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Section B • Friday, December 30, 2011 • Albert Lea Tribune

Child’s tragic death tops the year in news for area By Albert Lea Tribune If 2010 was unusual in how it had so much in terms of major news stories — tornadoes, floods, scandals — compared to most years, then 2011 in the Albert Lea area was unusual in how it had so much less than a normal year. It was the yin to 2010’s yang. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have news. Here are the top 10 stories of 2011 for the Albert Lea area as voted upon by the Albert Lea Tribune’s news staff.

1.

Pickup kills 7-year-old girl near Kensett

No one gets into journalism to write news like the sentence that appeared on the Albert Lea Tribune website the morning of May 10 and in the print edition the next day: “A 7-yearold girl was struck and killed by a truck Tuesday morning as she walked across the road to board a Northwood-Kensett school bus.” Near 7:45 a.m. that day, Kadyn Jade Halverson began another day by crossing Worth County Road S52 at her babysitter’s house to get on a school bus. The smiley, bubbly, blue-eyed blonde girl loved to go to school. The lights were flashing on the bus. The stop arm was extended. But a driver of a red 2002 Chevy Silverado pickup blew through the stop arm, hit the girl sending her 60 feet into a ditch, then continued on. The suspect, apprehended later, was Aaron Gunderson, a 31-year-old man from Northwood. Her aunt said: “She was always excited to go and she liked doing her homework, too. She was the happiest, most energetic little girl. She was always excited to see everyone. There were lots of hugs and kisses.” In July, dozens of people gathered in Northwood at the high school track for a candlelight vigil. People recalled how the girl liked riding on farm equipment or how she put on puppet shows. A reverend said Kadyn never waited to tell people caring or loving words. In September, Gunderson was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an injury accident resulting in death. The court documents alleged he was driving at 60 mph at the time and said he tested positive for marijuana use. The investigation found he had more than 3,000 feet to notice the bus and witnesses said he reportedly stopped for a moment, then fled. He was headed to a place 1 1/2 miles south and west of the scene. There, he spoke with a friend, investigators said. He told the man he had hit a deer when he passed a school bus and said he “hoped it was not a kid.” He also told the man he had an eye disorder and ought not be driving. Gunderson pleaded not guilty to the charges. In November, he asked for a change of venue to a court outside of Worth

Jake Rajewsky/The Globe Gazette

A 7-year-old Worth County girl was killed May 10 by a hit-and-run driver as she prepared to get on the school bus in rural Kensett.

Submitted photo

Kadyn Halverson with her mother, Kari Halverson, and with Ryan Meyer of Kensett.

Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Spc. Shaun Willaby drives the new MaxxPro Plus MRAP, or Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicle, in November at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Soldiers from Delta Company put on their gear after platoon leaders checked over everyone’s equipment in May. The soldiers, many from the Albert Lea area, were heading out to a training at one of the ranges set up at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. County. In the week before Christmas, the judge ordered a hearing for Jan. 6 to discuss a possible plea bargain in the case. Residents dedicated a memorial in September near the Northwood swimming pool.

2.

Guard deploys to Kuwait The Minnesota National Guard announced on Jan. 23 that it would prepare for its secondlargest deployment since World War II. It would send more than 2,400 members to Iraq and

Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Pfc. Aaron Enderson, of Hayward, sits in his room one night in November at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

Kuwait. They were to provide base and convoy security as the United States begins its drawdown of troops in Iraq. But first, it said, they would go to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin in May for training. And that’s just what happened. Also, the Albert Lea community gathered to prepare to support families. The American Red Cross offered a class on coping with deployments. And the Albert Lea unit of the National Guard — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division — held a change of command ceremony in April. Capt. Sam Andrews passed command to Capt. Steven Wayne. On May 31, nearly 600 people attended a deployment ceremony at the Albert Lea Armory. Hugs were visible nearly everywhere. The Patriot Guard arrived to escort the colors. Speakers included state Rep. Rich Murray. The soldiers departed for Fort McCoy, and in late June, the Albert Lea Tribune sent reporter Kelli Lageson to Fort McCoy to report on their training. They trained on gunnery skills, rifle

marksmanship, Mideastern cultural awareness, Arabic language and negotiating, among other tasks. Before the soldiers left for Kuwait in mid-July there was a family picnic. The civic organization, Serving Our Troops, served soldiers and family members a free steak dinner. And a new group called the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of Albert Lea was working to make itself better known. The group focuses on assisting family members while soldiers are away. Finally, in August, the last wave of the 2,400 departed. In October, the Tribune told its readers that it would send Lageson to Kuwait. She would fly from Minneapolis to Kuwait City on Nov. 4 and go to a base away from the city in the desert. There, she would stay for a week and produce stories, photos, videos and blog entries for the Tribune and its sister paper, the Austin Daily Herald. In that week in November, she gave readers insight into where soldiers slept, the work they performed, the risks they

4Continued


Page 2B • Albert Lea Tribune • Friday, December 30, 2011 2011 YEAR IN REVIEW took when they ventured into Iraq, the medical care they received, the places in which they stayed fit and the mail they received, among other topics. Readers absorbed profiles on some of the soldiers and learned where they were from and the challenges of being a soldier in the Mideast. One of the soldiers, Sgt. Thomas Estes, came home for two weeks during the holidays and surprised his children in a Northwood, Iowa, classroom. Tammy, his wife, set up the surprise after finding out when her husband would be home on leave. While the U.S. military has left Iraq — meaning National Guard don’t make trips over the border anymore — the military force remains in Kuwait. Delta Company along with the rest of the Minnesota National Guard units are hoping Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune to return to the States in Sgt. Brian Tart, standing, and Staff Sgt. David Guldager, work to replace the rear axle of an MRAP, or Mine Resistant early May. Armor Protected vehicle, in November at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

3.

a prescription drug for restless legs syndrome that causes a side effect of compulsive behaviors such as gambling. The federal prosecutor said the case wasn’t about addiction — it was about theft. She reported to the federal women’s prison in Alderson, W.Va., in

