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ry rsa ive nn rA yea 10

by women… for women… about women…

Inside: • Posthumous Prose and Poetry • A Queen of H.A.R.T. • Knitting for Baby SPRING 2013 A BRAINERD DISPATCH PUBLICATION

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by women… for women… • First about women…


Draft Divas • Ann’s Alphabet Art • Bridging Cultures • Puppets With a Purpose 1/24/13 4:40 PM


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First Draft Divas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7


This writing group of go-getters challenges each other with writing assignments requiring discipline and focus. By Jenny Gunsbury

Krista Soukup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Read about a young, single mom who had the gumption to start her own publicist business. by Mary Aalgaard

Breast Reconstruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

After surgery to remove multiple cancer tumors in both breasts, this woman of 67 chose breast reconstruction. by Jodie Tweed

Ann’s Alphabet Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Ann Grussing amassed an amazing collection of alphabet art. by Karen Ogdahl

Puppets With a Purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23


Puppeteers with the PACER Program, a group of women who volunteer their time, are educating Brainerd area elementary students on preventing abuse. by Jenny Holmes

Mary Sam: Bridging Cultures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Cultural diversity coordinator at Central Lakes College, Mary Sam recounts her story to Jan Kurtz in the time-honored oral tradition. by Jan Kurtz

In This Issue editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 1 0 Ye a r s a n d C o u n t i n g by Meg Douglas




Runnin’ Down A Dream by Jill Ander son


travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 A Tr uly Grand Canyon by Meg Douglas

families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 A Cop in the Family By Becky Flansburg

entrepreneurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 On a Stick by Sandra Opheim

30 34






Calling all Divas by Cynthia Bachman


A W idow’s Love Stor y: Isa bell Janowiak by Kathleen Kr ueger

friends travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Wo m e n Tra ve l A b ro a d M a k i n g Friends by Mar y Rober ts

good reads

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

“The Round House” by Sheila DeChantel

clubs and clusters . . . . . . . . 38 E a r l y B r a i n e r d H i s t o r y a n d t h e DA R by Faye Leach

pioneer profile. . . . . . . . . . . . 40 License to Marry by Mar lene Cha bot

poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 A Par ty Of One by Bettie Miller

her say

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

My Grandson the Mar ine by Carol Campbell

Cover photo by Steve Kohls On the cover: Celebrating 10 years of Her Voice publications, (L to R) Carla Staffon, advertising rep; Nikki Lyter, graphic designer; Meg Douglas, editor; Joey Halvorson, photographer. Not pictured: Delynn Howard, copy editor.

D E media Dispatch Echo

Read Online: 4

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fr o m t h e e d i t o r

10 Years

PUBLISHER Tim Bogenschutz EDITOR Meg Douglas ART DIRECTOR Nikki Lyter Lisa Henry

and Counting First Her Voice staff (Clockwise from top): Deb Gunderson, graphic designer; Mary Panzer, sales director; Nancy Vogt, copy editor; Carla Staffon, sales representative; Meg Douglas, editor.


Looking at the very first cover of Her Voice, I see a smiling Irma Cragun, reminding me of that first interview we did literally days before going to press. “Can it really be 10 years?” I think to myself. While that first edition was published in May of 2003, the Her Voice story begins at least a year earlier, when Mary Panzer, then Dispatch sales director was looking for new products that might generate additional revenue. A women’s magazine called Skirt and published by Morris, the Dispatch parent company, crossed her desk, planting the seed of an idea. “I was standing in a checkout line,” Mary remembers, “when it came to me.” Looking at the racks of women’s magazines she realized she didn’t want newsprint, but a glossy women’s magazine with lots of color, eye-catching photos and quality features — a magazine not about movie stars but stories about women living right here in the Brainerd lakes area. Part of the planning stage included collecting demographic information then running the numbers of profitability. “We actually sat down with some of the larger advertisers and asked them, (holding up a mock cover), ‘Would you support this magazine?’” They did, and so did then publisher Terry McCollough, authorizing Mary to pull together a group to brainstorm a name, select stories, a byline — and bring to birth the first issue. While Mary felt this was “her baby,” she credits a team of talent for making it happen: from the Dispatch, Carla Staffon, advertising rep; Nancy Vogt, copy editor; freelancers; Deb Gunderson, graphic design; Meg Douglas, editor. Besides Terry, Roy Miller, Dave 6

Wentzel, Steve Kohls and Chris Dobson all provided input or creative services. While Mary is now an account rep with Ascensus, she and I still remember the creative synergy that hummed through the room, like an electric current and does to this day with the current staff when we plan and create. With newsroom staff already stretched to the limit, writers came from the community. Talented women contributed then and more continue to write today. Management worried that after an issue or two, we might run out of story ideas. Ha! Didn’t happen! Joey Halvorson grew into her role as photographer, often traveling to the far corners of the circulation area, capturing the life and spirit of a wide range of subjects. While graphic designing changed hands over the years, lately Dispatch employee Nikki Lyter has been lighting up our pages and photos, becoming an invaluable member of the creative team. From the beginning, readers loved us. Comments come to me still, “I save Her Voice by my nightstand (or my coffee table) and read it cover to cover.” And while national periodicals are struggling, kudos to our current publisher Tim Bogenschutz and advertising director Sam Swanson for finding ways to keep us afloat. Thanks to writers, advertisers and readers in the community who continue to support Her Voice. Come help us celebrate 10 years at the Brainerd Lakes Marketplace, April 5-6, at the Brainerd Civic Center.


Meg Douglas, Editor






• For advertising opportunities call Carla Staffon 218.855.5834 or 1.800.432.3703 find our publication on the web at


E-mail your comments, suggestions or topics to or mail them to Her Voice at Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401 copyright© 2003 VOLUME TEN, EDITION ONE SPRING 2013

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By Jenny Gunsbury photos by Joey Halvorson


The idea? Inspired. The invitation? Spontaneous. After listening to the inspirational portion of the Nisswa Women’s Club meeting in January 2011, a few members had the same thought and decided to do something about it. At the end of the meeting, Eunice Wiebolt got the ladies’ attention and announced the possibility of forming a writer’s club. “People were excited about it,” says Eunice. “Belonging to a writer’s club was the furthest thing from my mind until I happened to sit with Elaine Bercher at a Nisswa Women’s Club meeting and she asked me if I was interested in the group,” recalls Margo Neva. “Now, through the encouragement and support of this group, I’m developing a gift that I never realized for myself.”

The First Draft Divas

Who knew a writer’s club could be such fun! (Clockwise from top) First Draft Divas: Connie Johnson, Becky Stover, Margo Neva, Jane Gunsbury, Eunice Wiebolt, Elaine Bercher and Mary Brumfield.

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Top photo (L to R) Elaine Bercher, Eunice Wiebolt, Margo Neva. Not just a fun social group, the club assignments provide challenge and discipline.

Developing a gift through the writing group (L to R): Becky Stover, Elaine Bercher, Eunice Wiebolt, Margo Neva, Mary Brumfield, Jane Gunsbury, Connie Johnson.

That initial invitation produced a group of seven dedicated writers who call themselves “‘The First Draft Divas.” They meet once a month, rotating hostess duties in each other’s homes. After a brief social time, each writer takes a turn sharing her work. Group members listen intently, smile, nod and enjoy the caress of a voice reading aloud. The stories range from humorous to sad, thought provoking to light-hearted. All are very personal expressions of the women writing them. Readings are followed by discussion and constructive critiques, educational topics on technique or related material from workshops members have attended. “Everybody has a story,” says Becky Stover. “And we learn a lot from each other.” Mary Brumfield has a book about writing that she references and shares with the group. “Always write the ‘truth’ and ‘write like there’s someone at the other end’ are two of my favorite guiding 8

principles when I write,” she explains. The hostess for the next meeting chooses the topic or writing project. The group has a firm rule about completing the assignments. “If you cannot attend a meeting, you are not exempt from writing that month’s assignment,” explains Elaine. “You are to email it to the hostess so it can be read and discussed by those in attendance.” Several members expressed this is something they really like about the group. “I love the challenges, discipline and focus required to complete each assignment,” says Eunice. Jane Gunsbury concurs, “This is really a form of discipline. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take the time to do it.” The assignments themselves are as creative as the outcomes. One month, each person had to select items from two envelopes, one with pictures and the other with slips of paper with a word or a phrase. Connie Johnson wrote a moving piece about a cou-

ple in New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001, after choosing a picture of a vacuum cleaner and the words,“Everyday should be this good.” Margo’s piece titled, “The Little Blue Dress,” was inspired by a picture of a little girl and the words, “Take a closer look.” Examples of other assignments include writing memoirs, poetry, mysteries, book reviews using descriptions of all five senses and using published pieces as starting points. “My favorite assignment was to embellish a newspaper article,” Jane recalls. “I wrote a fictionalized piece based on an advertisement stating, ‘Dress for Success.’ Eunice chose an opinion piece from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and wrote a commentary on the commentary. It’s really amazing to see how everyone has a different take on it.” “It’s wonderful to be in this group. Everyone brings their own skills, back-

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In this First Draft Diva assignment, Elaine Bercher was to choose a place she had never seen before, writing about what she saw and felt, using the five senses. In just a few words, she creates two different worlds. A World Apart By Elaine Bercher It had been a long day at the office and Helen was tired. But after a quick change of clothes and a bite to eat, she looked forward to her first evening of volunteering. It was February, foggy and cool with dusk turning in to the nighttime darkness in this relatively small seaside town of 10,000. Helen had lived here only two months but thought volunteering would give her a good chance to make some new friends. The streets were narrow and dimly lit and her destination was an unfamiliar part of town. She relied on a GPS to give her turn-by-turn directions and 15 minutes later she arrived at 4357 Campbell Street. A spicy aroma of garlic and sauces filtered through the heavy night air as she hurried up the steps. She was anxious to do her part at the Friday night “soup kitchen” held at the Anglican Church. The kitchen was a flurry of activity with men and women getting the meal ready — salads being tossed, spaghetti cooking, buns warming and coffee brewing. At 6 o’clock waiters started serving some 200 hungry and homeless men, women and children who so patiently sat waiting for their dinner in the fellowship hall — women in tattered and torn dresses, no coat; children without shoes, babies crying, men, a few unshaven and toothless wearing perhaps the only clothes they owned, soiled and smelly. Some reeked of alcohol but at least they came for nourishment and fellowship, enjoying the conversations, smiles and laughter that filled the air. This was their haven and warm shelter for a few hours. Helen enjoyed visiting with a few as she served dessert. There was always a “thank you” and sometimes a story from a child. “Hi, my name is Josephine and I live with my mom and four sisters in a big cardboard box with a tin roof under the bridge. We have no heat and not much food; sometimes we find scraps in the garbage – I liked the spaghetti here and the chocolate cake made me feel really good. It is a long walk back to our place and my shoes have holes in them. Where do you live?”

