Honoring the Heroes of our Community
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
”Memorial Day,” a movie to watch twice By JESSICA BIES
GET ‘MEMORIAL DAY’
A year and a half after its release date, “Memorial Day,” a movie filmed at various locations around Le Sueur County and in Le Center, is still drawing strong reviews. Official pick at 2012’s Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, Fort Myers Beach Film Festival and the sixth Annual GI Film Festival, the film is undoubtedly a fan favorite. Co-executive producer Jeff Traxler, 50, owner of Traxler’s Hunting Preserve in Le Center and a Legionnaire who served from 1981 to 1993 as an Army Reservist out of Mankato, said the film is thought provoking and deep, but even better the second time around. For veterans especially, it strikes a familiar chord. Meant
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“That’s what we wanted … We want the vets to share their stories, not die with them.” Two generations. Two wars. One story. The movie itself focuses on just-returned-home Army soldier, Kyle Vogel. Wounded in Iraq, Kyle is sent to a trauma center where
Jeff Traxler, who came up with the idea and story for the movie “Memorial Day,” appeared in the film driving this WWII-era truck. (Courtesy of Jeff Traxler)
to encourage them to share their about the benefits of remember“The vets take away the realown experiences, the film talks ing conflict and talking about it. ism and the stories,” Traxler said.
he meets Kelly Tripp, a female lieutenant fascinated by his penchant for taking souvenirs from battle — the latest of which is a piece of shrapnel that hit his leg. When Tripp asks Kyle why he collects so many objects, he
See MEMORIAL Page 3
Le Center Profiles A special project of the Le Center Leader 62 E. Minnesota St., Le Center, MN 56057 Publisher: Stephanie Hill Media Consultants: Stephanie Hill, Sherry Wilmes, Kathleen Davies Ad Design: MaryJo Blanchard, Nikkie Gilmore, Naomi Kissling, Keeley Krebsbach, Jenine Kubista, Kelly Kubista, Paul Ristau Cover Design: Keeley Krebsbach Le Center Profiles 2013, is distributed to subscribers and readers of the Le Center Leader at no extra charge. All rights reserved. ©2013
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MEMORIAL: “Souvenirs” the story that would be known as “Memorial Day” From Page 2 launches into a story from his youth. On Memorial Day in 1993, when Kyle was just 13, he discovered a beat-up footlocker in a storm cellar at his grandparents’ Minnesota farmhouse. When presented with the footlocker, Bud Vogel — a veteran of the 82nd Airborne during World War II — initially refuses to talk about the objects inside. He eventually lets Kyle choose three objects and tells a story about each, talking about friendship, loss, triumph, regret and acceptance. Over the course of one afternoon on a quiet farmhouse porch, viewers are treated to scenes not only from Bud’s incredible experiences in World War II, but also of Kyle’s experiences as a Minnesota National Guard Red Bull Infantry Division. A story that needed to be told Traxler, who collects war artifacts of his own, first got the idea for “Memorial Day” when hosting Living History Days — historical
re-enactments of various military conflicts — on the preserve. “I had a guy down to film the re-enactments for me and though about doing a film,” Traxler said. “But I needed a story.” Soon afterward, a friend familiar with Traxler’s fascination for war artifacts, brought him an unique gift. While tearing down a house, he had discovered an old military footlocker in its garage. He brought it to Traxler with the idea he could add some of the items it contained to his collection. But when Traxler lifted the lid of the chest, he discovered more than just a few old war relics. “I opened it up and found a guy’s life in there,” Traxler said. He had also found his story. Teaming up with Kyle O’Mally, and old friend and fellow Le Center High School graduate, he set out to write “Souvenirs” the story that would later become known as “Memorial Day.”