Ex-commissioner Linda Tuttle sent to prison

On Aug. 30, U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty sentenced former Freeborn County Commissioner Linda TuttleOlson to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for stealing more than $1 million from the escrow accounts in her business, Albert Lea Abstract Co. And she was ordered to pay full restitution of $1.32 million, though her lawyer and even victims in the case wondered how she would ever pay it. Tuttle, through tears, apologized to the judge, the victims and her friends and family prior to the order and said she would serve the sentence that was given. The sentence came after Tuttle, 60, in April pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, a felony, as part of a plea agreement between her lawyer and the U.S. At-

September, the same prison where media mogul Martha Stewart spend time behind bars. Following Tuttle’s release from prison, she will be on supervised release for three years with the U.S. Probation Office and must adhere to a long list of conditions. The conditions includ-

ed committing no crimes, having no controlled substances, not possessing firearms or ammunition, cooperating with requests for DNA samples and participating in a psychological counseling program. Tuttle will be prohibited from opening new lines of credit without prior approval and from taking on any fiduciary responsibilities without prior approval. Doty also ordered she not participate in any gambling and not go into casinos. This includes online gambling, charitable gambling and even the lottery. The search of her business and her initial arrest happened in June 2010.

4.

Ex-city manager sentenced; new manager hired All the Albert Lea City Council wanted to do last year was to find a replacement for Victoria Simonsen, who departed in February 2010 for a job in Colorado. After a bargain couldn’t be struck with the leading choice, the council hired Jim Norman of Anoka,

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Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Spc. Douglas Anderson, of Austin and part of Rochester’s Bravo Company, stands with two Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders in Kuwait for taped announcements that were played at the Nov. 20 home game against the Oakland Raiders. torney’s Office. She admitted to taking funds from the escrow accounts at her business, Albert Lea Abstract Co., and diverting them to her own purposes, much of which went to pursue a gambling addiction at an

Iowa casino. However, prosecutors argued that Tuttle’s theft also went to support an extravagant lifestyle, including shopping and trips. Her lawyer made reference to Tuttle being on

Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Linda Tuttle’s lawyer, Kevin O’Connor Green, speaks to reporters Tuesday after his client’s sentencing.


who began full time in May 2010. He didn’t last the summer as allegations surfaced that he abused the city-issued credit card to purchase personal items during his relocation to Albert Lea. Charges were filed in Freeborn County District Court in August of last year. The purchases totaled $2,300, and he repaid the amount and said he had a mistaken understanding of what relocation expenses were. Still, he faced two felonies and one gross misdemeanor. He was to face a trial in January of this year — part of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial — but shortly beforehand, the prosecutor, Brenda Miller of the Waseca County Attorney’s Office, added five additional felony charges. His lawyer, Peggy Rockow, called it a delay tactic. The judge for that hearing, John A. Chesterman, approved the charges. Another delay occurred when Chesterman retired, and the interim

2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

Friday, December 30, 2011 • Albert Lea Tribune • Page 3B

Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Former Albert Lea City Manager Jim Norman, standing next to his wife, looks down at the Freeborn County Courthouse in May after hearing that a jury found him guilty of misusing the city-issued credit card. man guilty on seven of eight counts. He said afterward he planned to appeal. On the last day of June, Wellman sentenced him to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and five years of probation. Norman will not be allowed to obtain employment or act in a nonemployment capacity that requires him to be a fiduciary for any other person. He was ordered to serve 100 hours of Sentenced to Service or

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

City manager finalist Chad Adams speaks with Al “Minnow” Brooks while Ann Adams listens Friday at the National Vitality Center.

community work service and must also obtain a mental health evaluation. Norman filed his appeal in October with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

5.

State shutdown has local impacts At first, Albert Lea seemed to be like the rest

of the state in having to deal with a state shutdown. By the end, however, it appeared to play a critical role. Moreover, the shutdown turned out to be the biggest 2011 story for Minnesota. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-led state Legislature faced a $5 billion budget shortfall, and from January right up to the last day of June — the last day of the state fiscal year — they could not come to terms. Dayton refused deep cuts. Republicans refused tax hikes. The state closed on July 1. Campers at MyreBig Island State Park had to pack up and go home, just like campers statewide. No fishing licenses were issued. The rest areas closed on the freeways. Road construction projects stopped. Lottery tickets were not available. Several state offices closed unless they were deemed by a Ramsey County court as necessary. Riverland Community College stayed open. Tax deadlines remained in place. And Freeborn County had to lay off 11 employees, something that would start another tale. The shutdown affected The Children’s Center. Without the state government to distribute funds, federal assistance for child care stopped — at least until a court ruling deemed the funding as an essential state service. Thus the stage was set for the governor’s visit to Albert Lea. He came after stops in St. Cloud and Rochester.

4Continued

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Finalists for the position of Albert Lea city manager listen as Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr speaks during a tour of the city. There are six finalists. judge had a conflict of interest. The came into the hands of Mower County District Judge Fred Wellmann. In March, he denied a claim that Norman was selectively prosecuted, despite evidence pointing to other city employees using city credit cards for personal purchases. A trial was slated for May. Meanwhile, the City Council, working with Interim City Manager Pat McGarvey, moved forward with hiring a city manager. And it used the same search firm that brought forth Norman. By March there were five finalists, which was cut to four finalists because had to interview elsewhere. By the visitation dates of March 25 and 26, there were six. One of the finalists was Chad Adams, the city administrator for the Minne-

apolis suburb of Medina. On April 1, the City Council approved a contract with Adams. He started June 1. Mayor Vern Rasmussen announced: “We are all really happy about this day.” Since then, Adams has pushed to have the council govern more through policies, rather than bringing every little item before the council. He has helped to shepherd the council’s effort to upgrade the downtown streetscape and sewer and water lines. He pushed for City Hall renovations that will make the building more energy-efficient. He guided the city through a budget with a zero levy increase. Department heads have credited Adams with being a good listener. At Norman’s trial in May, evidence came out that former Finance Director Rhonda Moen,

who was the person filing the initial complaint against Norman, had made personal purchases with her city-issued credit card. Rockow asked Wellman to strike her testimony saying she was a “stickler” to make sure all receipts and documentation were turned in for all purchases. Wellman denied her motion. This aspect, more than any other, has prompted many letters to the editor from citizens wondering why Norman was prosecuted but Moen was not. Moen bolted in October 2010 to be the finance director for Owatonna. A firm handles her former duties now for Albert Lea City Hall. City officials simply say they are moving on from the NormanMoen situation. After three hours of deliberation at the trial in May, a jury found Nor-

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Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Jim Dolton of Alden connects his camper to the hitch of his Chevy pickup on the last day of June to be out of Myre-Big Island State Park before the campgrounds shut down that day.