Elaine’s writing utensil of choice from her collection of Mount Blanc fountain pens.

grounds, and experiences to the table,” explains Connie. She has a master’s degree in creative writing and was a junior high English teacher. After retiring, she and her husband moved to the lakes area. “This (writing) is what I came up north to do 11 years ago. Now I’m finally doing it,” she says. There is a wide range of writing experience in the club. “I have always enjoyed journaling, but these women encourage me to write more often and become better,” says Elaine. Margo keeps a daily journal, writes poetry, and creates inspirational material for the Nisswa Women’s Club monthly meetings. Eunice has experience in technical and creative writing and is also the author and publisher of her cookbook, “Cooking with Confidence.” The one thing they all have in common is the Nisswa Women’s Club. The group was invited to be the main program for the club’s September 2012 meeting. The First Draft Diva’s were a hit. “We wore feather boas and entered the room singing, ‘My Name is Shoiley’,” says Becky. Then each member read one of her stories. “It was so fun preparing for the program, trying to figure out which piece to read,” she recalls. These divas obviously like to have fun while still being serious students of the creative writing process. They’ve discovered and shared things about themselves that may not have been uncovered were it not for that spontaneous announcement in January 2011. “It just goes to show that everyone has a writer’s heart,” says Connie. “And it blossoms with support and appreciation.”


Jenny Gunsbury

Jenny Gunsbury is a freelance writer in the Brainerd lakes area. She was truly inspired by these women, their dedication and creative spirits and willingness to share their stories.

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fit n e s s


story and photos By Jill Anderson

Runnin’ Down a Dream

Inspirational people are everywhere. We see them in the Olympics, they fight in our wars; they walk among us. While we are in awe of these people, this story is about everyday people taking baby steps, and about a quote I heard years ago from an inspirational speaker at a work conference. And her words actually sunk in. “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” She asked us. I was fresh off a divorce, working roughly 60 hours a week at two jobs to make ends meet. My answer at the time was simply, “Survive.” But over the years, her question nagged at me, making me think about things I always wanted to try. What was holding me back? Fear of failure for one, not to mention those negative voices, the ones that tell us we aren’t good enough to ___ or ask what makes us think we can do _____? (Fill in the blank with that great desire of yours). Whether the voice is your own, your siblings, neighbor, spouse, parent, teacher....the

list is endless. And, they will all be correct if we simply cave and never try that thing that’s been gnawing at our brain, saying “pick me, pick me.” We need to feel more like Tom Petty’s song, “Runnin’ down a dream” — like anything was possible. Marilyn Monroe probably said it better. “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” I think of my older brother who, when we were growing up, had very little expectations placed on him. My parents applauded when he made it through high school. But somewhere along the line, his inner voice perhaps, told him he had real possibilities. He pushed forward, despite some naysayers (okay, specifically me, and probably most of his teachers), and became CEO of one of the largest Credit Unions in the U.S., with his Mensa card to boot. My point? He didn’t let possible failure stop him. Same with business owners, people

who dreamed of owning their own business, knowing full well that most businesses don’t make it. What would our world be like if they’d been too afraid of failing? Sometimes it’s as simple as overcoming a fear. I’m petrified of heights. Last year I decided to conquer my “height issue” by parasailing. We were on Lake Tahoe, and in our boat were two friendly women in their late 70s, ready to parasail right after me. I didn’t dare scream like a girl in front of them. But they smelled my fear. “What are you afraid of, honey?” “Dying.” “Well, you keep driving a car even though people die in car accidents, don’t you?” I couldn’t argue with them, and obviously I survived my fear. I’m not asking you to run a marathon, climb a mountain, or learn the Chinese language. I’m asking you to try that thing you’ve wanted to try, without fear of failure holding you at bay.

If running races like the Twin Cities Marathon is on your bucket list, don’t let fear stand in the way, says Jill Anderson.


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Women running the Emily Day 5k Fun Run, all inspired to run for a variety of reasons.

Granted, we can’t do everything we wish we could. I absolutely love music, would sing every word if people would let me. The problem is they won’t. And I’ve accepted it. I am currently swimming upstream trying to get my women’s fiction book published, an event 99.9 percent of people fail. Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” mentioned in an interview that if you asked her husband what her best trait is, he’d say, “She never gives up.” He would also say it is her worst trait. But, because of that trait, she kept at it, even after over 45 rejections. And her readers are happy she did. I know I have a better chance of getting a date with George Clooney than I do of cementing a book deal with an agent. But I’m not giving up, because, as Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” I took up running a number of years ago and every time I’m at a major race now, I think of the six women runners back in 1972 who took a stand at the New York City marathon, one of many races that didn’t

allow women to compete. They didn’t worry about failing, they made a difference in racing for future generations of women in the same year Helen Reddy sang her hit, “I Am Woman.” It takes a lot of time and effort to try things that are difficult, and as much of that as I think I’ve put into running, it doesn’t compare with something I witnessed at the Detroit Lakes half marathon a couple years ago. I was running along, and came upon a man wearing a T-shirt that said “blind runner” on the back. He was tied to a younger female runner, his sight-guide. Everyone cheered him on as we ran by; there was a man who was doing something major, without fear of possible failure!

Sometimes we say “I’m too old for that.” Well, guess what? You are still going to be that age whether you try something new, or lounge in front of the TV. As we all know, time waits for no one. So, what are you waiting for?


Jill Anderson

Jill is slowly crossing off things on her “try” list, and if she ever gets her novel published, she expects that date with George Clooney. And yes, her husband would be OK with that.

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By Mary Aalgaard photos by Joey Halvorson


Publicist Krista Soukup, owner of Blue Cottage Agency (L to R) with her family; working from her home; with client author Candace Simar.

Starting a new business, especially when your children are young and you’re a single mom, takes a great deal of courage. In order to live an abundant life, you must be willing to do brave things. You need to feel the pain and push through the birth canal of change so that you can be born into something new and wonderful, a life that was meant for you. Krista Rolfzen Soukup knows that ampersand of joy mixed with pain. She is the mother of four children, two boys and twin girls who were born nine weeks premature. Perhaps it was watching little Leah’s and Rebekah’s fight for life from just over two and three pound preemies to feisty five-yearolds. Perhaps it was realizing how fragile life is and that it is up to each of us to fight for what we believe in. Perhaps it was living through those struggles that she discovered her own strength and learned that she has the power to make her life rich and abundant. Krista, who has a marketing and business degree from Southwest State University in Marshall, MN, had a successful career with Herberger’s. When her first son was born, she decided that motherhood was her full-time job and threw herself into it, using her marketing and planning skills to organize school, community and church events. She planned the National Night Out in the Gregory Park neighborhood, started a tennis camp, organized Bible studies and formed the Northside Book Club. That’s where she was first introduced to Candace Simar’s historical novels. Krista said that “Abercrombie Trail” was one of the best books she’d ever read and was excited to learn that the author lived in the area. Candace was invited to talk to their book club, and it was “like meeting a rock star.” While Candace was talking about book signings and speaking engagements and how overwhelmed she was by it, Krista’s creative marketing wheels started turning. She asked 12

Candace what she needed to increase readership of her work. Candace responded, “A publicist.” Krista called her up the next day and told her that she’d like to be her publicist.

That was the birth of Krista’s business, The Blue Cottage Agency, formed to promote literary arts and assist local authors. All of this happened as Krista’s personal life was crumbling like a rotting tree as her marriage

I Can Do Brave Things

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was ending and her children were still quite young. While the details of the divorce took most of her emotional energy, her creative spirit longed for something more. As she became acquainted with Candace and the world of literary arts, she found new purpose for her marketing talents. She became excited about helping authors and learning the business of publication and promotion. She says, “Writers are vulnerable because it’s their art.” Writers, like most artists, need someone to promote their work. They’re too close to it, emotionally attached, and shy about talking it up, especially those of us from the Midwest. Authors get more respect and credibility when a publicist makes contacts for them with bookstores and other speaking venues, like schools and community groups. Because Krista has a business sense, she thinks of the details that don’t necessarily come naturally to the writer. She thinks of ways to promote the book, how to get the word out and what social media to use. She makes contacts and connections and talks up the books and the authors in ways that would be extremely uncomfortable for authors to do on their own. Last spring, I had my first full-length play, “Coffee Shop Confessions,” performed in the Brainerd lakes area to seven sold-out performances, thanks to Krista’s marvelous marketing skills. She made posters, talked it up, sent out emails and press releases. She had me on the radio with Lon Schmidt, and she used Facebook to post photos and announce additional shows. She was amazing! What she does for my confidence goes far beyond press releases and fabulous photos. When Krista talks me up, she builds me up, and I believe that I can do brave things, write more plays, reviews, articles, whatever, because someone believes in me so much and helps me believe that what I do is important and inspirational. Candace Simar says that she owes much of her success to Krista as well. “Krista has been invaluable to my writing career. Her expertise in marketing and publicity has helped launch and promote my historical novels. I couldn’t do it without her!” Candace’s “Abercrombie Trail” series is the number one bookseller at North Star Press

since Krista has become her publicist. As a single mother of four, and the girls still in preschool just a few hours a week, Krista has to balance family time with work and can handle a limited number of clients. However, she does some consulting with authors for an hourly fee. She’s helped some set up Facebook accounts and has given advice on websites. When using social media to promote your work, Krista says, “Know me, like me, follow me, promote me, then buy me.” Krista does much of this work from her “Blue Cottage” where she also can watch over her children and be there for them. Most people are constantly trying to find a balance in their lives. Krista believes she has achieved that in the way that she can work as a publicist and parent. She is building her business with each event and contact. Much of Krista’s work can be defined as a book coach for authors and a builder of the community of literary arts. She has plans to write books on what writers need to know about publicity. She has worked closely with The Crossing Arts Alliance and Heartland Poets to apply for grants and organize events at the Franklin Arts Center and other venues to promote literary arts in the area. The publishing world is changing. Traditional publishing is giving way to smaller presses, self-publishing and e-books. Writers have more options than ever and they need to know how each one works, how to get their work into the hands of eager readers and make connections. Krista is also a great connector. If you have a book written and need a good editor, she knows one. If you need help writing a query letter, she knows what acquiring agents are looking for. If you need ideas on how to make your work stand out, she could probably name 10 things in two minutes. Life’s struggles teach us how to survive. They give us perspective on what is truly important and they give us the courage to do brave things, such as raise four children, end difficult relationships and start new businesses. You can do it, too. Keep saying, “I can do brave things,” and you will! You can learn more about our local publicist at


Mary Aalgaard

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer in the Brainerd lakes area. She writes for area publications, an inspirational blog,, and entertainment reviews on her blog and on the Brainerd Dispatch website. Mary is also a playwright whose first original full-length play was performed last spring. She lives with her four sons and cat named Leo.

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tr a v e l

story and photos By Meg Douglas

A Truly






Grand View: One of the seven natural wonders of the world, The Grand Canyon is a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide.


