by Vicki Ikeogu
It’s been a year of transitions for both the people and the city of St. Joseph. With the installation of a new prioress at the monastery and the retirement of a long-time cook at Kennedy Community School to the merger of Collegeville Community Credit Union with Central Minnesota Credit Union and the groundbreaking of the Lake Wobegon Trail expansion, the year 2017 has been one of change and growth for the city of just more than 6,700 people.
As we make another trip around the sun, here’s a look back at some of the interesting and memorable events occurring in St. Joseph during 2017. The following are just some of the highlights of the year as culled from the 50 issues of the St. Joseph Newsleader during the past year.
The new year kicked off with a new honor for one of the sisters in the local Order of St. Benedict. Sister Michaela Hedican was selected as one of the Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly’s Catholics of the Year 2016. Hedican, along with St. Cloud Diocesan Bishop Donald J. Kettler, was recognized by the national publication in particular for her work with the Somali community after the September 2016 attack at Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud. The incident, in which a Somali man was accused of stabbing 10 people, brought nationwide attention to central Minnesota. “When the stabbing took place, we got a call the Somalis were going to be interviewed at a news conference, and I was there just to support them,” Hedican told the Newsleader.
The St. Joseph City Council reaffirmed its commitment to financially supporting the 3.3-mile extension of the Lake Wobegon Trail from St. Joseph to Waite Park. At its Jan. 9 meeting, the council agreed to contribute $200,000 to help cover part of the funding shortfall for the $823,802 project. Additional funding would be contributed by Waite Park, St. Cloud and Stearns County.
An anonymous donor donated $10 million to the College of St. Benedict to create and support a new Center for Ethical Leadership in Action. This was the largest donation in the college’s history.
It was a bittersweet end for Kennedy Community School cook/manager Maxine Pogatshnik. After 39 years in the St. Cloud School District – 30 of which were spent in St. Joseph – Pogatshnik ended her lengthy career serving hot meals to hungry elementary school kids. Over the course of her tenure, it’s estimated Pogatshnik helped whip up more than 3.9 million meals.
A New York-based financial research firm named St. Joseph as the safest city to live in 2016. The city had the lowest rate of violent crimes and second lowest rate of property crimes of the 125 Minnesota cities surveyed.
St. Joseph city staff finished compiling items to be placed inside a time capsule, which has a permanent place inside one of the walls of the new government center. The location is marked by a new dedication plaque.
St. Joseph resident Ann Buckvold and her daughter Harriet attended the Women’s March at the state capitol in St. Paul. The Women’s March, which had an estimated 100,000 people in attendance, was done to draw attention and support for women’s rights, education and health care.
The Estates Bed & Breakfast development project gets underway as owners and business partners Joe Prostrollo and Cory Ehlert work to transform their rental property at 29 Minnesota St. E. into a bed-and-breakfast. The $125,000 renovation project would outfit each room to be handicapped-accessible and have its own bathroom.
The St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce announced a vacancy after current administrator Jeny Meyer resigned. Chamber President Bob Ringstrom has hopes of announcing a replacement in early February.
The man who confessed to murdering Jacob Wetterling was transferred to a federal prison in Massachusetts. Danny Heinrich was sentenced in November 2016 after being found guilty of possessing child pornography. In return for leading investigators to Wetterling’s body, Heinrich was not charged in Wetterling’s murder.
The new government center was dedicated at an open house Feb. 6. The ceremony included a flag-raising by members of the American Legion Post 328 of St. Joseph and a ribbon-cutting by St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz. “Today, this government center, which grew out of a spirit of collaboration, will be a visible and tangible expression of our community’s shared concept for improved local and regional services,” Schultz told the Newsleader.
Students at All Saints Academy celebrated Catholic Schools Week in style. In addition to fun days like Wacky Day and Spirit Day, students had the chance to work with Rockhouse Productions to record songs, participate in science lessons by Minneapolis-based Bakken Museum and visit with author Patrick Mader.
St. Joseph resident Duane Scepaniak survived a scary situation on Big Swan Lake near Grey Eagle. On Jan. 27, Scepaniak and his friend David Walz were going ice fishing. On their way back to shore, the ice surrounding Scepaniak’s truck started to break apart. The men escaped through the windows of the truck.
St. Joseph teenager Makayla Keehr was the first patient to undergo adolescent idiopathic scoliosis corrective surgery at St. Cloud Hospital. Keehr was treated by St. Cloud Orthopedics spinal surgeon Dr. Trevor McIver. The surgery corrected Keehr’s 55-percent spinal curvature and increased her height from 4-foot 11-inches to 5-foot 1-inch.