Page 4B • Albert Lea Tribune • Friday, December 30, 2011 2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

A roundtable discussion with Dayton happened on July 13 at the Albert Lea Business Development Center. About 58 people gathered to express how they are being impacted by the shutdown and to encourage protection for different programs in the budget. Albert Lea business leaders urged Dayton and state legislators to get back to negotiations and find a budget compromise to end the state government shutdown. Representatives from both the public and private sector were present, including city and county officials, economic development officials, education leaders, chamber representatives, business owners, among others. The very next morning, in Minneapolis, Dayton offered to accept the GOP’s final budget offer and end the state shutdown. Everyone who had been in that room at the Business Development Center felt like they had been heard loud and clear. Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Kehr said the meeting in Albert Lea was with business leaders and was delivered in a “factual, civil manner,” contrasting with some public outcry the governor experienced at town hall forums in the other two cities. It took a few more days to call a special session and get the state going again. The state finally reopened on the 20th day. When the shutdown ended, 10 of the 11 county employees were rehired. Rose Olmsted, the supervisor of the Crime Victims Crisis Center, was not. In November, Olmsted filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleging that the 60-year-old was terminated from her job as a result of retaliation or age and gender bias. Minnesota budget officials said in November that the 20-day government shutdown in July cost the state nearly $60 million but saved it about $65 million in salaries that weren’t paid to state employees. The Minnesota Management and Budget department said the state lost almost $50 million in revenue and spent about $7 million preparing for the shutdown and $3 million in recovery costs. But that was more than offset by savings in payroll costs for about 22,000 state employees laid off during the shutdown.

6.

Albert Lea man allegedly murdered in St. Paul

If Albert Leans didn’t know about the local immigrant Karen population, they knew about it after the murder of Albert Lea resident Po Lye, who was killed in St Paul on Nov. 19. Charges filed by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office allege Pah Ber, 48, stabbed Lye, 40, after accusing him of cheating with his wife.

musician Eddie Cochran. A stagecoach led a long parade of IH equipment through the fairgrounds on June 24. Each piece of equipment drove through one at a time, as an announcer took a minute to describe each. In December, Jensen was voted to the board of directors for the National International Harvester Collector Club. His term begins next month. The International Harvester Collectors Club has 41 chapters in the United States, two in Canada and one in Sweden. Jensen represented the Minnesota chapter at the Red Power Roundup in Missouri in 2008, where he beat out Iowa to get the show and bring it to Albert Lea. Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

8.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton listens in July during the shutdown to the chairman of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, Doug Olson, the business development manager at Lou-Rich. To the right are Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman, House District 27B Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Jerry Ehn of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. tors and 250 Cub Cadets. The three-day event was at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds from June 23 through 25, but people started arriving in The Albert Lea school town a few days prior. board cut or reduced 17 Restaurants were busy. teacher positions on the Hotels and campgrounds night of April 19, viswere full. Signs could be ibly upsetting a crowd of seen at multiple busimore than 70 people who nesses around town that came to ask the board to welcomed the visitors to spend more time on the the community. Some decision. businesses even offered On a 4-1 vote, the special discounts for Red board reduced the Power Roundup particiteacher workforce as part pants. Some people had of a district realignment to stay overnight in the of grades and transfer of neighboring cities of Mateachers. Board member son City, Iowa, Faribault, Jill Marin voted against Owatonna and Austin. the measure and said Reinertson’s Embroishe supports the realigndery, which goes to farm ment, but not cutting Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune shows to sell products music teaching positions. The rest area on Interstate 90 near Hayward was closed June 30 in anticipation of a state regularly, reported its She also spoke to high government shutdown. best show ever. Dairy school students who were Barn at the Freeborn and led her out of the After stabbing Lye, Ber Jensen, who this year has present to say she apapartment. Police arrived served as president of the County Fairgrounds also allegedly turned on his preciated them and that reportedly had its best near 7 a.m. wife, Paw Pree, also 40. Minnesota chapter of the they’re strong leaders. day ever. Visitors also The grisly incident cast International Harvester The incident happened Board members Bill flocked to the Freeborn a somber mood over the sometime after 6 a.m. at Collectors Club, said Leland, Linda Laurie, County Historical MuKaren population in Min- between 1,200 and 1,300 an apartment building Mark Ciota and Jeshua seum to exhibits about nesota, with one near the intersecunits were exhibited, of leaders of the tion of Farrington including about 700 trac- TV star Marion Ross and 4Continued Karen OrganizaStreet and West tion of Minnesota Arlington Avenue. calling it the first Ber reportedly major Karen crime came home from in the state. drinking and playLye worked for ing cards and then Pah Albert Lea Select saw Lye sleeping Ber Foods, like many on the living room Karen immigrants couch, court docudo. He didn’t have any ments state. local family or family Ber’s 21-year-old son in Minnesota. St. Paul told police Lye was his police were left asking friend and he had asked the public if anyone knew to stay overnight. However, Ber, who had his kin. On Dec. 16, Ber been teased by Burmese pleaded not guilty to the refugees that his wife was cheating on him with charges second-degree murder and second-deother men, told police he believed Lye was the man gree attempted murder. Ber is being held in Ramwho had been sleeping sey County jail in lieu of with his wife. He report$1 million bail. edly asked Lye if he was going to take his wife, but Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune Lye denied wanting to do Fred and Rita Vergin, of Loretto, pose for a photo by their 1950 Farmall C, a white demso, stating he just wanted onstrator tractor. The tractor, along with two others owned by the Vergins are on display to get some rest and as part of the Red Power Roundup. would then leave. Ber became mad and began stabbing him with an 8-inch knife, according to court documents. The son reportedly tried to stop Ber from About 30,000 people stabbing Lye, but Ber descended on Albert Lea threatened to kill the son. in June to participate in The son ran to his sister’s the Red Power Roundup, bedroom and told her to call 911. They later fled to an annual gathering of fans of International a neighbor’s apartment. Harvester products Lye suffered “a very ranging from tractors to deep and wide laceralawn mowers to kitchen tion” to his neck, along appliances. People came with stab wounds to his all over the Midwest, stomach and chest, acof course, but also the cording to court docustates of Rhode Island, ments, and died at the Connecticut, Massachuscene. setts, Texas, California Ber reportedly broke and Washington, among down a bedroom door others. There were also and started stabbing attendants from New Pree, including several Zealand, Denmark and Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune times in the eyes, blindInternational Harvester tractors lined Bridge Avenue at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds in ing her. One of her young Canada. Organizer Bruce June in anticipation of he National Red Power Roundup. sons grabbed her hand

