Mascot's Top 10 Feature Stories
(1) Meger honored with Wildlife Management Area
When the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the state trek to rural Minnesota, it becomes big news. On Oct. 13, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith spoke before a large crowd that turned out for a ceremony in which the late James Meger had a wildlife management area named in his honor. Meger, a native of Minneota who passed away from cancer in 2011 at age 69, was an avid outdoorsman and a renowned wildlife artist. Two parcels of land three miles north of Taunton were set aside by Pheasants Forever in Meger’s name.
The James Meger Wildlife Management Area dedication was part of the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener that took place in Marshall this year.
In a brief speech, Dayton praised Meger and his family, as well as the work done by those involved with this land dedication ceremony. Smith, who recently replaced Al Franken as Senator, also spoke during the 40-minute ceremony. “It was great to see the family members transfixed by the monument and this wonderful piece of land,” she said. When Meger’s widow, Laurene Meger, got a look at the impressive stone monument she helped unveil, she was quick to point out how “spectacular it looked”.
“Jim would have been overwhelmed,” she continued. “He would also have been so humbled and so surprised by this honor.” Also taking part in the unveiling was Jim and Laurene Meger’s daughter, Elise, as well as Jim’s sister Mary Beredimas and her son Bill, who traveled from Colorado to take part in the ceremony. Meger won the Minnesota Duck Stamp contest in 1980 with a painting of a canvasback duck, which was a favorite of his.
(2) The buck, and doe, stops here
The chance of shooting two deer with one shot is about as rare as being struck by lightning twice. Now add that the shooter was an 11-year-old girl who was taking her first-ever shot at a deer and the odds increase even more. Skyla Crowley of Ghent was hunting west of town with her father Andy in the early morning hours of Nov. 11. The two were situated in a friend's deer stand when a buck came strolling by 30 feet away. Skyla's father told her to take the shot, figuring she didn't get a chance to fire her gun during her first-ever deer hunting outing last year when they failed to spot any deer within range. Pointing her .20-gauge shotgun out the deer stand window, Skyla squeezed the trigger.
“I got it,” she yelled, then excitedly followed those words up with, “I shot two of them.” Unbeknownst to Skyla and her father, a doe was standing on the other side of the larger buck. Skyla’s shot went completely through the six-point buck, dropping it instantly. The shell then lodged into the back of the doe and dropped it, too. “Am I going to get into trouble?” Skyla nervously asked her father. She was assured that what she had accomplished was not only extremely rare, but also perfectly legal. Skyla's tag was placed on the buck and Andy's tag was used for the doe. Andy joked about his daughter’s newfound celebrity status by uttering; “I can hardly take her out in public anymore.” WCCO-TV aired a segment of the rarity on its Dec. 20 newscast. Reporter John Lauritsen and a camera man traveled to their home in Ghent to interview Skyla and her father.
(3) Porter acknowledged in World Series A feature story ran in the April 19 Mascot about SM&I Hydraulics in the small town of Porter manufacturing the replica 19th-century steam locomotive and tender car that runs above the outfield fence at Minute Maid Park in Houston. During the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the conductor of the train, Bobby Vasquez, was contacted by the Mascot and asked to send out a message to the people in Porter during Game 5. Vasquez, who graciously accepted an interview request for the original story, was more than happy to help out with the request. Between the fourth and fifth innings of the game, Vasquez hopped off the train and took a “selfie”, using the train as his backdrop.
In the photo, Vasquez held a handmade sign that read “Hi Porter, MN. Go Astros! He emailed the photo to us, which was used on the Mascot’s front page of the Nov. 1 issue. “I knew the train came from Minnesota,” Vasquez said during his April interview. “But I was surprised to find out it came from such a small town.” So the train and tender car be seen easier by fans at the ballpark, it was made 25 percent larger than a train from that era would actually be. The engine is 35 feet long and 15 feet high. The tender car is 20 feet long. The train has been used all 17 years the team has played in Minute Maid Park. Minute Maid Park is the only major league ballpark that features a working train. SM&I Hydraulics built the train entirely in its company building in Porter. They also built the girders that make up the transporter system for Minute Maid Park’s retractable roof.
