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Lifestyles Section C

AlbertLeaTribune.com

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inside: Memories of Geri Murtaugh

Beloved wife, mother, co-worker and friend

tude,” he added. But the No. 1 thing Geri did for the school was public relations, Ellis said. She was never afraid to write about events happening at the church or school for the Albert Lea Tribune. They said one of Geri’s favorite events to cover was the pet blessing each October in celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Though she was there for the newspaper, she would also bring her children along as well. She also supported the annual Marathon for Non-Public Education as the St. Theodore students would walk around Fountain Lake. Whether she was there for church, her daughters, her volunteer responsibilities or personal reasons, she was a

The first two weeks of August will always be a very special time for Geri McShane Murtaugh and myself. Now more emphasis has been given to this part of the calendar with Geri’s death at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester on Aug. 7. That particular date is the exact date Geri also started her outstanding 24-year career here at the Albert Lea Tribune. Right at that time in 1986, I had been at the Tribune for two years give or take a day or two. On this particular morning two new employees came into the newsroom. Geri and her friend, Janelle Pollock, had previously worked for the Waseca newspaper. Either that day or the next morning I was asked by the editor to take these two young ladies on an orientation Ed tour of the city. Shannon Special emphaBetween the sis was given to Corn Rows the city center, court house, law enforcement center and the fire department. And it was on this first day that Geri met Mike Murtaugh, her future husband, who was then working in the advertising department. A few months later Janelle left the city. However, Geri stayed on at the Tribune. After all, she was proving to be a real keeper and tremendous asset, if I may digress. Anyway, within a few years she became the city editor, then managing editor. After marriage and motherhood, she eventually took over as lifestyles editor and assistant editor. Thus, I take pride in knowing Geri for 24 years, plus working with and for Geri and her many, many news and feature projects. Right at this point, if I may digress again with a sincere compliment, I’ve always been amazed at the amount of excellent news and feature articles Geri created for the benefit of the Tribune’s readers. During the years of knowing Geri, I could firmly rely on her help in case a ride was needed to or from some specific location. In turn, she could rely on my assistance in taking daughters Erin and Tierney to St. Theodore’s School from the Tribune on some days as Geri continued on with preparing another daily newspaper for publication. There are other aspects of this friendly mutual assistance we provided for each other, but this will suffice for now. As I was preparing this special column to honor the memory of such a nice person, there was a temptation to mention all the fine folks we worked with during her 24 years here at the Tribune. However, this would be a rather long list. It would have to extend beyond the newsroom to include advertising, classified, circulation, management, accounting, composition and both past and present press room operations. As a result, there’s a chance I might miss the names of a few folks and that just wouldn’t be fair at all. I have no idea as to what some of her present and former Tribune colleagues are going to mention in their memories of Geri. One I have is based on her enjoyment of eating at the Wok n’ Roll and seeing how many different versions of prepared chicken she could eat during one visit. I believe the record is nine. She also enjoyed making monkey bread, bars and other goodies for Tribune potlucks and special events. And what I will always appreciate sincerely is her consideration for my diabeticcontrol diet. A prime example is how she would make bars with frosting, except for a small unfrosted corner so I could also enjoy the treat. Now here’s a point which may get overlooked. The name of Geri is actually a shortened version of Geralyn. I really became aware of this several years ago when I asked her to sign a legal document. This particular document had to be signed by someone who wasn’t a family member and a person who was more than just an acquaintance. As a close friend and colleague, Geralyn was the perfect person for this document signing. As I mentioned at the start of this special salute, the first

See Church on Page 2C ➧

See Shannon on Page 2C ➧

Geri Murtaugh celebrates finishing a project at work by dancing on her desk in February.

Photo by Brie Cohen

Geri Murtaugh’s life and love touched the lives of many By Sarah Stultz staff writer No matter what capacity people knew Geri Murtaugh, one thing always rang true. Her smile said it all. A 48-year-old mother, wife, sister, friend and assistant editor at the Albert Lea Tribune, Geri left her mark on many people. Around Albert Lea, Geri was known to most as a longtime employee of the Tribune, who at the same time was also able to maintain a strong family life and community involvement. Whether she was interviewing for a story, volunteering at an event or helping in some other way, her positive, fun-loving attitude impacted all who met her. While her death on Aug. 7 shocked and saddened the community, it also brought to mind many of the memorable experiences she had been a part of throughout the years. “Geri was special,” said Deb Meissner, one of her sisters. “We all knew that, and we are so proud of her and the life she led.”

Life and light

Born on June 2, 1962, to Joseph and Leona McShane in Waseca, Geri was the second-youngest of 13 children. “Geri came along after a time in our and our parents’ lives when we had suffered the tragedies of losing a 2 1/2-year-old son/ brother in a farm accident plus the death of an infant daughter/sister, all in 1960,”

Meissner said. “Our family was hurting, and then when Geri came along, everything was OK again. She brought life and light back into our world.” As a child, Geri went to country school for a short time and then Owatonna Schools where she was active in the choir and played violin in the orchestra. Especially during her school years, Geri took care of and watched out for her brother Kevin, who has Down Syndrome. “She was never embarrassed by him and they were very close,” Meissner said. Geri graduated from Owatonna High School in 1980. Afterward, she attended the College of St. Thomas, first as a biology major, and later switching to journalism. “As a student, Geri was a clear thinker and a good organizer,” said one of her college friends, Teri Cain, who lives in Oregon. “She usually was ahead of deadlines for classes.” She worked at the Aquin student newspaper and also worked as an intern for the Diocese of St. Paul. Cain said she likely met Geri in a journalism class but also lived with her in Dowling Hall and was in the alto section of UST’s Liturgical Choir with her. She said she could not remember Geri’s reasons for selecting journalism as a major, but noted that Geri had a knack with words, which is what likely led her to this decision.

The Murtaugh family in 2007. Geri is accompanied by husband, Mike, and daughters Erin, left, and Tierney, center. Cain said she and Geri would often revise words to songs and amuse themselves with the results. Two of their favorites were “Delilah” by Tom Jones and “The Wild Rover,” a song they learned in the pubs of Ireland on a choir tour. Music and being Irish were some of Geri’s favorite things.

Geri and seven of her friends from college kept in touch following their graduation in 1984. One other friend, Patrice LaBerge Hicks, a roommate of Geri’s, said Geri was a “wonderful person to live with.” “Geri had the prettiest smile and a very beautiful voice also,” Hicks said.

See Geri on Page 9C ➧

Geri’s involvement with church is memorable By Sarah Stultz staff writer

A faithful parishioner and a devoted volunteer. That’s how the Rev. Jim Berning and Deacon Mike Ellis will forever remember Geri Murtaugh’s involvement with St. Theodore Catholic Church. Ellis said Geri began attending the church in 1991, when she married her husband, Mike. “They were very faithful,” Ellis said. “I don’t think they’ve ever missed Mass.” After Geri and Mike had their first child, Erin, and she became old enough to go to school, the couple enrolled her in St. Theodore Catholic School. Geri immediately became involved, seeking opportunities where she could

help at the school. This continued with the enrollment of their youngest daughter, Tierney, who will be entering third grade this fall. Berning and Ellis said over the years, Geri has volunteered for the school’s auction and other events happening at the school. In the last few years, she and Mike coordinated St. Theodore’s Scrip program, which helps raise funds for the St. Theodore School Endowment. Geri kept the inventory for the program up to date and kept the bookkeeping records. “She just was one if you needed help you can count on Geri to help,” Ellis said. “She just would offer to do anything, whether it was cut Campbell’s soup labels, milk Moola lids or Box Tops for Education. “She did everything with a smile on her face and always a positive atti-

A special salute for a friend named Geri Murtaugh


Page 2C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

Photos of Geri and her family

A photo of the McShane clan. Geri can be seen in blue in the middle of the back row.

Geri in a dorm room at the College of St. Thomas.

Geri and Mike surrounded by family on their wedding day. They were married on Oct. 26, 1991.

In Florida in 1980. Geri stands with her father, Joseph, on her right and brother Kevin on her left.

Geri at the wedding of her sister, Deb, in 1976. Geri was 14.

Geri on a Caribbean cruise in 1980. The waiter and busboy loved her.

Geri pictured with her mother, Leona.

This photo was taken of Geri and her mother, Leona, on her mother’s 80th birthday.

Geri at age 12 with her nephew Tommy.

♦ Shannon Continued from Page 1C

two weeks of August will always be a very special time to remember Geri. That last comment is based on the Relay For Life held this weekend. Up to two years ago, this event at the fairgrounds was something to be covered for the Tribune, for socializing, and for remembering people who either recovered or died from cancer. This changed with Geri’s encounter with

breast cancer. Thus, this year’s Relay For Life had very emotional meaning for those of us who will miss Geri.

Geri in 1962, not yet a year old.

♦ Church Continued from Page 1C frequent visitor to the church. Ellis said when Geri

A school picture of Geri. Geri’s latest mugshot

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was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she was positive yet realistic about what was happening to her. “And she was appreciative of anything we would offer to do for her,” Ellis said. “Whether it was praying, annointing, she was receptive to all of that.” They also visited her at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. “It’s been a pleasure to be able to minister,” Berning said. The church leaders said they will remember Geri’s smile, attitude and faith.


Sunday, August 15, 2010 ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Page 3C

More photos of Geri and her family

Geri and Mike before they were married in 1991. They met while working at the Tribune.

Geri dancing on a table at her wedding in 1991.

Tom Jones, left, stands with Geri and Mike. Geri had black construction paper circles on her dress as a joke because everyone knew how much she loved cows.

Geri helping daughter Erin with a Halloween costume.

Geri in her prom dress for senior prom in 1980.

Geri at high school graduation in 1980.

The McShane clan pictured on the 80th birthday of Geri’s mother, Leona.

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Geri playing dress up as a bride.

The McShane family in Washington, D.C., for the retirement of Geri’s brother Mike from the Air Force in November of 2000.

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Page 4C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

My memory of Geri...