See MEMORIAL Page 4 James Cromwell (second from the left) talks to extras during shooting on the Mankato set. (Submitted photo)
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Kyle O’Mally (left) and Jeff Traxler (right), appeared as extras in the movie “Memorial Day,” the story for which the two men wrote. (Courtesy of Jeff Traxler)
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Jeff Traxler, owner of Traxler’s Hunting Preserve in Le Center, oversaw shooting of a scene for the then-called movie “Souvenirs.” (Photo courtesy of Jeff Traxler)
MEMORIAL: An American story about those who had to ﬁght From Page 3 Traxler contacted Twin Citiesbased director Sam Fischer of 185 Media with the idea of bringing “Souvenirs” to life. To raise money for the filming, the men sold it as an “adventure” rather than an investment. Approaching friends, family and local veterans they set about finding supporters for its creation. Fischer helped bring in Twin
Cities-based screenwriter Marc Conklin to work on the script. Craig Christiansen of Perspective Films was also brought on board as a producer. Traxler and O’Mally set about finding locations to film, contacting local re-enactors and asking to borrow equipment and costumes. Fagen Fighters, an aircraft restoration company based in Granite Falls, flew in a P-51 Mustang and a P-38 Lightening to use in WWII
scenes. “1953 was the last time a P-38 had been even used in a movie,” Traxler said. Members of the Mankato National Guard unit the Red Bulls, recently returned from overseas, acted as extras in the film, using their own equipment and flying in on helicopters. Traxler and O’Mally appear in the movie as well, in the background and in uniform.
Cast members included James Cromwell, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Farmer Hoggett in 1995 box office smash “Babe,” and his son John Cromwell, who has lived in Minnesota the past couple years. Jonathan Bennett, who has had roles in such recent films as “Mean Girls” and the TV series “Veronica Mars” also stars in the flick. Now available on DVD, the
film aired on the CW during this past May. Never to hit the big screen, Traxler said the film was nevertheless a success. A multi-generational story, the film is written for a broad audience, consisting not only of older veterans, but younger ones and their families, Traxler said. The father of a National Guard member himself, he emphasized the need for veterans of all ages to talk about their experiences and
learn to live with them. “O’Mally and I are very glad for what we did, because the story needed to be told,” Traxler said. “Anyone can relate to this, whether they were in WWII, Vietnam or Iraq. It’s an American story about those that had to fight.” Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @sphjessicabies
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Le Center Color Guard continues to serve By JAMES STITT
Although every celebration or event in and around Le Center is different, there is always one constant — the Le Center Color Guard. Whether it is a parade down Minnesota Street in Le Center, or a celebration in Elysian, the Le Center Color Guard will be there, proudly presenting the American flag and honoring those who have served in the nation’s armed forces. Those who move in the color guard move as a unit, standing with great poise and dignity, each step measured and precise. They do not march in parades for recognition, nor do they walk through huge crowds for admiration, they only serve in the guard to honor others and to honor the flag. “We are there to honor veterans, past and present,” said Sergeant at Arms LeRoy Thelemann. Thelemann was a heavy equipment operator in the U.S. Army and served from 1953-55. Now he continues to serve his country by proudly displaying its colors, and honoring other veterans. Thelemann’s partner in the Le Center Color Guard and fellow Sergeant at Arms Ken Sinclair also served in the U.S. Army (195456), and Sinclair also proudly honors all veterans. Even though the two are both Army veterans, there is no distinction in the color guard between branches of the military. A veteran from any branch of the armed services is
The Le Center Color Guard marches in the 2013 Memorial Day Parade. (James Stitt/Le Center Leader)
welcome to be a part of the color guard. “A veteran is a veteran,” said Sinclair. Even though the color guard is seen most when walking in parades, they perform their duty more often in private. Another part of the color guard’s respon-
sibilities is the honor guard. The honor guard attends the funerals of veterans. Each time the Le Center Honor Guard receives a call about the passing of a veteran, more than 100 members are called to bring the group together. On average, around 35 members will be in attendance
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at a funeral, but there have been some where they have gathered upward of 70 members to send off their fallen comrades. “There is a lot of camaraderie,” said Thelemann. “Nobody wants to be left out.” The guard also does other behind the scenes work as well. They
act as caretakers of the flag and maintain several of the flags flown throughout Le Center. They raise and lower the flags, make repairs, and participate in the retiring of the flag. The guard is made of many members, and it is not only limited to veterans. Auxilliary mem-
bers as well as wives of veterans participate in the guard also. “If you don’t have the women you don’t have the men,” said Sinclair. The dedication of the guard has no boundaries, and even though they are based in Le CenSee COLOR GUARD Page 6
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COLOR GUARD: Travels all across Minnesota to participate in events From Page 5 ter, they will often travel throughout Le Sueur County. The guard marches at out-of-town events like the Giant Days Celebration in Le Sueur and the Fourth of July Parade in Elysian. The guard also travels all across Minnesota to participate in events and attend funerals for veterans who have passed away, as they often travel to Fort Snelling, and have gone to events as far as Sleepy Eye. That dedication that is shown by the Le Center Color and Honor Guards is reciprocal with other guards as well. Color/honor guards from other cities like Montgomery, Cleveland, among others, help the Le Center guard when needed. The groups often march together at big events, and the Le Center Color Guard gathers other guards from across Le Sueur County to attend Relay for Life at the Le Sueur County Fairgrounds.