It was an audible gasp — my intake of air on first viewing the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Smoky hues of pink, green and blue stretched before my eyes, the striation of rock exposing billions of years of geological history. It was an awesome sight and I couldn’t help but wonder who and how some explorer stumbled onto one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In fact, Native American tribes inhabited the area, considering the canyon a sacred site long before explorers discovered it. Not until 1540, when Spanish explorers spread over the Southwest that a European first set eyes on this natural wonder. Theodore Roosevelt fell in love with its rugged beauty and the hunting opportunities in the late 1800s and the president worked to preserve it for future generations. National Park designation came in 1919 and now the park is managed by both native tribes and the National Park system. Over the years 277 miles of the Colorado River cut through rock and sediment, creat14


ing gorges and buttes as flat as tables. The mammoth opening is a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide — a vista that’s hard to wrap your eyes around. Late afternoon, the Visitor Center gave our group of four information about the canyon, then sent us down a short path to Mathers Point for our first scenic lookout on the southern rim. With the sun’s rays lighting the rock like a stage play, we oohed and aahed at the views with other visitors, catching fragments of German, French and Japanese all around us. Clearly the draw of this natural wonder goes beyond the U.S. Next we hit the rim trail. Paved and flat, it provides unique views for spectators of all ages and hiking abilities. We stayed atop the rim, getting our bearings, then drove back to our lodging outside the park for the night. The next morning, we sought out “back country” following a gravel road to escape the legions of tour buses that spill over the rim trails like ants. Ponderosa pines and

cedar trees created a woods not unlike northern Minnesota with shafts of light nurturing a grassy undergrowth. A pair of mule deer, with mousy-looking ears, stared us down from the safety of the woods as we crept along the road, giving us a little wildlife experience. Next we stopped by the Yarapai Geology Museum to learn about the geological history of the canyon. Along the trail we toured the El Tovar Hotel, a timber chalet built in 1905 — think Grand View Resort and the Lookout Studio perched on the canyon rim housing, rocks, minerals, fossils, souvenir books and gorgeous views. Also dating back to 1906 was the Hopi House with Native American arts and crafts. On the trail, a park employee informed us that less than 5 percent of park visitors actually hike below the rim, preferring the safety of their cars and buses. But not us. After driving over four hours from Las Vegas the day before, we were eager to take the plunge.

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Hiking in the Grand Canyon is not for the faint of heart. For starters, the elevation of 7,000 feet leaves many gasping for oxygen. Sudden storms in the afternoon can generate lightning strikes and heat sometimes produces life-threatening levels of dehydration. Park literature warns hikers not to hike down to the river and back up in one day, even if hitching a ride with a mule train. None of us (I was traveling with two heart patients) were prepared for a day long, 21-mile climb to the bottom, but we wanted scenic views below the rim. A shuttle bus dropped us off at the South Kaibab Trail and down we went, reveling in the cool, crisp air. My climbing experience includes hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but canyon climbing is different. Up a mountain, the hard work comes first. Views from the summit are the reward then back down is less strenuous. Heading down the canyon first gave us no measure of what it would take to climb back up. Yes, we had to watch for loose gravel and sometimes hug the interior when the trail swooped dangerously close to the edge, but oxygen deprivation was not an issue. Turning around after an hour of down, we knew we’d be challenged. While switchbacks made the up easier, it was plenty steep and we stopped frequently to catch the views and our breath! The Grand Canyon is a jewel of the National Park System, a natural wonder to be preserved and a worthwhile stop on a visit to the southwest.

Grand Canyon


Meg down under: Hiking below the rim is an easy walk down, a much more rigorous walk up.

Meg Douglas

Meg Douglas is editor of Her Voice.


Through eons of time, the Colorado River wound its way through rock and sediment, creating magnificent gorges and flat, table-like buttes. SPRING 2013 | her voice

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s t o r y a n d p h o t o B y J o d i e Tw e e d

Breast Reconstruction A Cancer Survivor’s Choice


When Carolyn Ferrian was 25, she lost her mother, Helen, to breast cancer. Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer at 44 and passed away at 49 in 1971, leaving behind a grieving husband and eight children; the youngest three were 7, 8 and 9 years old. Carolyn was the oldest daughter and married to her husband, Vernon. They had four young children at the time. Carolyn made a promise to herself when her mother died that she would live her life with no regrets. Her parents were busy farmers raising a large family. Like many people, they put off many things they wanted to do for later in life, like renovating their home and going on vacation. They had big plans for their retirement, but sadly, her mother died before she could make those dreams come true. “We’re not always promised with tomorrow,” Carolyn explained. “Tell people you love them when you see them. If you think a nice thing about someone, say it.” Carolyn has five young-

er sisters and all six of them have been aware since their mother’s death that they faced a greater risk of developing breast cancer. They all have been proactive in getting regular mammograms and undergoing breast check-ups. Carolyn, 67, had been getting regular mammograms since she was 30. She’d had three lumpectomies already, her first at age 16, because she has a fibrocystic breast condition, characterized by painful, lumpy breasts. About four years ago, Carolyn’s brother’s wife died of breast cancer. Two years ago, her youngest sister was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatments. After her sister’s diagnosis, Carolyn and her other sisters were told their 30 percent chance of developing breast cancer increased to well over 50 percent. The odds were not in her favor. Carolyn had been in for her regular mammogram shortly before her sister’s diagnosis. While most cancerous breast tumors aren’t painful, Carolyn had been experiencing pain in the upper quadrant of her left breast that didn’t seem to go away. The digital mammogram results for that painful area were questionable, and she had to have a second mammogram so the

At age 67, after a bi-lateral mastectomy, Carolyn Ferrian chose reconstructive surgery. 16

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radiologist could get a better picture of that area. She was told it was OK and to come back in a year. In November 2011 Carolyn returned for her annual mammogram, still experiencing that ache in her left breast. She had a mammogram and then an ultrasound. This time she was told she had breast cancer. Her doctors couldn’t feel the tumor, 1 centimeter in size, in her left breast, but they could now see it on the ultrasound. Carolyn underwent a biopsy and she was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer. Her surgeon told her this type of breast cancer was more likely to return. He said the minimal treatment would be a lumpectomy. She asked if having both breasts removed would be a good idea. He told her that it wouldn’t be a bad idea. “I said I wanted them both off and breast reconstructive surgery immediately,” she recalled. “It’s (the cancer) in there and you want it out. Breasts are not worth losing your life over.” Breast reconstruction surgery isn’t available in the Brainerd lakes area. The closest plastic surgeon that performs the surgery is in St. Cloud. Carolyn decided to have breast cancer surgery and reconstructive surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. On Jan. 26, 2012, Carolyn underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove both breasts and the first of a two-stage breast reconstruction. Immediately after her mastectomies, breast tissue expanders, similar to balloons, were implanted beneath her chest muscle to stretch the muscles and form the shape of her new breasts. Cadaver skin was used for breast support. Through a tiny valve under her skin, a saline solution was then able to be injected over time to fill the expanders, which would be removed in a second surgery and replaced with permanent breast implants. While Carolyn was coming out of surgery, her surgeons met with Vernon, her husband of 49 years. They told Vernon, and later Carolyn, they were surprised at what they found. When they removed Carolyn’s breasts, they discovered she actually had four tumors in her left breast and five tumors in her right breast. In the operating room they compared the breast tissue to the x-ray and eight of the nine tumors, one as large as 2-1/2 centimeters, weren’t visible on her mammograms. “She would have been dead if they didn’t do what they did,” Vernon said, of Carolyn’s double

mastectomy. “I think other women need to know that. It’s a silent cancer.” “I just thought, ‘Wow, did I make the right decision,’” Carolyn recalled, when she was told both breasts were filled with tumors, which turned out to be cancerous. “Life is good.” Another one of Carolyn’s sisters underwent a double mastectomy last June even though she did not have breast cancer. It was a preventive move to ensure she didn’t get breast cancer like her sisters and mother. Carolyn said Charlotte had several complications, including infections. It was a difficult road to recovery for her. A second sister also is considering having her breasts removed so she doesn’t get breast cancer. Carolyn said she is very happy with her new breasts and even better, there is no more cancer. On Sept. 6 she underwent a second surgery to have her implants put in, as well as liposuction taken from around her waist to be reused to form the contours of her newly constructed breasts. She will return to the Mayo Clinic sometime in early 2013 to have nipples tattooed onto her breasts. Carolyn didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation but she is on Tamoxifen, a cancer-fighting drug, for five years. She said it was a strange feeling at first to have the implants, a feeling of always having a bra on, but her new breasts feel like a part of her now. Carolyn’s odds of having her cancer return are about 5 percent, she said. “Those are the best odds of my entire life,” she said with a grin. “I’m a very positive person. I always look at what I can do instead of what I can’t do.” Carolyn said women need to know that breast reconstruction is an option. She met a woman at her garage sale last summer who had a mastectomy. The woman said her doctor discouraged her from having breast reconstructive surgery because of her age. She was 53. It broke Carolyn’s heart. “He made that decision for her,” Carolyn said. “That upsets me.” Carolyn said she hopes to travel to Italy next year. She and her husband will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They have five children and 13 grandchildren. “It’s been a good life,” she said. A life lived with no regrets.


Jodie Tweed

Jodie is a former Brainerd Dispatch reporter, writes freelance for several publications. She and her husband live in Pequot Lakes with their three daughters.

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fa m i l i es

By Becky Flansburg photo by Joey Halvorson



As Sue Dahl and I settle down for a chat around my dining room table, there is a common thread that is already running between us. Sue, the wife of Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl, has been living the “married to the law” life for 20 years. She knows what it’s like to be married to someone dedicated to a sometimes dangerous job, but a job they truly love. Then there’s me: a child of a late deputy sheriff who can still vividly remember the pride, the worries and evenings of never-ending phone calls that came along with growing up with a cop in the family, who also happened to be a dad. Not that I am complaining, there was (and still is) a huge amount of pride that went along with having a dad who wore a badge. The one thing I remember hearing the most back then (from peers) was “What’s it like to have your dad be a cop? Is it exciting?” A close second was “Aren’t you worried about him?” Sue also knows these questions and conversations firsthand. Her life as an officer’s wife began in the early 1990s and it has been an interesting journey ever since. Sue shares that it has been a journey of overwhelming pride, joy and fun, but also fear, concern and worry. Todd has been an officer for as long as they have been married and is 18

C A Y L I M A F E TH Sue Dahl, wife of Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl, knows what it’s like to be “married to the law” and the pride and uncertainty that goes with it.

in his sixth year as sheriff. The couple has two children: Peter who is a sophomore, and Eryn who is a senior. As a family, they all know the positive side of law enforcement, but they also know it can be scary at times too. There are unique challenges to a law enforcement lifestyle that

only those of us who live it truly understand. Hearing wailing sirens can take on a whole new meaning when you are married to the law. Plus your spouse or loved one is pretty much on call 24/7, 365 days a year. “Crisis and crime doesn’t take a holiday,” Sue shares. “Calls can come at all hours of the day, and on any day. We just adjust, support, and accept that this is the life of a police officer.” Sue adds that the addition of cellphones has helped ease much of law enforcement spouses’ worries, including hers. Instead of staring out the window and wondering, a reassuring

call is expected and much anticipated. She also admits there were (and still are) times when her husband leaves the house late at night, whether for a call or a late night ice dive, that she stays up and waits. “Faith helps get you through,” adds Sue with a smile. “My mantra in life is ‘Worry about nothing — pray about everything.’” As we continued our chat, we both agreed that not many folks realize that it takes a special kind of person to have a cop in the family. Not only do we have to be willing to share our loved one with the community, there are times that households need to be managed and decisions

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need to be made alone. “You learn very quickly to do things yourself and to have a strong support system in place,” Sue offers. “I am blessed with a large family and I know they will always be there for me. There are times even things like getting together with the family on holidays, birthday parties, school events and even sleeping that have to be done as a solo parent.” But, she is quick to add, “That doesn’t mean Todd isn’t there for us. He very much

“There’s a strong spouse behind every good cop.”

— Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl

is. We just know that the juggling act is just part of the deal. Being a law enforcement officer is what they love to do and you need to support that and accept there will be sacrifices sometimes.” Sue also shares that family communication is huge. “You absolutely have to keep the lines of communication open. There are evenings when we know he has had a rough day. But we work very hard as a family to help him leave those moods and worries at the front door.”

As the years go by, Sue has found that the harsh sounds of sirens are less monumental than they used to be. “I think I have accepted the sense of ‘I am not in control,’” Sue shares. “The best I can be for Todd is a lending ear, giver of supportive hugs and to let him know we are always there for him. No one stands alone in our family. We always support each other and we always will.”


Becky Flansburg

Becky is a full time WAHM and Virtual Assistant specializing in social media, freelance writing, and blogging. When not being a social media geek and researching new apps and tools, Becky is a mom, wife and business woman. You can reach Becky at or via her blog

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Ann Grussing has alphabets all over her house — posters, books and even a bathrobe. Some of the alphabets are whimsical, some are elegant and some are just there because Ann likes them. To her they represent her passion for beautiful things and her life’s work as a teacher. She always wanted to be an educator. Even as a child, she lined up her siblings on the stairway and played teacher. That led to a career in elementary education in both public and private schools in Minnesota and the Chicago area. “My career evolved over the years. I just did what I loved,” she said. Ann is especially proud of her work as a family literacy specialist at the Elgin, Illinois, YWCA. “They had run an English as a Second Language program for several years and wanted to organize a program for children and their parents. I applied, and at the interview I was so excited because their thinking was a perfect mesh with my ideas. It was practically spiritual! That sort of experience rarely happens,” she said. “The funding came from Barbara Bush’s literacy project. Eleven programs were funded around the country, and ours was the only one she came

By Karen Ogdahl photos by Joey Halvorson Surrounding her life with beauty, Ann Grussing collected alphabets. One of her first and favorites was all white. Ann selected the letters, then framed the back with glass so light comes through.

Ann’s ’s to visit!” A picture of Ann and First Lady Barbara Bush hangs on the wall. “One of my best memories was taking a group of children and parents to the library. It was Dr. Seuss’s birthday and we celebrated with a cake and the birthday song. The best part, though, was that 23 families took out library cards. I floated home that day!” she remembered. The alphabet collection was a natural artistic extension of her love of teaching. “I think I got the first alphabet when I was finishing my teaching career and was taking the training to become a literacy volunteer,” she said. “I was keenly aware of how important the alphabet is; it’s the building block for all of reading and meaning.” Her first alphabet came from a visit to an art fair in Illinois. On a background of layers of white paper, the letters have been cut out 20

with small scissors. “The artist invited me to her house to select the letters, and I chose a Caslon design. She framed the back with glass so that light could come through it, but we have a view of the lake, and I didn’t want to superimpose anything on top of nature, so I hung it over the fireplace. When the light shines on it in different ways, it often looks like it’s been hewn from marble. I was thrilled to find the artist, and I’m still thrilled with her work,” Ann said. A second white alphabet, one of her favorites, hangs on a wall visible only from the staircase. It is an elegant accordion-folded relief with the alphabet uniquely cut and folded out, reminiscent of pop-up art. “I love the folding and the way the shadows play on it at different times of day,” Ann said. “Plus, when I taught fourth grade math, I taught line of symmetry, and I would have my stu-

Ann retrieved The M is for Minnesota poster from a bookstore.

dents look at the alphabet and tell me how many lines of symmetry there were.” One of the most interesting alphabets hangs in Ann’s upstairs workroom, which houses her sewing machine and bookshelves.

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Although Ann Grussing was in the late stages of multiple myeloma when this article was written, she was adamant that it not focus on her illness. We have honored her request and have published the article as it was written. Ann died at home a month after the interview. True to her positive spirit, she had on display a framed quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

The colorful alphabet poster requires careful scrutiny to reveal its composition of letters found in butterfly wings. The artist spent more than 25 years and visited 30 countries photographing butterflies and discovering the letters. “Talk about patience,” Ann said. “I have a book about the poster showing each letter and then the whole butterfly. Some are obvious, but others are very hard to find, even when you know they are there.” Over the piano hangs an alphabet created in architectural drawings. “I don’t know anything about it or about architecture. I just felt I had to have it,” Ann laughed. Ann has found alphabet art everywhere. For example, she has three framed alphabets that are simply pieces of wrapping paper with whimsical figures entwined throughout out the letters. Others were free. For example the M Is for Minnesota alphabet poster was a cast-off from a bookstore.


Not all the alphabets are posters. “Once people learned I was collecting alphabets, they started giving me books and other items,” she said. A cream-colored pillow embroidered with wild flowers and letters rests on the bedroom chair along with a robe embroidered with letters and people in active poses. Both were gifts from Ann’s daughterin-law who lives in London. Her favorite alphabet books, a series taken from great museums, were gifts from her daughter. Alphabets are part of Ann’s everyday life as well. She frequently uses a white plate with black alphabet letters around the rim. On a trip to a fabric store, she found cloth printed with the old Palmer method handwriting chart and made it into napkins. Family members’ names are embroidered on the napkins, so when they come to visit, they can have personalized napkins.

Ann has also been an enthusiastic community advocate for literacy and the arts. After she and her husband Paul moved to their house on Hardy Lake in 1998, they quickly became involved in the community. Newly retired, she couldn’t be away from teaching for long and spent several years leading Junior Great Books at Whittier School. In addition, she volunteered to be membership chair for the then newly created Crossing Arts Alliance. “There has been so much positive progress on the arts scene in the area,” she said. “We have so many arts choices and so many people who care passionately about the arts. It has been fun to have a part in that.” Ann shared a story explaining why the arts are so important: “I had a high school friend, Janis, a music teacher and organist, who was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. She had to give up all her piano and organ SPRING 2013 | her voice

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In this alphabet poster, letters are a part of the butterfly wings. The artist spent more than 25 years, visiting 30 countries for this creation.

work. She had so much pain and difficulty moving, but every time I visited her, she would get tickets for the symphony or want to go to an art exhibit. I asked her once how she could do it. She said, ‘You just get yourself up for it.’ I’ve always loved and appreciated the arts, and I think, if someone who has so many physical things working against her can find so much joy in the arts, it must have amazing power. Anything I did for the arts, I always thought of Janis.” And what do the alphabets mean to Ann? “When I look at them, what comes to mind are the people, the people who bought them for me, the places that they represent, the times in my life when I got them. It’s a trip down memory lane,” she said. “And always the creativity, how artists could use the alphabet to create so much beauty.” Ann has surrounded herself with beauty — in her home, in her life of service to the community and in the lives of the many children to whom she taught the incredible power of those alphabet letters.



Karen Ogdahl

Karen Ogdahl of Baxter is a retired teacher, community volunteer and arts enthusiast.

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photos by Joey Halvorson

By Jenny Holmes

Puppets A With a Purpose

Addressing a topic as sensitive as physical and sexual abuse can be daunting. Not to mention

when your audience is a group of 60, or so, second graders. But a group of local women have found a way to channel negative experiences into a positive one, in hopes of preventing at least one child or family from suffering, by volunteering their time as puppeteers with the PACER Program, educating Brainerd area elementary students about abuse prevention.

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“I love little kids and want to help take care of them and keep them safe however I can.”

Puppeteer Ann Bergin with puppet, Sally.

~Connie Nelson PACER, also an acronym for Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights, was founded in 1977 and offers more than 30 programs for parents, students, professionals and other parent organizations through the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center in Minneapolis. The organization, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Former Early Childhood Family Education Director for the Brainerd Schools, Connie Nelson (left) coordinates the PACER puppet program with her sister-in-law, Mary Boran.


Programs, serves families across the nation, as well as those in Minnesota, under the simple philosophy — “parents helping parents.” In 1979, the PACER Center wrote and began presenting a puppet show entitled “Count Me In,” geared toward teaching preschool and elementary aged children the importance of inclusion. Over

time, the puppet program took on various faces, figuratively and literally, tackling tough topics including bullying and, eventually, abuse. According to the PACER Center, the “Let’s Prevent Abuse” puppet program originated in 1984 in response to a growing awareness of the greater vulnerability of children with disabilities to all types of abuse. More than 83,000 children and adults have since viewed the program presentation. Since the late 1980s, Brainerd area schools have participated in the PACER puppet program. The “Let’s Prevent Abuse” program is presented each year to second grade students in Independent School District 181 by volunteer puppeteers who follow a script provided by the PACER Center. For the past three years, Connie Nelson has coordinated the local effort, providing a liaison between PACER and the puppeteers, as well as coordinating presentation dates and sites. Connie, who retired three years ago from her longtime role as Early Childhood Family Education Director in the Brainerd School District, said she knew about the PACER program and was eager to play a role in ensuring its continuance. “I knew it was a perfect fit,” Connie said of taking on the coordinator role. “I love little kids and want to help take care of them and keep them safe however I can.” Connie’s sister-in-law, Mary Boran, had been volunteering as a puppeteer for over two decades, also triggering Connie’s interest. In the program, four multicultural, child-size puppets portray children with and without disabilities. These puppets have proven to be a comfortable medium through which to teach children about abuse prevention. Opportunities exist throughout the program for the children to interact with the puppets through dialogue and role-play.

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(L to R): Puppeteer Goodie Schmitz, Barb Sjoblad and Angela Holmstrom use puppets from the PACER program to help children develop skills in protecting themselves from abuse.