Overwhelming is the response that I have received over the past few weeks as people had started to hear about Geri’s fight with cancer and then her all too sudden departure from all who have loved her. There is a quote about the good dying young and I now believe it. Geri was too young, but in my friend Geri’s case tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to her passing. I want to smile. When a life has been lived so completely honestly and successfully, it seems that the only way to celebrate that life is to smile. Now, I know that tears will fall and mine will join many to fill a pool of memories of a person who made us all better. In no way am I

My memory of Geri... saying how to mourn our dear friend, but I am reminding everyone that after the tears, they should smile. You should smile because that is what Geri made us do. Try picturing Geri in her Halloween costume or sharing funny stories about her array of pets and you cannot help but smile. Over the next few pages, friends and colleagues will share stories about their love of Geri. So pull up a box of tissues and let the tears roll down your cheeks, but then when you are finished, wipe those tears and think about your own personal story of our friend Geri and I am guessing that you too will smile. — Scott Schmeltzer, publisher, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri...

Ten years isn’t nearly long enough. When I first started at the Tribune 10 years ago, Geri was one of the first people I met. I remember very clearly her unassuming demeanor, and I remember one of the first conversations we had. It was about my grandparents and the story she wrote on their 70th wedding anniversary. She talked with a glimmer in her eye about how fond she was of this cute little couple from Hollandale and talked about how she hoped she, too, would be able to celebrate 70 years of marriage one day.  Over the next 10 years, I marveled at how much she truly cared about the people she wrote about. After the story on my grandparents, she’d ask me often how they were doing and shed a tear with me when they each passed away. She had a gift for really capturing the humanity in the people she wrote about. I was thrilled when she did a story about my son’s autism classroom this past April, because I knew that her gift of words would really showcase the essence of

each of the children and show that they were more than their disease. I’ll always be grateful to her for that. Geri was my “old buddy, old pal, old friend of mine.” I don’t remember where it came from, but that’s what we called each other. If either of us needed something from the other, it was “Hey, old buddy, old pal, old friend of mine …” I’ll miss the desk-dancing at the end of Progress, working on the graduation keepsake together and the Best of Fair, and our shared relief at the end of each. I’ll miss the creative Halloween costumes. I’ll miss the monkey bread and the brownies and all of the other gooey goodies she would bring for all of us. But most of all, I’ll miss my friend. Watching her. Learning from her. We always assume that there will be a tomorrow. Always, inevitably, the tomorrows stop coming. But for her and us, the tomorrows stopped far too soon. Geri was a spectacular human being, and I’m a better person having known her.  — Stacey Bahr, creative director, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri...

Geri and I were friendly rivals.  At work, we sat facing each other and my legs often laid underneath her desk. If she ever came to work and her keyboard didn’t work, it was because my feet knocked out the cord that connected it to her computer. She always forgave me, because every sports editor had done it, too.  I had a bad habit of throwing my empty pop cans in the trash that sat near my desk, one that Geri had a bird’s-eye view of. Her daughter, Tierney, told her once that a single recycled pop can could

power a television for three hours, so each morning my trash would be empty because Geri had dug out the cans and recycled them. Geri would tell Tierney about it, and if she brought her daughter to work on Saturday, Tierney would attack me with her small arms.  Geri would counsel her daughter not to hit me, but deep down sometimes, I think she didn’t mind.  I was, of course, her friendly rival, and sometimes deserved a little punishment served by her youngest child.   — Andrew Dyrdal, sports editor, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri...

When I first started working here at the Tribune, Geri was one of the first people I met. Every day I came into work, Geri would be there, and she would always greet me with a “Hi, Jon! How are you doing?”

She always put a smile on my face. I’m very honored that I got to work with Geri at the Tribune. She was a great person and will be greatly missed! — Jon Theuer, sports writer, Albert Lea Tribune

When I first met Geri Murtaugh in January 2006, I thought she was younger than me, but it turned out she was not. She was a wife and a mother of two daughters. Still, she always seemed to have a youthful complexion, which was needed, for she often told people, in jest, that she was 29. As a reporter, she asked people their ages all the time. However, she was reluctant to share her real age. On each birthday, the age she started at the Tribune would get younger and younger. “I now started at the Tribune when I was 7,” she said when she reached her 22-year mark in 2008. Finally, in 2009, Tierney made her turn 30. We worked together in the Tribune newsroom and often chatted about this or that. She was an encyclopedia of local information. She

My memory of Geri... could spell the name of everyone in town. She knew who was married to whom. She knew where they worked. She knew their children’s names. It was a lot easier to reach people in a jiffy thanks to Geri. Geri and her family from time to time watched our son, Forrest. He always enjoyed spending time with them, and particularly liked going in their boat. We appreciated their willingness to help us. When Geri got her port removed in December of 2008 following her breast cancer battle, I told her she needed to celebrate by drinking some port, which I then bought her a bottle as a fitting Christmas gift. She always appreciated words in much the same way I do. We miss you already. — Tim Engstrom, managing editor, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri... Memories of my years at the Tribune working with Geri abound. How do I write just 200 words, especially when Geri and others bestowed on me a plaque giving me the “Overwriters Unanimous Award” after completing the Progress Edition in 1988. As lifestyles editor for 12 years, I worked with Geri most of those years. Geri was on the courthouse beat for many of those years. She knew the police and sheriff ’s deputies well. Later Geri covered school board, city council and county commissioners meetings. Her reports were always accurate and the copy was clean, definitely without errors. Actually Geri and the rest of the newsroom worked long weekday hours, and we often worked on weekends. I remember well the nights we worked on paginating the cookbook. It was not an easy task. Geri sat at one machine to lay out the page while I kept sending recipes from my machine. We worked well together. The Freeborn County Fair this year brought back many memories of years past when Geri and I often took pictures together of the winners at the 4-H Building, Floral Hall, Women’s Building and even at the animal shows. It was hard work but we always managed to have fun. Then, while working late at night with only part of the staff

there, we noticed that Mike, who worked in advertising at the Tribune, would call Geri on the phone from his department in the same building. Their conversations went on for quite a while. Anne Jacobson, a reporter who is now editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I sometimes went to lunch with Geri. It wasn’t long before Mike went with us. Soon there was a wedding. When, as lifestyles editor and doing a feature on breast cancer for Daffodil Days, I also found out I had breast cancer. It was Geri and Cathy (Hay) Rofshus who filled in for me during surgery, recuperation and on the rough days during chemo treatments. In 2008, about 17 years later, Geri was diagnosed with breast cancer. I said to her, “Just think, we sat on the same chair,” and she replied in her usual sensible way, “Ma, that chair fell apart long ago.” The camaraderie between staff members was great. We used any excuse to have a party and still get together as “Tribune Old Timers.” Staffers came and went, but there was only one person to this day who could recite every name of those people. That was Geri. It has been good to reminisce now with others of the good days we had with Geri. Even at her young age she made her mark in this world, Geri was loved by everyone who knew her. — Marlene Behle, retired

My memory of Geri... I owe a lot of my good memories in Albert Lea to Geri. Not only did I get to work with her at the Albert Lea Tribune, but Geri welcomed me into her family. I got to know her at work, but I only truly understood what Geri was all about when she invited me into her family. I was fortunate enough to be part of her Tribune family, and I will always cherish the time I was able to spend around her. She was someone who was always doing things for others, and she lived her life thinking of others always before herself.

Geri was everything to her family, and it was so clear that she had built her family based on love and support. She was a tremendous journalist and a caring person, but when I think of her I will smile as I remember our trips to the Wok n’ Roll, her devotion to her daughters and husband and without a doubt the best cookiedough brownies ever to come out of an oven. Geri, I could never tell you how much you impacted my life. Thank you.  — Jeff Budlong, assistant sports editor, Rapid City Journal

I met Geri the first day I moved to Albert Lea. With a desk next to mine, I quickly connected with her. At first she was my sounding board for anything I questioned in my writing — grammar, clarity, you name it, and Geri knew it. If I ever had a question about who to contact in the community or if I was confused about how to spell a person’s name, she knew the answer. I remember thinking during my first week on the job that I only hoped I’d have half the knowledge and awareness of the community that she did. As time went on, she became one of my closest friends in the newsroom. We loved sharing stories about our families with each other, and if I had a question about something related to parenting, I’d ask her. She had lots of great

advice, and she loved her family. But that love didn’t stop outside the walls of her home. She treated so many others as if we were a part of her own family. One Thanksgiving three years ago, she invited my husband and I over to her house. With neither of us having family in the area, it meant a lot to us that someone went out of their way to make sure we had a happy holiday. Geri, with a few other friends at the newspaper, also threw me a baby shower after I had my daughter. I hope she knows how much I appreciated that. To me, Geri was an example of a hard-working, diligent journalist who was a supermom, too. That’s exactly what I hope to be someday. — Sarah Stultz, city editor and reporter, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri... I unfortunately hadn’t known Geri very long before she passed. I started at the Tribune in March, and Geri quickly became the person I went to when I needed help. She had a wealth of knowledge and an infinite supply of smiles when she knew someone needed one. Even though I didn’t know her well right away, she was quick to give me a hug when I was having a hard time and quick to share a laugh when something went well. She quickly let me in on inside jokes and made me truly feel part of the team. As a new journalist I was looking to learn as much as possible, and Geri let me try new things

and gently gave expert advice. Geri never once complained about working Saturdays with me while I was learning and always made them fun. She even made me a certificate of achievement for enjoying eating at the Wok n’ Roll Chinese buffet when a few of the news team went for lunch. Geri seemed to know everyone in town and knew every answer or who to contact for any question I had. Geri was always a friend first and coworker second. She will be greatly missed here at the Tribune. — Kelli Lageson, special projects editor and education reporter, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri... Geri touched everyone’s life, including mine. Look in any Freeborn County home and you will likely find an Albert Lea Tribune clipping by Geri McShane. Her stories are stuck to refrigerators, saved in scrapbooks, pinned to bulletin boards and mailed to friends and relatives. Geri touched the life of every person in our community through her professional and volunteer work. She touted our good news, announcing our marriages and our children’s births, promoting our fundraisers, taking our blue-ribbon photos and so much more. I worked with Geri at the Tribune from 1989 to 1993, first as a reporter and then as city editor. We worked virtually elbow-to-elbow, fueled by Diet Pepsi, putting out the newspaper every morning and most Saturday nights, too. The

work was often tedious and sometimes frustrating, but Geri made it fun with wry comments and amusing stories. There were plenty of Friday lunches and newsroom parties, too. Geri was honest, hardworking and reliable. That’s why people trusted her with their most precious information. Geri was my supervisor and my friend, a rare trait among bosses. She continued to be my friend long after I left the Tribune. I often visited with Geri in the bleachers at the City Arena while our daughters took skating lessons. That’s how I’ll remember Geri — watching her daughters skate, the pride evident in her smile, content that her family was her greatest story of all. — Cathy Hay Rofshus, public information officer, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