Layoffs of teachers in Albert Lea Area Schools

7.

Red Power Roundup comes to Albert Lea

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A series of Cub Cadets were presented during the Red Power Roundup parade Friday.


Erickson voted to approve the budget reduction and resolutions to cut or reduce teaching positions. Board member Sally Ehrhardt was not present. After voting on the measure, several Albert Lea High School students were visibly upset — some were crying upon hearing the vote. Of the teachers being cut, the one that put a face to the issue was Albert Lea High School band teacher Peter Gepson. Opponents of the cuts said the music department had taken the brunt of staff cuts in recent years. And they pointed out how Gepson came to Albert Lea after being recruited away from Triton High School in Dodge Center. Students made T-shirts and posters to garner support in their quest to keep Gepson at the high school. Tribune columnist David Behling pointed out: “While Albert Lea High School gets an extra administrator to share the load, the music faculty at ALHS are being asked to accept a whole extra grade with the same resources.” Superintendent Mike Funk spoke to the crowd to remind them of why the administration brought the resolution to the board. He said it was because of budget shortfalls and that he has full respect for all teachers in the district, including the next band director. He praised the crowd for its passion. To some, Funk seemed to talk down to the people in attendance, though to others he seemed to be making an attempt at praising their efforts. Some opponents of the cuts took their vitriol too far. Someone sent a nasty message to Lakeview Elementary School music teacher Suzanne Mauer, who was slated to replace Gepson at the high school. Two school board members, Marin and Ehrhardt, in May called for a resolution to save Peter Gepson’s job, but they were overruled by other board members. Ehrhardt stepped down from the board in July, citing personal reasons. Gepson directed his final show in May. And in June, shortly before his job ended, the drumline, under his direction, was awarded Best in Show at the Straight River Days Parade in Medford, the only award that parade hands out.

9.

Fire rescue on Vine Street

Fifteen-year-old Alex Clapper looked out his window around 1:30 a.m. the morning of April 13 to see why it seemed like daytime. He realized the brightness was a fire. He woke up his parents, Kevin and Tina. Older sister Amber awoke, too. The neighbor’s house, 322 Vine Ave., was on fire. Sleeping inside were Kris Schewe and Beth Sackson. Alex tried to break their door in. Tina threw rocks at the windows. Kevin went to his garage and came back with a ladder. The Clappers knew which room was their bedroom, so they placed the ladder at the window on the right, front of the house. Inside, Beth awoke and woke Kris up. She opened the door, saw flames, and closed it. Then she opened the window where the Clappers were attempting rescue. It only opened halfway Amber was on that ladder and ended up breathing the black smoke. When she climbed down, she almost vomited. Kevin moved the ladder to the side of the house. That window opened, and Kris assisted Beth out of the window. Because she was wearing only her undergarments, Kris then threw a blanket out the window, then located his cell phone and cigarettes in the dark, before he came down. Firefighters arrived and began fighting the fire. Neighborhood residents began to gather

2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

Friday, December 30, 2011 • Albert Lea Tribune • Page 5B dren who had their bikes stolen, and a raffle determined the recipient of the 10th bike, which had been intended for a kid who had his bike stolen but the bike was found. Vicki and Culley Larson and Nicole Mayer led the event. Vicki worked with the Albert Lea Police Department to find children who had bikes stolen between June and August. Many of the kids who came didn’t know beforehand that they would be getting a new bike.

Runners-up Honorable mention (in no particular order): • Census figures released. • One year after deadly tornadoes. • Arson at Lakeview Elementary School classroom. • Sentencing updates for elder abusers. • Progress on bike lanes and bike trails. • Beach Boys perform at Freeborn County Fair. • Layoffs in Lake Mills. • United South Central school board proposes new school. • Flooded streets in March from heavy rain and melting snow. • Flooded streets in July after a downpour.

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea school board members in March hear from Albert Lea High School senior Ray Stephenson on why students hope to keep band director Peter Gepson. York to appear on “Fox & Friends.” Trump wouldn’t take no for an answer and bought the 10-year-old a new bike, a Haro Top Am BMX The Larsons with help from many friends held an event at the Albert Lea Skate Park on Sept. 18 called 10 Bikes for 10 Kids. They had raised enough money and received donations to give away bikes to kids who had their bikes taken from them. In the end, nine bikes were given away to chil-

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

On a rainy Sunday in September at the Skate Park, Vicki and Culley Larson present a bike to the surprise of one girl whose bike had been stolen.

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Kris Schewe and Beth Sackson stand in front of the charred home they resided in until April. The upper right window is where the first attempt to rescue them by ladder failed because the window did not open wide enough. and police kept them back. The Clappers found clothes for Beth, and Kris wore a blanket until a friend brought him clothes. They went to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and for scrapes and cuts. They spent the following two nights at the Best Western before entering the residence once again, where the only room not charred black was theirs. Amazingly, Kris’ iPad was unharmed, too. However, a dog and cat died in the fire. A second cat survived. The cause, according to investigators, could have had multiple possibilities. First, a laundry basket by the stove caught on fire and was set on the deck, where could have continued. The second could have been stains and rags on the deck that might have spontaneously combusted. Third, cigarette butts could have contributed. The house was torn down and remains a vacant lot.