Ann Bergin is the puppeteer for Sally, a character with a physical disability who has also experienced physical abuse at the hand of her mom. “The kids really love Sally,” noted fellow puppeteer Goodie Schmitz, who has been with the PACER puppet program in Brainerd since its inception. “Sally is from a single family and has special needs. Her mom loses her temper and hits her.” Other characters include Derek, who portrays a boy who has experienced a threat of sexual abuse; Carmen, who portrays a friend and a girl who avoided abduction; and Mitch, who also portrays a friend. The goal of the program, Connie said, is to help children and adults gain information about physical and sexual abuse and to help children develop skills in protecting themselves against abuse. Prior to presentations, each school sends home a letter to parents letting them know their children will be seeing the show. Second grade teachers are given pre- and post-discussion framework, created by PACER, to be used with students. “Often times, the show will trigger dia-

logue and the students will want to share stories of their own experiences,” Mary said. “We also see some responses of children plugging their ears or pulling their sweatshirt over their faces, sometimes signifying that they have experienced some level of abuse and don’t want to hear, or talk, about it.” School staff, including Family Service Collaborative Workers, also observe the show and the students’ reactions for potential follow up as needed or indicated. “It’s a very engaging script,” Mary added. “The children sit still and often don’t need a reminder from the teacher. And, at the end of the program, occasionally children have asked if any of the puppeteers have ever experienced abuse themselves.” Mary said it’s important to share these stories with students to encourage them to tell somebody and not to be ashamed. “If more children had had this program, they may not have been so paralyzed with fear,” she said, likening it to a fire or intruder drill. “This is about personal safety and what you should do if something like this happens.”

Joining Mary, Ann and Goodie as puppeteers are Barb Sjoblad and Angela Holmstrom who lend voices to the puppets, purchased with grant money from the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team, Crow Wing Power and the Brainerd Service League. Local volunteers are also in the process of beginning a “Kids Against Bullying” puppet program with the financial assistance of the Lions Club. According to Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, incidents of abuse are decreasing; however continual education is critical in driving those numbers down even further, Connie emphasized. Connie also tips her hat to the women who have volunteered a combined 70-plus years to the Brainerd area PACER puppet program. “I think that their work and dedication is so amazing. This is a program run solely on the efforts of volunteers. This program really empowers the children. And I truly believe efforts like this one are really making a difference.”


A staggering number of Minnesota children are abused and neglected each year. In 2009, 4,742 children were abused and neglected; 44 children suffered lifethreatening injuries and 21 children died from maltreatment.

Of these abused and neglected children: • The median age for victims was 6 years old. • Seventy-six percent of all alleged offenders were victims’ birth parents. • Other relatives, including step-parents, adoptive parents, grand parents and siblings, accounted for 12 percent of offenders. • Parents’ companions accounted for 7 percent of offenders. • Licensed child care providers, foster parents and facility staff accounted for 2 percent of offenders. Source: Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (

Jenny Holmes

Jenny Holmes is a former reporter with the Brainerd Dispatch and currently owns a public relations and communication firms. She lives in Nisswa with husband, Tim and their two school-aged children. SPRING 2013 | her voice

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en t r e p r e n e u r s

By Sandra Opheim photos by Joey Halvorson


Melody Weber sells cakes-on-a-stick from her business called Baskets of Treasure and Gifts.


On a Stick

Today’s youth loves eating anything on a stick. For some reason it tastes better when Mom says, “Corn dogs are ready!” or “How about a popsicle to make your booboo feel better?” Even the school a la carte’s most popular item is a pickle on a stick. We are attracted to the delightful handling of food and it brings us back to our childhood. Melody Weber has taken this love of life and her tremendous enthusiasm to create a business called Baskets of Treasure and Gifts. Her creations are delicious cakes in melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors. The best twist of all is that her creations come both on a stick and are presented in lovely bouquets. She discusses her inspiration for her business. “I am intrigued by the idea of something that I saw in Pinterest. It was an old vintage Shasta camping trailer that had been painted pink and fixed up to accommodate bringing the party to you complete with vintage linens and cupcake trays and fresh lemonade. It would be such great fun to travel around meeting people and taking away the stress of preparing the desserts or drinks for a shower, wedding, anniversary or birthday celebration.” Melody said, “I started making bouquets for wedding and graduation gifts. I love parties and gift giving.” Her cake pops can be made in the shape of flowers, cupcakes, puppies, diapers and many more options. These candy-coated cake treats are covered in a Wilton’s candy melt, sprinkles, colorful sugar and even with flowers made out of marshmallows. “It is the best job in the world,” she smiles when talking about her creations. “I can’t think of anything more gratifying. I once made a bouquet that cost $750. It was a gift for a woman from her husband. It was a beautiful Christmas-themed piece. The average bouquet may be $10 with each pop costing around $1.50. I also made a $900 display for a company event,” she said with a smile. Anyone can make cake, but Melody has her safe food handling certification to assure that her customers get the best product. “Candy melt can be

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finicky. You have to be sure the cake is cooled properly and the candy melt is at the perfect temperature for the work.” She has made Christmas baskets, VIP gifts, birthday bouquets, wedding shower favors, baby shower designs, and fishing-themed creations. She admits, “I love snowmen and enjoy making Christmas bouquets the most.” That is the busiest time of her year. Personalizing any basket makes them more special to the recipient. Unique containers make the delivery even more creative. Glass bowls, mugs, a real pumpkin, pretty plates, and anything that can be used again once the treats are eaten are the best. She adds personalized lettering, ribbons and bows, and will create a fun bouquet for everyone to eat. She has shipped her cake pops as far as Alaska and North Carolina. “One time I learned

that even though Minnesota has great cold winters, your car can heat up from the sunshine. I made a basket of puppy shaped cakes for a colleague and had them in my car. The sun warmed the car up just enough to begin melting the pups. The puppies had droopy faces and every one of them slid down their sticks. It was a good lesson to learn early on in my business career. Thankfully I made the puppies for a friend and I was able to remake a new batch of puppies the next day.” Melody is married to Greg and they have three adult children, Lindsay, Brandon and Nicole. They are all out on their own and have professions. She and her husband live in the “Motley Mansion” in Motley, Minn. She grew up in North Dakota and met her husband of 28 years while attending college

Mansion into a bed and breakfast is a long-term goal of mine,” shares Melody. She encourages people to try these edible gifts instead of flowers, ties and gift certificates. She is sure you will be impressed with the quality of cake designs and flavors. Her email is melody@ and welcomes inquiries on pricing and will work with you on designing the ultimate gift. In closing, if you don’t get a chance to visit the Mark Elson can’t hide the Minnesota State Fair this fall, smile that pops out on his you can still have a treat on a face after a bite of cake pop. stick. Sure, I bet Melody can fashion a walleye on a stick, but expect a chocolate delight with at the University of North every bite. I know I am hooked. Dakota. Her basket business is HV not her main job. She has worked at Central Lakes College bookstore for many years. She also works part time at Home Depot as a cashier. “Making the Motley

Sandra Opheim

Sandra Opheim teaches English in the Staples-Motley School District and continuing education courses for St. Thomas University. She is a children’s’ book author and a frequent contributor to Her Voice.

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By Jan Kurtz photos by Joey Halvorson

Mary Sam:

Bridging Cultures


The sumac’s flaming red foliage was darkening to burgundy the day I went looking for Central Lake College’s newest service center, “The Bridge.” There, in a far corner, past the students bowed over computers and personnel dashing off on errands, I found the Director of Diversity, Equity and Tribal Relations Mary Sam. With the hand not holding her phone, she motioned me in. A large dream catcher hung on the wall. On one ledge of her shelves was a birch bark canoe and woven sweet grass baskets. It is an Ojibwe custom to bring a gift of tobacco, but this time I offered a cranberry candle, which we placed in the center of her desk. “Could this represent our campfire?” I inquired, “Creating a space for storytell-


Now the Director of Diversity Equity and Tribal Relations at Central Lakes College, Mary Sam tells her story at the Humphrey Center for American Indian Studies.

ing?” Mary grinned. From a time-honored tradition of oral histories, words came forth, telling her own story: “In our culture, we answer the ‘who are you’ question not with names, but with stories. Stories are our identity created through relationships with our family, the land and our spiritual path. Mitchell, Sam and Benjamin, three major area Ojibwe names, do not reflect our heritage, but the labeling of a fur trader who could not pronounce our given names!” “Mine is a mixed heritage of GermanIrish and Ojibwe. I was raised in the Twin Cities within a large, Catholic family. It was like a boarding school experience, trying to fit into a culture, this one set up by the church. To succeed, you had to conform. We experienced abuse, both in my birth family and the church. Women were subservient to men and the church, often not seeing the effect these role models had on the children. It was taking away their faith and, more deeply, their spirituality.” “When my friends and I reached high school, we were involved in other negative behaviors. We were considered lower-middle class. We lacked understanding of upper class rules and tools for success. It wasn’t part of the ‘mentality of poverty’ to pursue college. It was unimaginable that my story might

include college degrees and a career in community leadership. Yet, as I searched for my personal truth, I noticed that being in touch with the woods, the waters and being grounded in nature supported my healing.” New beginnings define Mary. In 1978 the Robbinsdale School District realized that another path was needed for students and organized the first Indian Education Program. Robbinsdale hosted an Alternative Learning Center where Mary is a proud graduate. When Mary was 16, she participated in a Vision Quest in Colorado. She is grateful for varied options that provided her with hope and direction, creating a new recovery in her life. At age 17, Mary moved from the urban setting to Cass Lake. Her dream was to be a forester, but she had no science or math background. “The message I continually heard was: ‘College isn’t for you!’ Once, I decided to get 10 different college applications and just try. I crumpled them all up and threw them away — such was my self-doubt. I had no role models providing guidance in the language skills to facilitate college or to teach me how to navigate in the world of setting goals and achieving dreams…” While at Cass Lake, Mary worked in K12 Indian Education. “I tended toward interacting intuitively and developing survival skills.

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It was during this time that my daughter, Annie, was her past jobs as a K-12 born. Being a single mom brought on another level of Twin Cities social worker and emotional, societal and economic issues. I had to go on later, as a policy maker for the AFDC. I felt I had let down my family and community Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. It was by needing financial support. It was a gift to me when also advantageous when Mary and my father said: ‘Sometimes you do what you have to do her husband, Dave, blended their — this is your time…I know that you will always give families and moved into the Mille Lacs Band community. back what you are being given.’” “Dave is a full blooded Ojibwe “My next move was to Bemidji, where the message of college loomed large: Just register! ‘One foot in front from Mille Lacs. We have been intenof the other’ was the mantra,” Mary continued. “And… tional in our choices of cultural and spiritual activities while raising ’act as if’…” As if you know what our children. Some practices you are doing! When classes might not be right for you, so you started, I had NO clue!” choose another.” Despite having no clue, Mary Even the land where they live got a position as a work study in symbolizes the bridging and unitOutdoor Education, which ing of cultures. “There was a included programming for visuproperty on the edge of the vilally impaired adults and internalage within the ceded territional women’s groups. “I orgatory. The owner, Wally, was nized two-week canoe trips, a banker, a farmer and the which I loved! I was fortunate to first non-Indian to serve have people that trusted the process of becoming. I don’t know on the Mille Lacs how I did those trips, but I did!” Corporate Commission “Through relationships estabBoard. His wife, Margaret, lished, I participated in more cerpracticed healing. The emonies. Pow wows were shared property rolls with hills across tribal communities. and apple orchards. We Through this connectedness, I loved it, but could not made rediscoveries about myself afford it. and my heritage. I also was W h i l e A photo from CLC’s Humphrey Center walking awarded a scholarship.” for American Indian Studies “There was this group called the the land A.A.U.W. I was nominated for and together, awarded its $300 scholarship. During this process, I dis- Wally looked at us and said, ‘You covered that A.A.U.W. meant: American Association of are raising youth to be leaders. University Women.” Who me? In front of a panel of You love the land. We want this to university women? I was scared to death. They wanted be yours.’” to know my plans for the future, my GPA, my academic “There is something much bigrecord. I wanted to talk about connectedness, social ger than us at work here,” Mary justice, community relationship building. I walked out concludes. “We are so privileged horrified. I had never thought about my future plans and grateful. Now, we have a place and now, I thank them. I graduated from Bemidji State where cultures come together to University with my B.A. in social work and later finished sew star quilts, make dream-catchers but the best is maple sugar my master’s degree.” A college diploma — the first in her family — but it time.” She leans back and closes her was the combination of her German-Irish Catholic upbringing and her coming of age within the Ojibwe eyes. “It is 2 a.m. Stars sparkle in communities that blended her social insights with a the deep, black sky. We’re boiling natural gift of being perceptive. “The doctor had the sap…stirring and raising prayers of gratitude. We laugh declared me: ‘a perceptive one’ at birth.” This ability has helped Mary to read people and situ- until we hurt — all of us…togethations thus creating bridges between cultures, ideas and er.” opposing opinions. It was crucial when setting up HV retreats, conferences and training sessions. It was part of

Jan Kurtz

Jan’s career of teaching Spanish and Latin American cultures has led her to other countries and a continued desire to learn about people and their cultures, including the cultures of those in her home town.