My memory of Geri... I first met Geri while I was an intern. Every day I came in she had a beautiful smile on her face and a personality to match. The thing that will stick with me as a constant reminder of Geri is a trip the staff took to the Wok n’ Roll for lunch. Geri was going because she had a record to beat. The record? She needed to eat as many different types of chicken as

she could. I believe that day she beat her personal record and even though she was stuffed with chicken from head to toe, managed to eat 12 different kinds. I’m sure Geri left lasting memories on countless other people like she has done to me. We’ll miss you Geri, but we’ll never forget you. — Brandi Hagen, student, Winona State University


Sunday, August 15, 2010 ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Page 5C

I learned a lot of things during the three years I worked at the Albert Lea Tribune. I experienced the joy of meeting a lot of new and wonderful people, all with a different story to tell. One of my favorite friends that I met along the way was Geri McShane. Geri had a wonderful way about her that was so welcoming for a newcomer into the wide open world of news, with all of its joys and of course all of its pain. For many years, as many of you know, Geri was the mainstay of the Lifestyles section which appears in the Sunday edition. My favorite day when the dummy would be missing was Lifestyles day. The first time I laid out Lifestyles for Geri, she brought it right back to my desk and said, “You forgot something.” I replied, “Oh my goodness I will fix it right away, what did I forget?” Geri said, “It needs to be titled Lifestyles by Laura.” We laughed for a while at our silly selves. I immediately fixed the error even though, I knew Geri was about to spend the entire rest of the day compiling all of the birth announcements, engagements, events, photos and of course the heart wrenching or feel good story of the week to appear on the cover of Lifestyles. The appropriate title for the lifestyles section will always be “Lifestyles by Geri” in my book. Geri was such a vital part of searching out only the best community news and then putting a familiar spin on it to make us all feel right at home while

reading along. Geri was such a meaningful person to many lives including mine. I absolutely loved getting to know her and her wonderful family, Mike, Erin and Tierney. Geri and I had many funny stories about our family pets, the cats! Erin and I made jewelry together on my patio one summer and never did we have so many smiles and crafty ideas. We even had to make a bead run to Jo-Ann’s fabrics, because we were sure we needed more beads. Miss Tierney is a funny little one, she is to this day always hiding fake bugs and critters in the staff tissue boxes and desk drawers, always making others laugh. Mike is just such a stand-up guy and a great dad. Looking back on all of these stories makes me smile, cry, laugh, cry a little more and then smile because I know that for each memory I had in those three years, this wonderful family will have thousands more memories of their mom and wife and friend. I am so thankful that I got to share in a few of those memories. To the girls, the spirit of your mom will always live on in your beautiful smiles. She loved you so much, and I am beyond a doubt sure that you were her favorite subjects that she ever interviewed. Geri was a true oneof-a-kind gem and will always be a legacy to the Tribune and its staff. Geri we miss you and love you. God bless. — Laura Lunde, branch manager, Manpower in Albert Lea

My memory of Geri...

Geri made everything better. She had a way to turn stress into fun. I always looked forward to Geri’s completion of laying out the Progress edition, for one simple reason: Dancing on the desk. I think she did it as much to amuse me as to amuse herself. When she danced on her desk at the end of February this last year, I thought, there is no way anyone else I would work with in the future would do this. Outside of work we had fun gatherings at her house, we went to the Wok n’ Roll, where Geri would see how many different kinds of chicken she could get on her plate — I believe her record was 14. She drove us around in her crazy “peel-out car,” and fed us fantastic desserts like monkey bread and CDBs (cookie-dough brownies). She even took me and a few reporters to buy two goldfish for the newsroom when the publisher and the managing editor were out of town. We named them Woodward and Bernstein (Bob and Carl for short) and joked that they had the Watergate beat. Geri made me laugh in so many ways. Like the way we would slyly stick Post-it notes with funny messages written on them to each other during the work day. When I was sick in the hospital, she would still send me these messages by texting them to my phone. Geri took care of me. As the photojournalist, I went with each reporter on their assign-

My memory of Geri...

My memory of Geri...

My memory of Geri...

ment. Nobody could do an interview like Geri. The way she listened, asked questions and related to people impressed me every time I was with her. She really cared about her stories and the people in them. When I left the Tribune, the publisher and I talked about how Geri was what held everything together at the paper. It wouldn’t be what it is without her. And it won’t. Geri is one of the most amazing, selfless people I have met. She will forever be missed and loved. — Brie Cohen, production editor, Lerner Publishing Group

On that first day in the Tribune’s newsroom as a staff writer, when I met Geri face to face for the first time, she wasn’t a complete stranger, mainly because she wrote the stories about ordinary people that I liked to read. Working at the Tribune was a new direction for me, and Geri helped me find a way to fit in. This despite how intimidated I was by her long experience in journalism. She helped me figure out how to be a reporter, as I observed her doing what she did every day: interviewing people, following up leads, answering readers’ questions. She worked long hours in the newsroom, laying out the Lifestyles section, editing stories and writing, and I watched how she juggled all that with parenting, marriage and friendships. My tenure as a staff writer was brief, but by the time I left the newsroom, the intimidation I’d felt had become respect. She was a tough editor, but she explained where I was clumsy and what I needed to work on. If I am a better writer and teacher of writing now than I was 10 years ago, it’s partly because of what Geri taught me. Here are two extra stories about Geri: Dan Dorman’s mother came in to talk to Geri just before Christmas about some photos for a feature, and it came out

she was disappointed in her son’s work at the legislature. There was a glitch with a revenue bill that he’d voted for, and it meant she was going to have to pay a lot more property taxes for the apartment where she lived, which was above the store she owned. As I remember it, the two women came up with a plot to put some coal in Dan’s stocking. Geri helped find the coal, although I don’t remember anymore where she found it. The look on Dan’s face was priceless, when he came in to the newsroom afterward and realized that most of us in the newsroom had known about his special Christmas gift before he got it. Early in my short career as a journalist, Geri and I both wrote stories that required contacting an administrator at one of the area schools. We both commented on this man. He was always well-groomed, with hair that appeared “immaculate” no matter where he was or what he was doing. Over time, whenever we talked about interviewing this person for a story or seeing him somewhere — shopping for groceries, working out at the Family Y, scarfing fries at a restaurant — we’d always end with the question: How was his hair? And the answer: Perfect. Always. — David Rask Behling, professor of English, Waldorf College

My memory of Geri... After working at the Tribune for two years as the summer intern, I learned two things from Geri: laughter is good medicine even at work, and the people you interview are more important than the story itself. Her laugh was contagious. She had great stories and funny e-mails she would share with all of us at the office giving us a break from the stress of the day’s deadlines. Geri had a big heart. You can tell in any of her feature stories that it wasn’t about her, it was about telling a person’s story to the world, their moment in the spotlight. I can only hope to be as good of a reporter as she was. To say that Geri was a remarkable woman

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would be an understatement. She inspired me to excel in the journalism world. Geri changed my life and she will be in my heart forever. She will be dearly missed. — Ashley Stewart, student, St. Thomas University

Geri McShane was my friend before she became my first editor. I have great memories of her and her great sense of humor in the Albert Lea Tribune newsroom. She collected cows and once clipped a Gary Larson cartoon that showed a small bird flying off with a cow while the farmers below helplessly shook their fists. The caption read: “Dang, that cow hawk is back.” We would imitate that cartoon when we needed a moment of levity shaking our fists at the sky bemoaning cow hawks. When she complained of smoke wafting through a vent near her desk, I penned a parody of “King of the Road” about secondhand smoke. She sang it in the office. She had a great deal of respect for the staff. She had integrity. On the second day of my career, the first Gulf War started. A meeting

was called to discuss coverage. The publisher was a Vietnam vet who didn’t want the paper to cover any war protests. I was the idealistic reporter on his second day who questioned the wisdom of that. Geri very quietly but firmly said I think we’ll cover that. She and her husband, Mike, were good friends of mine when I worked at the Tribune. I watched as their relationship grew, and Geri asked me to throw a bachelor party for Mike. It might have been the most docile night in the history of premarital revelry. I called a bunch of his friends, and we watched the Twins World Series game on TV at Geri’s house. She stayed in the kitchen and cooked, while we watched the game. It might be the only time in history the bride attended the groom’s bachelor party. — Dave Aeikens, reporter, St. Cloud Times

My memory of Geri... An important link broke from the chain last week. During the year that I worked at the Tribune as a photographer and writer, Geri was the link that kept us all together. She was the first person I went to when I had questions, whether they were internal questions or I needed personal advice. Shortly after I was hired, there was a gap where we had no managing editor in the newsroom. Geri was the link that kept us moving along. Even after hiring a new managing editor, Geri was the link that unified us when we needed to work together and sometimes divided

us when we needed to figure out a better way to get the job done. She also was the link between the two Tierneys; hers and mine. Both girls are about the same age. It was Geri and Tierney that started my Tierney’s obsession with ScoobyDoo with that season’s water-skishow theme and movie nights at their house. I know my family will recall Geri and Tierney, as well as Erin and Mike, every holiday season when we put the skateboarding Scooby-Doo ornament, a gift from Geri to my Tierney, up high on the tree. — Adam Hammer, reporter and online content producer, St. Cloud Times


Page 6C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

My memory of Geri...

