LUMINOUS A special publication of the Perham Focus
Tammy Sturdevant Constructing a better future for Perham Public Schools Also inside: Fran Johnson On a mission for the arts Tracy Hendrickx An up-and-coming leader in healthcare Julia Bachelder Excelling in a “man's world”
Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham area
Perham Luminous Oct 2017.pdf
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CONTENTS TAMMY STURDEVANT
A SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO THE PERHAM FOCUS, OCTOBER 26, 2017
222 2nd Ave. SE • Perham, MN 56573 p: 218.346.5900 • f: 218.346.5901 www.perhamfocus.com Cover photo of Tammy Sturdevant, at the construction site of the future Perham High School. Kim Brasel / Luminous 001635568r1
Serving the region for 115 years is an incredible feat. The joys of childbirths, the relief that comes with standing on the winning side of a close call, the sadness when it doesn’t and the spectrum of emotions we felt in the millions of moments shared in between, give our community character. Providing healthcare for more than a century deserves recognition, but the congratulations will be brief because we know there is more to do; more moments to embrace and memories to make. Celebrate wellness. Spread happiness. Take pride in where you live. We do, which is why we’ll be here alongside you for the next 115 years and more. perhamhealth.org 1000 Coney Street West, Perham, MN 56573 PAGE 4 | LUMINOUS 2017
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BLEEDING BLACK AND GOLD Tammy Sturdevant, an influential advocate for Perham Public Schools, embraces and embodies Perham Pride BY MARIE JOHNSON For Luminous
PAGE 6 | LUMINOUS 2017
Kim Brasel / Luminous
Left: Tammy Sturdevant, at the Perham High School construction site in early October. As the co-chair of a pro-referendum advocacy group, Tammy was instrumental in securing voter support for the new school.
Perham Focus file photo
Below: Tammy is pictured with Perham City Attorney Dennis Happel, whom she lists as one of her mentors, at the 2015 Chamber Awards Banquet, where she received the Leadership Award for her many community involvements.
o say that Tammy Sturdevant has done a lot for Perham is an understatement. From her influential work with the new high school to the free teeth cleanings she gives underprivileged children, Tammy has, directly and indirectly, changed people’s lives here for the better. And she keeps on doing it. Known as a selfless, fearless and optimistic leader, Tammy gives
countless hours of her time to community events, interests and projects, with a particular passion for schools and students. She’s on the boards of the Perham Area Kinship mentoring program, the Perham Area Community Center and Perham Rotary. She’s the current president of the 549 Family Foundation, and the volunteer organizer for school concessions. A major player in local charitable
fundraising, she’s chaired the Rotary’s annual Spring Fling fundraiser multiple times, and is a leading organizer behind the Lakes Area Home Tour fundraiser. She’s also a wife, mother, full-time dentist and the owner of Perham Family Dentistry. In 2015, she won the Perham Chamber’s Leadership Award, and was named Rotarian of the Year. People often ask her how she finds the time to do it all. LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 7
I think school spirit is more alive than it has been in a long time. —TAMMY STURDEVANT “Honestly, I have a hard time saying ‘no,’” she admits with a laugh. “But there are so many great causes; I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to good causes. And I really do bleed black and gold. I love Perham.”
A PERSUASIVE VOICE FOR ‘VOTE YES’ For years, Tammy has been a goto source of information, ideas and positive energy when it comes to anything related to Perham Public Schools, but perhaps never more so than two years ago, when the community was at a crossroads with its beloved but aging high school. When the school board first started talking about replacing the 100-year-old building, the majority of the voting public was against
it. Tammy was instrumental in persuading them otherwise. From the start, she was involved in behind-the-scenes ‘Vote Yes’ planning efforts for the new school, and she acted as a public advocate to get a referendum passed to pay for it. Fiscally conservative and proeducation, she pushed for a plan that was both cost-effective and forward-thinking. “She was a critical member of the committee and helped establish what the district should go after,” says Mitch Anderson, Perham-Dent Superintendent. “She really analyzed the school’s needs.” When an initial referendum attempt failed, Tammy didn’t lose
STURDEVANT: Page 10
Tammy and her husband, Paul, the evening of the referendum vote. Tammy says helping to get the referendum passed is one of her most fulfilling accomplishments.