10.

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The Clapper clan poses for a snapshot in April in their home on Vine Street. They were honored by the city for their heroism. interviewed Tribune Edi- from people wanting to tor Tim Engstrom. She buy the kid a new bike. posted two blog entries One, for instance, was that sparked national from a man in Coronado, interest. Before long, Calif.: “My son has far Culley was mentioned outgrown his BMX bike, on websites across the and I would be happy Internet, on local TV to ship it to Minnesota. stations and appeared Please let me know who on “Good Morning to contact to make this America.” happen.” Letters to the editor, Instead, the Larsons phone calls and email wanted to buy 10 bikes messages came to the for 10 kids. They also Tribune and to the Larmet with Donald Trump, sons from across America who flew them to New

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Boy’s letter gets national attention It all started with a letter to the editor about his BMX bike being stolen, a poignant letter asking people to return not merely his bike but any stolen bike. He ended it with, “I love my God, I love my family, I love my bike.” Through an aggregator, the letter made its way to Piper Weiss, a blog writer for Shine, a Yahoo website geared for women. She interviewed Culley and his mom, Vicki, and

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Monson’s state title was year’s top sports moment Page 6B • Albert Lea Tribune • Friday, December 30, 2011 2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

Top 10 Sports By Albert Lea Tribune For the second consecutive year, the southern Minnesota and northern Iowa area produced a state track championship. This year, Albert Lea sophomore Chrissy Monson won the state title in the Class AA 1,600-meter run at Hamline University in St. Paul. The Albert Lea wrestling team got the best of its Big Nine Conference rival twice en route to conference and section championships, and Lake Mills’ volleyball team equaled 2010’s success with a state tournament berth and 45 wins to start the season. Away from prep sports, Albert Lea was without its amateur baseball team, the Colonels, for the first time in two decades, but the city gained a new hockey team. The Waldorf College Warriors began playing its inaugural season at newlyrenamed Roy Nystrom Arena in October. The Albert Lea Post 56 Legion baseball team hosted its district tournament in the summer and took advantage by earning a state tournament berth. United South Central’s girls’ track and field, golf and cross country teams also advanced to state tournaments. In wrestling, USC had one of its seniors finished second in the state. In the pool, Albert Lea’s girls’ swimming and diving team posted one of its best seasons in years and had individuals vying for state titles. Here are the top sports stories of 2011:

1.

Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea’s Chrissy Monson hugs friend Kalesha Taylor from Rochester Mayo after winning the Class AA girls’ 1600-meter run championship in June at the Minnesota State Track and Field Meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Albert Lea’s Chrissy Monson wins state title in 1,600-meter run

Chrissy Monson’s sterling running career reached its pinnacle on June 11 when she won the state championship in the Class AA 1,600-meter run at Hamline University in St. Paul. Albert Lea’s sophomore took the lead over runner-up Jamie Piepenberg, of Alexandria, with 200 meters left but lost it on the final turn. With about 50 meters to go, Monson regained the lead and won by .22 seconds. “I wanted this so bad,” Monson said following the race. “Today my coaches had a long talk with me and told me to

3.

Class AA girls’ 1600-meter run champion Chrissy Monson stands on June 11 with runner-up Jamie Piepenberg of Alexandria, left, and third place finisher Rebecca Dyson, of Roseville, right, at the Class AA State Track and Field Meet at Hamline University in St. Paul. bear down, stick with the plan and you’ll get it. It just feels so amazing right now.” At the time, Monson was already a three-time Big Nine Conference champion in cross coun-

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try and the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. She had competed in state a total of nine times of those three events. The top four placewinners in the 1,600 crossed the finish line within one second of each other. Monson finished in 4:59.29, which broke her previous school record, and Piepenberg, who won the 3,200 the day before, finished in 4:59.51. Roseville Area’s Rebecca

After being shutdown by Owatonna in 2010, the Albert Lea wrestling team swept its Big Nine Conference rival this year and won Big Nine Conference and Section 1AAA championships. The Tigers were ranked sixth and considered underdogs going into the regular season match against No. 3 Owatonna on Jan. 13, but won nine of 14 individual matches and built a 17-3 lead before winning convincingly, 35-15. The win all but sealed the Big Nine title and snapped a twomatch losing streak to the Huskies after winning eight straight from 2006-09. Tigers coach Larry Goodnature said after the dual: “Our kids came to wrestle tonight. We weren’t going to be denied. They couldn’t have wrestled any better and we weren’t satisfied with anything but a win.” Albert Lea and Owatonna wrestled next on Feb. 19 at the Rochester Civic Center with even more on the line: a section championship and state tournament berth. The Tigers got bonus points in three matches, including pins by sophomore Dakota Wangsness and junior Dalton Westerlund, and gave up only decisions, as Albert Lea beat Owatonna 28-21. The Tigers most dramatic performance wasn’t a win but a loss. Less than one month after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament his right knee, senior Carter Kortan grimaced through a 7-2 loss to Ben Zeman. Because Carter held Zeman to just a threepoint decision, he kept the Huskies at bay, which allowed his brother, Connor, to seal the victory with a 6-4 double overtime win over Coyte Kuefner in the following match. “When Carter did his job I was hoping Connor would do his,” the brothers’ dad, Jack, said following the dual. “Words can’t describe how proud of them I am. They battled.” The Tigers went on to place fourth in the Class AAA state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and had three of nine wrestlers place individually — 112-pounder Lucas Hansen (third), 145-pounder Westerlund (fourth) and 103-pounder Wangsness (sixth).

Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

Lake Mills volleyball’s Carlie Christianson, right, is all smiles as she walks off the court with Kelci Larson. Dyson (4:59.88) and St. Louis Park’s Mara Olson (5:00.07) rounded off the top four. The day before her state-championship run, Monson finished third in the 3,200. She beat her season-best time by 20 seconds and finished in 10:51.03.

2.