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no n - p r o f i t s

By Cynthia Bachman


Calling all


Tara Hemsing Tara Hemsing from Thrivent Financial partnered with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, organizing a Diva Day.


Imagine a Diva Day without prima donnas. A day where women wear hard hats, swing a hammer and work with tools. This is a day to empower women to assist building a house for a family in need, says organizer Tara Hemsing. A financial advisor with Thrivent Financial, Tara partnered with the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, organizing a Diva Day last October. She plans to make Diva Day — the woman’s building day — a yearly event, helping our community and empowering women. Her goal is that women build their own confidence as they work together building a house. “We can all have a role, all can help,” she says. Already, Thrivent Financial has announced its 2013 commitment of $6.8 million to fund the construction of 113 Habitat for Humanity homes in 31 states. Thrivent Financial is Habitat’s largest corporate partner since 2005.Their shared generosity provides a tangible way to put faith into action as Habitat is

a non-profit, Christian housing ministry. Our local Lakes Area Habitat serves Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties as well as the Mille Lacs Reservation. Habitat for Humanity states in their literature, “Even though volunteer labor and donations build a Habitat home, homes are sold to families. Financing is provided with affordable, no-interest loans. The family will make a monthly payment and invest their own time and labor toward building their home and other Habitat homes, the money from the mortgage goes to future Habitat homes.” Tara’s October divas worked on the house being built in Baxter for Melissa and Michael Newenhouse and their five children. This family was selected through Habitat’s qualifying procedure. How did Tara locate and engage these women to volunteer their time on Diva Day? It started with local newspapers, personal e-mails and word of mouth from Tara, as

Hammer swinging divas volunteered for Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity last October: (L to R) Sandy Burton, Amber Mitchell, Carol Breitbach, Melissa Newenhouse, Tami Webb, Tara Hemsing, Sue Zenk and Andrea Seelhammer.

well as Melissa Newenhouse. Also Tara contacted WIN (Women in Networking) and Brainerd Lakes Area Women of Today. Women answered the call from all age groups and walks of life. For half of the women this experience was their first time in the construction field. On a chilly, brisk October day, the ladies showed up in jeans, sweatshirts and sturdy shoes. The hard hats, tools and supplies were provided by Habitat for Humanity. Tara provided food and commemorated the event with pink shirts and hats. It proved to be a productive, fun, networking day for the women and a plus for the community. As a financial advisor, Tara says her role is to empower and educate women, couples and families to prepare for financial security, use money wisely and live generous lives. She is also an advocate to empower women to improve their communities by working together building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

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Tara is also active in the March of Dimes, an organization that works to prevent birth defects and decrease infant mortality. In Crow Wing County one in 10 babies are born prematurely. This results in increased health problems, longer hospital stays and increased health care costs. The area March of Dimes has education and grant programs through Essentia Health-Brainerd, Pillager Family Center and Home Visiting Program, and the Cass Lake Health Services. This year, Tara is the revenue chair for the Brainerd March for Babies. The event will be held on May 4 at Forestview Middle School. Her role is to increase awareness for stronger, healthier babies. In order to achieve this goal she will work with businesses on sponsorships and walk teams for the event.

Tara has a strong belief in empowering women and working to better the community. Why not join Tara as she supports our local community swinging a hammer on Diva Day or helping create awareness with the March for Babies? You can reach Tara at 218-297-0199 or


Working with stud walls: Carol Breitbach (left) and Tami Webb.


Cynthia Bachman

Cynthia Bachman lives in Pillager with her husband, Brian, and commutes to the U of M Hospital in Minneapolis to work as a RN. She is a member of the writer’s group at the Brainerd Senior Center.

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co u p l e s

By Kathleen Krueger

A Widow’s Love Story: Isabell Janowiak


There are plenty of widows and widowers who can identify with these words, “I was so lonely!” After 55 years of marriage to her husband Carl, Issie Vogt had to adjust to living in an empty house. She hated it. “I cried all the time,” Issie says. “I had children and grandchildren and friends trying to help me. They were all wonderful and caring, but they couldn’t take the place of having a husband to share your home with.” Issie grew up in Brainerd as Isabell Janowiak. She married her local sweetheart, Carl Vogt in August of 1953. After six and a half years in the U.S. Army, Carl and Issie

made their home in the Seattle, Wash., area. They raised five children, two girls and three boys. When Carl retired, they enjoyed traveling to different areas of the U.S. visiting friends and relatives. Trips back to the Brainerd area were not frequent, but still an important part of keeping in touch with their siblings still living in the area. Carl began having health issues, beginning with his first heart attack in 1996. Although he was able to maintain a fairly normal lifestyle during the last years of his life, on Sept. 20, 2008, he passed away, leaving Issie to live life on her own.

While Issie was caring for Carl on the West Coast, an old friend of Issie’s was battling cancer back in Brainerd. Bev Krueger and Issie had been friends as teenagers. Issie’s sister had married Bev’s uncle, making them shirttail relations of a sort. Bev was a year younger than Issie and had also married a hometown boy, Lyle Krueger. Lyle was serving in the Coast Guard when he and Bev married in September of 1952. After a honeymoon trip to Scappoose, Ore., to meet Lyle’s mother, Bev and Lyle settled in Detroit, Mich., where Lyle was stationed at the time.

From the painful ache of mourning, a new day has dawned, one that stretches from the northern plains of Minnesota to the coastal tides of Seattle’s shores.

Isabell Janowiak marries Carl Vogt, 1953.


Widow and Widower marry, Issie and Lyle, 2010.

Bev and Lyle Krueger marry 1952.

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Bev passed away on June 16, 2007, just a few months before her and Lyle’s 55th wedding anniversary. Bev and Lyle had five children. Their son Steve lived next door to them and three of their four daughters all lived with their families in Brainerd. Like Issie, Lyle had a supportive family around him. Lyle was also surrounded by his loving and caring church family at Faith Baptist Church. Just like Issie, however, Lyle desperately missed his best friend, his wife Bev. He didn’t know how to deal with the deep loneliness he felt. He prayed, asking God to help him. On a Sunday morning in July of 2009, Lyle was in church, as usual, when a visitor to the service approached him. “Aren’t you Lyle Krueger?” she asked. He recognized her immediately. It was Isabell Vogt. Issie explained that she was in town visiting family and attending the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of relatives. She heard of Bev’s passing through their mutual relatives and shared her own loss with Lyle. Since Issie was in town for only a couple of days before flying back to Washington, Lyle agreed to meet her for coffee before she left. An exchange of phone numbers and addresses enabled the two to maintain con-

tact after Issie returned home. The ability to share their feelings of grief and loneliness with another person who was dealing with the same feelings acted as a healing salve on their wounded hearts. When Issie’s sister died in October, she decided to make a longer visit than just a few days for the funeral. She wanted to get to know her old, but new friend, Lyle, a little better. For five weeks, Lyle and Issie spent time together almost every single day. They cried together over their losses. They talked through their feelings of grief. Eventually, they began to also laugh and smile with each other, something that neither of them had done in a long time. Before the date arrived for Issie to leave, both of them knew that maintaining a long distance friendship was not what they wanted. On Jan. 9, 2010, Isabelle Vogt and Lyle Krueger were united in a marriage ceremony at the Faith Baptist Church. Lyle and Issie will both tell you that they still miss their spouses from their first marriages. The difference is that now, when the feelings of grief wash over them, they each have a new “best friend” who understands

and grieves along with them. Lyle can openly share his fond memories of Bev with Issie, and Issie can just as openly share her memories of Carl. The smiles on their faces are evidence of just how much they enjoy each other.


Kathleen Krueger

Kathleen Krueger is a full time freelance writer and published poet from Brainerd. She is a contributor to several print and online magazines. She also provides copy writing services including website copy, blog articles and social media posts, along with other marketing materials. You can find her on the web at

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fr i e n d s t r a v e l

By Mary Roberts

Women Travel Abroad Making Friends

W Mary Roberts (left) and Sandra Holm in the Netherland’s Keukenhof Gardens with acres and acres of tulips. The two forged friendships through a women’s international travel organization. 34

A notice arrived via e-mail — there would be a “gathering of women” from around the world. The Amsterdam members of an international friendship organization I belong to would celebrate spring by welcoming 28 women to their tiny picturesque nation. They would serve as hosts and guides while the group explored their country and forged new friendships across the globe. In all, 11 countries were represented: France, Belgium, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Finland, England, Germany, Switzerland and Scotland. I immediately signed up along with my good friend, Sandra Holm. The Dutch Design Hotel in Amsterdam

served as our home away from home. Evidence of how a gathering such as this could minimize the vast geography among us was evident, even at check in. We were greeted by Magda (one of the organizers) whom Sandy and I first met in Romania, and Agnes, a Vietnam traveling partner with Sandy last year. Agnes arrived on her bicycle, which had traveled with her by train all the way from Germany. Dinnertime brought a reunion with Marianne whom we had traveled and roomed with in Transylvania several years ago. After our time in Amsterdam, Sandy would be traveling home with Marianne for four weeks of camping around