Perham Focus File Photo
Tammy, back row, far left, says being a part of the coaching staff that took the Yellowjacket volleyball team to state in 2015 is one of her proudest achievements. She’s taken a break from coaching due to her busy schedule, but says she misses it and hopes to get back into it soon. PAGE 8 | LUMINOUS 2017
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STURDEVANT From Page 8
hope or heart. Instead, she stayed true to one of her life mottos, “Go big or go home,” and enthusiastically stepped into a new, larger role during the next referendum campaign: co-chair of Citizens Moving Forward, a proreferendum advocacy group. She hit the ground running, educating people on the needs of the school district and convincing them that a new high school would be good for the community. “She played a number of roles (as co-chair) — organizer, leader, cheerleader,” says Anderson. “She was the one that pulled everybody together, and everybody that worked on that committee thrived off her passion and her dedication. She brought that not just to the whole school district, but to the community, as well.” Tammy held one-on-one conversations with voters, showed people around the old high school so they could see the building’s deficiencies with their own eyes, and, in some cases, even taught first-time voters about the registration process. “From the get-go, we (the committee) all believed that it was such a good cause that, once we got the information out there, people would get on board,” she says. “And, thankfully, they did.” The referendum passed in November 2015. Tammy hosted the celebration party at her house the night of the vote, and she says, “I can’t even
Tammy, right, with her sister, Brenda Lovcik, on the night they were both inducted into the Perham High School athletic hall of fame. With them is their father, Bob Riepe.
explain how much joy there was. There was hootin’ and hollerin’ — everybody was just so happy.” Now that the high school is under construction, with new walls going up every day, Tammy says she is “just thrilled” to watch its progress. She’s as certain as ever that the project is a great thing for Perham. She’s heard dozens of families say they’ve moved here, or are planning to move here, because of the new school, so she believes it’s value “is a no-brainer for the community.”
Everybody who knows her jokes about the number of hats she wears, but when something needs to be done, they go to her. — MITCH ANDERSON, Perham-Dent Superintendent PAGE 10 | LUMINOUS 2017
“It’ll help keep enrollment up, which helps keep state funding up,” she says. “And I think school spirit is more alive than it has been in a long time.”
DENTISTRY, FAMILY AND AC/DC CONCERTS A Perham native, Tammy (maiden name Riepe) made a name for herself in high school as an outstanding student and athlete, leading her basketball and volleyball teams to unprecedented success. After graduating from Perham High School in 1988, she went on to the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) on academic and athletic scholarships, and excelled there, as well. Today, she is a member of both the Perham High School and NDSCS athletic halls of fame. She explored a few different career interests in her early years of college,
Marie Johnson / Luminous
A Perham native, Tammy moved back to her hometown in 2007 to open her own dental practice, Perham Family Dentistry.
but eventually discovered the dental hygiene program “and ended up loving it,” she says. She worked as a dental hygienist in North Dakota for a number of years and then decided to become a dentist herself. By 2007, she had graduated at the top of her class from the University of Minnesota’s dentistry program, in the Twin Cities. With a lot of family in the Perham area, Tammy maintained a strong hometown connection during the years she was away. When people here heard she was about to finish dental school, they persuaded her to move back to town and open her own practice. “I was recruited here while in dental school because there was a shortage of dentists,” she explains. She loves her work, especially the one-on-one interactions with her
patients. She enjoys having some flexibility in her schedule, too, which has been especially helpful to her as a mother and active volunteer. She strives to offer her employees that same flexibility. She also strives to provide dental care to anyone in need of it. She works with area social workers, teachers and community volunteers to offer her dental services free of charge, as needed, for the underprivileged — especially children. She works hard, but she also makes sure to make time for fun. “Work hard, play hard” is another of her life mottos, and she lives up to it. Last year, for example, she turned 46, and to celebrate, she went to 46 music concerts in one year. They were mostly classic rock and country shows, she says, and they were all a blast. Her favorite was AC/DC, with
