THE GLOBE, WORTHINGTON, MINN. | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
PRIDE IN OUR PEOPLE
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LENDING A HELPING HAND Heron Lake woman focuses on others By Julie Buntjer email@example.com HERON LAKE — When Lisa Jean Smith sees a need in her community, she either meets it or leans on her connections to make it happen. Such is the case with Heron Lake Caring Connections, a Facebook page the longtime Heron Lake resident created in December as a place for local people to help local people. The idea for the page grew from Smith’s attempts to donate an artificial Christmas tree with all of the trimmings in early December. There were no takers. At the same time, she listed a box of free Bedford bendable ribbon that garnered all sorts of interest. “The second one in line said she was disappointed because she wanted to make items for her family because they didn’t have much money,” Smith shared. She offered the woman the tree and trimmings, and the woman was pleased to get it. The ordeal left Smith wondering why it’s so difficult to connect with people in need. Here she was, wanting to give something away, but she couldn’t find any takers. She thought creating a Facebook page specifically for Heron Lake area residents would encourage not only an avenue for people to reach out for help, but foster a giving spirit among those who can offer what they have. “I had seen in some of the other local communities where people put out that they need a box of diapers,” Smith said. “That’s what I thought our site could be.” Smith created the page in memory of her husband, who died a year and a half ago. “He grew up in a very poor family — the youngest of seven kids,” Smith shared. “He used to talk about Christmas time. His dad was a janitor at school and would bring home the Christmas tree at winter break. A lot of times, there were no gifts.” The Facebook page went live Dec. 8. Smith is thrilled with the support, though the page hasn’t seen many requests yet. “Sometimes we just have to pay better attention to our surroundings,” she said, noting that one day she noticed an individual walking without socks. She put together some necessary clothing items and delivered them to the family’s home. “They were very appreciative,” she said. “That was a big lesson for me. We have to watch
what’s going on around us. People are very proud, and it’s hard to admit when you need help. “It’s about ‘Need a hand, lend a hand.’ “I really wanted to create an environment where people feel comfortable and there’s no judgement,” Smith said. “Everybody struggles at some point in their life. We can probably all pinpoint a time. When we can give back, we do.”
Connecting with the school
Smith’s actions didn’t stop at creating a Facebook page. She teamed up with Niki Fisher, parttime dean of students and part-time Greater Minnesota Family Services mental health liaison at Heron Lake Elementary, to make a difference for students in the Heron Lake and Okabena schools. “In a smaller school, you get to know people on such a personal level,” Fisher said. “You become aware of different home lives and different family situations. “I’ve been here six years, and I would have never anticipated the needs six years ago as I do right now,” she added. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized those needs. “There’s just a lot of parents working fulltime jobs and they’re still not making ends meet,” she said. “I think that’s the hardest part — they’re very willing to work, they’re just not able to keep up.” Fisher spoke of people who had second jobs at restaurants, bars and other places impacted by the pandemic who lost their secondary income. She sees the fallout from that in the classroom, with some kids saying they don’t have soap or detergent at home, or that “Mom has to wait for the food shelf to open,” which is why they couldn’t bring a snack to school. It can be heartbreaking to hear those words spoken by kids. It was for Fisher, who not only recalls being in that situation herself once upon a time, but also because she’s a mother of six. Fisher responded by reaching out to fellow staff, encouraging them to donate clothes their own kids had outgrown to the school. “I appreciate people giving me clothes, so when my kids have outgrown them, I give them back to the school,” she said. “Our free and reduced lunch is very high here. We live in a high poverty area.” Several years ago, a third-grade teacher at Heron Lake Elementary started a Coins for
Photos by Julie Buntjer / The Globe
Heron Lake-Okabena Dean of Students Niki Fisher (left) is joined by Heron Lake resident Lisa Jean Smith in the Caring Connections School Store inside the Okabena High School.
Special to The Globe Donated and purchased items for the store include everything from personal hygiene products to school Coats, boots and shoes are among the items available to Heron Lake Elementary students who are in need. supplies and clothing.
Rather than help just one family, Fisher suggested collaborating on a Christmas basket program. Word was spread about what was needed, and within 10 days enough supplies had been collected to fill 15 gift baskets for patrons of the Heron Lake Food Shelf. The baskets helped to alleFrom baskets to viate the loss of Givsupply shops ing Trees, which were When Smith initial- not offered at many ly contacted Fisher, she churches in 2020 due was seeking to “adopt” to the pandemic. a couple of families who With the success of might be in need at the gift baskets, Smith Christmas and provide and Fisher then worked them with gifts such as to address some needs the Heron clothing, food and toys. within Kids program in which students donated their spare change. All of the money raised was used to purchase coats, hats and gloves for students who didn’t have them. “About two years ago, the need outpaced what was collected,” Fisher said.
Lake-Okabena school district. Fisher and fellow teachers created a list of 35 students in K-12 who could use a little pick-me-up for the holidays, while Smith solicited donations and went shopping. There were enough supplies to fill a necessities bag with personal care items, new mittens and a hat for each student, along with clothing sets, coats and shoes and a collection of 200 new toys. In addition, each student received a gift certificate for pizza. When the students selected their bags and items, it surprised
Smith that the clothing was nearly always the first stop the kids made, while the toys were the last thing they went for. She told of one student who chose a pair of underwear before looking at anything else. “Every necessity bag was given out and every jacket was given out,” Fisher said. Leftover toys were divided among teachers to restock their classroom prize boxes. When everything was distributed, Fisher told Smith of her hopes to start a school store filled
HELPING: Page 2
PRIDE IN OUR PEOPLE
| WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
| THE GLOBE, WORTHINGTON, MINN.
Inside and out, Krueger helping to build pride in community By Julie Buntjer firstname.lastname@example.org WORTHINGTON — Growing up on a farm southwest of Worthington, Dan Krueger knew he wanted to work outside, but he also knew he needed a career that involved more than raising corn and soybeans. His dream was to create outdoor living spaces that were as inviting as the interior of people’s homes. The 2006 graduate of Worthington High School earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from SDSU, and the decision to return to his hometown was an easy one since he’d already established a business here during his summers off from college. “I’ve always enjoyed working with plants and growing things and, as I was going to school, the hardscape side — retaining walls and paver patios — was really picking up speed.” shared Krueger. That’s where he gained experience in construction and concrete work. With the added experience, Krueger expanded Ideal Landscape Design into a full-scale concrete business six years ago. That’s about the same time he and another Worthington native, Al Drost, teamed up to collaborate in home construction under DK Buildings. Today, between the landscaping, concrete, real estate development and home building, Krueger has up to 18 employees during the busiest of times. “When Al Drost and I teamed up, we were working on bigger landscaping projects together,” Krueger shared. “That’s when the real need for housing was identified. It just kind of felt like there wasn’t much happening and there was an opportunity for us to get into that market.” Krueger and Drost were talking about developing some parcels around Worthington when Nobles County, the city of Worthington and Independent
HELPING From Page 1
with personal care items, school supplies and clothing that would be available to students at no cost. “Within a few days I had checks for $200 and people dropping off underwear and other items,” Fisher said. “We absolutely started at the right time,” shared Smith. “People are thinking about giving at that time of year. The Caring Connections School Shop at Okabena was stocked and ready in late January. Students in Jeff Drent’s shop class built a wooden shelving unit to hold supplies, with teacher Carrie Mischke offered to oversee the store in a former storage closet in her classroom. Earlier this month, a similar store opened at Heron Lake Elementary. Now, said Smith, the question is how to continue to sustain the program. “One of my goals is to have a Tree of Hope for all year long,” she said.
School District 518 collaborated on the Nobles Home Initiative. Developed by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., the program offers five years of tax abatement on new home construction within the county. The timing was perfect for Krueger and Drost. “It’s been a very good program,” Krueger said. “It definitely encourages people to build new, versus buying used.” DK Buildings currently has three housing developments in progress — the South Lake Development, located south and west of Worthington’s Prairie Elementary; Six Fairway View, along the western side of Great Life Golf & Fitness; and a newly proposed project on East Avenue, between Nobles County 5 and the Frosty Riders Snowmobile Club building. “The idea there is to do market rate rentals or starter homes,” Krueger said, adding that sewer and water work was completed on the site. “Four of the six lots could have duplexes on them.” With the city adding a lot of rental units in the last five years, Krueger said there remains a shortage of single-family, market rate rentals. Meeting that demand, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds. “Our struggle is, if we want to build a new build and make it market rate, the rents that would be required to get a return off of it would be more than the market will allow,” shared Krueger. “That’s where we’re sitting as a community. For a professional who comes to town and wants to rent a nice, newer place, having a rent that’s affordable is very difficult. “Somehow we need to figure out how to get these here,” he added. “With the private market, I don’t think it’s going to happen without some help from a government level.” While Krueger hopes the East Avenue lots can begin to be developed this summer, the ongoing nationwide build-
Photos by Tim Middagh / The Globe
Worthington businessman Dan Krueger began a landscaping business that has grown into housing development in the community. Here, he stands inside one of the new twin homes he’s building along Crailsheim Road in the Six Fairway View addition.
DK Buildings is constructing this twin home along the GreatLife Golf Course in Worthington. ing materials shortage may impact what can get done. With the materials shortage, prices have gone up, and that will make it even more difficult to get properties to cash flow at a market rate price without outside money injected into the projects, he added. “When we’re doing these little developments, we’re putting in our own infrastructure, using our own employees and our own equipment,” Krueger said, adding that it helps save costs in the long run. Through the winter, DK Buildings was busy working on a new twinhome in the Six Fairway View addition along Crailsheim Road. “It started as a spec and after the rough framing was up, one half was sold,” Krueger said, adding that the buyer is able to customize what she wants for the rest of the build. “We’re finishing out the other half with our own
touches to it. “Out here, we do have a younger demographic than what we thought we were going to have,” he shared. Not only is DK Buildings constructing the homes, but its workers are also doing all of the landscaping work. One of their projects is the 10th Street Plaza in downtown Worthington. “Our landscaping guys are helping with these builds,” Krueger said. “We’ve taken our employees from dedicated dirt workers and broadened the scope of what we do. “It also helps to fill some of our winter time when we can’t be out digging or when there’s no snow to remove.” Krueger said envisions the future of the business in doing what it’s already doing, and to keep building. “We enjoy doing it,” he said. “We’ve kind of found our place. We enjoy the landscaping stuff, all the building,
the sewer and water work. We’re doing all of the site prep … and when it comes to the rough framing, then we’re subbing that out.” When they do bring in subcontractors, Krueger said they keep it local. “Everyone is within a local radius of 20 miles from town,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in that. I hope other people are seeing that as well.” While Krueger keeps busy working in his businesses, he has made a point to help when and where he can. He served six years on the Sunset Hospice Cottage board of directors, during which he constructed pergola structures, worked on the trail system and reconstructed some retaining walls on the property. “My vision when I was on the board was that the outdoor space should be as nice as the inside — blending the exterior and the interior,” he shared, adding that his term ended in 2020.