Albert Lea wrestlers win Big Nine and Section 1AAA

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Albert Lea senior Carter Kortan, left, wrestles against Owatonna’s Ben Zeman in January at Albert Lea High School. Albert Lea defeated Owatonna 35-15.

Lake Mills volleyball begins season 45-0, advances to state The Lake Mills Bulldogs were volleyball’s Cinderella story in 2010. After slowly climbing Iowa’s Class 2A rankings, the Bulldogs peaked at No. 6 heading into the program’s first state tournament berth in six years. Unknown and considered untested by many, Lake Mills swept its way to the state finals before losing to Western Christian in the championship. Despite losing four starters off the state runner-up team, the Bulldogs entered 2011 ranked No. 2 and didn’t disappoint. Lake Mills won 64 consecutive sets to start the season and ran its record to 45-0 before falling to eventual state champion Dike-New Hartford in the Class 2A semifinals. The Bulldogs also won its ninth straight North Iowa Conference title. “It was just an amazing run to go 45 straight matches without a loss and to set the record we had,” said Bulldogs coach Jim Boehmer after being named the Tribune’s All-Area Coach of the Year. “As a coach I get to

4Continued


Friday, December 30, 2011 • Albert Lea Tribune • Page 7B Glenville-Emmons’ senior forward, Andrew Lau, was named the Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year after averaging 21.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He also scored a careerhigh 43 points on Jan. 14 against Immaunuel Lutheran. Senior Tyler Woodside also contributed to the historic season. The forward averaged 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and led the SEC with 55 blocks. The Wolverines’ swept the postseason honors when its coach, Dan Fredrickson, was named All-Area Coach of the Year. Glenville-Emmons’ quest for a perfect conference season was disrupted when the Wolverines were stunned by Hope Lutheran 40-37 on Jan. 28. The team had won its previous 14 games to start the season and beat Hope Lutheran by 44 points in their first meeting. “It was a shocking Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune loss,” Fredrickson said Lake Mills’ volleyball coach Jim Boehmer slaps hands with his players in November as the Bulldogs cruised in the following the game. Class 2A Region 6 Tournament en route to a second consecutive state tournament berth. The Wolverines went 7-3 over its final 10 games, including losses to Lake Mills, Lanesboro and Norwood-Young America. The team’s 16-2 conference record was just enough to outlast Spring Grove, who finished 15-3, and Houston and Lanesboro, who each finished 14-4 in the topheavy SEC. 2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

work with a great bunch of kids, but my job is to bring them together on the floor, and that is always the best part each year.” The team’s setter, Morgan Fjelstad, was named the NIC Player of the Year, and was named All-State, along with Tribune Player of the Year, Josie Brackey. Fjelstad and Brackey were part of a senior class that went 90-3 over the past two seasons. Lake Mills beat eight-ranked SumnerFredricksburg 3-1 in the Region 6 finals on Nov. 1 in Charles City, Iowa, to clinch its second consecutive state tournament berth. The No.2-seeded Bulldogs opened the Class 2A Tournament with a sweep of St. Albert, Council Bluffs, before falling to third-ranked Dike-New Hartford in the finals. Following the seasonending loss, Boehmer said of the team’s seniors: “They set high standards for themselves and I can’t argue with that. I told the girls in the locker room they are heroes to a lot of people. All they do is walk out here and there will be little girls looking up to them. I said that’s the most important thing what type of people you’re going to be. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”

4.

6.

Lindsey Horejsi rewrites Tigers’ swimming record book

Albert Lea’s Lindsey Horejsi wrapped up one of the greatest single seasons in girls’ swimming history on Nov. 19 when she placed second in the state in the 100-yard breastroke at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Only an eighth-grader, Horejsi led the event’s defending champion, Kathryn Ostrum, of St. Louis Park, by 1/10 second over the race’s first 50 yards. Ostrum passed Horejsi on the final 50 and the junior won the state title by .41 seconds. “She did everything she could,” Tigers head coach Jon Schmitz said following the race. “It was the best she had today which is all we can ask for. It was a great race.” Horejsi finished the race in 1 minute and 5.06 seconds. The time broke her personal best and the school record, earned her All-State honors and All-American consideration. Horejsi was also the anchor of a relay team that placed at state. The 200-yard freestyle relay of seniors Galen Schulz and Morgan Field and eighth-graders Anna Andersen and Horejsi placed eighth in 1:40.40. Horejsi made noise on Sept. 8 when she broke the 30-year-old school record in the 200-yard individual medley relay previous held by Tracy Bergo. Horejsi then went on to break the school

Colonels don’t take field for first time in decades

Shane Kitzman/Northfield News

Albert Lea eighth-grader Lindsey Horejsi receives her silver medal at following the 200-yard breastroke finals.

Glenville-Emmons’ Andrew Lau elevates for a shot last season against Grand Meadow in Glenville.

Albert Lea’s Lindsey Horejsi, front, swims in November in the 200-yard breastroke finals at the Class A state meet. record in the 100 breastroke, previously set in 2009. Horejsi then surprised herself with a few extra birthday presents on Sept. 15, when a day after turning 14 she set three more records. Horejsi set new school records in the 200 individual medley and 200 Glenville-Emmons boys’ freestyle relay, and the basketball was one of the pool records in the 50most electric teams in the yard freestyle and 200 area last season as they breastroke.

Glenville-Emmons’ Landon Hall looks to pass the ball against Grand Meadow last season in Glenville. averaged more than 65 route to the subsection points per game and won finals, but lost to topthe program’s first Southseeded Goodhue 55-46. east Conference title. The Wolverines acThe Wolverines, which complished most of this also owned a top-six without its starting point scoring defense in Class guard and reigning Team A, began the 2010-11 sea- MVP, Peter Hansen. son 14-0 and packed its The senior broke his gym with fans as it went ankle four games into the on to finish 23-5 and 16-2 season and didn’t return in the SEC. Glenvilleuntil late in the team’s Emmons earned the No. schedule. 2 seed in Section 1A West Without its go-to and beat Medford and player, another WolverBethlehem Academy en ine rose to the occasion.

5.