Garth Brooks and Toby Keith as close seconds. “Life is short, and you gotta do what you love,” she says. Her loves include volleyball, gardening, “tinkering around the house” and watching football. Her husband, Paul Sturdevant, is a Yellowjackets football coach, and one of their sons is a player on his college team, so she goes to a lot of high school and college games. “We’re a big football family,” she says. Formerly a special education teacher, Paul now works as Perham Family Dentistry’s business manager. He and Tammy have been married for about 15 years, and between the two of them, they have three kids: Zachary, Hayden and Ana, all of whom have graduated high school and are now working or attending college. LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 11
‘NEVER A CHALLENGE TOO BIG’ With the new high school now well on its way to fruition, Tammy has turned her attention to other, related matters — namely, what to do with the old high school. She’s part of a committee that’s working to find creative uses for the old building. She’s also started looking ahead to next September, when there’ll be an all-class reunion to honor the old high school and celebrate the new one. She’s agreed to be a leading organizer of that event. “Every time I get done with one thing, there’s something new that comes up,” she laughs. A number of possible uses for the old school have been discussed: it could house an expanded Boys and Girls Club, for example, or a new autism center, a workforce training
She’s definitely fearless. There’s never a challenge that’s too big or too great; she takes it as an opportunity. — EMILY DREYER, on her friend and fellow volunteer, Tammy Sturdevant center, or a child care center. There have also been preliminary talks about updating the auditorium and gymnastics facility. Whatever ends up being the plan, leave it to Tammy to make it happen. Describing her as “passionate, influential, driven” and “selfless,” Anderson said Tammy’s ability to get things done is “almost contagious.” “Everybody who knows her jokes about the number of hats she wears,” he says, “but when something needs to be done, they go to her.” “She’s definitely fearless,” says Emily Dreyer, who has worked with Tammy on a number of community projects.
“There’s never a challenge that’s too big or too great; she takes it as an opportunity. And she’s very optimistic.” Tammy credits her can-do attitude to teachers and coaches from her youth who nurtured her potential and told her she could do anything she put her mind to. Their positive influence, she says, is the reason she’s so passionate about education — she’s experienced for herself the difference that good schools, good teachers and good programs can make on a student’s life. Working to ensure that today’s students have access to those same good things is her way of paying it forward.
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Marie Johnson / Luminous
Fran Johnson is on a mission to preserve and restore the former St. Stanislaus Church in Perham. Several years ago, largely due to her efforts, the building was saved from demolition and transformed into the Perham Center for the Arts, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing arts and cultural opportunities in town. Fundraising for the center is ongoing, as the building requires upgrades to make it handicap-accessible.
PAGE 14 | LUMINOUS 2017
FAITHFUL TO THE CAUSE For years, Fran Johnson has stayed true to her mission: save St. Stan’s, and get an arts center up and running in Perham BY MARIE JOHNSON For Luminous
hey just don’t make ‘em like they used to,” Fran Johnson sighs. Gazing around at the lofty, ornate interior of the former St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Perham, she remarks on the unique character of the architecture, the decorative details in the design, and the sturdiness of the build. “It’s got foot-thick walls,” she says appreciatively. Fran has always loved old churches. She likes to explore them. When she travels, she stops at every one she sees, hoping the door will be open so she can take a peek inside. But this one, St. Stan’s, she loves the most. This one is near and dear to her heart. This is the church she got married in, baptized her four children in, and visited every Sunday for 40 years. “I still remember the first time I walked in here to see it,” she recalls today. “I thought it was beautiful.” In 2009, when the St. Cloud Diocese announced that the Perham church would have to close, Fran was devastated. There was talk of demolishing the building, and the thought broke her heart. “I just couldn’t let it go,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful building
and it needs to stay a part of Perham. As long as I’m on this earth, I will try and do things to restore the building to what it was in 1922,” the year it was built. Knowing it couldn’t survive any longer as a church, but wanting to keep the building intact, Fran spearheaded an effort to come up with a new use for St. Stan’s. She, along
Marie Johnson / Luminous
The walls of the old church, built in 1922, are lined with original stained glass windows. Fran says the windows cost a total of $2,200 to install in their day. Today, the cost of replacing them would far exceed that.