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Germany. Dinner sparkled with animated conversation as friends reunited. Norma, from New Zealand, who visited Minnesota last year, was there. We had first met her in Anoka and welcomed her with “a little lunch.” Sharon, from near New York reminded me of her stay in my home, and our walking the beach along Pelican Lake one evening. I remember one special night over dinner in a historic Dutch restaurant when discussion turned to politics and religion around the world — issues and problems. After much in depth sharing of views one woman said, “Only here among such a group of women could a conversation of this depth and honesty occur on subjects so potentially volatile.” Over the next five days, we traversed the countryside by bus. In typical Dutch fashion, the entire experience was beautifully organized, orchestrated and filled with wonderful experiences. We explored Amsterdam on foot and by boat, immersing ourselves in amazing museums, typical Dutch restaurants, charming canals, and rich architecture and a vibrant culture. Environmental consciousness is evident in the fact that in Amsterdam there are two bicycles for every person. Now, visualize 28 mature women one evening touring the Red Light district in the old

port area. The Dutch have an interesting perspective on that. Visits to the countryside included an old Dutch windmill village, fishing villages, old ports, boat trips, cheese markets, and other experiences too numerous to mention. Perhaps most beautiful of all, were the Keukenhof Gardens, vast acres alive with millions of tulips in seemingly every color variation conceivable. I could not have imagined how many wonderful experiences Holland could offer. On the last morning, when Sirkka from Finland joined us at breakfast, she brought photos portraying her “extreme sport.” They showed her and two other mature women standing in swimsuits by a frozen lake with a large hole kept open. She said they swim there five to six days a week for a few minutes as a way to treat fibromyalgia and/or rheumatic disorders. Sirkka’s words, “Since I started winter swimming I have not felt much of it. I don’t like being in warm waters and seldom go to sauna — a strange Finn.” Soon after we walked upstairs, Francis from Australia knocked. Due to a booking mistake, she was without a room for her last night in Holland. Since Sandy was going on to Germany with Marianne, I had booked a small room in Haarlem above a coffee shop and by the town square for one night, as I

wanted to explore Haarlem before flying home. I quickly called my quirky little hotel to find I had twin beds and room for Francis —and by morning we were great friends! I believe all women need the unique gratification found in friendship with other women. When remembering a few of the connections possible in an experience such as this, I thought, “What a fine thread we have spun two souls at a time — reaching across the universe in friendship.”


Mary Roberts

Mary has lived for the past 42 years in the Brainerd lakes area. As an elementary art teacher for many years, mother of five and grandmother of eight, she spent most of her life surrounded by children. She enjoys travel, walking, swimming, reading, arts and culture, foods and photography. Most of all, she enjoys people.

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go o d re a d s

review By Sheila DeChantal photo by Joey Halvorson

“T h e Round House” by Louise Erdrich


A violent attack against a mother. A

father left feeling frustrated as his hands seem tied. A teenage son who wants nothing more than for things to be the way they were — but learns quickly that humans evolve in ways he never imagined.

Sheila DeChantal with her books


Thirteen-year-old Joe Coutts lives on a North Dakota reservation with his mother, Geraldine and his father, Antone “Bazil.” One afternoon when Joe’s mother does not arrive home at the expected hour, Joe and his father borrow a car to go find her, thinking perhaps she had a flat tire on the poor excuse for roads. And find her, they do. Geraldine is in her car, badly beaten and in a state of shock. When they bring her home she refuses to talk about what happened and spends weeks in her room while Bazil waits for his wife to fully return to them. Joe feels his mom knows more than she is letting on and he and his buddies Cappy, Zach and Angus begin their own investigation, visiting people along the way, eavesdropping on conversations not meant for their ears, and eventually Joe pieces together a rough outline that leads him to take action.

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“The Round House” is the first book I’ve read by Louise Erdrich. I found her writing to be filled with deep meaning. As this book is told from the perspective of Joe, it is written from his 13- year-old perspective, which at times is naive, eye roll worthy and makes you laugh out loud. I think the author’s choosing to write this from a 13-year-old’s perspective helps take the edge off the serious topic of rape. As Joe and his buddies get together to brainstorm, I could not help but think of the movie “Stand By Me,” where four young boys discover a dead body then try to figure out what happened. At times Joe’s motley crew is on task, and at other times they get into all sorts of 13-year-old shenanigans. (The “run of Cappy” I think will forever be filed in my brain under “Things that make me chuckle.”)

But unlike “Stand By Me,” “The Round House” outlines harder choices. Joe becomes obsessed with finding out who attacked his mom and when it does come out, he goes for the ultimate justice. As “The Round House” unfolds for the reader, you see Joe learning from his elders. While some are quite colorful, not all are helpful. But page by page Joe takes on a very different role than he had in the beginning. By the end, I closed the final page with sadness, but a deeper understanding and appreciation of the book. “The Round House” was a winner of the National Book Award. Amazon’s editors voted it one of the 10 best books of 2012 *Note: “The Round House” does contain occasional harsh language and some sexual references.


Sheila DeChantal

Sheila DeChantal has lived all her life in the Brainerd lakes area. She reviews books of many genres at Besides being a lifelong, crazy, book addict, she also enjoys biking events, roller blading, hiking, traveling and other adventures.

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cl u b s a n d c l u s t e rs

By Faye Leach

From left: Margaret Brown, DeAnn Caddy, Susan Duff-Erkel, Coralee Fox, Lisa Staber, Faye Leach, Chapter Regent; Carol Curby. Standing: Chapter Founding Members Dorace Jeanne Goodwin and Betty Ehrhardt. (Sitting) Shirley Meyer, Katherine Galliger, Jan Burton, Muriel Jensen, Jeanne Hardy.

Early Brainerd History


As America expanded, railroads pushed westward and towns sprang up at key points along the way. Such was the point on the Mississippi River that was to become Brainerd. In 1873 when the first births were recorded in Crow Wing County, the completed railroad had been in service for two years. Front Street businesses were thriving; schools and churches had been established. To further the interest in historic preservation and genealogy, these early birth records have been painstakingly transcribed and indexed and are being published in a hard cover book by members of the Captain Robert Orr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The book contains a complete index of names and to complement the book, a DVD with images of the original birth registry is included. In beautiful penmanship, these early birth records give the name of the child, date of birth, sex, race, the names of father and mother, and in some instances, the occupation. At the time these births were being recorded, no one could have known that more


than 140 years later, interest in every detail of these births records would become invaluable information to descendants and genealogy researchers. Publication of this collaborative effort was made possible with funds from a matching grant from the Minnesota State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (MNSSDAR) and a very generous donation from one of the Captain Robert Orr Chapter members. Copies of the book are being donated to the Minnesota Historical Society, Crow Wing County Historical Society, Brainerd Public Library and the DAR Genealogy Research Library in Washington, D.C. Copies will be available for purchase at the Crow Wing County Historical Society later this spring. The Captain Robert Orr Chapter is one of 24 DAR chapters in the Minnesota State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (MNSSDAR). Any woman over the age of 18 who can prove her lineage to a Revolutionary War patriot ancestor is eligible for membership in the 122-year-old National Society Daughters of

and the DAR

the American Revolution (NSDAR). Historic preservation, education and patriotism are the objects of the DAR, whose motto is God, Home and Country. Earlier known as “North Crow Wing,” “The City of Pines” and “The Crossing,” for the spot where the railroad crossed the Mississippi, the new town was officially named Brainerd, the family name of the wife of John Gregory Smith, first president of Northern Pacific Railroad. It certainly seems an appropriate honor for Mrs. Smith. Ann Eliza Brainerd Smith was a published author of several novels and other books and was the mother of six children. Her husband and one of their sons served as governor of Vermont. Ann Eliza’s patriotism was displayed during the Civil War’s rebel raid on St. Albans, Oct. 19, 1864, near her Vermont home. A commission as brevet Lieutenant Colonel was issued by the Vermont Adjutant-General, P. T. Washburn, to her for “gallantry and efficient service” on that occasion. Ann Eliza Brainerd Smith was also a member of the DAR.

As Brainerd was being platted, a green space known as Gregory Square was dedicated for public use. In 1939, The Samuel Huntington Chapter of the DAR placed a bronze marker on a boulder to honor J. Gregory Smith. The marker is still in place behind the water fountain in Gregory Park. The book, “Recorded Births 1873-1899 Crow Wing County Minnesota,” contains names of nearly 5,000 births recorded in Crow Wing County for the years 1873-1899. The majority of the births occurred in Brainerd, but many were in the surrounding townships. A few births occurred in other cities in Minnesota and other states but were recorded in Crow Wing County. It was not unusual at that time for parents to record births of several of their children at once. This book is the first indexed and published work for this period. Information about births recorded in 1900 and later is available online at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website library. Historians, genealogists, librarians and descendants of Crow Wing County’s early settlers should have a great interest

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(L to R): Jan Burton, Muriel Jensen, Jeanne Hardy, Mary Jean Czech, Wanda Coppernoll, Cathy Peterson, Iva Zanker, Pat Whitney, Joan Cramer, Carol Menthe, Sandy Erickson, Margaret Brown, DeAnn Caddy, Susan Duff-Erkel, Coralee Fox.

in the information contained in this important work. These first recorded birth records also show the birth place of the parents. Earliest settlers of Crow Wing County were born in 30 different countries and 25 states. Their

occupations were those of hard labor one would expect to be required to build a railroad and a growing town. These early settlers came to “The Crossing� to build the railroad and for work in the lumbering and mining industries. They stayed to make their homes,

have families, start businesses and build schools and churches. These first and second generation Americans gave birth to Brainerd and Crow Wing County.


Faye Leach

Faye Leach is regent of the Captain Robert Orr Chapter,and MNSSDAR state historic preservation chairman. She lives on Lake Hubert with husband, Denny, and enjoys genealogy research, painting and writing poetry. She is a former editor of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber newsletter.

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pioneer profile

photo and story By Marlene Chabot

License to Marry


Love is all around. Flowers, cards, engagement rings and weddings abound. It must be February — the most romantic time of year. Everyone’s caught up in the frenzy, including Aunt Bea, family members and friends who receive Save-theDate Valentines for the big day of promises and “I dos.” Planning a wedding event is not easy. It takes a lot of careful thought and preparation. Of course if you’re lucky enough to be in the inner circle, you hear how it’s going from time to time. What you might not learn though until nuptial time draws near, is who’s been asked to be present. So with love and marriage on our minds, permit me to share the story of one key person who has attended 390 weddings as of Fall 2012. Who knows, maybe you’ve already met her. Long-time Aitkin resident Florence Tarr, a petite elderly woman, put me at ease instantly when she greeted me with the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. No wonder people living in the 9th district still request she be part of their wedding day—not as an observer or a bridesmaid, but rather as the wedding officiant. 40

It was Florence’s years of work in the Aitkin County Court System that eventually led her to marriages. The last 13 of her 42-year career were spent in the Clerk of Court office where she was responsible for calling in the jury, handling birth and death certificates, issuing passports and licenses — including marriages. This administrative position also gave Florence the right to perform marriages. Little did she know when she retired from her duties she would retain the privilege of performing marriages. “It was the chief judge who awarded me the necessary license when I retired,” Florence shared. Since I was married by a church official, I asked Florence how people learn of her. “When someone applies for a marriage license at the Aitkin County Court House, they are given contact information for those who are available to perform weddings.” Two of the people Florence has performed services for were a cousin and adopted granddaughter. When I sat down with Florence, widow of Marion (Bud) Tarr since 1997, I discovered she had been lucky enough to be married to the same man for 50 years. The

Florence Tarr Florence Tarr, working out of the Aitkin County Clerk of Court office, has performed numerous marriages.