St. John’s Prep School debuts the Nydeen sisters on the basketball court. Taylor, a senior; Reid, a sophomore; and Jayden, a seventh-grader; all played on the girls varsity basketball team. “It’s nice to be part of major moments in each other’s basketball careers. I am glad to be able to encourage my sisters like other people encourage me,” Taylor Nydeen told the Newsleader.
Sister Susan Rudolph will succeed Sister Michaela Hedican as the spiritual leader of the Order of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. “I don’t know if I would contrast too much of our styles,” Rudolph told the Newsleader of her predecessor Hedican. “I just see great continuity, and I love our community and I love Michaela. She has been a great leader and mentor for me.” Rudolph will be installed June 4 as the 17th prioress.
Kennedy Community School’s honor choir took center stage at the 16th annual Night of the Stars variety show to support the St. Cloud School District’s Local Education and Activities Foundation program. Students performed The Orchestra Song, a traditional Austrian folk song in German.
Students at All Saints Academy got a surprise visit from a snow plow. Employees of the Stearns County Highway Department brought a snow plow to school to teach kids about snow-plow safety. The students also had the chance to honk the horn and climb inside the cab of the plow.
Chris Hensel, owner of St. Joseph-based Dovetail Kitchen Designs and Sauk Rapids’ Anthony Steinemann of ADS Designs, helped develop a new display for the annual Central Minnesota Builders Associations’ Home Show. The ‘Forever House’ showcases the latest in home technology and design. The nearly functional house display was built for the Home Show in about 24 hours inside the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.
St. Joseph police were able to purchase an automated external defibrillator, thanks to donations from the community. “Now every squad car I have is equipped with the same (kind of) defibrillator,” St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein told the Newsleader.
St. Joseph resident and Apollo High School graduate Peter Hamerlinck is working toward developing an alumni association for his alma mater. The alumni association would serve as a means to keep past students connected to their childhood community and provide them with opportunities to give back to the area.
Catholic Charities Children’s Home has stopped providing mental health residential treatment services. “This decision is intended to increase the focus on community-based mental-health services,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Steve Pareja in a media release.
St. Joseph residents were allowed a sneak peek of the planned community center. While exact amenities have not been decided, residents have determined the center should include space for kids and seniors along with an indoor track and a possible place for the St. Joseph Food Shelf.
Daniel Coborn of locally owned Coborn’s Inc. fame died at the age of 86. Coborn, who ran the company from the early 1960s until the late 1990s, oversaw a lot of the grocery store chain’s growth throughout central Minnesota.
St. Joseph residents were asked to give their opinions on the future direction of the city. As the city works to update its comprehensive plan, staff members encouraged the public to provide feedback and suggestions for the city.
St. Joseph resident Dan Rassier filed a lawsuit against Stearns County, Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner and others involved in the investigation of the Jacob Wetterling disappearance. Rassier, along with his mother Rita, filed the lawsuit in federal court. They are asking for $2 million in damages.
Collegeville Community Credit Union announced its intent to merge with Central Minnesota Credit Union of Melrose. Under the agreement, the two credit unions would become one entity and operate under the CMCU name.
Collaborative efforts are emerging between the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker group, Kennedy Community School and others to help distribute food for elementary school students in need. The Colt Action Packs program is designed to stuff backpacks with enough food stuff to help get hungry kids through the weekend. This program is modeled after the ROCORI Action Packs program.
A new Kwik Trip has been given the go-ahead. The St. Joseph Planning Commission moved to send forth its acceptance recommendation to the city council. The location of the newest Kwik Trip would be on the corner of CR 75 and 20th Avenue SE/CR 134.
Members of the YMCA Gators swim team were recognized for their accomplishments. The Gators club swimmers compete in two main seasons and practice at either the St. Cloud Area Family YMCA or Foley High School. Members of the local team include Kennedy Community School student Emily Hammond of St. Cloud and All Saints Academy students Mary and Gabriella Morris of St. Cloud.
Riff City Guitar and Music Co. continues its strong presence in St. Joseph. The business, which opened in November 2012, announced its intent to open a new location in New Hope. Owner Joe Leach said Riff City employee and Minneapolis musician Leslie Rich will run the new location.
St. Joseph Y2K Lions has decided to help fund the St. Joseph Fire Department’s CPR classes. The fire department lost its funding to continue operating its annual classes. Members of the Y2K Lions decided to step in. The CPR course, which is free to attend, provides instruction on how to use an automated external defibrillator and help with choking incidents.
All Saints Academy has joined other area Catholic schools to form the Catholic Community Schools organization. CCS’s goals are to bring all area Catholic schools together under the guidance of one organization to help collectively strengthen the schools in financial management, academics and spirituality.
About 30 St. Joseph residents participated in an event to provide feedback about the proposed community center. Concerns were brought up by many attendees over the cost and where city staff were in the planning process. St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens said the cost to complete the community center could range between $8-$12 million depending on the different services provided.