Krueger joined the city of Worthington’s Parks and Rec Advisor Board a couple of years ago, and continues to devote time to that. “That’s exciting to me,” he said. “Through my training in college, we were taught that healthy communities have healthy parks, nice parks — parks that people want to go to. People need those outdoor spaces for their mental health. Kids need them to develop a creative bone in their body. “It’s been exciting to see the community get behind these park projects,” he added. “The city has really taken it to heart to have Worthington have first-class parks. We’re going to have some of the nicest parks of any community around here.” With two young girls, Krueger and his wife, Sara, will likely be spending a lot of time in the local parks. Their daughter Madison is 5, while Brooklyn is 2.
“I don’t have that all figured out yet. One of the challenges right now is there are people who would like to donate to our cause (and have it be tax-deductible).” That requires applying for nonprofit status as a 501(c)3, something Smith is working on. If it were up to her, the school shops would continue as long as there is a need — and that could go well into the future. “I’ve gone to church leaders in Heron Lake This poster lets students know where they can go to and Okabena and asked select items they need from the shop. if there were needs in Photos by Julie Buntjer / The Globe their congregation,” These are some of the donated clothing items Specialists in... Smith said, adding that she’s talked to some students can select from if they are in need. about developing a space where they can store items. “How many of us don’t have an extra Crock-Pot that someone • Residential • Commercial could probably use,” Complete Sales & Service she said. “I’m hoping we can do that someday. There are a lot of peo1999 East Oxford St. Worthington 507-372-5454 ple in our community — it’s not just kids who www.grahamtire.net need help. We make buying tires easy with the Ask About Our Energy - Efficient Heating Systems “I absolutely know PRICE MATCH GUARANTEE! there are elderly in our HEATING AND community who need If you find the same tire for less just bring in the ad and we will COOLING Phone 376-6966 help,” Smith added. match the price, it is that easy! See dealer for details.
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THE GLOBE, WORTHINGTON, MINN. | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
PRIDE IN OUR PEOPLE
Scott Mansch/The Globe
The shop of Mike Kruger shop is occasionally quiet, save the screams of his pet cockatoo, Harold.
For Kruger, the glass is always half-full Mike Kruger has been in business in Adrian for more than 40 years By Scott Mansch The Globe ADRIAN — Mike Kruger could be called a bird man, or a painting prodigy, or a ‘Vette veteran. The lifelong Adrian man is nothing, though, if not a “glass-is-halffull” kind of guy. “I like Adrian,” he says. “It’s a good town. I started a business here a long time ago, and I’ve been here ever since.” Mike, the owner of Adrian Glass, has been in business in his hometown for more than 40 years. There were naysayers at first, even in Adrian. Some wondered whether a glass business could be profitable. Mike is proof positive that it is. “There’s been ups and downs,” he says. “Some days it’s really good, but sometimes you wonder why you’re here.” He smiles a bit and his eyes soften. “But it’s been good for us,” he says. He smiles again when asked about the “For sale” sign in the window of his shop on the northeast end of Adrian’s main drag. Former-
ly a gas station, it’s been Adrian Glass since 1980. “Well, the only reason I put that sign there ...” he says, then pauses. “I’m 72, and I’m not going to be here forever.” His wife of 49 years, Jeri, works in the gift department at Ace Hardware in Worthington. It’s a job the Lismore native enjoys. Retirement doesn’t necessarily beckon for her any more than it does for Mike. “I’m not gonna sit at home,” Mike says with a smile. “I might as well be sitting down here.” Adrian Glass is open six days a week, although Saturdays have been shortened somewhat in a slight concession to Mike’s age. “I used to be open Saturdays until noon,” he says. “Now I’m only here until 10 or so.” There are vacations. “We’ve got a Corvette,” Mike says. “We go on trips. All over the place. We love it.” The septuagenarian is in excellent condition. But the job isn’t as easy as it once was. “When I was younger, these guys would pull
up with semis, Peterbilts with cracked windshields,” he says. “I’d get out there and pop the hood, jump up on the tire, take the windshield out, cut a new one, jump up and put the windshield back on.” He laughs. “Well, now I need a ladder to get up on the tire.” Mike and Jeri have two sons. One is a law enforcement officer and the other owns a glass shop in Storm Lake, Iowa. “They’re both doing real well,” Mike says. “My son in Iowa, he does big commercial jobs. I don’t do that anymore. You know, I’m by myself.” Mike graduated from St. Adrian High in 1967, where he obtained a Catholic education. The school has closed, but lessons — both good and not so good — remain vivid. “We were taught by the nuns, you know,” Mike says. “And we kinda raised a lotta hell in school, our senior class did. The nuns knew we were.”
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Another laugh. Mike enlisted in the Air Force after his high school graduation. It was the peak period for the Vietnam War, of course. Mike avoided southeast Asia, but became familiar with a different kind of disagreeable place. “I was sent to Thule, Greenland,” he says of the base located north of the Arctic Circle. “In the summer it was light for 24 hours and in the wintertime it was dark for 24 hours. ... It was cold.” Mike’s eyes twinkle. “You know, they said there was a woman behind every tree,” he says. “And there’s a single tree on the island.” Southwest Minnesota suddenly seemed like paradise. He worked for a time at Crystal Glass in Worthington, then decided to move back home. He prides himself on his glasswork. He’s also a terrific painter, adorning turkey feathers, walking sticks, whiskey barrels and other objects with superb scenes that often feature pheasants and farm settings. “I like to paint,” he says. It’s obvious Mike is a craftsman. “I don’t know about that,” he says. “But I like it.” Mike’s shop is quiet
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this day, except for the frequent screams of his pet cockatoo, Harold. The beautiful bird resides in a roomy cage across from Mike’s desk, which is equipped with a water bottle capable of squirting a harmless mist across the room. “He doesn’t like water,” Mike smiles, who can silence Harold simply by pointing the squirt bottle. “I’ve always had birds. We had a couple of cockatiels, and they had probably 20-some little babies. Kids would come in and I’d give ‘em a bird. “I’ve had Harold probably 10 or 12 years, I don’t know. He makes a lotta nice and scares a lotta people when they come in. But he keeps me company.” Mike laughs again. “In the summer the kids coming back from the swimming pool will stop in here. They got him to wave his wing and say ‘goodbye.’ They get a kick out of it. I don’t know if he’ll do it today.” Mike tries. “Bye, Harold. Bye,” Mike says in a highpitched voice. After a few seconds, Harold waves a white wing and with a high-pitched squeak says “Bye.”
“There we go,” Mike smiles. And so it goes at Adrian Glass, a gathering spot and glass shop that’s one of the oldest in town. Certainly his longevity has to be a source of pride. Mike pauses at the suggestion. “You know, Keith (Essman of Keith’s Grocery) and I are about the only ones left from the old days still in business in Adrian,” Mike says. But, he adds, it’s all good. Remember, the glass is half-full. “It couldn’t be any better,” Mike says. “I’ve enjoyed being here at the shop. I always have thought that.” Keith Essman’s opinion of his pal Mike hasn’t changed for decades. “He’s a multi-talented person,” Keith says. “If you need a door or a window or a windshield fixed, he’s the man to do it.” Mike, says Keith, is a man to be admired in Adrian. “He’s honest as the day is long,” Keith says. “He’s just a very good person. In fact, probably the only better person in Adrian is his wife, Jeri. They’re just a super couple.”
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PRIDE IN OUR PEOPLE
| WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
| THE GLOBE, WORTHINGTON, MINN.
Mead is homegrown librarian, passionate Minnesota West fan Worthington native is set to wrap up 41-year career later this spring By Jane Turpin Moore The Globe
played a major part in Mead’s professional WORTHINGTON — life, since she finished College sophomores her undergraduate educurrently sweating cation during a period about which major to when teachers were a declare can relax: Their dime a dozen. “I applied everywhere choice won’t necessarily dictate their life’s path. and received 42 rejection letters for elemenJust ask Sandi Mead, tary ed teaching jobs,” a Worthington native said Mead. who is preparing to wrap “So, I decided to try up a 41-year career as a something else.” librarian later this spring. “I graduated from Bookmobile bounce Worthington High With those rejections School in 1971, then ringing unpleasantly in earned a liberal arts her ears, Mead wasn’t degree at Worthing- choosy; she accepted ton State Junior College a bookkeeping job at [now Minnesota West what was then Scholtes Community and Techni- Motors before finding a cal College],” Mead said. pathway back to library “In 1975, I graduat- work in 1980 via the ed from what was then Nobles-Rock-MurrayMankato State College Jackson County Bookwith an elementary ed mobile. degree and a minor in “I was based in Nobles library science.” County and was the It was her minor that bookmobile librarian for
a long time,” said Mead. “For the first six years, Richard Mork worked with me.” With Mork driving, Mead took the bookmobile throughout the four counties, visiting schools and making seemingly random stops along the way for residents hungry for books and media at a time before computers, the Internet, cell phones, iPads or even widespread cable TV channels existed. “In a lot of the outlying areas, kids didn’t have other library access, and people really, really loved to have us,” said Mead. “We were hugely popular, especially with women, although sometimes kids would rock the bus to try and shake books off the shelves.” While cruising the
Sandi Mead (striped sweater) poses with her family (from left): daughter Sara, son-in-law Mo, Maya, Sandi Mead, Layla, son John, Kayden. The little ones are Sara and Mo’s children. highways and byways of southwest Minnesota delivering books and summer reading programs — often as many as 24 programs involving stories, crafts, games and films within a two-week period — was sometimes grueling, the experience allowed Mead to merge her education and library science training. “And it was a good feeling to be wanted and appreciated,” said Mead. “I wish people still liked to read physical books; now they just
pick up their [electronic] device,” she continued. “Even though I understand why, it makes me sad to think they’re not picking up a new book, flipping through its pages, finding a comfy spot and reading without the need for Wi-Fi.” There was another unexpected perk of the bookmobile job Mead fully embraced. “I loved getting lunch at the small-town cafes,” said Mead. “It was absolutely fabulous food — mashed potatoes, meatloaf, vegeta-
bles, rolls, great desserts — that was good stuff.” Mead jokes that, despite bouncing on the bookmobile during her pregnancies (daughter Sara was born in 1984, son John arrived in 1989), “Thank goodness they turned out OK.”
