there they settled in, Rena now with child. Peggy was born July 21, 1952.  As children, Peggy and I used to giggle that it was just a day short of nine months after the wedding. This first child was not a quiet, easily contented baby, and Rena was not a mature, experienced mother. Tom was going to farming school at the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and working the evening shift at the Central Post Office, while his young bride stayed home with baby Peggy. They had no telephone and few neighbors. When the loneliness and frustration got to be too much in that basement in the field, Rena sometimes would weep along with her wailing child.

They had their first child when Mom was a minor,

Life was a bit tough; it could have been finer.

Peggy, then Mark, and Colleen in four years;

For the young mother there were a few tears.

I was born on November 21, 1953, while the family still lived in the basement. Rena recalls bringing me upstairs in a basket while she helped finish the woodwork. I apparently was a relaxed baby, and, by this time, the Fitzpatricks had a telephone, albeit a party line shared among eight households. To get it, Rena’s obstetrician, Dr. Watson, told the phone company she had toxemia and needed emergency communications. Rena may have to spend a little time in purgatory to make up for that white lie, but it will have been well worth the phone link to the outside world in that time of social need.

When Tom finished the farm school course, he looked for land and found the homestead of his dreams across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. Ever since his father had inherited 40 acres of land from Aunt Mary Hughes when Tom was in high school, he had a hankering to farm. Isabel did not raise her son to be a farmer, however, and would not lend him the $500 he needed for earnest money to buy the land. In frustration, Tom gave up the farming bug -- but not forever. A decade and a half later, he bought 120 acres near Farmington in partnership with friend Cleve Van Dyke and became a weekend farmer for four years. I spent one of those summers (or perhaps it was only a month) working as a hired hand at the Van Dyke farm, an experience I disliked at the time but one I loved to boast about years later, especially when I stayed with an agricultural family during a high school exchange student year in Japan.

1. Tom’s parents and childhood

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
(Excerpts from Fitzpatrick family history, compiled by Mark Fitzpatrick in 2007)

In 1924, at Mike Sullivan’s Dance Hall at Selby and Snelling, twin brother Ed introduced Tom (later AKA “Grandpa Fitz”) to a “real pretty, lovely” young Dutch gal, Isabella (Isabel) van de Klundert. After going steady for a year, Fitz and Isabel were married in St. Columba Church on Hamline and Van Buren on November 28, 1925. To earn extra cash to pay for the wedding, Fitz took leave from work and went to North Dakota to help with the grain harvest and thrashing. There he ran some liquor from Canada for the wedding -- prohibition having been introduced in 1919.

In 1922 went to work for the U.S. Post Office in the Railway Mail Service, sorting the mail on the Soo Line between St. Paul and North Dakota and the ChicaMin Line between Chicago and Minneapolis. He earned close to $6,000 annually as a road clerk when he retired in 1956 at age 62.

Isabel was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1935. Her citizenship documents describe her as having brown hair, grey-green eyes and being 5’5” tall. During World War Two, she was a kind of "Rosie the Riveter," working for Northwest Airlines at their maintenance hanger in St. Paul (Holman Field).

Sometime after 1935, they moved to a rental above Marty’s Bar at 738 University Ave. There they raised four children: Patricia, Thomas, Catherine and Michael.

The kids were all good looking.Isabel entered Tommie in a cute baby contest, which he lost to a young relative of the judge – a crooked deal! But he was such an imp that at age 3 he tore up the cute baby photos of himself and Pat – damage that did not get repaired until many decades later when my sister Patricia Rose took her hand to it.

In the winters, the neighborhood kids played shinny hockey (no skates) in the alley every day, taping magazines to their legs in place of shin pads. Other times they played sandlot football. Tom once took a shot in the knee and tore something that gave him trouble forever after, and later as a father gave him reason to caution his sons not to play football. As a high school sophomore, he also got into another contact sport, joining a friend at the Golden Gloves at the police gym. He boxed for several years, including after he joined the Navy in March 1949, but says he was not as good as his friend.

The children rode bikes all over St. Paul and explored the caves along the Mississippi.“Reckless,” their mother often called them. For Tom, one cave exploration adventure involved skipping school, a shenanigan that led to hot water when the school called his parents. The episode also gave his father some private satisfaction that maybe his son was a scalawag chip off the old block after all. The boys also recall jumping rides on freight trains. In the spring, they made binder guns out of fruit crates and slices of rubber from old inner tubes. “Those suckers could raise a heck of a welt,” Mike recalled later.My father once made me such a gun. Tom and friends used to take hours to build model airplanes, then light them on fire and launch them from the 2nd floor deck. While in high school, Tom got an old jalopy car and tinkered with it a lot.

On summer vacations, the family visited relatives in Wisconsin and Tom Sr.’s cousin Mary Ann Hughes in Cascade, Iowa.Once they took the Burlington Zephyr train to Iowa, a real treat. The visits were not just for fun, however; the children had to do their share of the farm chores.

The children and Isabel attended mass at Agnes Catholic Church, which originally was a strictly German parish and not welcoming to Irish. When the priest said it would be ok for the Fitzpatricks to join because Isabel was Dutch and therefore almost German, she cursed for the first time in her life, and at a priest! With memories of the German 1940 invasion of Holland fresh in her mind, she shouted: “I am no god-damn German.” The children also attended school at St. Agnes, but only Mike went all the way through to high school there. Tom did not much like the religiosity and was happy to join Pat at Wilson High School.

Tom might be described as a late bloomer, not applying himself fully to education until an adult. Then, bloom he did.

6. Yellow Paint

Shared by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 4, 2020
In the 1970s, my father wrote a ditty called "Yellow Paint":

"I did not heed thee, wife of mine,

So now I pay the price of time,

Spent cleaning up all o’er the place,

I’ve even got paint on my face.

Paint, I say, yes yellow paint,

Should you see this you’ll surely faint.

Alas, alack, the deed is done,

For me this truly was no fun.

The truth lies in that punctured can,

Sprayed-on-paint has lost a fan."

Yesterday, while cleaning out his workroom, I was tickled to see that many decades later the yellow paint lives on, in his trusted tools. Even the 2.5" utility hinge in the original packaging. My Dad never tossed out stuff that might come in handy later.

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