The color and honor guard is important to those who have been involved in it. Those who have moved away from Le Center are still members of the guard. Some members live in other cities across Minnesota, and some live as far away as the west coast, and even though they are not in Le Center, they will come back from time to time to join the guard once again. Being a part of the color and honor guard is not a source of personal pride. Those who march do not display the nations colors and the military garb for self-satisfaction, they participate in the LeRoy Thelemann (left) and Ken Sinclair (right) served in the armed forces, and now serve to honor others. guard to honor others. “We are proud of it, we are extremely proud of it,” said The- WHERE TO FIND • Cherry Creek Days — Parade — North a year) lemann. Cleveland Morristown Flag retirement “We are proud of what vet- THEM • Independence Day • Independence Day ceremonies Parades erans stand for,” said Sinclair. Parade — Elysian Parade — Elysian Flag raising • St. Patrick’s Day — Le Reporter James Stitt can be • Le Sueur Giant Days — • Holidaze Parade — Le Center reached at 931-8572 or follow him Le Sueur Center on Twitter @LCL_j_stitt. • Memorial Day — Le • North Morristown Funerals (around 15-20 Center
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Cleveland vet to raise the ﬂag at Twins’ game By PAT BECK
IF YOU GO
What: Charlie Voit’s raising of the flag at Minnesota Twins game. When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. Bus leaves: Cleveland School at 3 p.m. Cost: $23 ticket for behind the plate upper deck. Bus is free, but donations are being taken for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. For tickets: Call Angie Voit at 507-381-6201 by Aug. 2 deadline.
There are not many people more fitting or deserving than Charlie Voit to raise the flag at the Minnesota Twins game Sept. 14 at Target Field. Ten days after graduating from Cleveland High School in 2011, Voit went directly into the Army as an infantryman. He served front-line ground combat eight months in Afghanistan from November 2012 to July 2013. He did basic training at Ft. Benning, Ga.; and has been based in Ft. Campbell, Ky., since October 2011. Voit enlisted for three-years in the Army and is set to complete his stint in October 2014. He went into the Army as a private and has made his way up to a specialist. He will be on block leave Aug. 24 for one month and then will make his way back to Kentucky to finish out his time. “I’m taking a couple of months to consider my options,” Voit said. “If I stay in, it will be the same job. Otherwise, I plan on getting out into active duty with the National Guard and earn a college degree. I’d like to be a full-time firefighter or sheriff or deputy.” Voit said raising the flag at the Twins’ game is the greatest honor he’s ever received. “The reason I joined the infantry is just for the pure adrenaline rush of being there firsthand to see it all happening and knowing after it’s over that our country is that much more safe,” Voit said. “I love serving our country and knowing if my life is on the line, then my family, friends, and community can do what they need to
Charlie Voit (right) serves in the biggest platoon of 32 soldiers in Afghanistan. (Submitted photo)
do day in and day out without worrying about protecting themselves.” Fighting in Afghanistan has been difficult just because of the terrain, and that it’s hard to see the enemy fighters, Voit said. “When we did see them, they would be wearing clothing that blended in with the terrain, and they usually travel in fire teams usually three to four fighters. We
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said. “It’s fun to be out on the field with the rest of the team. Pitching was my favorite position. You’re more in control of the game.” Voit played baseball from third- through 12th-grade. Since high school, he has played pickup games, but has not played on an organized team. “I’d like to get into a town team,” he said. Voit has been a Twins fan for years, watching games and attend-
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ing many in the Metrodome, but this will be his first time at Target Field. “It will be be pretty cool to watch them here,” he said. “I kept following them throughout my school years till I left for Afghanistan. Once you watch them, you get used to watching them.” His dad, Brad, sent an email outlining why his son should be chosen for the honor. And his
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got into some fights with them where we would return fire with our machine guns, and then we would get communications with the Apache helicopters, or even better A-10 fighter jets that usually would end the fight.” In addition to serving his county, Voit is a baseball player and fan. “Besides football, baseball is my favorite sport to play,” Voit