Changes for Bluejay, Lady Jay fan
Mead earned a master’s degree in library science (through a Mankato State University program available
LIBRARIAN: Page 8
School custodian puts heart into handiwork By Leah Ward email@example.com WORTHINGTON — If you ask Wayne Verdoorn, he’ll tell you he’s just a regular guy doing a necessary but unglamorous job. But the way his co-workers tell it, Verdoorn has completely changed Prairie Elementary’s custodial department in the few short years he’s led the staff. “God has always given me a heart for service,” he said. Verdoorn grew up just across the state line in Sibley, Iowa and spent many fond memories in Worthington. After he graduated high school, he wanted to serve the community’s youth by becoming a teacher. But when he graduated college with an education degree, there weren’t any teaching jobs in the local area. To avoid moving too far away, Verdoorn went to work at JBS, where he spent 25 years in management. He still wanted to work with kids, though, so he got involved with coaching sports. Over the last nearly three decades, Verdoorn has worked with soccer teams of all ages, as well as middle school basketball. Once Verdoorn’s children were through college and on their own, he decided he wanted to change his career. He quit his job at JBS and began looking for work as a paraprofessional with District 518. Prairie was in need of a new head custodian, so he applied, bringing his extensive management experience with him.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
Wayne Verdoorn chats with a kindergartener over lunch, March 4, 2021. He started his current job in November 2017, and loves serving both staff and students in the building. Verdoorn has been serving Worthington’s children for so long that some of the first athletes he ever coached are now grown up and have kids who attend Prairie. Verdoorn says he owes his success to a long list of people. “I have a great support team at home and here at Prairie,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without either one.” Every member of the custodial staff deserves recognition, he stressed, noting that custodians often go above and beyond to make sure everyone at Prairie gets
what they need. As the head custodian, Verdoorn is the first person to arrive at Prairie each day. He usually starts at 6 a.m. (five if there’s snow on the ground for him to shovel). After unlocking the building, he walks through the school and looks to see if anything needs maintenance or repair. Then he gets ready to welcome the students to breakfast. Custodial work revolves primarily around the lunch room, Verdoorn explained. He and his staff clean up after both breakfast and lunch, and in between those times he has to be prepared for all manner of odd jobs that arise, from cleaning up after a
bloody nose to delivering a new chair. He’s usually done with work around 2:30, which works out great for him to continue coaching sports after school. Verdoorn’s favorite part of his job is interacting with the students, and he has a particular affinity for the youngest Prairie pupils. The kids call him “Mr. Wayne,” and they are always happy to greet him. Verdoorn even makes a point to take his lunch hour in the cafeteria, so he can sit with the students and get to know them. “I’m not teaching them in the classroom, but I can teach them in the hallways and I can teach them in the caf-
eteria,” Verdoorn said. He believes that he can have a significant impact on kids who are struggling. “If they get to see somebody who cares about them, it can make a huge difference in their life,” he said. Verdoorn’s quick smile has earned him a strong rapport with the elementary students.
“I’ve seen him interact with them, and I can see how amazing he is with them and how much the kids respect him,” said Fabiola Andrade, a second-grade paraprofessional. “When my students see him in the cafeteria, hallway or classroom, he always takes time to
CUSTODIAN: Page 7
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From around the world to her forever home “I was such a loved and God works for good with complete family member those who love him, that I never thought of who are called according myself as being differ- to his purpose.” “Going forward, our ent,” she continued. experience “I was in fourth or personal fifth grade before a made us more empaclassmate asked if I was thetic to other teen adopted, and I won- parents,” said Bartosh, dered, ‘How does she mentioning that Doug is know?’ — and when we on the board of Helping moved to Okabena, I was Hands Pregnancy Center By Jane Turpin Moore the only person of color and that together they The Globe cared for numerous fosin the whole school. WORTHINGTON — If “Doug remembers ter children — often a positive attitude can Dee Bartosh, a Hub Inter- hearing, ‘There’s an troubled teenage girls be catching, then Dee national representative Asian girl coming to — while raising their Bartosh is absolutely in the local insurance school,’ and now that’s own family. infectious. “We’re still close to since 2008, so funny to think about, Frequent smiles and industry some of our former foster but it was sure big news laughs coupled with an VKDUHV DQ RႈFH ZLWK in Okabena at the time.” care kids,” said Bartosh. Pat O’Neil in the Bank always brimming bowl “We started foster parof M & M’s on Bar- of the West building New love and life enting when our twins tosh’s desk at the Hub on Worthington’s 11th Bartosh was a (Ashley and Amanda, International insurance Street. She resides in ninth-grader when born in April 1992) were office in downtown rural Heron Lake. the Dressels settled in 2 or 3 years old.” Worthington are ample Okabena. It wasn’t long The Bartoshes comevidence she sees the sons and one daughter. before she met a cheer- pleted their family with “Mom wanted anoth- ful, strapping farm boy, world sunny-side-up. the adoption of son Mat“I’m a positive per- er daughter to go with Doug Bartosh, who was thew in August 1999, son,” Bartosh con- my older sister Doreen,” two years her senior. and for nearly 20 years firmed. “I love being said Bartosh. “They His parents were they mentored other around other people — decided to adopt because the late Charles and area youth as leaders of and I feel very blessed.” mom was ‘done’ having Joann Bartosh. the Solid Rock Assembly Indeed, abundant children,” said Bartosh. “We’d been dating youth group. “But they had two for two years when he photos featuring her “We really tried to beloved husband Doug, more blessings after me went off to college [at make something good their four children and and ended up with four the former University out of what might six grandchildren depict boys and four girls.” of Minnesota, Waseca, have seemed bad at the The senior Dressels agriculture campus],” a woman who not only time,” said Bartosh. enjoys her profession — major fans of the said Bartosh. but also cherishes her letter “D” — lovingly Before Bartosh’s Working wonder added Dee to their clan senior year, she became loved ones. To top it off, the outgo“Family is my passion that ultimately includ- pregnant. ing Bartosh has never had now,” said Bartosh, 51. ed Denaldo of Lakefield, “That was difficult,” a job she didn’t enjoy. “I love to squeeze in as twins Donahue and Don- said Bartosh, recalling “I’ve loved all my much time with them ovan, Durand, Doreen the mixed opinions of jobs,” Bartosh declared of Brewster, Dorinda of family members about sincerely. as possible.” But Bartosh’s early life George, Iowa, and D’Li- what the young couple She cites a resume that didn’t suggest she would sha of Comfrey. should do. began with high school Bartosh remembers see such a happy ending. “I wanted to graduate employment at Hard“I was born in Seoul, adventurous family road from high school, and ee’s, proceeded to work South Korea, and placed trips in their trusty sta- Doug wasn’t going to at the former Crippled in an orphanage,” said tion wagon. leave me.” Children’s School, con“Of all the kids, I Bartosh, who learned Bartosh gave birth to tinued at the JC Penney not long ago she was was the one who would their daughter DeTa- customer service countlikely abandoned and always get carsick, so sha in January 1988, er, advanced to a teller rescued from the streets mom had to remind graduated from Heron position at United Praiwhen she was around 18 everyone, ‘Dee gets the Lake-Okabena-Lakefield rie Bank and progressed window,’” she laughed. months old. High School in the spring to a stint in day care. “They just guessed “Otherwise, I’d get sick of 1988 — and married “I was a licensed at a birth date for and we’d have to stop.” Doug, the love of her life, day care provider in Bartosh’s dad Donald me, thinking I could in October 1988. Brewster for about five either be approximate- sold real estate and was One Bible verse that years,” she said. ly six months older or a pastor; Gwendolyn sold guides Bartosh’s life “Then I took a job at home décor in addition younger.” is Romans 8:28, “We Iowa Lakes OrthopeFrom the moment to maintaining a house- know that in everything dic-Back Care for Dr. Gwendolyn and the late hold with eight kids. “We lived in HutchinDonald Dressel, then of Hutchinson, began pro- son for quite a while, cedures to adopt Bar- and dad started churchtosh, the tide of Bar- es in different areas,” tosh’s life turned. She said Bartosh. “We sethas been riding the pos- tled near Okabena.” Despite having been itive waves of love and born far from Minnesota, family ever since. Bartosh fit in so seamDressel days lessly with her family “My mom says I was that she scarcely realized her ‘longest pregnan- she was adopted. 1114 Oxford Street, Worthington cy,’” joked Bartosh, “For one thing, the www.jbrhomes.com mentioning the Dressels’ birth date they assigned nearly 18-month adop- me was Nov. 10, and tion process. Bartosh my dad, twin brothwas about 3 when she ers and several other was welcomed into the family members have Minnesota family that November birthdays,” already included four Bartosh said.
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Donahue, but with a young family, the traveling I had to do [between Worthington, Jackson, Windom and Sibley, Iowa, clinics] was harder,” Bartosh admitted. She was approached about an opening at Farm Bureau Insurance, and because it seemed the position would be more flexible in accommodating her other responsibilities, she accepted it. “I became licensed, going from knowing nothing about insurance to everything,” laughed Bartosh. After about two years of learning to love the insurance business and its customer service aspect, Bartosh again switched gears to help Doug on the farm when his father died. “I drove combine, helped with loading pigs — they were so much bigger than me — but I didn’t really like driving the trucks,” she said. Still, she wasn’t actively seeking a job when Bank of the West Insurance [now Hub International] came calling. “At first I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not interested,’ but Doug convinced me to at least go to the interview,” laughed Bartosh. After starting as an assistant to Pat O’Neil in 2008, Bartosh ultimately put her insurance licensure to use when O’Neil moved to a more part-time schedule. And Bartosh’s sister, Dorinda, joined the local Hub Insurance staff a few years ago. “She does excellent work,” praised Bartosh. “It’s been great having her, and we get along well.”
helping others. “I like helping people understand what they’re getting [in insurance coverage] and being there in tough situations,” said Bartosh. “Some people think they’re paying for something they’ll never use, but in the end, when they need it, it’s so important to have.” Bartosh has expanded her community concerns as a member of both the Worthington Noon Kiwanis Club and the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Board. “I’m in my second year on the Chamber board, and we’ve done very fun stuff,” she said. After Doug had a heart attack in December, from which he has since recovered, Bartosh convinced him to also embrace her walking routine. “Walking is my stress reliever,” said Bartosh. “He’s doing much better, but it was scary at the time.” Daily, the couple cherishes their six grandchildren (currently three months to 8 years old). “They’re all in Worthington, and that’s such a blessing,” Bartosh added. This behind-thescenes helper doesn’t like to “dwell on the negative,” preferring instead to find the good in all circumstances and in those around her. “Sure, we have to deal with stresses and heartaches, but I like to think, ‘What can I do about this moving forward,’” Bartosh said. “And I love the diversity of this area,” she continued. “It’s fascinating to meet people from so many different Family and cultures — and everyone has a story. community Bartosh has gained “We are so lucky as a confidence in her pro- community to experifession and takes joy in ence this.”
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Van Aartsens find joy, purpose in volunteering By Julie Buntjer firstname.lastname@example.org LUVERNE — For Darrel and LaDonna VanAartsen of rural Luverne, volunteering time in their community is something they both feel strongly about. The couple logs lots of hours each year for the betterment of community sites like the historic Palace Theatre and the Rock County Historical Society, as well as supporting local youth through the American Reformed Church. High school sweethearts who married two years after graduation, Darrel operates his own construction company and teaches woodworking classes part-time at Luverne High School, while LaDonna is assistant vice president and operations manager for Farmers & Merchants National Bank in Luverne. Both jobs lend themselves to community volunteerism. “Being in the bank lets me see many opportunities in the community for volunteering,” shared LaDonna, who has worked in banking for more than 40 years. She spoke of a former bank president, Don Cashin, who was very community-minded and instilled those values in his employees. “We always felt very proud to go into the community and volunteer and be part of organizations,” she said. “He encouraged us to get involved in something we love and feel passionate about.” The couple’s earliest volunteerism was in the church, where they have led the senior high youth program for more than 30 years. “Our youth is really important to us,” LaDonna shared, noting the group’s 43 youth members and eight volunteers who meet each week. Four years ago, the American Reformed Church youth group banded together with other church youth groups across Rock County to form Rock the Edge, a Service-OverSelf youth group that concentrates on doing missions work within Rock County. Since 2018, the youths have gathered together for a week of projects and praise, doing everything from painting and washing windows to cleaning gutters and building small projects. “Last year was the first year Darrel and I took the week off and volunteered for the whole week,” LaDonna shared. “Darrel’s group built a shelter house at the trailer court. The year before, they built a sandbox at the trailer court.” This year’s event is planned for the third week in June, and volunteer organizers are in the process of developing a list of projects.