Geri, Geri, Dictionary... I had the pleasure of working with Geri for over nine years — years that were filled with lots of laughter, stories of our kids and pets, crazy Halloween costumes, a few tears along the way and some prayer requests when things got tough. One day I was moseying past Geri’s desk and she was looking something up in the well-worn dictionary that always sits on her desk, and I either asked a question or made a comment, and she proceeded to tell me how she had been christened “Geri, Geri, Dictionary” while in college. So forevermore, that’s what she became to me — in fact, I have two Geri/ Jeri friends and “Geri, Geri, Dictionary” is how I differentiate her to my immediate family (immediate family pertains to two teenage boys who probably only ever think of her as “Geri, Geri, Dictionary” or as “Erin’s mom” — it’s so hard for us moms to have our own identity sometimes!). The Albert Lea Tribune is a great place to work and is very family friendly — and because we have such a family friendly work environment, there are often times employees’ children present. Geri, just like the rest of us, often had her girls with her — sometimes just for a few minutes or sometimes a few hours. I met Erin when she was 4 1/2 years old, and we became fast buddies. Then Tierney came along, and again she hung out quite a bit in the classifieds department and we too became friends. Tierney’s favorite latest activity while hanging out by my desk was to have me text Erin whatever she told me to. Do you think Erin got annoyed with us? Both Erin and Tierney have gone through their princess stages, and Geri was quick to recognize and give her “princesses” all they needed to be caring, giving and overall terrific young ladies. They are a true tribute to a wonderful mother. Speaking of princesses ... the tiara that sits on my computer monitor at the Tribune was a gift to me from Geri and Tierney (even though Tierney wasn’t crazy about giving it up!). It

My memory of Geri... shall remain there as a reminder of my fun and courageous friend for as long as I am at the Tribune. The Tribune holds a Halloween costume contest every year and some of us go all out! Geri and I always had such fun encouraging each other’s crazy costumes. (Geri: “Swine Flew,” a pregnant nun, a blow up Sumo wrestler and many others. Me: “cereal killer,” “white trash,” “self-absorbed” — just to name a few!) Geri was the only person I would tell my costume idea to — we loved encouraging each others silly ideas! I already have this year’s idea picked out, and Geri would have loved it! The idea stemmed from something that happened in the newsroom a few days after last Halloween. Many of you have heard that Geri had a reputation ... a reputation for dancing on her desk after a big project was wrapped up in the newsroom — the “Happy Dance” was something we looked forward to seeing! Last Saturday morning, I was driving to Albert Lea and I heard the song by Mercy Me “I Can Only Imagine” and I sang along with it, thinking of and praying for my friend Geri. For those of you not familiar with the lyrics, they go like this: I can only imagine  What it will be like  When I walk  By your side  I can only imagine  What my eyes will see  When your face  Is before me  I can only imagine I can only imagine  [Chorus:] Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel  Will I dance for you Jesus or in honour of you be still  Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall  Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all  I can only imagine Geri passed on later that day. I like to think my friend Geri is dancing at the feet of Jesus — I just didn’t think it would be so soon ... Miss you much my friend! — Princess Michelle DaVeiga, classified advertising representative, Albert Lea Tribune

So many memories of Geri have been flashing in my mind these last few days. Working with her at the Tribune: She sat two desks down and one over from me in the newsroom. She was always my voice of reason. She could help me decipher all of the craziness and point me in the right direction. Whether it be to the next person to interview, the best way to tie an article together, or if I wanted any more monkey bread, I needed to act now. Time with her family: They were, are, so welcoming. Family dinners, babysitting the girls, birthday parties, ski shows, PAKET day. They just enveloped you, took care of you. Even after I left the Tribune that continued. In catch-up e-mails, surprise run-ins and monthly lunches (Jake’s was always the preferred spot), our friendship grew. GM Team meetings: While Geri was receiving chemo, Monica Fleegel and I would schedule GM Team meetings around her sessions. To the outside observer, it looked like an important meeting on our calendars, and it

My memory of Geri... was. They didn’t have to know that our important meeting was with our friend in the chemo suite and involved everything from laughing, to reading, to helping Erin make flip-flops for the Relay, to catching up on daytime TV and occasionally just sitting together if that was what was needed. I visited Geri at St. Marys Hospital a couple of times before she passed away and was able to share some of these memories with her and able to make Mike laugh a little. It wasn’t everything I wanted to say, but it was something, and when her eyelids fluttered and her brow furrowed I like to think she was laughing along with us too. At the Tribune, Geri and I were always able to shoot each other looks across the room and know what the other was thinking. So while I wasn’t able to say everything I wanted to say at St. Marys, I kept shooting her looks. Thank you. I love you. I’ll miss you. Thank you. — Jennifer Levisen, community relations specialist, Albert Lea Medical Center

My memory of Geri... One thing that was very apparent for me as I got to know Geri over the years was her love for her family and the importance of including her daughters in her day-to-day activities. I first became familiar with Geri Murtaugh several years ago. I was involved with the Albert Lea Community Theater and Geri would write play reviews and articles for the Tribune. She would usually attend evening play rehearsal to interview actors and actresses. I can seldom remember a rehearsal when she did not have her daughter Erin in tow. After joining the staff here at the Tribune, I noticed Geri enjoyed having her family here to join in different events such as helping to stuff Easter eggs for the Easter egg hunt at the mall. Or if I came in on a Saturday or was here in the evening, I would usually find

Tierney here with her mom as Geri worked. Geri was very dedicated to St. Theodore Catholic School and could be seen actively helping at the annual school auction each year. At the conclusion of her courageous battle with cancer, I suspect the most difficult part for her was leaving this amazing family that she cherished so much. I truly believe she lives on in these amazing young women and will be close to them as they make their way through life. I have come to learn that the Tribune is much more than a place to work. It is a family. You mess with one of us and you mess with all of us. Cancer has no idea what this Tribune family is capable of. We will remain vigilant to pray for a cure and raise funds to fight this horrible disease. — Catherine Buboltz, sales representative, Albert Lea Tribune

My memory of Geri...

Variables are one of the few constants working in a newsroom. Geri was one of those constants. Being new to journalism and the newspaper in 2005 and sitting directly across from her desk, I had plenty of rookie questions for her. Mostly, “What’s AP style for this?” or, “How can I possibly fit this much text in that box?” Throughout the years, I imagine she answered thousands of questions from inquisitive young reporters wanting to know where to start a story. In the search for sources in town, many times Geri was the source. She was the perfect example for young journalists. Geri had a knack for celebrations. I especially enjoyed the Murtaugh family’s “concrete slab party,” at which the family invited several guests to celebrate the installation of a new

concrete slab in their backyard. She was the unofficial potluck instigator-in-chief. Often potlucks marked the end of someone’s tenure at the paper. Most people get one send-off potluck. Going back and forth on college breaks, I was fortunate to be honored with farewell potlucks three times. In between potlucks, I could always count on frequent visits to the staff’s favorite lunchtime to the Wok n’ Roll. Geri coined the perfect term for that 2 o’clock malaise after a lunchtime Chinese buffet: “The Wok-Coma.” Geri was fortunate to have an wonderful family, and her family was fortunate to know her as a mother, wife, daughter and sister. I was fortunate to call her a friend and role model. — Nathan Cooper, education director, Sheet Metal Contractors of Iowa

My memory of Geri... I first met Geri when my dad and brother were involved in the Bayside Ski Club several years ago. It wasn’t until I started working at the Tribune, almost four years ago, that I got to know Geri more as a person. Geri taught and helped me so much at work. She seemed to always be willing and volunteering to help anyone. I remember a cold winter Saturday evening when the snow was falling heavily and I got locked out of the building. She came all the way across town to get me in. She was never the person to say no. I will never forget how she made everyone laugh with her sense of humor. She would have a witty comeback

for almost everything. I would sit and wish I could have thought of that. I admire how hard working she was and the passion she had. It seemed she always came into work even on those days she was sick. When Geri got breast cancer she managed to stay so strong and find laughter in it all. I gained so much respect for her through it and hope to one day have half her strength. Geri was always one to bring laughter and joy to the Tribune whether it was through her delicious baking, sense of humor or contagious smile. She will be missed but never forgotten. — Danielle Boss, community editor, Albert Lea Tribune

Geri McShane had a knack for ferreting out intriguing, unusual stories. Shortly after arriving in the Albert Lea Tribune newsroom in February 1988, I learned I had a gem of a city editor. People would say a few words in passing or something would catch her eye, and McShane would salt the idea away. When a slow news day arrived or the Albert Lea Tribune newsroom had a special project or when a reporter just needed a lighter story after an overload of hard news, she’d toss something from her staff ’s way. Some of the most memorable feature stories in my early career came through her. “Hey, Anne,” she would call across the Tribune newsroom, “I heard there’s a duck that thinks it’s a dog. Interested?” I was. “There’s a man in Bricelyn who’s making caskets,” she said. I went. “How about covering cowpie bingo?” she

asked another day. By this time McShane had me hooked. One hot summer day sent me to don firefighter turnout gear and participate in genuine training for a firsthand report. I went and came back five pounds lighter — and with a story. Geri McShane was generous with sharing potential leads and then generous with her time in helping craft readersatisfying features. I like to think I’m a better editor because of what I learned from her. The same day I learned that Geri had died, a new book I’ll kindly call a satirical venture landed on my desk. The work is so strange I suspect it’s a winner — or at least a story about it could be. As I called out to the newsroom, “Hey, I’ve got a quirky book here by some local guy. Any takers?” I found myself smiling in my grief and hoping my good friend is proud. — Anne Jacobson, editor, Red Wing Republican Eagle

My memory of Geri... I first met Geri in the summer of 1986 when she first started at the Tribune, where I had been working for the past year and a half. I don’t remember any of the details, but she eventually started dating one of my best friends, Mike Murtaugh, who was working with me in the advertising department. This relationship ended up in a beautiful wedding on Oct. 26, 1991, the day of the Twins exciting Game 6 win in the World Series with the Braves. We were at the Legion in Albert Lea. Whenever the Braves batted, we were dancing; when the Twins batted, we were all in front of the televisions. What a celebration we had when Puckett sent it to Game 7. When I finally decided the time was right to get married to my wife, Nancy, in 1999, Geri pulled one off

that had the entire town laughing. Working with my best man, Dan Dorman, who I believe paid for the space in the paper, Geri wrote a mock wedding announcement about our forthcoming event. My wife’s maiden name was Heck, so Geri used this to write up quite an announcement — that I was marrying a “heck of a nice gal,” and I had waited a “heck of a long time to get married,” etc. She also wrote a beautiful story on the adoption of our two children in 2006 that still brings tears to my eyes when I read it and is currently hanging in our adoption agency in Blue Earth. Thanks for so many memories, Geri. My family will love you forever. — Tom Jones, insurance agent at Strong Insurance, awards manager at Tiger City Sports