mom, Angie, is organizing the bus trip going to Target Field. They have a section reserved behind home plate on the first deck. While playing baseball is not easy, it’s far from as dangerous as serving in front-line combat. “We are the first and last defense as far as fighting and defending territory the enemy tries to take over,” he said. “We walk up mountains to sit on Observation Posts (OP’s) that are Afghan National Army (ANA) occupied and just make sure they are handling themselves well, and we try helping reinforce their security. We also fly in as a Quick Response Force (QRF) for other friendly troops in our area if they are in need of reinforcements or supplies. “The infantry is the backbone of the Army and is the most adrenaline rushing job in the Army. My daily schedule includes See VETS Page 8
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Charlie Voit serves as a machine gunner in Afghanistan. (Submitted photo)
VETS: Cleveland vet will raise ﬂag From Page 7 a three-day schedule. My platoon would be on QRF for three days, ready for anything to happen and we would roll out within an hour of the call for assistance. The next three days would be sitting in our head quarters building using a high powered camera scanning the mountains for enemy fighters and taking care of the radios making sure we always have communication with everyone that was out on mission. The final three days would be a new mission everyday, just depending on what needed to be done, from walking up a mountain or driving to the nearest district center and con-
ducting a meeting with the local nationals. “We were working out of Cop Monti, Afghanistan, the northern most U.S. forces base in Afghanistan. Cop Monti was located in the northern Kunar Valley. We went into villages such as Dangum, Shegal, Asmar. Dangum is one of the more Taliban run villages that is just a couple minutes away from the Pakistan border. Shegal was where the district center was located that we took our trucks to and had meetings with our local national and ANA partners. Asmar was where COP Monti was located, and we conducted quite a few missions around there, just walking through the village or
Pitcher Charlie Voit picks up a grounder playing for the Le Center/Cleveland Coyotes high school baseball team. (Richard Rohlfing/St. Peter Herald)
walking mountains near by to check on OP’s surrounding us.” Reach Sports Editor Pat Beck at 931-8566, or follow him on Twitter.com @SPHSportsPat
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Military service allowed Le Center veteran to experience the world outside of Minnesota
By ERIN O’NEILL
When Denny Blaschko graduated from Le Center High School more than 40 years ago, he was met with the same choices as any high school graduate: Get a job, attend college or join the military. But with the draft snatching up young men left and right, Blaschko could see the writing on the wall and decided to enlist in the Army on his own terms. “I joined the Army right out of high school,” said Blaschko. “I grew up on a farm and I never left the place. I was 18 years-old and it was a chance to get out and explore a little.” In 1966 when Blaschko enlisted, he had just finished 12 years of formal schooling and was looking for some adventure. But, little did he know the real learning was only just beginning. After completing basic training stateside, Blaschko and the other newly trained soldiers were to be sent overseas to one of two locations: Vietnam or Korea. “I thought they would send me
Denny Blaschko and his wife, Evie, share a laugh after a hard day’s work at Evie’s Soups & More in Le Center. (Erin O’Neill/ Le Sueur News-Herald)
to Vietnam,” said Blaschko. As fate would have it, Blaschko was given orders to complete a year-long tour in Korea, separating him from some of the friends he had made since enlisting. Then, just days before he was to fly out, life sent him another curveball when he contracted pneumonia that kept him grounded while the others in his unit left without him. A week later, Blaschko was well enough to travel and was sent over to Korea to join his com-
rades. Having never ventured far from Le Center, he was about to experience a completely different country and culture — all by himself. “When you’re 18 years-old going to another country, now that’s a shock right there,” said Blaschko recalling the apprehension he felt when he touched down halfway across the world. It was apparent upon arrival that Blaschko wasn’t in Minnesota anymore.