Supporting the arts
When the Palace Theatre in Luverne came
into public hands and the Blue Mound Area Theatre (BMAT) board of directors was established, both LaDonna and Darrel became involved. “Darrel and I are pretty much teammates — when one of us joins a board, the other jumps in to help,” LaDonna shared. “It was a lot to get this up and running.” Initially, Darrel helped to make some necessary repairs to the historic building. Then, when a major remodel began in 2007, he was tapped for the job. “We continue to volunteer here as much as we can,” LaDonna said. As treasurer of BMAT, she ensures the licensing is done with the city and state, and pursues any available grant sources to sustain the theatre. It was especially important during the COVID-19 global pandemic, when the Palace wasn’t able to be open. “We’re going to try to reopen the first weekend after Easter,” she said. “The problem is there aren’t any new movies out there because Hollywood shut down, too, or went to live streaming.” The theatre operates solely on volunteerism from its 15-member board of directors and their spouses, students in the peer helping class at Luverne High School and 50 community volunteers that can be called upon. They do everything from ticket sales and concessions work to booking events, ordering and showing movies, purchasing supplies and handling mailings. “A lot of the little things you don’t even think about, like ‘Did the lights get turned on early?’ or ‘Is the popcorn started?’” shared Darrel. “Our goal is to promote the arts and just to get people in here,” added LaDonna. “It really helps to get the high school kids in here. In the fall of 2019, Darrel’s students constructed the sets for a play. Then he gave them a tour and passed on that history. It gets them to want to be involved in it too.”
Julie Buntjer / The Globe
Darrel and LaDonna VanAartsen stand outside Luverne’s historic Palace Theatre, where they have both been active volunteers since it became managed by the Blue Mound Area Theatre. kly House. We also went to the courthouse and looked at it, and talked about where the red brick came from.”
with the next generation, some of them might find that passion, too.” Darrel shared a saying he’d seen several years ago that reads: “VolunPassion for service teering is the ultimate While volunteering exercise in democracy. Preserving history in their community, You vote in elections For the past decade, the VanAartsens are once a year, but when Darrel has volunteered also working to inspire you volunteer, you vote with the Rock Coun- the next generation of every day for the kind of ty Historical Society, volunteers. community you want to whose buildings include “I just think it’s so live in.” The History Center, the important that people What they tell peoHinkly House and the volunteer in their com- ple is to find something barn at the Rock County munity,” LaDonna said. they are passionate Fairgrounds. “I think sometimes if you about and find a way to Darrel was involved can share your passion share that passion for significantly with the renovations to the former Herman Motors building on Main Street, which was transformed into The History Center. “It’s a great location for The History Center to be at,” he said. In addition to keeping the buildings maintained, Darrel — and LaDonna, too — enjoy sharing the history of the community with others. “It seems like the older we get, the more precious that becomes,” LaDonLUVERNE, MN 5072839171 na shared. “During the ROCK RAPIDS, IA 7124722595 pandemic, we took our www.papik.com youth group to the Hin-
212 East Main Street Luverne, Minnesota 56156
the betterment of the community. It doesn’t need to be volunteering on a board for 10 or 20 years — it could be as simple as doing something for someone in need in the community, Darrel shared. “When people look at retiring, I say, ‘You need to go and volunteer. You meet so many great people,’” added LaDonna. The VanAartsens have three sons, all of whom grew up watching their parents volunteer and now do the same
in their communities. Their son, Mark, and his wife, Katie, have one son and live in Luverne, and Mark works in construction with his dad. Their oldest son, Brent, resides in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with his wife and two children, and runs the information technology department at Dakota State University in Madison. Meanwhile, son Jon is single and works as an engineer at Daktronics in Brookings, South Dakota.
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get to know them, visit and answer their questions,” added first-grade teacher Julie Ebbers. Staff said Verdoorn often goes the extra mile to make the students smile. “During our annual field trip to the Butterfly House, one of the students marveled when a butterfly chose to land on his head,” said ESL teacher Valerie Rossow. “This kindergartener was very quiet and shy, but he was so excited he couldn’t stop talking about it. “His teacher had snapped a photo of the event and shared it with Wayne because he knew the family. On his own time, Wayne made a framed copy of the picture and personally delivered it to the family’s house so that boy would have a keepsake of his special memory.” “In kindergarten, we often have milk spills,” explained kindergarten teacher Ana Standafer. “There was a stretch in January when we had
a milk spill for five consecutive days. This meant that Mr. Wayne had to clean our carpet with his big carpet shampooer every single time it happened. In effort to curb this daily mess, I explained to to our students that we wouldn’t want to bother Mr. Wayne every day. “’’Don’t tell them that! I love seeing the kids,’ Mr. Wayne said when he overheard my lecture to the kids,” she recalled. Prairie staff also speak highly of Verdoorn, sharing lots of stories about the positive impact he’s had on the school. “Wayne knew that I didn’t have nice tables in my room for my students to work at,” shared kindergarten teacher Olivia Salentiny. “When they were converting a computer lab into a room for a different purpose, he invited me to come down to look at the tables, and he let me have first dibs on how many tables I wanted. He didn’t stop there, though. He replaced the legs on the tables
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9HUGRRUQ UH¿OOV 3UDLULH (OHPHQWDU\ SDSHU WRZHO Verdoorn wheels a trash bin down the hallway, March 4, 2021. dispensers on March 4, 2021. so that I could fit students on the ends of the tables rather than just on the sides. “Another time, I wanted to try a smaller teacher desk in my room, so he took out my desk and, instead of just getting rid of it, he held onto it for a week to make sure I liked my new
desk before he gave the desk to someone else to use,” she said, concluding that “Wayne truly goes above and beyond in everything he does for anybody and everybody in the school.” Orchestra teacher Melanie Loy recalled an impactful statement Verdoorn made when he
first started at Prairie. “He said to me, ‘My job is customer service — you are the customer and I am here to help you with anything you need,’” she said. “I told him that was the most amazing and gracious offer I had ever received as a music teacher. Wayne is all about
service to others, and blesses students and staff with his humanitarian approach.” Prairie principal Heidi Meyer described Verdoorn this way: “He is one of the most selfless people I know. He is present, friendly and kind to all. The students love him.”
It’s still time to make the donuts Dan Shaughnessy has owned and operated Sibley bakery since 2006 By Ryan McGaughey email@example.com
“Then, they sold it nine months later to me.”
SIBLEY, Iowa — Twenty-eight years ago, Massachusetts native Dan Shaughnessy arrived in Iowa, eager to change his lifestyle. “I’d been in Connecticut, which had a very high cost of living,” Shaughnessy recalled earlier this month. “I have a brother who lives in Greenville, a couple of miles south of Spencer, and he made it easier because he was someone who kind of knew the place; he’d come out here a year before me. “I had four kids and a wife, and I got a job in Hartley at the meat plant at the time.” Nearly three decades later, Shaughnessy still lives in Hartley. He’s now divorced and his kids have grown, and employment at the meat plant is in the distant past. Since April 2006, he’s owned and operated Shaughnessy’s, a bakery in downtown Sibley that represents a continuation of a career he first delved into while in high school. Shaughnessy had rented and sold medical equipment for a company in Hartley for roughly five years before securing a job at a bakery in Spencer. He eventually was contacted by Kim’s Bake Shop in Sibley, which had formerly been Jim’s Bake Shop and just changed ownership. “They called and they needed a baker, so I went to work here,” he said.
A baker’s life
The life of a baker can certainly include some crazy hours. Shaughnessy used to arrive at work as early as 2 a.m., but that’s changed somewhat in recent years. “I have my granddaughter now, so I don’t come until about 4 or 4:30,” he explained. “I used to come at 3 and at 1 on Saturday, and I still come in early on Saturday but not quite that early. My son (Jim) comes in and fries donuts for me … and we’re ready to open at 7.” Shaughnessy has continued to bake “pretty much the same stuff” over the years, including a lot of donuts as well as plenty of hamburger buns. “Cakes are now starting to get popular again,” he said. “Last year was a horrible year. We already have a couple of weddings lined up along with graduations. A lot of the elderly people are just starting to come out again — and they’re your consistent customers.” One of Shaughnessy’s most popular baked goods, he said, is called a General, the name coming from the mascot of the Sibley-Ocheyedan school district. The donut is filled with creme and has nuts on top. Another frequently purchased treat from Shaughnessy’s is the bakery’s apple fritter. “You can say the apple fritters are the
best around,” Shaughnessy said. Shaughnessy prepares plenty of buns, too, for individuals as well as for soup and pie suppers around the region. He also delivers baked items to the grocery store in Hartley, and also supplies donuts for both the Dyno’s Convenience Store and Jackrabbit Junction in Sibley. It remains to be seen how Shaughnessy’s business will be affected by the potential arrival of a Sibley Kwik Star location, which is tentatively scheduled to be built sometime this fall.
Labors of love
Shaughnessy grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He’s a first-generation American, as his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland just 45 days before he was born. He has three brothers and four sisters, with another brother who is deceased. Shaugnessy’s roots are evident in both his last name and the accent that remains in his voice nearly 30 years after his relocation to the Midwest. He had taken college courses at Salem State University in Massachusetts with an intent on pursuing a teaching degree, but said he ended up not completing his degree because he needed to earn money. He ultimately began working for ARA Services, and spent approximately 25 years with the compa-
Ryan McGaughey/The Globe
Dan Shaughnessy poses on the morning of Friday, March 19, 2021 with fresh inventory inside Shaughnessy’s Bakery in Sibley, Iowa. ny before leaving Connecticut for the less costly — and less frantic — lifestyle of Iowa. After his 2006 purchase of the Sibley bakery, Shaughnessy said he benefited from the assistance of his young children (“child labor,” he added with laugh) who were still at home. These days, another youngster — his 17-monthold granddaughter, Jaila (Jim’s daughter) — can occasionally be spotted inside the business, though she’s not quite yet on the payroll. Jan Harskamp, who
worked at Jim’s (then Kim’s, then Shaughnessy’s) for 40 years, retired around Christmas 2019, Shaughnessy said. He has a parttime person who works mornings from 8 to noon as well as a parttime high school student who also helps out. A few years ago, Shaughnessy would frequently work until as late as 5 p.m., even after his ultra-early morning arrival. When at a normal level of busy-ness, he’d bake close to 300 donuts every day. And, for at least 15 years, he cleaned a church in Shel-
don after bakery hours, though he’s since retired from that activity. On a good day, Shaughnessy said, he’s at the bakery until about 3 p.m., though the longer he works, the more product he can produce. With people’s lives slowly returning to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few longer days are likely in his future. At age 63, Shaughnessy said he has no plans to retire now. “I’ve got my regulars, and I make enough to get by,” he said. “I’m really not in this to get rich.”