(4) Remembering a hero
Paul Mix, who grew up in nearby Tracy, was a cut above most athletes his age in the state. But his life was cut short by a rare heart infection one month short of his 16th birthday in 1972. Mix lived across the street from Mascot reporter Scott Thoma on Center Street in Tracy. One Paul’s three sisters is Barb Hennen of rural Ghent. When the Mascot story about Mix was printed, Paul’s nine nieces and nephews were able to learn how talented, personable and caring their uncle was. Mix was destined to become a professional athlete in football, basketball or golf. He was the punter on the Tracy varsity team as a freshman and had the same punting average as the top punters in the NFL at that time. He was the youngest athlete in town donning a lettermen’s jacket, which he wore as often as he could. “I remember Paul being sick and lying on the couch,” said Barb, who was eight years old when her brother succumbed to endocarditis. He had two open-heart surgeries and his scars looked like a ‘T’. He always said the ‘T’ stood for Tracy.” Mix befriended everyone in town and when he passed, the entire community mourned. His visitation and funeral was one of the biggest in the town’s history. “As athletically gifted as Paul was, he was equally as nice of a person,” said Brian Johnson, a close friend and classmate of Mix. “He treated everyone the same.” Mix was buried in his lettermen’s jacket.
(5) Preserving history in Ghent
One of the oldest buildings in the area is currently undergoing a makeover. Adam and Chassidy DeRoode, who both served over 20 years in the Air Force, recently purchased a three-story home in Ghent that formerly was the St. Agnes Convent School that was built in 1901. The DeRoodes have generated a lot of interest in the town of Ghent and the surrounding communities with the work they are doing in renovating the former school into their own home. “There are a lot of people asking us what we’re doing next,” said Chassidy. “Mostly, they ask why we’re doing it and how much it’s going to cost.” St. Agnes Convent School opened for classes in 1902. In all, there were 16 rooms in the house, including two classrooms for grades 1-8, and a parish.
There were also seven “nun” rooms, a music and theater room, two common rooms, an altar area, and a priest’s changing room. Two other rooms have not been identified. The DeRoodes, who have two children, plan to have four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, laundry room, mud room, media room and a full finished basement. They are hoping to have 75 percent of the renovation completed for Belgian-American Days in Ghent in early August and will allow visitors to tour the historic home.
(6) Archives uncover more on Holm
During Boxelder Bug Days, Carissa Hansen, an Archivist in the Upper Midwest Literary Archives at the University of Minnesota, and her associate Kate Hudja, came to Minneota to showcase the items they collected from the late Bill Holm. A large group gathered in the Opera Hall above the library to listen to Hansen talk about some of the Holm’s items obtained from his widow Marcy Brekken. Holm, a Minneota native, died on Feb. 25, 2009.
He published eight of his nine poetry books with Milkweed Editions, including Boxelder Bug Variations in 1985 that the town eventually adopted as the name of its annual celebration. Among the items collected that are now archived for future research were manuscripts, periodicals, posters, newspaper clippings, and much more. “I’ve learned a lot about Bill’s life,” said Hansen. “There were literally 100 boxes of things we got from Marcy. It was an honor to work on Bill’s papers.” One of the items discovered in a box was a poem Holm scrawled in pencil in 1954 when he was an 11-year-old student titled “Minneota”.
(7) Noyes family stunned at large turnout
When Brad Noyes, 43, received the unfortunate news this past spring that he had pancreatic cancer, his friends and family members decided to help out the Noyes’ family with a benefit to defray travel and medical costs. But even those that helped make the benefit possible were shocked at the large turnout at the Porter Community Center in Porter on July 8. The Noyes family farms four miles northeast of Porter. “You expect a good crowd at a small town where everyone knows each other,” said Kevin Fier, a longtime friend of Noyes and one of the organizers of the benefit. “But this was tremendous based on the sheer number of people and the donations.” It was estimated that there was well over 1,200 people attending the benefit, more than six times the population of Porter.