“Everyone was on a bicycle and lived in huts,” said Blaschko. “It was amazing to see the different culture. We were right in the middle of the rice paddies.” Not only was he surrounded by a landscape and culture completely different from his own, but Blaschko also shared barracks and equipment with Korean soldiers. Koreans who served under Korean military leadership were often treated very poorly, so many actually paid to serve in units with Americans. Though Blaschko found it hard to communicate with the soldiers because of the language barrier, he kept busy working as a mechanic, driving trucks, fetching water and responding to the occasional fire fight. “When you hear that siren go off, it gets you going,” said Blaschko. “Not knowing what you are going to do or what will happen – it gets your blood pumping.” After completing his tour in Korea, Blaschko finished out his remaining two years of service stateside, training and working at posts in Colorado, Alabama,
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Washington and Wisconsin. While stationed in Colorado, he had the good fortune of meeting his wife Evie at a local dance hall. “I met her there and that was it,” said Blaschko. The couple soon married and moved to Le Center, where they have been living ever since. Though he admits that he has no interest in returning to Korea, Blaschko is grateful for the experiences his military service allowed him to have, the skills he gained and most of all the people he met along the way. “The friends that you make is what really sticks with you,” said Blaschko. Reach reporter Erin O’Neill at 931-8576, or follow her on Twitter. com @LNHeoneill.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Keeping his head down brought Hayden to the top By JAMES STITT
When some people want to help others and they join a club or organization. Don Hayden has joined more than several. Hayden, 73, is a member of more than 10 clubs and organizations, and his involvement ranges from the the local, state, and national level. The groups he is a part of are diverse, his membership extends from the American Legion, to St. Mary’s Catholic Church. His dedication is unwavering, and when there is a job to be done, Hayden will step up and get it done. “There is no job he is afraid to tackle,” said his former American Legion Commander Roger Olson. “If you have a concern or a question, he’ll find the answer.” Hayden, a Le Center native, got his unflappable work ethic while he was in the Navy. After Hayden had entered college on a partial scholarship for football, he felt unhappy, so one day he made
up his mind to join the Marines. On a Monday he walked down to the recruitment office, but there was no one there. Hayden, with his mind set on joining the military, walked a few doors down to the Navy recruitment office where he promptly joined the service. The next Tuesday Hayden was in boot camp. Hayden spent the next four years as a medic in the U.S. Navy, performing surgeries and healing wounds. In his time in the service, he found that it was best to keep his head down and do what he was told. “Your life wasn’t your own,” said Hayden. “There was always someone above you, telling you what to do.” After Hayden finished his time in the Navy, he went back to college and got his degree from the University of Minnesota. It wasn’t until years later when he came back to Le Center that he joined the Community Club. As a part of his work, Hayden spent a lot of time on the road.
Don Hayden gives the 2013 Memorial Day Address in Le Center. (James Stitt/Le Center Leader)
When he found out the Commu- of town and was asked to take a Center, and Hayden finally came nity Club met on Fridays at the economic development job in Le off the road. Little Dandy, he decided to join, and take a little Friday break from the road. He built a home south
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HAYDEN: Dedicated to keeping his head down and doing what he is asked From Page 10 Center in 1991, and immediately became an integral part of the American Legion. He kept his head down, did the jobs that were asked of him and eventually he was named Post Commander. When he inherited the position, the membership of the post in Le Center was beginning slip. The post’s membership had dropped below 300 after an all-time high of around 325. Hayden began to work on getting new members, and by the end of his first year, there were 47 new members. The Le Center American Legion’s membership continued to climb to over 400, and now sits around 380. Hayden credits the boom in membership to door-to-door recruiting and face-to-face interaction. His outgoing and friendly attitude helps him build bonds with others, and he has developed a bit of a following. Because of Hayden’s rapport with those he’s met, people will often seek him out.