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at Southwest Minnesota State University’s Marshall campus) over a four-year period during which she commuted on weekends to Marshall. “It took about four years to complete,” she said. Master’s degree in hand, Mead bid farewell to the bookmobile and became the Nobles County Library’s reference librarian, a position she held until being hired as the Minnesota West Community and Technical College (MWCTC) reference librarian in 1998. “I am a HUGE Bluejays/Lady Jays booster,” said Mead.
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“I like watching all sports, for sure, but I’m a little more partial to football — and I’m also a big Vikings fan.” Mead’s job positioned her well to aid MWCTC athletes on many levels. “In the library, I try to mentor them, offer encouragement and help them find the resources they need to make it easier academically,” said Mead. “I can be a friendly face and often offer advice — and food,” she laughed. “I’ve fed a lot of them over the years.” Several years ago when a severe student housing shortage existed at MWCTC, Mead opened her home as a makeshift dormitory of sorts. “I said, ‘Sure, we’ll find room for you;
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have you got a sleeping bag?’” she responded. “We had wall-towall students, all football or basketball athletes from out of state,” Mead reported. “Eleven of them lived in my basement for a month until more housing was found — and my son John, who was still at home, loved it. “They were good and respectful — some more than others — but overall they were some really good kids.” For a number of years, Mead continued providing housing for MWCTC students — usually football players who hailed from the tough inner cities of metro areas like Detroit and Miami. “They came from some pretty sad plac-
es, and I could tell they needed parental support; you could sense they’d never really had a lot of support sometimes,” said Mead. “I’m glad I was there to help them out when they needed it.”
Reflecting back, looking forward
The middle child of the late Myrt and John Klumper, Mead grew up with her older brother Wayne and younger sister Karen in the Cherry Point neighborhood. “Summers were great,” said Mead. “We were always at Centennial beach or riding bikes around the lake. “And at our grandma’s place along old Highway 60 we rode our horses —
DGLOBE.COM Sugarfoot and Sparky.” Mead’s family belonged to the Evangelical United Brethren Church (more recently home to Emmanuel United Methodist) at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 14th Street; for the past 30 years she has been an active member of First United Methodist, serving as high school youth director, Sunday school teacher, vacation Bible school teacher and committee member. Both of Mead’s kids followed her as Worthington High School grads — Sara in 2003, John in 2008 — and John was a three-sport athlete (football/hockey/track). Today, John lives and works in Denver, Colorado; Sara and her hus-
band Mo are in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, raising Mead’s three treasured grandchildren (Layla, 11; Kayden, 7; and Maya, 6). “They all play basketball, learning from their daddy’s training techniques, and oh man, are those kids good,” said Mead. “He [son-in-law Mo] was recruited from the Ivory Coast to play college basketball for South Dakota State University.” In retirement, Mead hopes to spend even more time with her family and watching the sports that never fail to thrill her. “When the Vikings win the Super Bowl,” Mead said confidently, “I’ll be there.”
Local businessman pouring passion into store for over 20 years Gorra has been playing music since childhood By Leah Ward firstname.lastname@example.org WORTHINGTON — While many local Worthington businesses have come and gone throughout the years, one small store has remained in operation for more than two decades, thanks to the tireless efforts of its proprietor. Rodolfo “Rudy” Gorra immigrated to Worthington in 1996 from his native Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. He spent his first two years in the U.S. working at the local post office. While the job was good, he never lost sight of his dream to work for himself. In 1998, Gorra was able to open
his store, RG Music, on the first floor of the historic Hotel Thompson on Worthington’s 10th Street. The location was ideal, since the area is heavily walked and nearby other Main Street shopping. “I started playing the guitar when I was 9,” Gorra said. He subsequently learned the bass, piano, keyboard and drums, along with other instruments. Gorra has been teaching a wide variety of instruments — primarily the guitar — for more than 35 years. His passion for music drives his business. RG Music offers a range of about 20 musical instruments as well as accessories
like strings, cases and microphones. Gorra even knows how to tune a piano and offers that service, too. The store also has formal clothing for men and women, including dresses, suits and dress shoes. The clothes are perfect for an instrument or vocal recital, as well as other formal occasions. Over the last 23 years, Gorra has served primarily Hispanic and Latinx community members in Worthington and the area. His music students range from young children to adults. In the last year, two major events have significantly impacted RG Music: the Hotel Thompson renovation and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Thompson was purchased by new owners in September 2019, and their plan to renovate the building includes
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Rudy Gorra stands in his store at 919 Fourth Ave., Worthington, on March 15, 2021. updating the first floor commercial space, where Gorra’s store was located. One by one, each of the businesses renting space in the Thompson has moved to a new location to accommodate construction. RG Music is now located at 919 Fourth Ave., next to Panda House. Gorra has been in the new space since June, and he says there are some pros and cons to the move. The newer
building is an upgrade from the previous location, but his store is now a little removed from the main drag, which may be a limiting factor for potential customers. COVID-19 has also created limitations for RG Music. “People would walk by, and the pandemic stopped that,” Gorra said. Losing some walkin foot traffic has been difficult, but the greater blow has been put-
ting a pause on offering music lessons for the time being. Gorra loves teaching people to play instruments, but he feels it’s best to stop lessons during the pandemic to keep himself and his students safe. Like many other small businesses, RG Music has been affected by mandatory shut downs, but Gorra is determined to stay positive. “We’re going to keep going,” Gorra said.
Drooger’s not Dutch, but she means much to Edgerton Gay Lynn Drooger has done plenty since her 1985 arrival in community By Scott Mansch The Globe EDGERTON — In communities such as this, the familiar refrain goes “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” Gay Lynn Drooger does not have roots in the Netherlands, but for three decades and counting she has meant so very much to her adopted small hometown here in Pipestone County. “The people here are friendly, they’re warm and they’re always willing to help,” says Gay Lynn, a teacher at Edgerton Public since 1985. “The students are just good kids. You can tell their parents have raised them — I’m not gonna say Dutch — but in the right way. Just great families.” She laughs softly. “They’re just really good kids. The smalltown atmosphere is really fantastic,” she says. After graduation from college at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., when she played basketball, tennis and volleyball, Gay Lynn came to Edgerton to teach elementary education. “I met Mike and didn’t leave,” she says. It’s all thanks to a
sudden it was just my wasn’t bitter at all. So mom and us.” we couldn’t be, either.” She pauses a moment. Mrs. Moen, you see, “Yes, that was hard,” had a great attitude. she says softly. “All the time,” Gay Three years after that, Lynn says. her mother was injured That is a trait passed in a shooting and lost down to her youngest much of her sight. Mrs. daughter. Gay Lynn has Moen owned a small always enjoyed her work. Sisseton cafe at the time. “What I like the most The family persevered. is seeing the kids active, “I was determined,” Gay Lynn says. “I tried and seeing them enjoy to help my mom as it,” Gay Lynn says. “In much as I could. I’d get today’s society, where up at 5 in the morning it’s all ‘sit down and be and go to work with her, on the computer’ or ‘sit help her make pies and down and play the video get stuff ready. She still game’ I think it’s more worked at the restau- important than ever to rant and was familiar be active. If I can help with everything. But she them to get outdoors and Submitted photo was legally blind. playing, that’s the most The family of Edgerton’s Gay Lynn and Mike Drooger (left) gather for a wedding “I tried to help her fulfilling thing for me.” last summer. always.” Because of her job, All the heartache was she’s known more than game of H-O-R-S-E, Lindsey is the leasing defensive driving class- especially traumatic for the old basketball shoot- manager for an apart- es and babysitting clin- a religious family such one generation of Edgerton families. ing contest that served ment complex located ics to organizing youth as the Moens. as a kind of first-date in the Twin Cities near sports camps. “I know I’ve got a lot of “Exactly,” Gay Lynn experience for Gay Lynn the Minnesota Gophers’ It would be a mis- says. “We were pret- contacts in my phone,” and her future husband, football stadium. take, then, to say Gay ty devout Christians. she chuckles. “But yes, Mike Drooger. And newlyweds son Lynn’s mission is only ... That was something it’s a good feeling to “We played by my Luke and his wife Bre- for the youth. She sets that got everybody know many people here. rules,” she laughs. “No anna live in Luverne. up adult tennis and through it. My mom, she It’s a good place.” dunking and no 3’s.” Luke, a former out- pickleball leagues. Gay Lynn won, and standing athlete at Edg“I enjoy bringing my Mike, an Edgerton erton High who was a PE classes to the rest native who former- fine baseball pitcher in home to demonstrate EXPERIENCE THE HOME TOWN DEALER DIFFERENCE ly worked in the fami- college and during the dances and speed stackly grocery business and summers for the Hadley ing,” she says. has been an advocate for Buttermakers, teaches You might say she’s his hometown since he math and science class- been going at a fast pace was born, won her over. es in Brewster. her entire life. But that’s The town of EdgerGay Lynn’s teach- not to say there haven’t ton was the real winner, ing career has included been plenty of potholes. though. health classes along with Little Gay Lynn Moen Mike and Gay Lynn physical education duties. was 7 years old in Sisraised three children She’s helped with sum- seton, S.D., when her in Edgerton. Daughter mer rec programs, both father died suddenly of Alyson Gunnik teaches for youths and adults, for a heart attack. health and physical edu- more than 35 years. Plus “There was six of cation in Ellsworth and is for years she’s operated us there — I have five a junior varsity basketball the town’s Communi- brothers and sisters and coach for Adrian-Ells- ty Ed programs, rang- I’m the youngest,” she worth High. Daughter ing from supervising says. “And then all of a
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Troy Veld (right) and his brother Todd are continuing a family lumberyard legacy in Lismore.