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retired court clerk admitted things have changed quite a bit as far as weddings go since she and even her two grown daughters, Wendy Johnson and Patricia Chamberlin were married, but one thing remains constant — courtship. “It doesn’t end the day of marriage,” Florence reminds newly weds, “It goes on for a lifetime.” Performing weddings has provided Florence the opportunity to travel to many locals in the 9th district that she may never have visited otherwise and it has also exposed her to the wide variety of clothing worn by wedding parties these days. Even after all these years, Hill City still remains the most unique setting for her. “A ski slope on Quadna Mountain.” And no, Florence doesn’t ski. The strangest wedding sight she’s officiated at has to be the excursion boat on Gull Lake, although the big fishing boat on Mille Lacs Lake at exactly the spot where the groom proposed comes

close. Her most challenging? A wedding on a maternity ward. The mother-to-be was determined to be married before the newborn arrived. “The birthing room at Riverwood Hospital was crowded. Nurses and doctor were standing by, as were the groom, family members and friends.” Of course the locals Florence officiates at frequently determine the wedding party’s garb. Take for instance the wedding/hunting party in southern Aitkin County. Decked out in camouflage clothing, orange vests and armed with shotguns, they stopped hunting just long enough to say their, “I dos,” get a bite to eat and then headed back to the woods. Reinhardt Auction in Palisade played the backdrop for a wedding party completely outfitted in western wear mounted on horseback, including ring bearer and flower girl. “I was supposed to be on a horse too, but I declined.” Instead, a podium was raised high enough off the ground so she could officiate

at the same level as bride and groom. The foundation for any marriage Florence points out is, “Treat others with kindness and respect. If you have respect you won’t do anything to hurt them.” Unfortunately, her most memorable ceremony involved a groom who refused to get married but his parents insisted. The wife to be was pregnant. As soon as the couple was joined, he said, “I’m out of here.” Florence has officiated at both large and small weddings but prefers the latter. “It’s more meaningful.” Besides being a wedding officiant, Florence volunteers her time for the following organizations: Aitkin Area Food Shelf, Sunshine Flowers, Westside Church, DWI Clinic, Christian Women’s Club, Rebekah Lodge, Clear Lake Grange and the Cancer Support Center.


Marlene Chabot

Marlene Chabot, a resident of Fort Ripley, is a member of Sisters in Crime and Great River Writers. She’s currently working on her fourth Minnesota based mystery novel. When not involved with writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, gardening and traveling.

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By Bettie Miller photo by Joey Halvorson

A PARTY OF ONE Crisp white clouds Filter sun rays Making confetti through The leafy trees The shade falls on a Gathering below Their chatter is undertoned by a steady drone Their laughter is Stilted and brittle They are saying good-bye To their son or brother To their husband or dad To their friend who is leaving For the war without end

Bettie Miller

Bettie Miller grew up in Chicago and moved to Crosslake in 1978 where she taught continuing education and sold real estate for 10 years. Now she enjoys arts and crafts, reading and writing.


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he r s a y

By Carol Campbell

my grandson is a



Ever since my grandson was a young teenager, he wanted to be a Marine.

As he got older that never changed, he was going to be a Marine. SPRING 2013 | her voice

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“I wear my shirt and pin that announce that I’m a proud grandma of a

Carol Campbell’s grandson, Barrett Campbell, is now a Lance Corporal in the Marines. This picture was taken when he graduated from boot camp at Camp Pendleton, CA.


He convinced his folks that he was ready for the rigors of Marine life, so they allowed him to sign up with the recruiter during his senior year in high school. He knew it would be a tough regimen and he worked at keeping himself fit. In his senior year of high school he participated in the Triathlon competition. To pass, he had to swim 72 laps, ride a bike 26 miles and then run for seven miles. He completed everything and was barely breathing hard when it was over. My husband and I were there to watch all of the kids, both guys and gals complete everything, and it was an awesome experience. Several of his friends were there to help him count laps, get the bike ready for the next leg and cheer him on all of the way. One rode his bike alongside of him while he was doing the running. The boys all went over to his house after and they collapsed and wanted to sleep, but he and another friend who had also run the triathlon were ready for another hike. Finally September came, and after a great sending off party, which his parents put on for him, it was time to take him to the recruiter’s office. We said goodbye at his house. It was tough, but we knew it was his greatest desire and so it must be. He was excited to actually be down in San Diego at the Marine Corp recruiting depot and start getting into routines. He was pretty good about writing letters, and it was fun to hear about his experiences. An excerpt from his first one to us: “It’s been getting easier to do things around here — we start swim week tomorrow and from what I hear it’s a kind of easy week, so I’m looking forward to that. After that we head up to Camp Pendleton for three weeks of outdoor things like hikes, shooting and stuff like that.” During the shooting competitions, he excelled. There were three rounds of competition at various distances. He scored 10 out of 10 shots in the first two, and nine out of 10 at the furthest distance. He therefore earned the highest rating as Expert and received his Sharp Shooter’s medal, which he wears proudly. Of course Bear (our nickname for him) has been a hunter from a very young age and since age 12 had gotten

a deer every hunting season. We took the entire extended family to San Diego for his graduation from boot camp. His best friend wanted to be there also, so he joined us two nights before the ceremony, and we knew Bear would be so surprised to see him. Dec. 2 was Family Day and we were finally able to see him. First they completed their five-mile run then they showered and got their uniforms on, they finally marched in formation on the field and we could see him as he went by. When all of the marching was completed, they could break formation and we could finally rush to meet him and give him hugs. He was happy to see all of us, especially his buddy. We were able to eat dinner with him, and to see him down all of the perhaps not quite so healthy foods that he hadn’t had for a while was incredible. The next day was graduation, and to hear the Marine band playing and see these wonderful Marines marching in strict cadence out on the fields of that beautiful base made us proud of all of them. There were over 500 who began in this class. Only 56 of them didn’t complete it to become Marines. The rest had all learned their disciplined way of life and endured the toughest training program of any part of the military service. After graduation, he came home for a well-deserved leave. He then returned to Camp Pendleton for three weeks of combat training. He kept his sense of humor and wrote to us, “When we were on our bivouac, it rained most of the time, so it was wet and muddy. I tripped at one point and the Sgt. immediately said it was down on my belly crawling 50 yards. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that I had an 85-pound backpack on. Then when I finished I had to run to catch up with my platoon but I did it.” He next attended special schooling, which has the highest security rating. His duty is calibrating and maintaining electronics and laser sights on scopes, etc. That’s about the best description I can give. As grandparents, we are thankful to know that he will have this type of designation and probably won’t be on the front lines, even if he has to go overseas. That may not be the

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Marine and that I am.” ~ Carol Campbell

10 Year Anniversary right attitude, but we can’t help feeling protective of him. He’s now stationed back at Camp Pendleton in California. He stands 6 feet 4 inches tall – a muscular, blonde blue-eyed man who looks fantastic in his dress blue uniform and is happy to be a Marine. Every time I see him, I admire his attitude and perseverance. I wear my shirt and pin that announce that I’m a proud grandma of a Marine and that I am. That’s what I see, but in my heart he’ll always be my precious little grandson, and I pray each day that God will watch over him and keep him safe while he is serving our country. I know he would give his fullest effort toward doing his duty to protect our freedom, as would all of the young men who graduate from boot camp every week. Believe in them, and be thankful that they believe in our country and want it kept as they know it — the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Brought to you by:



a l a G At The Brainerd Lakes Marketplace Show.

SAVE THE DATE! April 5th

Dispatch Echo


Carol Campbell

Carol and her husband live in Brainerd. They have three children, five grandchildren and two-great grandchildren. Carol is a member of the Brainerd Writer’s Association. Her last two published books are “Between Webster & Me” and “The Devil On My Doorstep.” She also wrote songs for a children’s safety CD, one of which won fourth place in John Lennon’s international song writing competition.

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Her Voice Service Directory • Winter 2012 Appliances


Schroeder’s Appliance

Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union

16603 Minnesota 371 Brainerd, MN (218) 829-3624

13283 Isle Drive, Baxter MN 56425 218-822-2444


Thrivent Financial

Assisted Living

14715 Edgewood Drive Baxter, MN (218) 270-2700

Excelsior Place

14211 Firewood Drive Baxter, MN (218) 828-4770 baxter


Good Neighbor Home Health Care

18441 State Hwy 371 Brainerd, MN (218) 829-2881 1-800-726-8445


Gull Lake Glass

(218) 829-9238 (888) 221-5785

Cuyuna Regional Medical Center


Preferred Hearing

17274 State Hwy 371 Brainerd, MN 56401 1-800-458-0895

320 East Main Street Crosby, MN 56441 (218) 546-7000 (888) 487-6437


Essentia Health


St. Joseph’s Hospital 218-829-2861 Brainerd Clinic (218) 828-2880 Baxter Clinic (218) 828-2880

Auto Import

22 Washington Street Brainerd, MN (218) 829-3307

Chiropractors Northern Family Chiropractic

Lakewood Health System

13968 Cypress Dr. Suite 1B Baxter, MN 218-822-3855

Staples Motley Pillager Eagle Bend Browerville (218) 894-1515 (800) 525-1033


Music General

416 South 7th Street Brainerd, MN (218) 829-0076




123 N 1st St, Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-1166

7447 Clearwater Rd Baxter, Minnesota (218) 824-0642

Northridge Agency


Real Estate


Weichert Realty

Showplace Kitchens 15860 Audubon Way Baxter, MN (218) 8244228


Lakes Imaging Center 2019 S. 6th Street Brainerd, MN 218-822-OPEN (6736) 877-522-7222


Lakes Area Eyecare

7734 Excelsior Rd N Baxter, MN 56425 218-829-2929 888-540-0202

1301 S. 6th St. Brainerd, MN (218) 831-4663

Rental/Supplies Rohlfing Inc.

923 Wright Street Brainerd, MN (218) 829-0303

Window Treatments Arlean’s Drapery

4835 County Road 16 Pequot Lakes, MN (218) 568-8280

Midwest Family Eye 7870 Excelsior Rd

Baxter, MN (218) 828-9545 201 1st St NE Staples, MN (218) 894-5480

Northern Eye Center Great Northern Opticians

Brainerd, Little Falls, Staples 218-829-2020 1-800-872-0005

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Save the date! April 30th 2013

Tornstrum Auditorium, 804 Oak Street, Brainerd Brought to you by



media Dispatch Echo

Great Venders. Great Chefs. Delicious Food. SPRING 2013 | her voice

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Her Voice - Spring 2013  

• First Draft Divas: This writing group of go-getters challenges each other with writing assignments requiring discipline and focus. • Krist...

Her Voice - Spring 2013  

• First Draft Divas: This writing group of go-getters challenges each other with writing assignments requiring discipline and focus. • Krist...