with a group of former parishioners and other supportive community members, put their heads together to come up with a new, long-term purpose for the building. After a lot of brainstorming, research, and early fundraising efforts, the group came up with the idea of opening an event center. Later, that plan evolved into an arts center — a niche that was just aching to be filled in Perham. The group got busy creating a new nonprofit that could take ownership of the church and, in May 2013, the Perham Center for the Arts (PCA) was born. One month later, the transfer of title of the building was complete. St. Stan’s parishioners donated the church to the PCA organization, and the building officially became the Perham Center for the Arts, a
I just couldn’t let it go. It’s such a beautiful building and it needs to stay a part of Perham. FRAN JOHNSON, on why she fought so hard to keep St. Stan’s from being torn down
LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 15
place for people to experience art and culture in Perham. Fran and the other proponents of saving St. Stan’s rejoiced — they had done it; they achieved their goal. The building would not be torn down. What’s more, it would stand as a useful and integral part of the community. They had reached a crucial milestone, but much work still lay ahead of them. The group’s hope is that one day the center will be a bustling hub of arts and entertainment, with regular live shows, art exhibits, craft classes and more. But legally, in order to use the building in that capacity, it has to be handicapaccessible, and that means it needs new bathrooms and a new elevator, at a hefty estimated cost of $250,000. There’s also basic maintenance, like roof repair, that must not be ignored, and other projects that board members would like to complete before the facility goes full public. Fran wants to remove the green carpet on the main floor and restore the ornate tile underneath, for example, and the board of directors has discussed plans to construct a more formal entryway into the main hall. All of these things come with substantial price tags, and so the fundraising continues. “We just keep plugging along,” Fran says. For the past few years, the eightperson board has organized an annual $10,000 raffle drawing, which covers basic expenses every year. To raise money for construction projects, they seek out grant dollars, hold free-will donation shows in the arts center, or host paid performances at the high school auditorium. Most people in Perham are familiar with the Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Loretta Lynn/ Patsy Cline tribute shows the PCA has brought to town. They’ve also hosted the Fargo-Moorhead Chorale, Perham High School Concert Choir, Red River Valley Veterans Band and others for free shows. PAGE 16 | LUMINOUS 2017
So far, the PCA has raised about $75,000 to put toward their first goal of making the building handicapaccessible. That’s not chump change, but they’ve still got a long way to go. Fran says they’re not worried about trying to meet a deadline on raising the full amount. They just keep doing whatever they can, whenever they can. “I’m just so thankful for all the volunteers who feel passionate about preserving this building,” she says. “And for the people who come to our events. It’s so heartwarming to see.” Fran spends so much time at the PCA that she refers to it as her
“second home.” She cleans the building, paints, answers the phone, gives tours to couples interested in getting married there, and whatever else comes up. As the chair of the PCA board, she says she’s in charge of arranging and advertising their fundraising events, and also helps write grants. It’s “a passion and a love” for her, she says. She admits it’s a big commitment of time and energy, but she’s quick to turn any credit or attention away from herself, and onto others.
JOHNSON: Page 18
Marie Johnson / Luminous
Fran stands inside the Perham Center for the Arts in mid-October. She spends so much time in the building that she calls it her “second home.” Though the center needs an elevator and handicap-accessible bathrooms before it can host paid performances, occasional weddings and free-will donation shows are held there.
LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 17
MORE ABOUT ST. STAN’S St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Perham began as a Polish church in 1922. Designed by architect Victor Cordella, it was constructed for a total cost of about $40,000. Cordella, a native of Krakow, Poland, designed 21 Minnesota churches between 1903 and 1927. He’s also the man behind the American Swedish Institute, Gluek’s Restaurant and a tavern that became Nye’s Polonaise, all in Minneapolis. St. Stan’s was essentially a “mission” church because the Polish-speaking people were unable to understand the language of Perham’s other Catholic church, the predominantly Germanspeaking St. Henry’s Church. St. Stan’s was later known as the “north side church” and then “the north Catholic church.” For many years, the congregation was separated much like a school district or city jurisdiction. Those who lived north of the railroad tracks were required to attend St. Stan’s, while those south were required to attend St. Henry’s.
JOHNSON From Page 16
“I really could not have done this without the support of my husband and my family and really all of the people that have stepped forward during the last few years to help us — volunteers, donors, the St. Stan’s parishioners who donated the building to us,” she says. “I’ve called on a lot of people to help me; I have not done this myself.” Katie Hennagir, who has known Fran for about 25 years and sits on the PCA board with her, describes her as an “unsung hero” who inspires the other board members to get stuff done.