Lovin’ Lismore By Scott Mansch The Globe LISMORE — Many young men from rural communities such as this desire to one day travel a million miles away from home. Troy Veld went two blocks. “Yep,” Troy says with a grin. “And that’s just fine by me.” Troy and his younger brother, Todd, are owners of Lismore’s Veld Lumber Co. They are businessmen committed to their hometown and a family that’s been a fabric of this small Nobles County village for decades. The Veld boys are living a lumberyard legacy — and Lismore is the better for it. “It’s all good,” Troy says. “I’ve worked here and been here all my life. That’s what I always wanted.” *** Troy, 50, and Todd, 47, are two of four sons from a family nurtured by Darwin and Lois Veld. Darwin grew up in Chandler and after a tour of duty in Vietnam opened his lumberyard in Lismore. That was in 1975. The business is still thriving, through thick and thin. “Dad was in the Seabees and the Navy and was in Vietnam,” Troys says. “He started this business because it was close to home. He was working here every day, right up until the day he got too sick and we took him to Sioux Falls. He
was here that same day.” Darwin passed away in September at age 72, from complications of leukemia and COVID-19. “Dad was a good guy,” Troy says. “Very active in a lot of things. When he passed away he was still commander of the American Legion post.” Darwin was a school board member. He served on Lismore’s coop telephone board, and was honored by several regional lumberyard associations. There are perhaps a dozen active businesses these days in Lismore, a 120-year-old town of about 250 that includes two churches. Ken Leinen owns Leinen Cabinets in Lismore. The Fulda native has been in business here for about 30 years and knows the Veld brothers well. “They’re a great asset for the community,” Leinen says. He says the lumberyard has been a resource for his cabinet business. “They’re good about getting materials and getting them as quickly as possible,” Leinen says. “And if something goes wrong, they’ll fix it. “They’re always busy selling materials for farm buildings or new homes. They’re quite the asset for the town.” Along with being good guys. “They sure are,” Leinen says. *** The brothers work together on most aspects of the business. Todd
Troy and Todd Veld remain dedicated to hometown, preserving longtime family business
in the Lismore cemetery just east of town. “In fact, his birthday would have been yesterday,” Troy says quietly. He pauses for a moment. “You have to move on,” Troy says. “That’s all you can do.” *** Troy and Cindy have two daughters and a son, Mitchell. Is it possible Mitch might one day move back and extend the Veld lumberyard legacy to a third generation? “Maybe,” Troy smiles. “I wouldn’t be surprised.” Neither would the litSubmitted photo tle village of Lismore. The Veld family of Lismore is persevering despite the recent death of Darwin After all, the Velds have Veld (second from left). Pictured are sons Troy (second from right), and Todd, been advocates for this and their mother Lois. The brothers operate Veld Lumber Co., a business started community for nearly by their father nearly 50 years ago in Lismore. 50 years. “I never ever really lives a few minutes away noon day a few weeks That was about 15 thought about leaving,” in Brandon, S.D., and ago the breeze is gen- years ago when Tyler commutes to work. Troy tle and a warm sun to was 13, an eighth-grad- Troy says. “There’s something in my heart and his wife, Cindy, live the west casts warmth er. He now rests near that’s always brought just a few blocks away across the southwest me back here.” his grandfather Darwin from where he grew Minnesota prairie. up and his mother Lois The setting is worthy of still resides. a Norman Rockwell scene. Anything bad But no town is withabout that? out heartaches. The “Honest to God,” Troy Veld family knows it smiles. “Nothing I can only too well. think of. There are good Darwin Veld’s passpeople here.” ing last fall was tough Specializing in Farm & Home Insurance He laughs. on the town and, “But the problem is, especially, his family. I don’t know anything Troy smiles slightly at different,” he says. the suggestion. “This is the only place He sets his jaw firmI’ve lived.” ly and with a soft And the only place he’s voice relates another ever WANTED to live. family tragedy. Lismore is a pleas“My wife and I have ant village, with clean four kids,” he says. streets and homes “My oldest, Tyler, was that feature well-kept killed in a snowmobile ,ISMORE s \ ,UVERNE s yards. On a late after- accident.”
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Mylan Ray (right) is shown with famed musician Johnny Rivers in this undated photo.
Mylan the music man Mylan Ray has enjoyed his career as a DJ for nearly 50 years By Scott Mansch The Globe SLAYTON — Mylan Ray was a teenager at Slayton High School when he told buddies of his plan to be a disc jockey. The aspiring music man ran into skepticism, including from one of his own pals. “He goes, ‘Is it true you’re going to be a jockey? Don’t you think you’re a little too big to be riding a horse?’ ” Mylan recalls. He laughs at the story. Indeed, Mylan isn’t a horseman. But he’s big, all right. Big on the radio. The longtime DJ has been a fixture on the radio and at wedding dances in southwest Minnesota for nearly 50 years. It’s a career that’s brought him fame and familiarity to several generations of Minnesota music lovers. Yet if he’s built a legacy surrounding sound, he’d rather be remembered simply as “a person with a good heart.” There’s certainly a song in his heart. Mylan, who lives now in Pipestone, is a fixture at Christensen Broadcasting. He’s had many titles over the years, such as music director, programming director, etc. “But now I’m just called the old guy,” Mylan says, eyes twinkling. But he’s so much more than that. Mylan, 66, is on the air for three Christensen stations, during weekday mornings playing oldies on Pipestone’s KSID (FM-98.7) and spinning Country songs afternoons on Slayton’s K-JOE (FM-106.1). He also has a prerecorded contemporary Christian show that airs afternoons on KDWC (FM99.3) and Sunday mornings on K-JOE. “I have a Gospel singer friend who calls me ‘Pastor Mylan,’ which is
pretty funny,” he smiles.
Deep radio roots
His radio roots go way back. Mylan’s first memory of the magic that is music through a box dates back 60 years, when his brother wanted him to hear a new song and brought the family radio over. Playing was Johnny Cash and “Take Your Guns To Town.” Says Mylan, “I was in awe immediately, not just because of the song but because of radio itself.” A 17-teen-year-old Mylan, a self-described hippie, helped manage a Slayton rock band filled with friends such as Sonja Nywall, Larry Cote, Chuck Hustad and Andy Burch called “Stone Free.” Mylan wasn’t a singer. “I wanted to be,” he laughs. “I bought an electric guitar, then an amplifier and a microphone, and I went to (longtime Slayton teacher) Courtney Tommeraasen to have him teach me how to play guitar. I went to one lesson and he said he didn’t have time to teach me.” Another laugh. “I don’t know if I was that bad or what,” Mylan says. “But I never learned to play guitar. And I’m not too good of a singer. “Really the only way I could be involved with music was to be on the radio.” He’s always loved music. “I’ve collected records since I was 9 or 10 years old and have a huge record collection,” he says.
the Hadley-Lake Wilson area. She worked at the hospital and other jobs in Slayton. Henry, who loved country music and could play the accordion, became chief custodian at the Murray County hospital. Henry also cleaned churches, mowed yards and cemeteries, and plowed snow. “He also helped out the old Gamble’s Store in Slayton delivering furniture,” Mylan says. “The guy was a workaholic.” The trait was passed down to his son, who eventually switched his middle and last names legally. Mylan figures he works 11 hours a day now, combining advertising sales and on-air radio time. On weekends he’s often doing wedding receptions and other parties — 2,000 dances, he figures, since starting the gig in 1977. “When it’s fun, it’s not work,” Mylan smiles. The career has enabled him to rub elbows with many recording giants, including Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Alabama, Conway, Twitty, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Johnny Rivers. And Johnny Cash. As a 9-year-old, Mylan and his folks were in the audience at the Sioux Falls Coliseum for a concert by The Man In Black. Mylan squeezed through the fans and got Inherited work ethic near the stage, where Born Mylan Ray Old- Cash winked at him. ewurtel, he learned to Some 30 years later, work hard thanks to his Mylan met the legendparents’ example. Henry ary performer. Oldewurtel grew up on “I told him that story,” a farm near Woodstock, Mylan smiles, “and I got while his wife, Ellamay the biggest belly laugh (Thompson), was from out of Johnny Cash.”
Mylan Ray stands with Johnny Cash in this undated photo. Many recording stars have consented to cut little radio spots for Mylan, promoting his shows. That, he says, is a good feeling. “One of the things my classmates used to tease me about in radio was that I wanted to be the next Wolfman Jack,” he says, referring to the famed disc jockey who famously played himself in the classic film “American Graffiti.” Mylan says he didn’t want to be like Wolfman. “I wanted to be the next Dick Clark,” he smiles, “because he was friends with all those artists he had on American Bandstand. I wanted to be on the inside loop so I could know these people, be friends with them and really have a door open to that. And boy, it’s been busted open farther than I ever dared to imagine.”
After graduating from broadcasting school Brown Institute in Minneapolis in the early 1970s, Mylan embarked on a career he hoped might lead to the big-time. He had a rude awakening at his first radio job in Florida, which paid $127 per week. He eventually landed a job in Miami at a “major-market” station, earning a whopping $140 per week. It was close to poverty. So Mylan left Florida and returned home. But he never abandoned his dream.
“I’m born to do this, absolutely born to do it,” he says. He borrowed $200 from his folks and set out to find a better job in the Midwest. “I hit the road for two weeks, stopping at radio stations all over,” he says. “I started in Sioux Falls, went all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska.” He dropped off resumes in Missouri, Illinois and Ohio, using the borrowed cash for gas. “When I got back home, KLOH in Pipestone was the last place I stopped,” he says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to work that close to home and have my old classmates listening and ridiculing me. But I stopped there as a lastditch effort.” The boss wasn’t in. So Mylan left his tape demo and resume and drove back to Slayton. “I was dejected and rejected,” he says softly. “I got home and my Dad yelled at me from
the other side of the house before I even got the door open. He says, ‘Were you just in Pipestone? Get back there. They want to talk to you because they might have a job for you.’ ” The Christensen Broadcasting bosses had heard Mylan’s smooth voice and thought he had something special. They gave Mylan a six-week trial, which he has turned into a successful 45-year career. He’s won many honors, including induction into various music halls of fame in several states, and for 37 years has been married to his wife, Helen. Mylan and Helen have two grown children and six grandchildren. “And the best thing is they all live close,” Mylan smiles. “I feel real blessed.” Something special? That’s Mylan Ray, a music man extraordinaire.
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Marchers make their way to St. Mary’s Church from Worthington HIgh School during the Oct. 8, 2017 march for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Worthington’s Ivan Parga assisted with the coordination of the event.
Parga’s goal? Help ‘Be the Change’ Worthington native has been active in multiple organizations, now employed at JBS By Ryan McGaughey email@example.com WORTHINGTON — Ivan Parga was a Worthington High School student when a WHS alumna effectively changed his life. Parga was in between his junior and senior years when he heard about Be the Change: Leadership On Purpose, a Nobles County Integration Collaborative program that taught young adults how to lead from within. While he’d participated in the WHS theater program and later took part in a play at Minnesota West Community & Technical College, it was “Be the Change” that sparked something new in him — involvement and activism. “There were some different things going on in high school, but I think the major catalyst for my getting involved was Nicole Ektnitphong,” Parga said. “She was a junior at Gustavus (Adolphus College in St. Peter) at the time and a Worthington graduate, and she was the one who originally created Be the Change: Leadership on Purpose through a grant. “She recruited some of my friends and people that she knew, and did a little bit of outreach through the Collaborative. A friend of mine, Elyzabeth Coriolan, told me, ‘let’s go.’”