One of the touching moments of the night came during the live auction when Jim Prokop intentionally outbid a family trying for an International pedal tractor for their six-year-old son. Prokop, who lives in Canby, then gave the tractor to the family as those in attendance applauded his generosity. Noyes began the chemotherapy regimen of Folfirinox on May 25 at the Sioux Falls Cancer Center. He continues to bravely battle the illness.
(8) Learning in comfort Heather Anderson, an English teacher at Minneota, came up with an innovative way for her students to study and learn. Figuring they studied at home in comfort, it only made sense that they might benefit from learning at school in a home atmosphere. After getting the approval from the administration, Anderson then began collecting used furniture to place in her classroom. Students are now able to read, take notes or listen to Anderson teach while sitting on a couch, in a rocking chair, a recliner, beanbag chair, benches, or even lying on a rug on the floor.
The students have overwhelmingly approved the new seating arrangements and have taken learning to a whole new level. “I think flex seating gives students the feeling of not being trapped at a normal school desk,” said Brooklyn Nelson, a junior this year.
“It definitely helps us as students to learn better when we are comfortable.” WCCO-TV reporter John Lauritsen learned of the flexible seating arrangement in Anderson’s class and came to Minneota recently to tape a segment that aired on Dec. 10.
(9) A prom to remember
Ross Abraham, who was born with Down syndrome, got up the nerve to ask Laura Knutson to the Minneota High School prom this past spring. And without hesitation, Knutson graciously accepted his invitation. Abraham approached Knutson at her locker holding a poster and an inflatable globe. His poster read: “In all the world, I choose U … Prom?” Abraham, a senior this year, is one of the more popular kids in town and at school. “I have known Ross since pre-school. He is just like any high school boy,” Knutson said.
“He is funny, nice, caring, and a sweetheart. I was proud to have the honor of being Ross’s date.” Abraham looked dashing in his tuxedo with matching bow tie and breast pocket handkerchief. He flashed a huge smile as he proudly escorted Knutson for the Grand March. “He deserves to be happy, just like everyone else,” said his mother Ann Abraham. “The only thing different about Ross and anyone else is his number of chromosomes. He’s a very happy, loving child who always says please and thank you.”
Abraham and Knutson dined with friends prior to prom, danced and took pictures at prom, and also attended post-prom activities at the YMCA in Marshall. And what did Ross like most about prom? “Dancing and pizza,” he responded.
(10) Fly like an Eagle
Cole Bot worked long and hard to become an Eagle Scout. Along the way he provided help to many others. Bot, a senior this year at Minneota, earned the required number of badges and was recognized at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor on May 7 at the Minneota American Legion Hall. “In a sense, I’m proud of myself,” said Bot at the time. “But it’s not just about me. It’s about following in the footsteps of other scouts. I’m more proud to just be a part of all this.”
Bot began in Cub Scouts in second grade. By the time he entered Boy Scouts, the fuse was lit for his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. “It’s definitely not considered easy,” he noted. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of planning and a lot of determination.” Bot’s final Eagle required badge was a “Music and Memory” project he implemented at the Minneota Manor, geared toward assisting the elderly who have memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. He raised all the necessary money needed to make the project a success.
·Dancin’ the night away: Seth and Teresa Myhre have been entertaining people attending the Chocolate Affair in Minneota with their spinning, lifting and flipping dance moves since 2008. Married since 2004, after being cast in the musical “Bye, Bye Birdie” at the Lake Benton Opera House two weeks after graduating from high school. They first danced together at a street chance in Cottonwood and have been dancing together ever since.
·Bot assists in Guatemala: Rick Bot of Minneota and six other Rotary members from South Dakota and Iowa spent seven days in Guatemala helping physically handicapped children in the mountainous region of Central America. The seven Rotarians assisted in fitting handicapped children and the elderly into wheelchairs made and donated by a company in Guatemala for those that can’t afford them.