When she dives into something, she does it well and does her best at it. She’s very sincere and approaches everything wholeheartedly. KATIE HENNAGIR, describing Fran
“She’s kind of the ‘mother hen’ of all of us,” Katie says. “When she dives into something, she does it well and does her best at it. She’s very sincere and approaches everything wholeheartedly. She also really loves this community and loves being a part of it.” “She’s constantly digging for resources to help, whether it’s fundraising or preserving,” adds Ryan Rustad, vice-chair of the PCA board. “She wants to do whatever we need to do to make that building useful. She wants to see the community thrive, and she knows that communities thrive when they’ve got a diverse range of offerings, including the arts. She’s passionate about it.” That passion is “one of the biggest reasons the PCA even exists,” says Katie. Fran’s love of the community runs deep because she has a rich history here. She has spent all of her adult life in Perham, raising four children and working as a painter and property flipper. Raised on a hobby farm in Frazee, Fran graduated from high school there in 1967 and then went on to study agribusiness at the vocational school in Detroit Lakes. That’s where she met her husband, Ron. They moved to his hometown of Perham shortly after
Eventually, it became evident that the two Catholic churches could not be sustained in a community the size of Perham. The shortage of priests was a factor in the decision to close St. Stan’s, but the church also had costly building maintenance needs. St. Stan’s closed its doors in October 2009. An estimated 300 to 350 people attended its final mass. After its closure, Perham community members attempted to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but were not successful.
PAGE 18 | LUMINOUS 2017
Perham Focus File Photo
In this picture from November 2013, Perham High School music students perform a concert at the Perham Center for the Arts. It was the first time the center hosted a show of that size.
getting married, and still live in the first house they bought together, a farmstead about five miles northeast of town. Fran was a stay-at-home-mom while their kids were young, and Ron worked for, and later owned, Perham Grain and Feed. They have four children: Jackie, Bob, Rick and Shelly. The two girls now live in the Twin Cities; the boys still live in Perham. After the kids were all in school, Fran started wallpapering and painting houses for a living. “I just love to paint,” she says. “I know some people hate it, but there’s something relaxing about it to me.” In 1989, she and Ron started buying, renovating and then either renting or selling fixer-uppers, doing most of the work themselves. The kids liked to be part of the process and would sometimes offer their help and ideas. The work could be physically demanding, and meant long days, Fran says, but, “It didn’t seem like
Fran's mother, Frances Krueger, has been a very important person in her daughter's life. Frances was once in a band (she’s seen here playing the banjo), and she helped instill a love of music in her daughter.
work to me, because I really loved it.” Over the years, they’ve flipped about 20 properties. They have one on the market now, on Hoffman Lake near Dent, that Fran says will most likely be their last. Ron’s retired now, and Fran has plenty of other things to keep her
busy — her family, of course, and also her volunteer work with the PCA. “I usually finish what I start; I have no plans to quit what I’m doing (with the PCA),” she says, adding with a grin, “But I wouldn’t mind slowing down a little.”
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IN IT FOR THE ‘LONG TERM’ Perham Living’s VP of Long-Term Care, Tracy Hendrickx, is making a name for herself as an up-and-coming leader BY MEAGAN PITTELKO For Luminous
PAGE 20 | LUMINOUS 2017
racy Hendrickx has felt drawn to the healthcare field for years—but that’s not all she’s been drawn to. Tracy has found herself working in Perham three separate times since college. “I knew back then that I would want to come back to Perham if I ever had the opportunity to,” she says. Tracy, who graduated from Sebeka High School and then Minnesota State University in Moorhead, is currently the Vice-President of Long-Term Care at Perham Living, the long-term care branch of Perham Health. In that role, she leads the organization’s nursing home, housing, home care, assisted living and community-based services. “My work is primarily administrative now,” she explains. “I still love to interact with our residents as much as I can, though.” Chuck Hofius, CEO of Perham Health, has known Tracy since the
early stages of her career. He says they first worked together when he was her preceptor for her Healthcare Administration program several years ago. After she graduated college and got a couple years experience under her belt, she was hired as his Executive Assistant. “During that time, she got her nursing home administrator license,” Hofius says. “Since we did not have a position, she left and got some great experience as a nursing home administrator. When we had an opening last year, I was so excited to hire her back as our Vice-President of Long-Term Care.” Hofius describes Tracy as “a calm, steady leader who never gets shaken.” “She is very innovative and brings lots of new ideas to the organization,” he says. “She is very residentcentered and committed to making improvements to better resident lives.”