What was first a summer project for Parga became a program he helped build upon as he — along with fellow WHS students Adyiam Kimbrough and Christopher Mayorga — led a second “Be the Change” incarnation the following summer and recruited others. “It was kind of a curriculum of different things we learned about, like social change and the process of social change,” he said. “It also got us involved with other things we really identified with.” For Parga, those “other things” have been plentiful in number. Among the initial beneficiaries of his energy was the Nobles County DFL, an involvement that resulted from a connection he made with Debra Hogenson, who has since relocated. He became a regular delegate as well as an outreach officer. That led to his participation in Camp Well-
stone, a program that provides political and civic engagement training, in which he participated in the “campaign staffer” track. Soon afterward, he became involved in the campaign of Worthington High School graduate Cheniqua Johnson, the DFL’s candidate for Minnesota House District 22B in 2018; he also became part of a transition team for state Attorney General Keith Ellison. Parga was also involved with the local chapter of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) as well as Unidos MN (formerly Navigate MN), a grassroots organization that paid for Parga to attend the re:power training. He is active in both Voices for Racial Justice and Seeds of Justice. “There’s a lot of us with a lot of different hats,” Parga explained. “Voices for Racial Justice — they were the organization that worked with me the most as far as trainings, workshops, things like that. Maybe a year or two later was when we started building Seeds of Justice, which is kind of an offshoot with local organizers advocating for change.” According to its website, seedsofjustice.org, “Seeds of Justice is a group of Worthington leaders who are committed to make all communities in Worthington stronger by pushing for equal representation in local decision making, and creating spaces for Worthington community members to create and advocate for the solutions they need.” Parga noted that Voice of Racial Justice ultimately became the 501c3 organization for Be the Change: Leadership on Purpose, while also providing both training and mentorship. Additionally, Parga began volunteering with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and had the opportunity to travel to New Hampshire for a “Rights for All” campaign launch. “They were different organizers from the four corners of the U.S.” Parga recalled. “We were pushing a lot of candidates at the time. … We were pushing to ask Elizabeth Warren, ask (Joe) Biden, ask Bernie (Sanders) to match some of the policies adopted by the ACLU. I actually shared
my family’s story on immigration, alongside an ACLU team member that spoke on immigration policy.” The subject of immigration is of paramount importance to Parga. While he was born in Worthington, his mom, Maria Guadalupe Parga, came to the U.S. from Mexico and is now an American citizen. “Immigration is one of the biggest pieces that I focus my work on,” he said. “My whole family, I really keep them close to my heart when I think of the work that I’m doing. I don’t want to just walk around out there gallivanting. I want to help make things better for my family and better for my community members, only because I’ve seen how it (immigration) has affected them in the first place.”
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Ivan Parga, who grew up in Worthington and has continued to reside in and be involved in the community, is pictured Monday, March 22, 2021.
he just thought it was cool. He decided that the community liaison position that he was building was a good fit for me. “I connect the employees to resources and services that they might need in the community — education, housing, health care or anything that they may be looking for,” he continued, adding that he joined JBS in February 2018. “Besides that, I provide support to the main branches of the human resources department and help keep people updated Making connections through newsletters, Parga’s mother — who videos, fliers and things now owns and operates like that.” Parga’s position is Lupita’s Restaurant on Worthington’s Oxford not a full-time one, Street — as well as his and that gives him the father worked on the opportunity to continue line at Worthington’s his community involvepork processing plant ment. The COVID-19 upon coming to Worth- pandemic has slowed ington. A couple of his efforts, but he plans to aunts, not to mention once again relaunch Be his grandmother, were the Change once larger also employed there, gatherings are permisand Parga’s sister, Eliz- sible and deemed safe. abeth Briones, is the He intends to subseplant’s HR manager. quently find one or more Now, in a full-circle people he can mentor sort of way, Parga is who may be interested also employed at JBS. in leading future iteraAfter restarting Be tions of the program. The Change: Leadership “When we’re first on Purpose in Worth- talking about Be the ington, Parga began Change … I let the stuseeking financial con- dents know that the tributions and secured reason we chose ‘Be the a meeting at JBS. That Change’ is because we ended up leading to an want the organization to unexpected opportunity. be a catalyst for them to “I think their situa- enact and be change in tion was that they were the community — not already thinking of cre- to impact organizations ating a community liai- or other people, but son position” Parga to impact themselves remembered. “I got and show themselves there and presented to as a source of positive the HR director (at the change in the communitime, Len Bakken) about ty,” he said. “It’s about my work and about the you doing what you students, and I guess can with the resources
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Worthington’s Christopher Mayorga (from left), Ivan Parga and Adyiam Kimbrough pose with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm during the June 6, 2015 Humphrey-Mondale Dinner in St. Paul. you’re given, as well as working collectively.” Parga has done plenty of “working collectively,” helping to coordinate such events as a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that took place in Worthington in October 2017. Aida Simon, a bilingual program aide at Nobles County Integration Collaborative, also helped organize that event. “There’s been a lot of collaborative work on a slew of things,” Parga said. “Aida Simon has helped me out on a lot of stuff. … None of my work would be possible if several people hadn’t been there at the right time that they needed
to be. People like Fayise Abrahim (co-executive director, Voices for Racial Justice) and Vina Kay (a former executive director at Voices for Racial Justice) have definitely been big parts of my work.” Parga expects he will continue to undertake such work in his hometown for years to come. “As a ninth- and 10th-grader, I was one of those kids who wanted to get out of Worthington,” he said. “To some extent, I’m not opposed to leaving, but I think there’s so much work to be done here and my family is here. It’s a good place with lots of good things to do.”
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Hailey hiked her way to Wilmont Sisell and boyfriend Bartsch make home in Nobles County community after Appalachian adventure By Ryan McGaughey firstname.lastname@example.org WILMONT — To say Hailey Sisell has seen a bit of the country in her life is a gross understatement. Sisell has a multitude of travel stories she can tell, which can make it seem that much more remarkable that she’s remained settled in Wilmont — along with her boyfriend, Chris Bartsch, who’s every bit the vagabond she is — since November 2019. Together, the duo has teamed to manage Wilmont Saloon No. 7, which is owned by Rick and Stacy Johnson (Sisell’s stepfather and mother) through what has been yet another experience to remember. Sisell and Bartsch apparently could have come to Wilmont sooner, Sisell recalled during an interview at the saloon earlier this month just shortly before its opening for lunch. A little adventure, however, took priority. “My step aunt, who used to own this, had been trying to convince me to manage it for her,” Sisell said. “We just weren’t in the right place at the time to do that. Prior to this, we were hiking the Appalachian Trail. “My mom knew we were going to be low on money and need some kind of opportunity afterward, and that’s when we came down here.” On Oct. 5, 2019, Sisell and Bartsch reached the end of their six-monthplus Appalachian Trail hike in Maine. Before long, they were in rural Minnesota running a restaurant.
Here, there, everywhere
Sisell’s mom and stepdad live in the northern Minnesota community of Clearwater, from where Sissel and Bartsch moved to Wilmont. While Bartsch grew up in Maine, Sisell lived in Maple Lake — another small town near Clearwater — as a youth. She was eager to see what lay beyond there after high school, as she relocated to Colorado soon after graduation. “I had planned on going to college out there, but tuition was too expensive.” Sisell said. “So, I moved to a ski resort and worked there. That’s where I met Chris — he’d come to live there because he had some friends who worked there.” Sisell and Bartsch stayed at the ski resort for nearly two years before making a decision to completely upend their lives. “We ended up buying a van and living in that while traveling the country,” Sisell said. “Chris wasn’t sure and thought I was crazy, but I guess
he thought, ‘If this is what she wants to do.’ “It was a cheap way to travel, and I just wanted to see every state and figure out where I wanted to live,” she continued. “We would just work odd jobs for a couple of months at a time, just as we needed money.” Sisell and Bartsch purchased their van in Colorado, first traveling north and then heading westward. Sisell said she particularly enjoyed northern California (“It’s really beautiful up there, with all the big trees”) and Washington state and its “jungly rainforest” (where “everything grows so well and it’s beautiful”). Eventually, the pair ended up in Fort Stockton, Texas, where they took a temporary break from their nomadic ways. “It’s in west Texas and it’s the most boring place ever — no rivers, no trees, just dirt and wind,” Sisell described. “We were low on money, and this RV park responded to us. … It seemed like the perfect place to park and get work, food and laundry. I was the waitress at the little cafe they had there and Chris was the groundskeeper, taking care of any mechanical problems and getting people settled. “We were there for three months, and that was the longest place we ended up staying because the situation was perfect. There were no outgoing bills or anything; we could just make money.” Upon hitting the road once more, Sisell and Bartsch detoured back to Colorado and met up with some friends there to take a nine-day rafting trip through the northern section of the Grand Canyon and into Cataract Canyon. The couple’s other travels following their rafting trip included such locales as Florida and Maine before they returned to northern Minnesota. “We were broke sometimes and we ate a lot of ramen noodles … but it was worth it,” Sisell said. “We got to see so much.”
Hiking the trail
Though Sisell and Bartsch had made their way to Clearwater at the end of their cross-country adventure, they weren’t planning to stay put for long. “I lived in my mom’s shed with Chris and our dog, and we worked and saved money to do the Appalachian Trail,” she said. That experience, Sisell admitted, can prompt a number of stories that could fill page after page. She said she has a lot of notes from the hike, which encompassed 2,192 miles over six months and five
days, and that she hopes to write a book about the trip someday. “It was definitely an experience,” she explained. “There were some days we just hated it and wanted to go home and … there were a couple of times it rained for a week and we had to wring out our wet socks in the morning before we got started; things like that. But at the end of one of those days, it might have become sunny and we’d have climbed over a couple of mountains and seen some beautiful things.” Sisell and Bartsch began their hike of the trail, which typically takes about six months, in the early spring of 2019 from Georgia. They slept in a tent nearly every night, though there were occasional trips into communities for such things as laundry, showers, food and an occasional motel room. Food, to some degree, was coordinated in advance. “We dehydrated a lot of stuff and made a lot of care packages in advance so we didn’t have to spend a lot out there,” she remembered. “We’d call my mom and tell her, ‘We’re about two days away from this spot, could you send one of our packages?’ “When we’d get near a town … usually we’d get to a road and there would be a sign telling us there was a town about 10 miles away. It was really easy to hitchhike, and it was very common for people to pick up hikers just off the trail and bring them into town.” Sisell added that she forced herself to use her cell phone sparingly — perhaps to take a quick photo along the trail, or to make a brief call — because there weren’t a lot of opportunities to charge it. Though admitting her phone was often dead, she still made sure to capture an abundance of pictures along the way. In some ways, completing the trail became a competition of sorts. “We’d meet some people on the trail who would keep going and we would hear they were still out there, and we didn’t want to be the ones to quit,” said Sisell, noting that of individuals who begin hiking the trail with intent of completing it, about a third finish. “We got to see all the seasons, which was pretty cool, and we met people of all ages and backgrounds,” she added. “There were really a lot of people who were just out of college, and a lot who had just retired. And you don’t need to be in great shape physically … it really was all types of
people.” Arriving in Maine and reaching the end of their long journey was a milestone that brought multiple emotions. “Once it was done it seemed like it was over before we knew it, but sometimes when we were out there, it seemed never-ending and like we were never going to make it to the end,” Sisell reflected. “It was amazing to finish.”