My memory of Geri... I am honored to have been able to call Geri my friend and was blessed to have her in my life. I will always remember Geri for her beautiful smile and sparkle in her eyes when she spoke of her family and kids. I remember Geri talking about all the activities that she was running her two daughters to and from. Geri was blessed to have such a wonderful and loving family and they were blessed to have such a wonderful mother and wife. I remember Geri for all the work and time she spent helping with the St. Theodore School Auction. She was always excited for this event and proud of the success. She will also be remembered for her love of baking treats for us, here at work and at ski shows and fundraisers. Geri was a fabulous baker and most famous for her monkey bread. She shared the recipe

with many, but none can compare to the ones she made. She was a selfless person who would drop everything to help someone out. I remember a few years ago a stray cat came to my house. Not being a “cat” person I was not sure what to do other than feed and provide water to this cat. Geri volunteered to come out and give the cat a bath and help with anything we needed to make this cat part of our family. This is just one of the many acts of love and kindness I saw from Geri. She was always there and willing to help. She was truly a selfless person. It is still hard to believe that she is no longer here with us. She will be forever in our hearts. Heaven just got another angel. — Kathy Johnson, graphic designer, Albert Lea Tribune


Sunday, August 15, 2010 ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Page 7C

My memory of Geri...

There is so much about Geri, the special person she was, which touched everyone who knew her. She was 10 years old when I first met her as the youngest of my future sistersin-law, and even at such a tender age, those qualities that drew people to her stood out. Geri had so many gifts and talents she selflessly shared, whether it was her music, her writing, her cooking (oh, those desserts!) or just her wonderful laughter. Of all these things, I will miss her laugh the most. All brides glow on

their wedding day, but not many tape black spots to their wedding dress because everyone knows they love cows. It was the sixth game of the ’91 World Series the day Mike and Geri were married. Between dancing, eating and congratulating the bride and groom, we snuck off to watch the Twins. We felt a little guilty about it, but, nonetheless, we were drawn to the big screen TV in the bar. By the time Kirby Puckett hit his winning homer, there was Geri in her faux cowhide gown whoop-

ing and hollering with the rest of us. She was never more beautiful. Geri and Mike entrusted Tom and me as godparents for their youngest daughter, Tierney. Being given the responsibility of helping to guide their daughter in her faith, life is such a blessing and a humbling experience all at the same time, but we enjoy living up to being her “fairly odd parents,” as Tierney has so aptly named us. There were many other brothers, sisters and friends Geri and Mike could have chosen, but it was their gift to her brother and me. I can’t think of a higher compliment to

pay someone or an honor greater than that. I admired Geri especially for her gift of putting her thoughts into words and the way she wholeheartedly embraced her career as a journalist. From the tributes written about her here and on her Caring Bridge site, I know that everyone she ever worked with, interviewed or wrote about appreciated it, too. She was my hero. The courage Geri showed during her battle with breast cancer was an inspiration to all who knew her. It didn’t define her as a person, wife or mother, but being a survivor and supporting others

was a strength she so willingly shared. After beating it the first time, it doesn’t seem fair cancer could come back and take her away from all who love her. There was so much life Geri had yet to live, to look forward to with Mike, Erin, Tierney, all of us. It’s very difficult to think or speak of Geri in the past tense, to know we won’t see her or hear her voice

that it hurts beyond words. And yet, she will be with us through her writing, photos and the precious memories of Geri we will treasure forever. Let that be her legacy, that she gave generously of her gifts to the very last and will forever do so. God bless her memory. — Betty McShane, sister in-law and former reporter for the New Richland Star-Eagle

My memory of Geri... Geri McShane Murtaugh was a wonderful woman who opened her home and her heart to many young writers who came through the Tribune. Her help with layout and editing was invaluable, but I will never forget her cookie dough brownies or the day she sang the Irish drinking song — which was

a huge hit on YouTube. She was a great editor, a wonderful writer and a fabulous woman. She took rookie writers, editors and photographers into her family and helped make Albert Lea a new home for me. Geri, you will be missed. — Sarah Kirchner, admissions counselor, Hamline University

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Geri on her third birhday.

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Page 8C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

Geri’s first Tribune article

Extension director says mediation works

Editor’s Note: This is the first known article that Geri wrote. It was published Aug. 8, 1986, the day after she started working at the Tribune.

By Geri McShane Tribune staff writer

ROCHESTER — Despite allegations that it’s a stalling tactic, mandatory farm credit mediation appears to be working, the director of the Minnesota Extension Service says. “There may be stalling tactics happening on the part of some farmers and lenders, but it has improved the communications process greatly,’’ Director Patrick Borich said. Borich was in Rochester with other Extension officials for a series of informational meetings

on mediation Thursday. Mandatory mediation provides that lenders must notify borrowers facing foreclosure of their right to mediation, and the borrowers must respond within 14 days or waive that right. From there, financial analysis, selection of a mediator and 60 days of mediation take place. “In many cases, it’s given farmers a way out of the financial jungle,” he said. “It’s possible to restructure debt. But not all can be restructured.” Borich said the process has worked to improve communication to the extent that 177 cases have been settled outside the mediation process. Also, he added, it’s a chance for both farmers and lenders to interact be-

fore a neutral party. While mediation can’t solve all problems, the alternative has allowed almost 400 farm families to continue farming since the 1986 Omnibus Farm Bill took effect on March 22, Borich said. Mediation doesn’t always lead to debt restructuring, according to the program’s coordinator Kathleen Magnum. But it isn’t necessarily intended to. “The focus of mediation is hard to define,” she said. “Some consider it a success if a farm family can remain on the farm and continue farming. Really, it is a success if there is an option to service the debt, and if not, what is the best way for the farm family to terminate operation?” Magnum said there

are in fact three possible outcomes of mediation. There can either be an impasse, where creditors resume actions at the end of the 90-day stay, a settlement, or there may be a lack of good faith. In this case, the creditor enforces the debt or the debtor files for court-supervised mediation. In some cases, creditors do not feel bound by the mediation law. Magnum said. Such is the case for the Farmers’ Home Administration and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). “They believe they are federal agencies and go by federal rules, not state rules,” Borich said. “However, I don’t know of any court challenges at

this point.” So far, the Extension service says there have been over 1,900 debtor requests for mediation since the rule went into effect. Of that number, there have been 205 mediated agreements, seven creditor objections to the agreements and 28 lack-of-good faith cases. In Freeborn County, there have been a total of 88 creditor notices of mediation served on farmers. That compares with 111 in neighboring Mower County, 49 in Waseca County and 45 in Steele County. Statewide, there have been 3,590 creditor notices served since March. A recent change in the law which allows farmers who were already in the foreclosure process

when the law took effect mediation rights with court approval was expected to put even more stress on Extension mediators. However, both said it hasn’t been a problem thus far. “It’s always been Extension procedure to accept mediation requests from debtors,” Magnum said. Borich said when the process began he was short of voluntary mediators and was overrun by requests at the beginning. He said a new staff had to be trained for mandatory mediation, and there are now 481 mediators across the state. “Both parties seem happy with the mediators. Some lenders have told me they appreciate the alternative to repossession,” he added.

Some of Geri’s coverage of the Miss America Pageant

Brenda combines good taste with practicality Wardrobe will help her look stunning wherever she goes

Editor’s Note: This is a preview article of the contestant going to the Miss America Pageant. McShane later traveled to New Jersey to cover the pageant. This was published Sunday, Aug. 19, 1990.

By Geri McShane Tribune City Editor

ALBERT LEA — Two months ago, Miss Albert Lea Brenda Armstrong became Miss Minnesota. And then the real work began. Brenda’s been busy preparing for one of the most important events of her life: The Miss America Pageant. The 19-year-old daughter

of the Rev. Frank and Meredith Armstrong will depart Aug. 25 for Atlantic City, N.J. There she’ll begin preliminary preparations for the pageant, which will be televised Sept. 8. Much of her preparation has centered on the personal interview. Brenda has gone before several mock interview teams and answered everything from silly to very intense, political questions. She’s also practiced on stage with a microphone. “I am convinced that Miss America is selected in the interview,” said Pristine Fouks Petersen, Miss Minnesota 1986. Fouks Petersen has been helping Brenda prepare for the rapidly approaching pageant. Fouks Petersen said she is sure Brenda will do well in the interviews. “She’s warm and has that cute smile with dimples,” she said. “Her nickname is sparkles,

because her eyes are a dead give-away to what she is thinking.” A contestant’s wardrobe is also important at the pageant. That’s why Brenda and the wardrobe committee began shopping just after the state pageant. Brenda received a wardrobe allowance when she was crowned Miss Minnesota and has faithfully stayed within those boundaries. “Brenda’s very practical,” said Fouks Petersen. “Before she buys anything, she asks, ‘Do I need this?’ And she’s come up with just a stunning wardrobe.” “A lot of girls spend more on the pageant than they get out of it,” said Kathy Shellum, chairwoman of the wardrobe committee. “It’s a scholarship pageant, and that’s the way Brenda has been looking at it.” Brenda said shopping for her wardrobe

Thoughts on the pageant

Editor’s Note: This was a column by Geri describing her experiences while covering the Miss America pageant in 1990. This was published Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1990.

By Geri McShane Tribune City Editor ATLANTIC CITY,

N.J. — As I sat in my seat along the runway waiting for pageant preliminaries to begin, I felt myself getting restless. I turned to the reporter on my left and said, “ I don’t care what anybody thinks. I wasn’t sent here to be an unbiased reporter. I was sent to cover one contestant.

