Dec. 8, 1989
St. Joseph still ‘wonderful community’ for Wetterlings
by Stuart Goldschen
Jerry and Patty Wetterling and their infant daughter, Amy, came to St. Joseph 13 years ago to settle down in a peaceful rural environment they believed ideal to raising a family.
Jerry opened a chiropractic clinic that has become a successful professional presence in the community; Patty locked hands with the community as a tireless teacher and community organizer; and three more Wetterlings – Jacob, Trevor and Carmen – joined Amy to be nurtured on clean air, kind neighbors and safe streets.
And all was well in the Wetterling home as it has been throughout St. Joseph for as long as anyone could remember. Until Oct. 22 when Jacob, 11, the second oldest Wetterling child, was snatched coldly from his protective environment and a pall of grief and fear enveloped the whole town.
That shock cracked the Wetterling’s picture of the ideal life, but it hasn’t destroyed their frame. They still believe in the values of rural life here and do not intend to leave.
“I have to tell you though,” Patty Wetterling confessed, “that on our way home the night of the abduction when we got that phone call, I said about 20 million times, ‘we’re moving; we’re out of here.’ I was blaming the place for what happened.
“I’ve since learned, obviously,” she continued, “that there couldn’t be a better place to show support. I really believe all the media and everything has come because of the way this community has reacted. It’s exceptional.
“It’s a wonderful community,” Patty continued, saying she and Jerry don’t feel it was wrong to come here. “We like our involvement, and we couldn’t feel better about the support we’ve gotten. It’s phenomenal.”
Jerry and Patty Wetterling come from different environmental backgrounds, but both agree St. Joseph is the right place for them now.
“We’re painted as a small-town couple, but I’m from the city,” Patty said. “I grew up in a large city and I’m familiar with that. That’s one of the reasons we chose St. Joseph. It seemed so peaceful for raising a family. It seemed to be a safe place to live.”
Patty, 40, was born in Omaha, Neb., but was raised from an early age in St. Paul. She spent all of her school years there and attended Mankato State College, where she graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1971.
She taught math for one year to merchant marine students on board a ship of the Lundeberg School of Seamanship in Piney Point, Md., and was a teacher in a rough inner-city school in Washington.
Jerry, 41, was born in Forest City, Iowa, and grew up in small Iowa towns, including Mason City, about the size of St. Cloud. He also graduated from Mankato State College with a major in mathematics and a minor in physical education in 1971.
The Wetterlings met each other during their last year in college while student teaching in Mexico and were married in 1973. Jerry then entered chiropractic school at Palmer College in Davenport, Iowa, and graduated in 1976.
They came to St. Joseph soon after with Amy, 13, who was born in Iowa City just before Jerry finished chiropractic school. Jerry opened “a tiny, 10-by-10-foot office room” at 15-1/2 E. Minnesota St., and Patty worked as a waitress to help launch their new life.
Soon after, the Wetterlings moved into a new home – and Jerry’s new office – at 103 N. College Ave., where Jerry still maintains his business. They lived there for more than seven years before moving to their current home on Kiwi Court just east of the city limits in 1984.
Jacob, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8, were born in Long Prairie where Patty sought the aid of a midwife in a natural birthing program only later offered at St. Cloud Hospital. Patty said Jacob’s midwife had sent a “heart-warming” card to the family recently from her home near Rochester, Minn.