Astronaut Col. Robert “Bob” Springer hosted a talk about his journey into space at the Gorecki Center on the campus of the College of St. Benedict. Springer participated in two space missions, one in 1989 and another in 1990.
Students from both the St. Joseph and St. Cloud All Saints Academy gathered together to perform The Lion King, Jr. The musical is an off-shoot of the Broadway production The Lion King that has been adapted for middle- school students to perform.
Current owner of Little Saints Academy Amy Bonfig has plans to open Lillian Leonard Primary, a year-round tuition-based private school that will provide students with a continuation of learning styles developed at Little Saints Academy for students who might not make the age requirement to enter kindergarten. “We’ve had the desire to continue educating children past preschool for some time,” Bonfig told the Newsleader.
St. Joseph resident and former Minnesota Twins player Al Newman spoke about his life and baseball career for a leadership conference hosted by the Sartell Chamber of Commerce.
The City of St. Joseph has dedicated part of its soon-to-be constructed community center to the legacy of Jacob Wetterling. The community center would take about a year to build and would have three gymnasiums, a few game rooms and an activity area. “We can think of no better way to honor him and all that he stood for,” said Jerry Wetterling, Jacob’s father, in a previous Newsleader story.
Bad Habit Brewery hosted a fundraiser to help develop a dog park inside Millstream Park. The dog park had already been approved by the city council, but funds totaling around $15,000 were needed to build fencing. The St. Joseph Park Board has contributed $10,000 to the project.
Mushroom farmer Kevin Doyle has spent decades growing and distributing all sorts of edible mushrooms from his St. Joseph business, Forest Mushrooms Inc. On average, his farm produces 2,500 pounds of oyster mushrooms and 600 pounds of shiitake mushrooms per week.
Emerging writers and authors had the chance to learn tips and tricks on writing and illustrating from professionals at the 13th annual Young Authors Young Artists conference at the College of St. Benedict. About 1,400 students from around the area participated in this three-day workshop.
The new St. Cloud Area Family YMCA opens. The 106,000-square-foot facility has three gyms, a lazy river, a water slide and a two-story rock-climbing wall. The $23.3-million facility was built in partnership with the City of St. Cloud, CentraCare Foundation and the Coborn Family Foundation.
Military men and women were honored at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Old Cemetery in St. Joseph. Following a Catholic Mass at the Church of St. Joseph, members of the American Legion Post 328 led a procession into the cemetery. The names of more than 350 deceased veterans were read.
Construction plans for the 3.3-mile extension of the Lake Wobegon Trail are expected to start this fall. Permits and easements have been secured and engineering plans have been finalized. The last obstacle to overcome is securing the final approval from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The planned release of documents related to the Jacob Wetterling case have been delayed. Attorneys for Patty and Jerry Wetterling have filed a lawsuit to prohibit the release of the documents, citing privacy issues. The Wetterlings have until June 30 to submit the investigative materials they believe are personal and private that should remain so.
The St. Benedict’s Monastery Whitby Gallery displayed art works by the Rev. Jerome Tupa, pastor of the Church of St. Joseph. The display is titled Paintings by Jerome Tupa, OSB.
The Killer Vees will perform a tribute concert to the late Bobby Vee at this summer’s Joetown Rocks festival. Bobby Vee passed away in October after battling Alzheimer’s disease. Also slated to perform during the annual festival is All Saints Academy students, the Graduates, Collective Unconscious and Brat Pack Radio.
St. Joseph resident Joyce Stock is seeking volunteers who have a knack for sewing. Stock and her sister, Janice Stock, make and donate dresses and skirts to children in Haiti. In 2016, the Stock sisters donated more than 200 dresses and 30 skirts to the island nation.
Sister Susan Rudolph becomes the new prioress of St. Benedict’s Monastery. Rudolph, a Sauk Rapids native, was elected by the sisters in February. She has taken over the prioress position from Sister Michaela Hedican.
Patty and Jerry Wetterling were selected by the St. Joseph Lions Club to be the grand marshals of the Fourth of July parade. In addition, the St. Joseph Y2K Lions have selected Kay and Chuck Kern to be the senior Queen and King royalty.
Stearns County names Jon Lentz to the chief-deputy position. Lentz was recently appointed to the position by interim Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson. Lentz has been with the department since 1991.
(To read any of the above stories in their entirety, visit thenewsleaders.com and search for your favorite stories.)
Vicki Ikeogu is a local freelance reporter from St. Cloud. Ikeogu is a 2015 mass communications graduate from St. Cloud State University. Ikeogu was previously the business reporter at the St. Cloud Times. She currently works as a transportation planner for the Saint Cloud Area Planning Organization.