When she comes by, I’m going to stand up and yell.” She agreed that yes, she was going to do the same for “her” contestant, and so did the people to my right and in front of me. Well, none of “our” contestants came home with the Miss America crown, but in our eyes,

Registration outfit: Brenda has chosen a long-sleeve, black knit dress with velvet bow and rhinestones. Parade outfit: Brenda will wear a gown she and her sister, Amy, Miss Albert Lea 1989, purchased together for local and state pageants. The gown features royal blue and silver sequins. “The parade on Friday night is really a fun time,” said Fouks Petersen. “The girls really do feel like royalty.” The

parade down the Boardwalk is followed by a fireworks display over the Atlantic Ocean. Cocktail dresses: Brenda has purchased two new dresses for evening parties. One is a long-sleeved, teal sequined dress from Loehmann’s Plaza at Bloomington. The other is a deep purple, twopiece crepe dress. Swimsuit: This year, all contestants in the Miss America Pageants will wear one-piece white swimsuits. Brenda’s suit was designed by Cheryl Preuit, Miss America 1990. Fouks Petersen said the purpose of the swimsuit competition is not only to make sure contestants are in top physical condition, but that they can feel confident in a very difficult situation. “I don’t think they’ll ever take it (the swimsuit competition) away,” she said. “That’s what it

started out with.” Interview outfit: The judges will get their first impressions of Brenda in a goldstudded, royal blue knit suit from Dayton’s Oval Room. Talent gown: The two-piece gown is made of black velvet. It’s strapless with scalloped edges and trimmed with gold rhinestones. The hemline is cut up in the front, to allow Brenda to reach her harp pedals easily. Production gown: Brenda has chosen a black gown with a large, hot pink satin bow from Frank Murphy’s, St. Paul. Evening gown: Brenda will wear a peach silk gown trimmed with pearls and rhinestones. The creation by Jeannie Charpentier of Russellville, Ark., features long sleeves, a high neck, detailed waist and front slit.

they’re winners. Getting to the pageant in itself is a major accomplishment. Thousands of young women compete in local and state pageants; only 50 make it to the national pageant. The caliber of talent and personality is great among all 50. I view the opportunity of getting to cover the pageant as a once-in-alifetime chance. Even if we had another local winner from Freeborn County next year, we’d have to let someone else cover it. I can’t take all the good assignments. And to think when Brenda was crowned Miss Minnesota that I was only joking when I said, “Somebody should go out to Atlantic City.” The next thing I knew, I was getting quotes on airplane tickets and applying for press credentials. It was exciting to be there at press conferences each morning to

hear Leonard Horn, chairman of the Miss America Pageant board, speak on what was new. He’d bring in a special guest each day: Miss America 1990 Debbye Turner, the preliminary judges, Bert Parks, Gary Collins and Phyllis George. I don’t see people like that in Albert Lea every day. But the trip wasn’t without its frustrations. I chose not to rent a car because of the challenges of parking in Atlantic City and having to walk alone. So for the first few days, I relied on Brenda’s parents, Frank and Meredith Armstrong, the hotel shuttle bus and public transportation. It was even tougher finding one-hour photo processing. One place I found was a few blocks off the bus route and right in the middle of construction. Then I had to get my photos back to the post office

to ship them overnight express. However, when I was there for the second day with my envelope of prints, I was informed that overnight meant two days from Atlantic City to Albert Lea. When the photos did arrive, they didn’t match any of the stories I was sending back. Which brings me to another dilemma. With press credentials came the privilege of using the press hospitality room, which was supposed to provide a place for reporters to work. Actually, it was just a place to sit and interview contestants. There were no computers, typewriters, telephones or fax machines. That left me in my hotel room with a pad of paper and a pen. When I did finish my stories, I made a beeline for the hotel’s fax machine, which no night clerk knew how to use. I could come back at 8 a.m., they told me. Meanwhile, the newsroom crew here was waiting for my stories. And waiting. And waiting. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I got to go, and I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Brenda each night. She was faithful and kept her appointments. She knew people at home were waiting to hear what was happening. After the final night of pageantry was over, she said, “Thank you so much for all you’ve done.” I said I should be thanking her. Because without her going as far as she did, I know I never would have been able to cover the Miss America Pageant. But it sure is good to be home.

has been fun, but at the same time it’s a lot of work to find just the right outfit. “I can’t wear everything because I’m so short (5 foot, 4 inches),” she said. The outfits must be something both Brenda and the wardrobe committee like.

Here are some highlights of Brenda’s Atlantic City wardrobe:

Ashley Great smiles... less time.

Dean P. Leonard, DDS, MS

Skyline Plaza •  Albert Lea, MN • 377-0222


Sunday, August 15, 2010 ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Page 9C

A column by Geri Too many meetings

Editor’s Note: Geri rarely wrote opinion pieces while at the Tribune, which is a shame because in the following column written by Geri her humor is quite apparent. This was published on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1995.

By Geri McShane Tribune staff writer

Meetings, meetings. The longer I’m in the business, the more my mind is boggled by the

number of meetings there are. There are business meetings, staff meetings, church meetings, club meetings, meetings of groups of clubs, official meetings of government bodies and chance meetings. And that’s just to name a few. And each meeting is as different as the people who are present. Meetings generally aren’t my favorite activity. Too many things can bog them down. They aren’t as bad if there’s an agenda that’s adhered to. But too many times, a wrench gets thrown in even the most

organized leader’s plans, the meeting drags on and people lose interest. That’s where my dislike for meetings gets thrown in. Especially bad are regional-type meetings where various reports have to be given. Some people should be commended on the way they state their business and sit down. Others seem to need lessons on stating the point once, asking if there are any questions and letting it go at that. It’s the letting it go that confuses some, and they find the need to restate the message — again and again.

OK, so a lot of these people have no formal training in public speaking. That’s fine. Everyone understands that. That’s why less is more when it comes to speeches at meetings. We heard it all in the first couple minutes of the speech. After that, I find myself doodling on my pad of paper. And I’m not artistically inclined. In my job, I like situations where I have a little control. Like oneon-one interviews or discussions with small groups of people. We know when the conversation is finished, and if the person being

interviewed wants to elaborate on something, that works well. We’re not waiting for a half dozen reports from other people. Time is generally not a concern. As we make our transitions here in the newsroom, I’m looking forward to covering fewer meetings and doing more one-on-one work. That’s the real reason I got into newspapers in the first place: to meet people. A person doesn’t really get to meet people covering meetings. But an acquaintance, a friendship, can form during a one-on-one interview.

One of Geri’s first mugshots while working at the Tribune. The length of my column is a little on the short side. But, as it turns out, I’ve got a meeting to attend.

One of Geri’s favorite interviewees: Ansel Thostenson

Man, horses share special relationship follow the rows. The exception to that is when Thostenson plants corn. He uses a pattern known as square-planted, or wirechecked. “You have to keep the wire just so straight,” he said. This planting pattern enables him to cultivate in two directions, instead of just one. A neighbor regularly jokes with him about the way he plants corn. “He says, ‘You don’t know how to plant corn.’ I say ‘I think I’m the only one who knows how to plant corn,’” Thostenson joked. Thostenson also cuts corn in a fashion to which the modern farmer is no longer accustomed. He uses a binder, which farmers used in the days before silos. With the binder, corn has to be about half green. A lever puts the binder in gear, and a cutter bar cuts off the corn stalk. The corn stalks are carried to the binder head, where they are packed until there is enough for a bundle. Then a trip sets a knotting apparatus in motion, and the bundle is firmly bound with twine. Finally, it is kicked out and laid on the ground. Thostenson puts 25 bundles in a shock. After this week’s work, he has 14 shocks standing in his yard. These will be used to feed the

horses over the winter. Larger ears of corn are taken out of the bundles and fed to the horses at night, he said. Thostenson said his father had a corn binder before he was born. The one he has, which he estimates to be at least 65 years old, was found at a farm auction north of Hayward. Finding equipment is one challenge horse farmers continually face. Having a good blacksmith in Manchester helps considerably, Thostenson said, and he continues to attend farm sales in the hope of finding something he can use. The fly nets he has on his horses were a particular challenge to find, he added. Thostenson’s horses are all for business, unlike many whose owners have them strictly for competition. He hasn’t ever gone in for plowing competitions, he said. “My horses have to work for a living.” It certainly isn’t because he doesn’t know how to plow. “I started plowing when I was 8. There were six horses on the gang plow, and I’d plow our 280 acres, then go to the neighbor’s. I plowed from thrashing time until the corn was picked,” he said. Today, Thostenson usually has someone else plow his corn stalks under with a tractor. “You really need a

body had driven a car between two trees. It Continued from Front Page was a long distance from home.” After working at the Cain said for a time, Waseca County News, Geri lived the farthest Geri began at the Albert away from the Twin Cities hub of the women Lea Tribune on Aug. 7, 1986. in the group, so they Over the years there, many made visits to Geri worked first as a Albert Lea for special reporter and progressed occasions. to city editor, editor, “Our group rememlifestyles editor, then bers Geri’s smile, rich assistant editor. alto voice, melodious She used her maiden laughter, her love of name, McShane, for her fun, and mostly, her byline and could often being involved in, if not be found writing stories instigating, table-top dancing at the weddings about arts, entertainment, religion and even of the college friends’ other people similar to group,” she said. herself who were batThe dances were a tling cancer or illness. highlight at all eight of She handled a large the friends’ weddings. share of the pagination “Each of us as a bride responsibilities, and a danced with these lot of her work entailed college friends on the taking submitted matetables in our various rial from readers and Minnesota hometowns,” getting them into print. Cain said. “One time, She was also a comthe tables broke shortly mon face of coverage after some of us got on.” After graduation, Geri during the Freeborn County Fair. went to work at the During her earlier Waseca County News. years at the Tribune Pat McShane, anGeri met her husband, other of Geri’s sisters, Mike. recalled an experience Mike said he worked from Geri’s time at this in advertising when newspaper. Geri started there, and She said when Geri there were a couple worked for this paper, other 20- to 30-yearshe had to take the olds working in the pager home for the newsroom. weekend quite often. If Many would end up in it went off, she had to the newsroom fairly late get up in the middle of working on things, and the night and go take on a couple of occasions, pictures. they would go to Dairy “One night about 1:30 Queen, he said. He and she was headed down Geri ended up seeing the stairs and dad was more and more of each just headed up to bed,” other, and he finally McShane said. “They asked Geri to a date to went together. Some-

a Minnesota Festival Theater play on June 17, 1987. “From that night on there weren’t very many days that passed that we weren’t together,” he said. “Once we started going out, we seemed to hit it off. We enjoyed going to plays and going to movies.” They got married Oct. 26, 1991, at St. Theodore Catholic Church. About five years later, on Oct. 18, 1995, their first daughter, Erin, was born, and then on June 12, 2002, their second daughter, Tierney, was born. Geri quickly got involved in their organizations and school.