She is very innovative and brings lots of new ideas to the organization. — PERHAM HEALTH CEO CHUCK HOFIUS, describing Tracy
Marie Johnson / Luminous
Above/opposite: Tracy Hendrickx has been Vice-President of Long-Term Care at Perham Living for the past year, and she says she’s really enjoying it: “The organization is great, but this community is truly one of a kind.”
Right: Tracy, left, says the people at Perham Living — like resident Bob Sims, center, and volunteer Bob ‘Bingo Bob’ Williams, right — brighten her days LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 21
We are losing this entire generation and, a lot of times, people don’t take the time to listen. —TRACY HENDRICKX According to Tracy, it was longterm care residents that initially hooked her into healthcare. More specifically, it was their stories that kept her coming back. “When I was working an a facility in Moorhead, I worked with a resident who was a German refugee,” she recalls. “She had grown up in Germany during World War II, and hearing her talk about that—about remembering how she could hear fighter pilots above her head—I realized that we are losing this entire generation and, a lot of times, people don’t take the time to listen.” Although her work is focused on administrative pieces these days— she’s less than a year away from finishing her master’s degree in healthcare business administration— Tracy says seeing the residents still brightens her day. “It’s one of those careers where, if you’re ever bogged down, you can take a break and walk around the building,” she says, “and you’ll be reminded of why you’re doing this. You make that automatic connection.” She added that it’s important for communities to have local long-term care facilities in order to keep the community together. “This is where these people live, and where they’ve lived for a long time,” she says. “If there isn’t a long-term care facility in the community, they’re going to need to drive and their families will be less connected, which will make the community less connected. It’s extremely important because we want these people to continue to be a part of the community.” With October marking one year since Tracy took the position as vice-president, she reflected on PAGE 22 | LUMINOUS 2017
what brought her back to the community and to Perham Living. “We have a lot of really passionate people who work with us, and we get to know the community. If you come on hard times, you know that you can support each other and lean on each other,” she says. “The organization is great, but this community is truly one of a kind.”
Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius describes Tracy as “resident-centered and committed to making improvements to better resident lives.” Below: Tracy with her husband, Jake, and their son, Colter.
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LUMINOUS 2017 4/7/17 | PAGE 23 9:34 AM
PAGE 24 | LUMINOUS 2017
PAIN AND PROFITS
In spite of debilitating illness, Julia Bachelder has excelled in business BY MARIE JOHNSON For Luminous
ulia Bachelder has a history of making it in male-dominated businesses. First, in the late 1990s, she took over a trucking company from her dad, transforming what was a struggling venture into a solid enterprise.
Then, in 2003, she started buying and selling trucks for her own company, Big Red Transportation, LLC, which she still runs. Two years after that, in 2005, she opened Car Care Paradise, a touchless car wash in Perham — another success story that she continues to write.
I always feel like I’m in a man’s world all the time. But it doesn’t scare me. JULIA BACHELDER “It seems I always get into a field that I don’t know anything about, but I learn very quickly,” she says. “And I always feel like I’m in a man’s world all the time. But it doesn’t scare me.” Julia’s confidence and can-do attitude has propelled her over one hurdle after the next to achieve her goals — and she’s had a lot of hurdles. She’s often been the lone woman in the conference room, so to speak, but the glass ceiling hasn’t been her biggest problem — her health has. For decades, Julia has struggled with painful autoimmune disorders that at times leave her bedridden, sometimes for years.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE AWFUL Marie Johnson / Luminous
Opposite: Julia Bachelder calls her business, Car Care Paradise, her “baby.” She pays meticulous attention to it, top to bottom, from the appearance of signage to the mechanical workings of the bays. Above: Julia has had to camp out on her couch during her recent flare-up of Adult Still’s disease, a rare type of inflammatory arthritis that she has suffered from for years. She keeps a work station next to her so she can keep working from home when she feels well enough.