Sisell and Bartsch arrived in Wilmont, ready to run the restaurant thanks to Sisell’s bartending and waitressing experience and Bartsch’s past work as a cook at various places. It only seems appropriate that they lived in the Wilmont Saloon No. 7 basement for a couple of weeks, followed by an ice house for a couple more, while waiting for the closing on the house they purchased in town. The couple has had continued company in their latest adventure. “We met a guy from Alabama on the Appalachian trail — his trail name was “Straydog,” and that’s the only way we refer to him,” Sisell said. “He works here as a cook and lives with us.” Sisell and Bartsch, though, are already looking ahead to their next big move. “We’re actually planning on leaving this next November, as we’re buying land in Maine for a homestead,” Sisell stated. “We plan to build a little cabin, grow our own food and raise our own animals to butcher.” So just what does that mean for Wilmont Saloon No. 7? “This summer it will be put on the market to see if anyone will buy it, but we’re also looking to see if someone just wants to run it,” Sisell explained. “There have been some people that have shown some interest.” Even though she and her boyfriend plan to depart, Sisell is grateful to have experienced this latest chapter in her life. “I’m glad we ended up here,” she said. “It’s a very good community and a great group of people, especially considering we were running the bar for the first time while in a pandemic. When we could only do to-go food, they went out of their way to make sure we could keep paying our bills.” A new journey, however, beckons, and Sisell urges others to heed whatever calls of adventure they may hear. “Get out there,” she said. “Your life is very short, and you shouldn’t just be stuck at a job your whole life that you don’t like. There’s just too much out there to see.”
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“Under the water tower in Wilmont”
Hailey Sisell and Chris Bartsch stand at the top of .DWDKGLQ WKH ¿QDO FOLPE RI WKH $SSDODFKLDQ 7UDLO LQ 2FWREHU ³:H ZHUH DOO VR H[FLWHG WR ¿QDOO\ EH ¿QLVKHG ZLWK VXFK D IHDW EXW DOVR VDG WKDW WKLV wonderful journey would be over,” Sissel said.
Mahoosue Notch, Maine (“the hardest mile on trail,” Sisell said.) One mile took she and Bartsch four hours, and at this point they were averaging 3 miles SHU KRXU ³7KHUH ZHUH SRLQW ZKHUH ZH KDG WR WDNH RXU SDFNV Rႇ DQG VFRRW WKHP DKHDG RI XV WKHQ wiggle through behind on our bellies,” Sisell added. “Lots of scrambling up and over rocks. Our dog was a champ, but I would never attempt this with a dog again. It was stressful.”
7KHFOLPEXS0RXQW:DVKLQJWRQLQWKHSUHVLGHQWLDO range (“one of the hardest yet most rewarding sections,” Sisell said) in New Hampshire.
Most nights, Sisell and Bartsch would stay in their tent but on occasion if it was rainy (or snowy in this case) -- and if they were lucky enough to come across one -- they would stay the night in a shelter along the trail for hikers to use.
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THE GLOBE, WORTHINGTON, MINN. | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
Making Fulda ‘Popp’
PRIDE IN OUR PEOPLE
Scott Mansch/The Globe
Margaret Popp of Fulda stands next to the ceremonial quilt she won and donated back to her hometown. It is encased and hangs on the wall at the Fulda Senior Center. other activities. Margaret’s participation in community projects is vast. She’s been involved in organizations like the Fulda Fine Arts, the Fulda Women of Today, the Fulda Community Club and the Wood Duck Festival committee. And many others. “One thing leads to another,” she says. “I just happened to fall into things.” But has she ever declined an invitation to volunteer? “No,” she says, then laughs softly. “Unfortunately.” But she doesn’t mean it. Indeed, Margaret’s commitment to her town has kept her young. “I don’t spend much time at home,” she says. “I think it’s important for people to keep doing what they’re doing. “Small communities are a family. You’ve got to get to know people and the best way to do that is by getting involved.” Among her labors of love was serving on the committee that published a book for Fulda’s Quasquicentennial (125 years) celebration
in 2006. It’s an amazing work of about 400 pages. She shakes her head when it’s suggested she’s a historian. “I think you have to live in the present,” she says. “Anyway I can’t take full credit for what I’ve been involved with. Anything I do I have a lot of help.” Whether or not she agrees, Margaret is somewhat of a walking, breathing history book. She’s familiar with Fulda’s famous families, including that of celebrated Minneapolis sports columnist Patrick Reusse.
“His dad was Dick, who was quite a character,” Margaret says. “Very much of a character.” She smiles. “Dick’s oldest brother was Carl, and he lived on the same block we did, just two blocks down the alley here. His other brother Paul lived just across the street on the other block. And another brother, Fritz, lived out here on the highway.” Margaret laughs. “All characters,” she says. “And of course, so is Pat.” Fulda’s sports lore includes great town team
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baseball squads and championship basketball teams, the most famous of which is the 1975 outfit that placed third in what was then a twoclass Minnesota state tournament system. The Fulda-Slayton basketball rivalry was a heated one back then. “We used to squabble,” she says. “One of our bus drivers wouldn’t leave his bus in Slayton when he had to take a team over there.” Her eyes fairly twinkle. “I don’t know how Slayton felt about Fulda, but there was definitely a
rivalry there,” she says. “And when you went to school you felt it, too.” Such civic pride extends past teenaged years for septuagenarians such as Margaret. And it goes back further than that when it comes to some community relics. There is the Civil War cannon, for instance. “Did you know,” she says, “that in World War II metal was scarce and people were worried the cannon would be confiscated for scrap? So folks in town hid it.” The cannon, acquired by Fulda residents in 1892 for $155, has long been a parade participant and popular tourist attraction for the town. After more than an hour of conversation and laughter, Margaret points to a beautiful quilt that hangs in the Senior Center. It’s adorned with more than 40 photos of Fulda landmarks and encased in a wooden frame. “See this thing over here? This quilt was part of a raffle we had for the celebration in 2006,” she says. Margaret bought at least one $10 raffle ticket and was stunned when her name was drawn. It’s suggested that the quilt should be decorating her bed. “Well, it isn’t,” she smiles. “I was so glad I won it, because that meant it would be staying in town.” A letter encased with the quilt indicates Margaret donated it back to the city of Fulda. It’s just one example of the gifts Margaret Popp has offered to her hometown for more than three-quarters of a century and counting.
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Margaret Popp has devoted her life to her hometown
By Scott Mansch The Globe FULDA — Margaret Popp graduated salutatorian of her 66-member Fulda High class in 1960 and considered college. “But I never heard the calling,” she says. Neither did marriage suit her. Instead, the lifelong Murray County resident devoted her career, her hopes and her dreams to her hometown. Fulda should be forever thankful for Margaret. “There are a lot of others,” she says. “This is just a very nice community — there are good people here — and it’s always had a very good reputation.” Margaret is among those foremost responsible. She was born of Irish descent in Avoca in the early 1940s and came to Fulda as a little girl. She never had the desire to leave. “Fulda gave me the opportunity to be involved and stay involved,” she says. “It’s made my life enjoyable. And it still is.” Ann Witzel is a longtime businesswoman and advocate for Fulda, a burg of perhaps 1,000 located between Fulda and Slayton on U.S. 59. “I would doubt very much there has been a board or committee that concerns Fulda that she hasn’t been on,” Ann says. “I would very much enjoy reading about her life.” Margaret doesn’t know about that. “There are lot of interesting people here,” Margaret says. “I can think of many others who you would rather talk to.” Margaret worked in the banking business for nearly 50 years. She was a secretary, a compliance officer, a teller — among other duties — and retired about a dozen years ago. “It was a lifelong thing,” she says. “I could walk up the alley three blocks from home.” She lived and took care of her mother in Fulda for decades. Margaret is alone now — but not really. She has countless friends and acquaintances in Fulda. In recent years she’s worked daily at the Fulda Senior Citizen Center, where she handles the book work and oversees the dining and
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| WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
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quis niet aliqui conestem. Elliqui dero maximus perro ommo blaut as quae. Ut ut laturit a doluptatur, ulluptis veri odis nihilla ccusapicabor aut acimus a veles et qui nimus dolores apitam ius anda con rehent. Rum antis et repudant estrum sus. Harchil laborem iusandi beatur raturerumque seceped moluptatur, tem qui dolor aditibus. Eptae. Namento estibus et doloria volore, simagnam elitas incium fugit et odita sus esseriatem eum lab id enis aut asperendae volorepreped moditat inulliquid qui andandi doluptat quos am, cumquodist exerae enducipsanti berat qui doluptates quae sequi nam hit, cumquas debitis net, toratint essus. Ut optae veratqu untibus dus et del moditatia et quuntur, sequos non cone rest velentur, optas repudam, aut utem excepedicita dolorerum quis dolluptibea erumquid ut ex earum re, ut res dolupit voluptati voluptatur? Qui veliquati ut volut ium dolor aliquodit, vendae con coreruntini dolumquamet, temporerias et ad que dolo expe id quia volorehent, solor magnam fuga. Ipsum ºđóĶđÏăėÏĈĄėèºđÄcatio occaboribus sequat recum excerro mi, nis solorep rerunti is re volorem. Gendem et adi saperae. Ugias aut et occulli tasintium quam, coremquia dolecea rcimaxi maximi, ut quam ea doluptur? Sed qui accatios repudit fugitatusam volumquae pratumet hil eument aut as es etum idit excessunto tecti aut optatecto vendant fugia consequatur? Qui tem quia quodi quiam qui blatur aciet delles ea exerum quasin nihil illa dis eossum quata quatio optiam doleser uptatur, qui odit faceperae sequiatiat qui asimodis aliciam, odiatiis sum commo mo molorpore rem que de esequatum quundae perunde ritati doluptate lautas dolorem porrovidel esed qui aut qui simpos et re nis eossinc imolupieni consed etur? Sa dem. Odigenihil id quibus dolut lias con consequam nobis eos arundendit aut excea nem quosapi demporro debit mil modicimenis aspiet, nonsectat untempore, cuptiis pel eaquam vent. Occum re, quo tem amus idebis et omnimosame labo. Et aut exerati orepu³ĢºêđóĶÏđÏėđºóĈăėó conseniet et dolupta nis ipsanti istium velenisit pel ma aut poritio sandaeratur? Ehenihi llitio corum nem nienimo lectecusam, omnis a nonsequatus apicid quideri ssitis voluptiam qui quibus apelese quatio et volut por alibeat. Ibus prerum nos etur, atum andae. Itaquae pella quiant amus et occus ipsandi taepere, soluptatque id que dolorehentis maio ma nonse dusae labo. Anderum quiatin pe modit, nem. Id quideni moditasperes magnatios eni consequam dolor sunt es mintia volor aperchi llabo. Lessit, con net faccum eossecte venis que rat que voluptas ma dit ad quam volum quos sus re nis verumet videbit ioratqu idione preperiberum quid mod molut et audittiu u san anda an nd dae. da ae. e. Nam m ffu fugit, ugi vollor orer eriis er is aut ut ut esst d e do ollo ore rem olu upta a qu uo odi diti ti del iill et ffu de ug giaepe erae vo vole ectassiit o ta om mn niisquis er e ib erib ibu uss. s. Vita Vi taes estt,, u utt ut au ud di do olu l p piiciam, nati ciam nat quid de eribu us ad d qui untis et eost ost ommo ommoluptae porem archiliquid molut reictur? Ulliqui od ut que cor sunt etus, nemquas simendellut et, excepel endentibus, sitiist, explibust et voluptatquis debis excestrum quistis modiciis etFictorum quas sinctotatur? Magnam repudi ommoloriam ea dolupid enem etusdam, cullis apita que quo quates velectorro
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