Editor’s Note: Geri did a few articles on Ansel Thostenson of rural Manchester, and loved that he still farmed with horses. This article was published Sunday, Sept. 18, 1988.

By Geri McShane Tribune City Editor

MANCHESTER — While farming with horses may seem like a lot of work for the ordinary farmer, one area man finds it to be therapeutic. Ansel Thostenson of rural Manchester is still farming 40 acres with horse-drawn machinery. He rents out the rest of his land. “He has a bad back,” said his wife, Helen. “The doctor said if he sits down, he’ll stay there.” So Thostenson continues to farm. The smooth ride he gets from his horse-drawn equipment is preferred to the jarring effect a tractor can have, he said. Besides, he’s experimented with tractors, and he simply prefers the control he has with horses. It’s also a lot more relaxing, he said. His Belgians are a lot quieter than a tractor. “You can hear the birds sing out there,” he said. Horse-drawn machinery doesn’t require the type of concentration that driving a tractor takes, either. Thostenson only has to hold the reins and his horses

♦ Geri

Community involvement

With her daughters’ involved in the Bayside Ski Club and Albert Lea Figure Skating Club, Geri was an active parent volunteer in these two clubs. Mike Johnson, president of the Bayside Ski Club, said though Geri never skied herself, she was a big supporter of the club, with Mike, Erin and Tierney all a part of it. “With them in the club, she was out there most nights,” Johnson said. Geri also helped with the food trailer at the club’s shows, during fundraising times, and when docks and lifts needed to be installed or removed. “There were a lot of little things that added up to be Geri,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Freeborn County Historical Museum

A photo of Ansel Thostenson using horses to farm. gang plow rather than a sulky,” he said. “It’s too hard on the horses otherwise.” There is a camaraderie present between Thostenson and his horses that one can’t find with a farmer and his tractor. His Belgians — Molly, Dolly and Granny — greet him as he enters the barn. Then they patiently wait their turns as he curries them. And for a little feed and an encouraging pat, all the fieldwork gets done. Thostenson has had

Molly and Dolly, who are both 9 years old, for about three years. Granny, who is 14, only joined the operation earlier this year. She was a replacement for Babe, a Belgian Thostenson had had for about 10 years. At the age 19, she was getting pretty stiff, he said. One can’t just go out and buy a Belgian. Individual horses have been trained to work in the center, on the left or on the right. And the tallest horse always goes on the right side, he said.

For Thostenson, there is also a certain amount of pride built into working with his horses. He keeps the horses groomed and the equipment cleaned and painted. He gets plenty of visitors each year, and many just drop by to seem him do fieldwork. He has also driven his team and wagon for Budd’s Tree Farm on weekends before Christmas. It all keeps him going. And it keeps him young, Helen said.

“She was always quick to offer to volunteer with whatever needed to be done. It was her giving spirit.” He noted that people would sign up specifically to help with the docks and lifts on the days Geri was going to make lunch. She always made lunch fun, he said. In addition to the Bayside Ski Club and the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club, Geri also served as a past board member and secretary of The Children’s Center and past member of the Lakeview Lions. She was a lover of animals, and she enjoyed helping the Freeborn County Humane Society. While she loved writing stories about the organization, she also took a personal interest in the animals. She and her family adopted two of their three cats, Lydia and Bill, and their dog, Bacon, from the nonprofit. “She was a great advocate for the Humane Society,” said local Director Christa Stieler. “Any time we called her and asked ‘Geri, we need to do something, promote something,’ she was right there.” She made it a point to do an annual Lifestyles story called the “12 Cats of Christmas,” including 12 cats that were up for adoption with the Humane Society. “That was always a big deal with her,” Stieler said. “She meant a lot— and not just for her wanting to help us.

It became more of a personal thing.” However, what was maybe most important to Geri, as was evident through her own actions, were her daughters. Her whole life revolved around them. “She was a good role model for the girls,” Mike said, “She was a woman who has had a career, been a good writer and been active in the community, in church, in their schools and with the organizations they’re involved with.”

“It’s just devastating to have a friend who’s diagnosed, especially when you have an understanding of what that entails,” Wasson said. The two created a strong bond through their common experience. After Geri’s recovery, Wasson helped Geri get the training to be a mentor for an organization called Mentor for Hope, which has been set up to mentor people who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Geri was just starting to get more involved with this organization, when more bad news came in July. On July 22, after several visits to Albert Lea Medical Center in the previous weeks because she was experiencing vision problems and a headache, Geri was taken to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. There, doctors told her she had cancer in her spine, pelvis and liver, which likely spread from her breast cancer. While waiting for further test results, Geri had a respiratory crash on July 30, prior to going in for an MRI. On Aug. 3, doctors found that she had suffered from multiple strokes, and on Aug. 7, she died peacefully surrounded by family. It was on her 24th anniversary of working at the Tribune. Her funeral was scheduled for Friday, Aug. 13.

Her last few years

In 2008, Geri was diagnosed with breast cancer and became part of a club that no one ever wants to be involved in. Regardless, she remained positive and upbeat. After undergoing a double mastectomy, along with radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Geri appeared to be on the road to recovered health. Albert Lea resident Amy Wasson, who is also a breast cancer survivor, said she used to stop by and visit with Geri during her treatments. The two had met during an interview that Geri conducted for Daffodil Days. “I remember her really trying to understand what it was I had gone through so she could tell my story,” Wasson said. Within a year, Geri received her own diagnosis.


Page 10C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

More of Geri’s stories

Together, helping others Otto and Charlene Becker recognized as Freeborn County’s Outstanding Seniors

Editor’s Note: Geri frequently did stories on the outstanding seniors who were honored at the Freeborn County Fair. This was published Sunday, July 31, 2005.

By Geri McShane Tribune Lifestyles Editor

Otto and Charlene Becker are the first to admit they aren’t “joiners.” “Probably the only organization we’ve joined is the Y,” Charlene said. But that hasn’t stopped them from helping many other organizations over the years. For that reason, the Beckers have been named Freeborn County’s Outstanding Senior Citizens. They will be honored with a special program at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Freeborn County Fair. They’ll also be among 108 Outstanding Senior award winners from counties throughout the state to be recognized Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Minnesota State Fair. The couple was very surprised by the honor. “It’s something I never would have expected,” Otto said. The Beckers met and married at Great Lakes. They are veterans of the Navy in

World War II. They built their home in Albert Lea in 1956. They did most of the work themselves. They have two children: son, Jim, and daughter, Pat, and three grandchildren. It was while their children were growing up that they began volunteering. Both Otto and Charlene were Cub masters, Scout leaders and Girl Scout leaders. Charlene was the school’s PTA president for many years. Otto was a Scout master for 19 years. Otto worked at Wilson’s and Charlene at Gordon Electric. Together they ran Becker Sanitation. Charlene went back to college while in her late 50s and graduated with a double major in anthropology and gerontology after seven years of working full time and taking classes. “So many young people helped me,” she said. “I rode to classes with many people from here.” She then became a social worker for Freeborn County. It was through Charlene’s studies that she became passionate about archaeological digs. She’s served as a volunteer on digs in New Mexico and at Federal Dam in northern Minnesota through the University of Iowa. Through the

state historical society, she also helped with a dig at Myre-Big Island State Park. There was also an excavation on a Freeborn County farm in 1995 with an exciting discovery. “When Otto saw how much fun I was having on these digs, he started auditing classes,” Charlene said. Throughout their married life, the Beckers have traveled extensively throughout 56 countries. Some of these travels have been as lay missionaries. They became interested in the “Volunteers in Parks” program where they would spend one to three months in a national park where they were tutors and mentors. Otto did maintenance and mechanics work and showed the men how to use a lathe. Charlene taught cooking and quilting and how to use a spindle. As Winter Texans, the Beckers also volunteer their time at food banks and in schools in the Lone Star State. Through the YMCA, Charlene was a camp director and Otto was a swimming instructor for the mentally and physically handicapped. One of his students went on to compete in the National Special Olympics. The Beckers

Photo by Geri McShane

Otto and Charlene Becker were honored at the Freeborn County Fair as Freeborn County’s Outstanding Senior Citizens in 2005. have also helped with the Youth in Government program and the trips taken to Washington, D.C. They are members of Salem Lutheran Church in Albert Lea. Otto has volunteered his carpentry talents to the church. Both Otto and Charlene are active with the Freeborn County Historical Society and Senior Resources. Earlier this year, the couple was honored with the Albert Lea Sertoma Club’s Service to Mankind Award, which recognizes dedicated volunteers who give endless hours of their time and

talents toward making their communities better places to live. Otto also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2004. Otto and Charlene were nominated for the Outstanding Senior Citizens awards by Beth Spande, program director of Senior Resources of Freeborn County. Of Otto, she wrote, “He is, quite simply, a delight to have around. When the Audubon Science Center or the Freeborn County Historical Society or his church needs a carpenter to construct something special, they know to call on Otto to

build what they need. He is willing to put in long periods of work if necessary. Wherever he is, he is willing to help others.” Of Charlene, she wrote, “She is such an inspiration to younger people. Her curiosity and willingness to learn and try new things are infectious. ... She began a new career at a time when her peers were retiring. She volunteered all her adult life starting when she joined the U.S. Navy at age 19, continuing through her child-raising years and into her 80s. Wherever she is, she is willing to help others.”

‘The Lord’s given me this time’

Editor’s note: Geri always could write a solid lead, especially for feature stories. Before and after her experience with breast cancer, she wrote many feature stories about people who suffered from diseases. This one published Dec. 6, 2009, in the Lifestyles section. The headline was “The Lord’s given me this time.”