On good days, Julia is able to function normally. She can get up, move about the house, go to work and do whatever else she needs to do, within reasonable limits. On days that are not so good, she camps out on a couch in her living LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 25
room with a makeshift ‘office’ around her. Her laptop, smartphone, important papers, medications and other necessities are all within arms’ reach. When it’s at its worst, Julia’s pain is debilitating. Every joint in her body aches, and she gets horrible shock-like pains down her back and legs. She can’t get out of bed, or even roll over in bed. Her family, her work, everything has to wait. All the little things she enjoys in life — like hosting and cooking for large groups, making and canning salsa, going to Perham Rotary meetings — are put on the back burner. Sometimes, she goes years without a bad flare-up. Sometimes, the flareups last for years. Her longest flare-up lasted an agonizing seven years. In her life, she’s battled numerous infections, pneumonias, flus, difficulty breathing and other issues that arise and then hit hard due to her weakened immune system. She’s also had to deal with
BACHELDER: Page 28
Marie Johnson / Luminous
Above:Julia stands next to one of the automated selection machines that lets drivers choose which wash they want.
A recent family picture shows, from left: Julia’s stepdad, Lee Larimore; her mom, the late Clarice Larimore; her son, Joshua Fellersen, holding her grandson, Aidan; Joshua’s wife, Eve Fellersen, holding grandson Brody; Julia’s youngest son Eric Bachelder (standing above her); her husband, David Bachelder; her son Jared; and his wife Michelle. PAGE 26 | LUMINOUS 2017
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BACHELDER From Page 26
spinal cord leakage and the resulting crippling headaches from a back injection gone wrong. In spite of all this, Julia has managed to remain optimistic and upbeat. “I have been blessed to have a happy and positive attitude about everything,” she says. “I struggle when I am so sick and it takes so long to get well, but I believe that my faith really helps me... I am a strong Christian, and that is what has helped me get through my struggles. If I would not have had my faith in God, I believe I would not have made it through.” She also credits the love, support and assistance of her family, especially her husband, David, as key contributors to her well-being and happiness. Julia’s sister, Lisa Goldberg, says she’s amazed by what Julia is able to accomplish in spite of her illnesses, and she admires her strength and positivity. “She continues to persevere every day through pain and stress, with an optimistic, godly attitude,” Lisa says. “She’s smart, funny, loving and kind. She never gives up on hope. She doesn’t like being sick and in pain, but she knows God has a plan for her life.” Julia’s symptoms stumped doctors for decades until, about 20 years ago, she saw the top rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic and finally got the answer to what ails her: Adult Still’s Disease, a rare type of inflammatory arthritis that causes achy, swollen joints, muscle pain and other issues. She has also been diagnosed with a degenerative disc disease in her back, as well as arachnoiditis, a condition caused by inflammation around the spinal cord that causes severe ‘burning’ pain and neurological problems. Julia has taken prednisone onand-off since her 20s to treat her pain and inflammation, and the steroid has taken its toll over the years: her PAGE 28 | LUMINOUS 2017
bones have been weakened and she’s developed osteoporosis. “When I was young and had three boys to raise, we (she and David) decided that the quality of my life was more valuable than the quantity, that I needed to at least be able to get up and go to my kids’ things at school, to be a mom and cook and take care of them,” she explains. “We decided to do what we had to do. We never thought I’d last this long, and now I’m seeing the side effects of the prednisone levels that I had to take. And there’ll probably be more things as time goes by. It’s just something that’s going to happen.” At the time of this interview, in mid-October, Julia was coming off of a
bad flare-up that had lasted for about a year. She was in the midst of some of those not-so-good days, camped out on a couch in her living room. She wasn’t bedridden anymore, and could leave the house if need be, but her mobility was still limited. Her right foot had a stress fracture that wasn’t healing, and she was wearing a brace on her left foot due to a ruptured achilles tendon, another complication of the prednisone. Her back was also hurting; it’s gotten so bad over the years, she says, that it’s at the point where “I’m just bone on bone.” She’s been taking a relatively new immunosuppressive drug, Actemra, for the past several years (she was
She continues to persevere every day through pain and stress, with an optimistic, Godly attitude. She never gives up on hope. —JULIA’S SISTER, LISA GOLDBERG
Julia and her good friend, Deena Cavanagh, dance down the runway during a local style show.
