“We couldn’t afford dinner and drink, too,” when they went out, Vera Strandmark said, so she and husband Dave would eat with their five kids and get them settled in before heading out to Nye’s where they might also get some chicken wings, drummies, or crab cakes.
Vera had the honor of singing the last song, “Over the Rainbow,” on the night Nye’s, the iconic Northeast restaurant, closed forever. The song was an easy choice, it’s her favorite. “We used to sing duets. We sang mostly ballads. He did country western.”
That last song was a year ago April 3, and on April 6 this month, photographers Steve Cohen and Mike Madison hosted a one-night exhibit of photos they made of those last moments. Vera Strandmark is in one of Madison’s most popular photos; she was the belle of the evening at the exhibit, too.
Dave is now deceased. Vera said she was able to go out by herself at Nye’s where “there was always someone to watch my back.” They’d come to know all the bartenders and waitresses, in particular Fran, and Roxy who had been there 20 years.
One of the bartenders, also prominent in a Madison photo, and several of the staff and customers, came to the exhibit. It was a sweet though brief reunion.
At 85, Vera still drives and is now singing at the Driftwood Tuesday nights. Born and raised in North Minneapolis, she lives in Richfield and has 10 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.