·History of City Hall building: When a group of investors purchased the former Bubba’s Bar building on First Street and began renovating it, we decided to take a look at the history of the 113-year-old brick building. The building originally was the Minneota City Hall and also housed the town’s fire house, jail, library, courtroom and council room. Atop the building was a bell tower used to call firemen to the station in the event of a fire.
·Cecil J. Doyle sailed on: Cecil John Doyle earned “ace pilot” status after shooting down five Japanese bombers and Zeroes in combat during World War II. In his final mission, Doyle’s plane was shot down and the plane was never recovered. Doyle was presumed dead at age 23. His nephew, Cecil O. Doyle, was named after him and owned and operated Doyle Insurance in Minneota from 1987-2012. Cecil O. Doyle told the story of his heroic uncle who was so well regarded that a U.S. Navy destroyer escort launched on July 1, 1944, was named the U.S.S. Cecil J. Doyle.
· “Hey Culligan Man” started in Porter: Emmitt Culligan, the founder of the water softener company by the same name, developed many water purification systems and water softening devices at his mansion that he and his wife, Anna, had built in Porter in 1920. The home, which included a large orchard on the north side, was referred to as the Culligan Manor. The Culligans moved out of Porter in the early 1930s. Ownership of the mansion changed hand several times before a fire destroyed it in 1969.
·Markell counts his blessings: Dan Markell, who lives in a country home between Green Valley and Ghent, survived being shot down in the U.S. CH47 Chinook helicopter he and four others were in over Can Tho, Vietnam, on May 8, 1968. Markell, a life insurance sales representative for Catholic United Financial, still gets emotional talking about that fateful day. The helicopter’s hydraulic system was hit by enemy gunfire and the crew was forced to crash-land. The five men quickly climbed out and watched as the chopper was soon engulfed in flames. Before going down, the pilot sent out a “May Day” signal and within an hour Air Force helicopters rescued them before the enemy was able to capture or kill them.
·Hagen finds surprise marker: Ralph Hagen and his wife were on vacation and visited the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park this summer and he came upon an interesting find. Hagen wandered 100 feet from the iconic wood sign marking the beginning of the river and noticed a metal plaque in a clump of bushes. After pushing the foliage aside, Hagen read the inscription on the plaque: “Captain Charles W. Vandersluis, M.D.; For his dedicated service, 5th Air Force During World War II”. The man honored with the plaque happened to be a doctor in Minneota from 1960-77. Hagen, a longtime history teacher and golf coach in Minneota, described Vandersluis as “super competent and an exceptional doctor who was very dedicated to his patients”.
·Dog-gone good foster mom: Caryn Hetland has had a soft spot for dogs ever since she was a little girl. Hetland, who resides in Minneota, became connected to Tracy Area Animal Rescue this past year and is a foster home for stray and injured dogs. After losing both of her dogs to illness, Hetland went to TAAR looking for a new dog. She was so impressed with what they do there that she decided to join them. She has fostered numerous dogs in the past year, taking care of each one until an owner can be found. She even took in two of the foster dogs for her own.
·Working for a good cause: Hannah Heidecker might be one of the youngest and eager entrepreneurs in the area. The 10-year-old daughter of Jennifer Heidecker of Minneota wanted to raise money to purchase teddy bears for underprivileged children in Ecuador. So she started her own lawn care business called “Hannah’s Yard Cleanup” in which she would do chores such as picking up sticks, watering flowers or raking at reasonable rates. Last year, she gave a mission group from Evangelical Free Church of Marshall 50 teddy bears to take to children in Ecuador. She’s already starting to collect teddy bears for next year and hopes to send “at least 60” this time.
·Father-daughter aid Guatemalans: Wayne Hennen and his daughter Isabelle participated in a mission trip to San Lucas, Guatemala through Big Stone Therapies, Inc. Before going on the trip, the father and daughter collected donated socks and shoes for needy children in Guatemala. Big Stone Therapies, which has branch facilities in Minneota, Ortonville, Baxter and Zumbrota, sends four or five therapists per year to Guatemala to bring supplies and medical equipment, and to assist those in need of physical therapy. Hennen is a physical therapist for Big Stone Therapies branch located in the Minneota Manor. Isabelle, 16, was able to raise her own money to go along on the trip.