By Geri McShane assistant editor

For as long as he could remember, Duwayne Kirchner was always being diagnosed and treated for bronchitis. But it wasn’t until he was 49 — at the top of his game in the insurance field — when he was finally diagnosed with the real source of his problems: Alpha-1 lung disease. “I got a letter telling me what I had. It said there was no treatment. I put the letter

away,” he recalled. He continued to work six more years, until a doctor told him he could stop working and take care of himself, or he could die. “To me, that wasn’t a choice,” Kirchner recalled. “The stress got to be too much,” he said. “At 55 I had to walk away from 1,500 clients.” Kirchner’s brother also has the disease and was tested for it after Duwayne was diagnosed. Two of their three sisters are carriers of the disease, and the third was not affected. Alpha-1 is an antitrypsin deficiency that is passed from parents to their children through their genes. According to the website, alphaone.org, the condition may result in serious lung or liver disease at various ages in life. For each trait a person inherits, there are usually two genes and

one gene comes from each parent. People with Alpha-1 have received two defective antitrypsin genes — one from their mother and one from their father. Alpha-1 occurs when there is a lack of a protein in the blood called alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT, that is provided by the liver. The main function of AAT is to protect the lungs from inflammation caused by infection and inhaled irritants such as tobacco smoke. “It affects the gene that helps clean the lungs out,” said Kirchner — hence the reason he was always being treated for bronchitis. Kirchner’s disease is complicated by diabetes and an erratic heartbeat. He said he is grateful neither of his sons were affected by it. Even though he takes care of himself, he still gets infections about twice a year, he

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said. He knows other people who have them monthly, he added. “Duwayne is not a complainer,” said his wife, Margie. “I usually know when I have it (an infection),” he said. Because he was in the insurance business, he had the foresight to purchase an extra health insurance supplement. Treatment is very expensive, he said, estimating the disease has cost him and insurance companies more than $5 million over 18 1/2 years. For a time in 1991, he was actually in a wheelchair. He said he doesn’t go out a lot because it’s hard traveling with a 50-pound oxygen tank. “That’s OK, because he’s got a wife who loves to stay at home,” Margie said. Kirchner takes some 18 different drugs and supplements, receives regular intravenous therapy and has been on oxygen since August of 1999. He walks on a treadmill regularly and remains active at Zion Lutheran Church. He lost 100 pounds 17 years ago. “It’s not a death sentence,” he said of the disease he was diagnosed with more than 20 years ago. “You do what you can and stay involved. “The Lord’s given me this time. I’m making the most of it,” Kirchner added. Since he’s around the house a lot, he learned to cook. His specialties are homemade soups (vegetable

10

Photo by Geri McShane

Geri took this photo of Duwayne Kirchner standing in his kitchen in December of 2009. beef and chicken noodle). He also enjoys baking. Kirchner said his grandchildren, Landon and Kaedyn, also keep him going. “It’s by the grace of God and the faith I have in Jesus Christ that I’m still here,” he said. It’s been estimated that about one in every 2,500 Americans have Alpha-1. Kirchner said he knows there are other people in the community with

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the disease, but because of privacy laws, their names cannot be released to him. He’s previously been part of a regional support group for people with Alpha-1, and would like to see one going again. The nearest one is in the Twin Cities. “My brother in Wisconsin is part of a very active support group,” he added. Anyone with the disease who would like to be part of a support group is asked to call Kirchner at 377-2120. “It’s a chance to share what you know and to learn that it’s a not disease that will kill. What people need is information,” Kirchner said. He is in touch regularly with the Alpha-1 coordinator at Mayo Clinic and has a toll-free informational line to call for information.


Sunday, August 15, 2010 ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Page 11C

More photos of Geri and her family

Mike and Geri at the beach the summer before their wedding in 1991.

Mike, Erin and Geri pictured in Las Vegas, Nev.

Geri with the hot toy of the era, a Rat Fink.

Geri is pictured in Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., with her father, Joseph, sister Colleen and brother Joe.

Before school with brother Kevin, 9. Geri was 11.

Geri pictured in 1962. She was not yet a year old.

To: Hopeful donor From: Scott Schmeltzer RE: My friend Geri Murtaugh

Geri’s sister Deb holds their brother Kevin while 2-year-old Geri plants a kiss. In the background is the family dog, Chuck. My friend Geri Murtaugh recently passed away because of cancer. It was the second time Geri had to battle cancer in the last three years as two years ago she had to have a mastectomy because of breast cancer. This time her cancer was in her brain, spine, liver and pelvis. Geri was a fighter, and her family (Husband Mike, Daughters Erin-age 14, and Tierney-age 7) are fighters, but we want to help them in their fight against cancer. We want to let Geri’s family know we love them and so we will be hosting a silent and live auction on September 16, 2010 from 5 until 8 p.m. at Wedgewood Cove Golf Course. This auction is to raise money to help offset the costs that the family has had since this diagnosis. We need your help in the donation of silent and live auction items. Anything you can do that would help us provide more funds for the family is welcomed. If you would like to help, please drop off or send your auction item to: Geri Murtaugh Cancer Fund C/O-Scott Schmeltzer Albert Lea Tribune 808 W. Front St. Albert Lea, MN 56007 (Or if you need us to pick up item, please call me at 1-507-379-3420) We also set up an account for anyone wanting to donate money directly. It is: Geri Murtaugh Cancer Fund Farmers State Bank 1452 West Main St. Albert Lea, MN 56007 Thanks you so much for your generosity and help.

Scott Schmeltzer Publisher Albert Lea Tribune scott.schmeltzer@albertleatribune.com

Geri dressed up as Swine Flew for Halloween at work in 2009.


Page 12C ♦ Albert Lea Tribune ♦ Sunday, August 15, 2010

Geri’s last article for the Tribune

Kids of all ages love ACT’s ‘The Music Man’

Photos by Geri McShane

Geri took these photos of a rehearsal for “The Music Man” shortly before she was hospitalized. Covering the arts was just one of her strengths as a writer.

Albert Lea Community Theater opens an American classic

Editor’s note: Geri was not feeling well and had left work early a few days in a row. She was on the hook for writing a story and a review of Albert Lea Community Theatre’s “The Music Man.” She came to work and wrote her story and prepared her photos. Later, it turned out, the review would be her last story. It printed on Page 3 of the Thursday, July 15, edition. That same work week, she never stayed at the Tribune for a full day. She missed some days entirely; on others, she would try, but after about an hour, she would need her husband, Mike, to come get her.

By Geri McShane assistant editor

There’s something almost magical about a well-done production of “The Music Man.” The high school guidance counselor played the con artist with a good heart when he was a high school student in Lake Mills. Nine years ago, he had the opportunity to play the same role in a Mason City, Iowa, production. “The Music Man” has really been a part of my life since high school,” Brad Grotewold said. Harold Hill is a fun

character with a devilish side. “But he’s also lovable. I think I’m probably kind of like Harold,” Grotewold said. The Albert Lea Community Theatre production of “The Music Man” opens Thursday at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. Steve Kinney of Austin is directing the show. Norrine Jensen is the musical director. The Meredith Willson musical classic tells the story of fast-talking salesman Harold Hill taking the town of River City, Iowa, by storm with his plan to sell musical instruments. Along the way, his plans take an unexpected turn when he meets Marian the Librarian, played by Aimee Germann. Germann admits she’s always wanted to play Marian, ever since she was in middle school and the high school in her community did the show. She said her character is a bit stuck-up, something she hopes she’s not. She works at the State Bank of Bricelyn and majored in vocal performance in college in Kentucky. This is her first community theater production since moving to Minnesota almost two years ago. This is Kinney’s

Geri was often allowed in to dress rehearsals to preview and review the shows before they were open to the public. first opportunity to direct this show, but he admits he’s always wanted to. It’s a play full of charming characters, rousing marches, barbershop music and sentimental ballads. It’s a family-friendly show, he added. Because the theater decided to try producing its musical in the summer instead of winter, spring or fall, there were ample actors trying out. “It was the first time in a long time I didn’t have to call around to fill roles,” Kinney said.

He’s very pleased with the cast, he said. There are people in supporting roles who have leadingrole voices. “People fell into good niches,” the director said, adding a group came to him asking to be the barbershop quartet and another group wanted to be the Pick-a-Little ladies. Kinney also said people are excited to be part of the chorus in a show like this. “I love to use choruses,” Kinney said. “They’re underrated, underused and ignored. But in

The cast of “The Music Man” sings during a dress rehearsal before the show opened.

community theater, I treat them as a major character. I try to use them more than they’ve actually been written into the show.” Jensen actually played Mrs. Paroo when the theater did the show back in the early 1970s. She played the role again in 2008 in Owatonna. She said the music for this show is challenging, but one she’s enjoying. In addition to Grotewold and Germann, the play includes Zack Roberts, Derek Drescher, Roger

Truax, Jim Broberg and Jim Norman as the traveling salesmen; Brian Mattson as Charlie Cowell; Paul Burger as the conductor; David Larson as Mayor Shinn; Jim Broberg as Ewart Dunlop; Bill Buege as Oliver Hix; Jim Norman as Jacey Squires; Roger Truax as Olin Britt; Gordy Handeland as Marcellus Washburn; Lucas George as Tommy Djilas; Pat Parsons as Mrs. Paroo; Carine Rofshus as Amaryllis; Noah Karge as Winthrop Paroo; Roxanne Irons as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn; Macy Paul as Zaneeta Shinn; Grace Chalmers as Gracie Shinn; Joan Muschler as Alma Hix; Jean Aamodt as Maud Dunlop; Roxanne Ehrich as Ethel Toffelmier; Carol Larson as Mrs. Squires; and Paul Burger as Constable Locke. The townspeople are Jill Nelson, Sandra Jimenez, Staci Waltman, Jean Aamodt, Emily George, Annmarie Caporale, Kelli Hanson, Katelyn Hendrickson, Angie Schmitt, Claire Ellis, Riley Jimenez, Justine Nelson, Elynn Johnson, Anna Andersen, Gabe Irons, Dane Brownlow, Ryan Nelson, Erik Theusch, Jaxon Heilman, Jack Waltman and Levi Miller. Set design is by Steve Kinney with production assistance by John Fure. Karen Szymanowski is stage manager with Crystal Schatz assisting. Costumes are by Rosalie Truax.


Geri Murtaugh Tribune