A family picture from a few years ago, taken at Dave and Julia’s home on Big Pine Lake, shows, clockwise from left: Joshua holding son Aidan, Jared, Dave and Julia, Eric, Eric’s wife Maggie, and Josh’s wife Eve holding son Brody
actually the first patient out of Mayo to get it), but it didn’t stop this latest flare-up. There’s not much Julia can do for relief other than take pain meds, and she says those can only do so much. She plans to see a pain specialist in Minneapolis soon, and she’s hoping some fresh solutions will come from that visit.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS Julia likes everything to be “just so” at Car Care Paradise. She sees to it that all the equipment is working properly in both bays of the touchless car wash, and she frets if the building looks dirty or some signage is torn. She calls the business her “baby,” and nothing — not even her illnesses — stops her from tending to it. When she’s at her sickest, she delegates some or all of the workload to her husband and sons, but she never stops worrying about how
things are going, and she does whatever she can from home. When she’s well, she takes care of almost everything. She answers phones, does paperwork and stops in several times a day to make sure things are running right, picking up cans and other trash that can get in the way of sensors and mess up wash cycles. “I like everything done right,” she says. “I am so detail-oriented, and I just like things done the way I like them.” Before opening Car Care Paradise, Julia never really pictured herself as the owner of a car wash. She and David had thought for a long time that Perham needed one, but they never considered opening one themselves. It just so happened that they met the right person — a car wash owner and developer — at the right time, and he helped them get started. They built the best car wash money could buy, Julia says, selecting top-
notch products and equipment to give customers the best wash possible, and to increase the likelihood of the business’s long-term success. “When we picked everything out and designed things, we picked everything out special,” Julia says. She even designed her own unique delivery system for the rust inhibitor, which applies the product late in the wash cycle so it doesn’t get so diluted. “Nobody else has that anywhere, because we had it specially developed,” she says. Before Car Care Paradise, Julia had another “baby.” Her dad’s trucking company, Blachowske Truck Line, was her introduction to business, and it’s what made her fall in love with business ownership. While other family members helped with some aspects of the company — namely, the shop and dispatch — she worked in the office LUMINOUS 2017 | PAGE 29
LIVING LIKE ‘MA AND PA KETTLE’
and essentially took over all the inner workings of the business. She ran it for several years, transforming the troubled company into a well-oiled and profitable machine. “I took over that trucking business and I turned it around,” she says. “I left it better than I found it, and I felt good about that. That is really how I got into business. I always liked business, but that’s how I started.” From that experience, another business was born — Big Red Transportation LLC, so named because Big Red was the nickname Julia’s dad gave her. Julia buys and sells trucks for the company, she explains: “We have five right now.” She and David also own a condo in Panama City, Florida, that they rent out as a personal business. In the past, they’ve owned as many as five condos under the business name Whispering Sands LLC.
Julia grew up on a farm in Fairmont, Minn., and then attended Mankato State University in Mankato, Minn., to become a lab technician. She met David while working at the hospital in Bertha, where he also worked. He was a physician’s assistant, and she was his nurse. Julia had one son from a previous marriage, and after she and David were married, they had two more. They lived in California for several years early on in their relationship, Julia says, before moving back to Minnesota in 1991. David got a job at the hospital in St. James, and eventually Julia started working for her father’s trucking company. In 1992, they bought a cabin on Big Pine Lake in Perham, and started spending as much time here as they could.
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“We absolutely loved that cabin,” Julia recalls. “We couldn’t wait for every weekend.” She adds with a laugh that, “We always looked like Ma and Pa Kettle, we had so much stuff… The kids would each bring a friend, so we’d have six boys, Dave’s mom, two dogs plus Dave and I all packed into the van. And we’d often be pulling a trailer with stuff piled on it.” In 2003, they bought their current home, a larger house across the lake from their old cabin. By the following year, David was working at the Perham Health clinic and living here full-time. Julia followed suit in 2005, after their youngest son graduated from high school. One of their sons, Jared, is now a police officer in Perham. Another, Josh, lives in Duluth and works as a highway patrolman. Eric is head of an IT department at a medical clinic in Portland, Oregon.
k Than you ! s Ladie
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