·Paluch on the air: Ivanhoe native Dan Paluch, who played baseball for Minneota/Lincoln HI in 2011, was named the news director at KMHL Broadcasting Company in Marshall. Aside from his news director duties, the native of Russell is also a play-by-play man for area high school sporting events.
•Ghent church aids hurricane victims: Josue Palacios, a student pastor at the 200-member Rayo de Luz Church in Ghent, was watching television when news of Hurricane Harvey was aired. Palacios immediately felt a need to help and, along with other church members, began to raise money and collect supplies to aid victims in the Houston area. Soon, people from all over were donating food, water, clothing, blankets and more to the church group. The 12-member group filled the church bus and two vans with trailers with supplies and made the two-day trip to drop off all the supplies.
•Dress ruined; wedding saved: Sometimes an outdoor wedding doesn’t go as planned because Mother Nature isn’t always cooperative. This time, she was downright nasty. McKenzie Noyes and Ethan Kack were married last September in an outdoor ceremony in a pasture on her grandfather’s farm outside of Porter. The setting was beautiful with trees all around and a babbling brook meandering near the ceremony area. But just as the 400 guests were seated and McKenzie began her downhill walk to the front of the ceremony area, it started to rain. Hard. It soon became a torrential downpour. With no place to seek shelter, the show went on and the couple was officially married. McKenzie’s wedding dress was ruined after becoming became soaked and caked with mud.
•Kids on a mission: A group of 43 kids and nine chaperones from various local churches embarked on a mission trip to help homeless and disadvantaged people in southern California. The group came from Hope Lutheran and St. Edward churches in Minneota, St. Eloi in Ghent, and Bethany Elim in Ivanhoe. The group went to assist in helping to make a better life for people in shelters, churches and health care facilities in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas.
•Bank robbery still a mystery: Twenty-five years ago the State Bank of Taunton was robbed by a gunman demanding cash. The case was never solved. It happened on Dec. 5, 1991, a few minutes before closing. A man then entered the bank and walked up to the center teller window and laid down a note that was written on the back of an envelope. The note stated the man had a gun and demanded money be put in a satchel bag that he was carrying. The teller, who still works at the bank but requested anonymity, placed an undisclosed amount of money into the bag before pressing the silent alarm button to notify authorities. The man left the bank and vanished into the night before the police arrived. He has never been found.
•Icelanders make stop in Minneota: A bus with 20 Icelanders pulled into Minneota in early May and the visitors were on a mission to discover their roots. The group visited the Minneota Library, which once housed the famous Icelandic-run Big Store, as well as Icelandic cemeteries, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which once housed most of the Icelandic parishioners of Minneota.
•Boe tradition continues at course: Wynston Boe was a standout golfer who won 10 club championships at Countryside Golf Club in Minneota. The well-known and personable Boe, who passed away in 2014, was also the course manager from 1985-99. On May 31, the Boe tradition at the course continued when his daughter Robin Boe Traen was named manager. “I so wish my father was here to see what he thinks of me here now,” said Robin.
• Gravley is Minneota’s ‘Video Girl’: Minneota Spanish teacher Miranda Gravley was used as an “extra” in a video produced by James Woolridge, aka “Señor Wooly”, in December in Chicago. There were four different scenes shot for the video and Gravley and the 29 other Spanish teachers chosen from all over the country, had to don a different costume for each scene. The scenes was shot on a street corner outside a club, at a church, a nightclub and a fitness center. The video will air on Woolridge’s www.senorwooly.com website in February.
•Rykar’s Run: While competitors struggled to complete the Lions Mud Run Race during Belgian-American Days on Aug. 5 in Ghent, little three-year-old Rykar Crowley, running with his mother Lori Crowley, scampered along as if he were playing in the back yard. “It was fun,” he said after the untimed run designed more for fun than competitiveness. Crowley was the youngest among a large field of competitors, yet was one of the few not breathing hard upon completion.