DON HAYDEN’S INVOLVEMENT
• Executive Committee 1994-1998 American Legion American Legion Post Department Offices #108 • Commander 2002-03 • Commander 1993-94 • Public Relations • Vice Commander 1991Committee 93 • Membership Chair 1998• Club Committee 1994-96 99 • Executive Committee • Convention Corporation 1991-94 American Legion American Legion County National Offices Commander 1994-96, • National Vice 1998-2000 Commander 2007-08 American Legion District • Internal Affairs #3 Commission • Commander 1996-97 Other Military • Vice Commander 1994- Organizations 96 • Voiture #281 — Mankato
• U.S. Navy League Other Organizations • Chamber of Commerce Executive Director • Community Club • Lions Club • Knights of Columbus • Hiberians • St. Mary’s Catholic Church • Queen of Peace Hospital • Region 9 Development • Commission Revolving Loan Chariman • Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
cated his life to keeping his head down and doing what he is asked. He said that it is best to keep a low profile and refrain from making waves, but his refusal to say no to any task has gotten him to a point where he is making himself standout. He has turned into the go-to
guy when a task needs to be done. “If I got the time I’ll do it,” said Hayden. “If there’s a job to do, I’ll do it.”
“He’s the guy people look to when they want to run for office in the legion,” said Olson. “They want him to give the nomination speech.” What begun as a membership to one club, has blossomed into a huge devotion. Hayden has dedi-
Reporter James Stitt can be reached at 931-8572 or follow him on Twitter @LCL_j_stitt.
The Le Center Color Guard joins Don Hayden as he throws out the first pitch at the Metrodome in 2003. Hayden said the dedication and the camaraderie of the Le Center veterans is unparalleled. (Photo courtesy of Don Hayden)
Don Hayden and Dan Ludwig were a part of a district team that had the most members go on to be State Commanders of the American Legion. Photo was taken in 1996. (Photo courtesy of Don Hayden)
10 West Tyrone St. 357-4450 www.cityoflecenter.com
Hwy 99 - Le Center
Council Members ~ Bob Emmers Christian Harmeyer Gary Meidlinger, Jr. Dennis Woelfel
Administrator ~ Chris Collins
Serving Delicious Ashby’s Ice Cream
Daily Specials • Propane Exchange • Video Rental • Gift Cards • Breakfast Sandwiches • Cookies • Coffee and Cappuccinos • Lottery • Bait Tackle • DNR Licenses
Building Inspector ---------------------507-420-6574 Police Department Dispatch -----------357-4888 Pool ----------------------------------------------357-6344 Library -------------------------------------------357-6792 Chamber of Commerce -----------------357-6737
Municipal Liquor Store --------------------357-4451 Public Works Superintendent Curt Roemhildt---------------------------357-4450 Planning/Zoning -----------------------------357-6737
2090 W. Derrynane Le Center • 357-6800 Hours: Mon-Sat 5 am-11 pm Sun 6 am-11 pm
For their courage, hard work and dedication to their country we salute the men and women of our Armed Forces past and present. It is because of their sacrifice that America remains the land of the free, and we thank them for protecting our Citizens and our Country.
10 W. Minnesota St. Le Center, MN 56057 507-357-2273
Honoring the... Best & Bravest
Mon-Wed 8:30am-4pm | Thurs-Fri 8:30am-5:30pm
134 N. Kilkenny Rd. Kilkenny, MN 56052 507-595-2273
To better serve you, First National Bank of Le Center is staying open
TWO NIGHTS A WEEK.
www.fnblecenter.com HOUSE OF INSURANCE AGENCY, INC.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Call the HOUSE for all your insurance needs.
We are an independent insurance agency representing Auto Owners, Owners, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance, Fairmont Farmers Mutual, Allied-Nationwide, AAA - West Bend, Progressive, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medica and other speciality companies. We can design insurance policies customized to fit your individual needs. Contact us for a free insurance proposal - we look forward to serving you!
Le Center Office 22 South Lexington 507-357-2221
Montgomery Office 103 Oak Ave S.E. 507-364-5511
Published on Aug 19, 2013