GlenvilleEmmons boys’ basketball goes on historic run

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Albert Lea’s only amateur baseball team, the Colonels, didn’t take the field this summer for the first time since 1990 due to lack of interest. It was announced in the spring by the team’s coach, Bill Trygstad, that the team needed 13 or 14 players to field a team and that he “didn’t have a commitment from very many.” Trygstad then called the opposing team’s coaches to notify them the Colonels’ season was canceled. Trygstad declined to comment on how many players had signed up. The Colonels began playing baseball in Albert Lea in 1990. That year marked the first time amateur baseball was played in Albert Lea since the town’s previous team folded in 1985. That team began playing in 1982 and its core players made up the bulk of the Colonels’ roster in its inaugural season. Trygstad said in July that the previous season’s Colonels team may have been too young. “We had a very young team in 2010 compared to some of the other years. We relied a lot on the Legion players,” said Trygstad. Trygstad said he needed a mix of veterans who were willing to run the team and young players with speed and strong arms. But most

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G e ePage oo rg r8B •e Albert Lea Tribune • Friday, December 30, 2011 g ’s’s e O f f GN GE importantly they needed The Albert Lea Post EN EE

VA VA players who were committed. “You’ve got to have guys who want to play year after year after year,” Trygstad said. “We haven’t had that lately.” Trygstad said the Cololity Dining ynels, Dining who play at Hayek Field, will try to complete ment nt a full roster in 2012.

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7.

Albert Lea’s Post 56 baseball team earns trip to state tourney

2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

56 Legion baseball team hosted the District 1 Tournament in July for the first time in 20 years. The Tigers made the most of its home-field advantage. Top-seeded Albert Lea defeated Winona in the opening round and the Rochester Red Hawks in the semifinals and finals en route to its first Minnesota Legion State Tournament appearance in more than 30 years. The Tigers’ districtchampionship run was led by sophomore Ethan Abben. The team’s shortstop and leadoff batter had a .370 batting

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Members of Albert Lea’s Post 56 Legion baseball team congratulate Makael Lunning after the sophomore hit a home run against Winona in the District 1 Tournament at Hayek Field. The Tigers went on to earn a state tourney berth. average with five doubles and eight RBIs over the tournament’s five games. He was also 4-for-5 with three doubles and six RBIs in the title game. While Abben was the Tigers’ top player throughout the tournament, sophomore Makael Lunning had the most dramatic performance. With two runners on base and two outs in the eighth inning, and Albert Lea clinging to an 8-7 lead against Winona in the quarterfinals, Lun-

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ning blasted a three-run homer over the rightfield fence. Lunning was mobbed at home plate after sealing the Tigers’ 13-7 win and breaking out of an 0-for-7 slump. In the tournament’s championship game, the Tigers trailed the Red Hawks 3-2 entering the seventh but scored 14 runs over the final three innings to rout Rochester 16-5. Tyler Woodside earned the win for the Tigers after pitching seven innings and allowing one

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United South Central’s Hannah Goemann, center, runs in July in the 800-meter finals at the Class A girls’ track and field state tournament at Hamline University in St. Paul. ment, which is organized earned run on seven hits by the Minnesota State with four walks and five Track and Field Coaches strikeouts. Association. Aaron Klatt opened The boys’ team won the state tournament, the state title 4 1/2 points held at Round Lake ahead of runner-up MorStadium Field in Eden ris Area and 5 1/2 points Prairie, with complete ahead of third-place Wingame for Albert Lea in ona Cotter. Finishing in a 5-2 win over Lakeville first place for the Rebels North. was the 4x200-meter Klatt allowed four hits, United South Central/ relay team of Thane struck out six batters and Alden-Conger’s boys’ O’Rourke, Chris Melby, walked five, and Abben and girls’ track and field Jannik Rosemeyer, and went 2-for-4 with a triple teams had its fair share Teddy Wiebold. Wiebold and two RBIs. of accomplishments this (200-meter dash), Riley The Tigers lost 13-1 to spring. Niebuhr (high jump), and eventual state champion The list goes on and on. Tony Willette (shot put Eden Praire in the second For starters, the and discus) all recorded round and were elimiYou'll want to see Rebels won boys’ and second-place finishes. nated by Hopkins 3-2 in girls’ Gopher Conference The Rebels’ girls team them both! the loser’s bracket the championships. The boys placed sixth at the True following day. won by a margin of 105 Team meet. Hannah Trailing 3-2 in the top points, won first place Goemann had the top of the ninth inning with in 10 events and placed individual finish for the one out, Cody Haaland, in all 18. The girls edged girls with a second-place J.T. Bellrichard and New Richland-Hartlandfinish in the 800-meWoodside each singled to Ellendale-Geneva by nine ter run. Amanda Allis load the bases. points and placed first in chipped in a third-place With the tying run at five events. finish in the shot put. third and go-ahead run at The girls team “piled Kendall Ward added a second, Lunning struck up a bunch of points,” fourth-place finish in the out and Dylan See-Rockaccording to head coach high hurdles. Goemann ers grounded out to third Kent Viesselman, by finadded a fourth-place finbase to end the Tigers’ ishing second and third ish in the high jump and season. in the high hurdles and another in the 1,600-meAlbert Lea’s coach, second, third and fifth in ter run. Jack Kortan, said followthe 300-meter hurdles. The Rebels capped its ing the game: “We had In addition to its conseason by sending two some good at-bats there ference titles, the boys’ individuals to the Minat the end — it’s just a and girls’ teams both nesota State High School tough way to lose. We qualified for the Class A New Year’s Eve 10-5; New Year’s Day 12-5 • 377-3185 had our chances.” 4Continued True Team State Tourna-

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2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

Friday, December 30, 2011 • Albert Lea Tribune • Page 9B

League-sponsored Class A track and field meet at Hamline University in St. Paul. Goemann finished the 800-meter run in 2 minutes and 19.86 seconds, and Willette threw the discus 147 feet, one inch. Goemann finished fourth in 800-meter run preliminaries in 2:19.37. Her final’s time was less than one-half second slower. Willette’s final throw bested his preliminary throw by 3 feet, 4 inches, and he beat the eighthplace finishers by 2 1/2 feet.

9.

USC wrestler Dylla finishes runner-up at state

United South Central senior Dustin Dylla was a long shot in March at the wrestling Class A State Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. But he proved, according to his coach Marcus Eytcheson, with the right attitude anything can happen. The sixth-ranked, 140-pound Dylla won three matches en route to a finals matchup against Pierz’s Clint Postner, the undefeated and No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state. Dylla kept it close during the first two periods and trailed 3-2 entering the third. Poster scored a three-point near fall, takedown and penalty point in the final two

Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

United South Central’s Tony Willette throws the discus in July during the Class A State Tournament. wrestles for South and surged to a thirdDakota State University place finish with 329.95 in Brookings, said his points. goal was to get the state “I wanted top two but finals and he had no with the bad dives I had regrets. on Friday I’m fine with third,” said Kriewall, following the state meet. “I was kind of freaking out on Friday, and after I was in 10th I really wanted podium. After seeing I got podium I really wanted to beat what I got last year.” Kriewall’s resurgence Albert Lea’s Karli earned her All-State Kriewall was the highest honors and All-American returning place winner at consideration, and the the Class AA state diving Tigers’ diving coach, Jill

10.

Albert Lea diver places 3rd at state meet

Photo by Photobroder

Albert Lea junior Karli Kriewall dives in November during the finals of the 1-meter dive in the Class A State Tournament at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

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United South Central senior Dustin Dylla hollers after advancing in March to the Class A state wrestling finals at 140 pounds. Dylla lost to Clint Postner, of Pierz, 9-3 in the finals.

minutes to win 9-3. “He’s not a naturally gifted wrestler but he’s always working hard,” Eytcheson said, of Dylla, following the match. “If you’re willing to listen and learn you can get to a state final. He proved it.” Dylla, who currently

meet this November after finishing fifth last season behind four seniors. The Tigers’ junior got off to a slow start at the state meet this season and sat in 10th place following the preliminary round. Kriewall bounced back on Day 2 and scored 102.95 over three dives

Johnson, knew there was room for improvement in the finals. “She just did her job,” Johnson said. “She performed her last three dives exactly the way she knew how and she did great. It was very fun.”

Runners-up

share Gopher Conference title • NRHEG wrestling wins Gopher Conference title • United South Central girls’ cross country advances to state, Emily Mantor places 15th • United South Central girls’ golf finishes sixth at state tournament, Ali Wood finishes tied for 13th overall • Albert Lea City Are-

na’s Blue Rink renamed Roy Nystrom Arena • Former professional wrestler Perry Saturn lived in Albert Lea while trying to make comeback • Alyssa Sager breaks multiple school records for Albert Lea girls’ basketball • New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 135-pounder Dustin Esplan places third at the Class A state tournament

Honorable mention (in no particular order): • Albert Lea boys’ hockey team wins Big Nine Conference title • Waldorf College men’s hockey begins its inagural season at Roy Nystrom Arena • New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and United South Central girls’ basketball teams

4Continued

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Page 10B • Albert Lea Tribune • Friday, December 30, 2011 2011 YEAR IN REVIEW On this page are images from the runner-up stories mentioned on Page 5B.

Top 25 Web Stories Here are the 25 most-clicked-on stories at AlbertLeaTribune.com for 2011: Story 1. Authorities looking into death of woman 2. Pillsbury Avenue standoff is over 3. Perry Saturn is down, but not out 4. Northwood child hit by truck, killed 5. Glenville teenager killed in rollover 6. Hy-Vee introduces a Blue Zones lane 7. Teens injured on I-35 8. Tornado rips Phil Campbell, Ala. 9. Sister: Qualley was ‘quiet, shy’ 10. Couple survives nighttime house fire 11. Thorn to practice at Mason City clinic 12. Ex-mall manager faces charges 13. SUV falls through the ice 14. Teenager killed after being ejected from car 15. 6 arrested for multiple felonies 16. Fire destroys Ellendale house 17. Tuttle sentenced to 42 months prison 18. Authorities find 2 people dead 19. Time to change perceptions on infertility 20. Girl killed getting on school bus 21. Couple dies 6 hours apart 22. Norman guilty of 7 out of 8 counts 23. Maid-Rite in A.L. 24. Report says alcohol factor in rollover 25. Woman injured when car hits cow

Date posted Feb. 8 Aug. 7 Nov. 13 May 10 July 12 March 14 Jan. 17 April 28 Feb. 10 April 13 July 7 Aug. 9 Jan. 10 June 8 June 22 Dec. 7 Aug. 30 Jan. 11 April 23 May 11 Nov. 14 May 13 Dec. 19 March 6 Feb. 17

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Manchester resident Steve Hoelscher in June stands in front of his new home at 23683 700th Ave. that was built after a tornado badly damaged his former home, machine shed and other structures on an adjoining family property on June 17, 2010.

Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

A large fan dries the hallway outside Lakeview Elementary School’s Room 119, where a fire in January made the sprinklers go off, causing water damage. School was canceled for students on a Friday.

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

An Allen’s Tow-N-Travel driver operates a winch that pulls Todd Drosland’s Cadillac in late July, when heavy rains causing flooding in Albert Lea. The car had been stuck in the flood on East Main Street near Morin Park.

The Beach Boys perform in August at the Freeborn County Fair. They performed classics like “Kokomo,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Kelli Lageson/ Albert Lea Tribune

Munchkins hide at United South Central High School when the Wicked Witch of the West appears on stage in November. In August and September, the USC school board debated whether to add to and renovate the school or build a new one. After initially favoring a remodel and addition, it ultimately favored pressing forward with seeking a new school in Wells.

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The Front Street bike lanes are identified by these signs along the path. The lanes were among several steps of progress made for local bike infrastructure in 2011.

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Part of the effort to bring more bike infrastructure also meant more biker education. In May, bike proponents held a bike rodeo at Southwest Middle School. Different stations taught children about bike safety, fitting bike helmets, how to inspect a bike, hand signals and other lessons.

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Water is seen rising in the channel between Fountain and Albert Lea lakes on a Sunday afternoon in March after heavy rains.

Year in Review 2011  

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