by Dennis Dalman
One day about three years ago, when Rosie Court walked into the St. Joseph Historical Society’s museum, she became hooked on local history, and it was contagious as a flu bug – a good flu bug.
When Darol and Ellie Studer greeted Court, she was bowled over by their friendly welcome and then by their nearly encyclopedic knowledge of and love for local history.
Court, who was raised in St. Joseph, stopped at the museum that day because she was researching her father’s years as manager of the St. Joe Baseball team in the Great Soo League in the late 1930s and 1940s.
Darol and Ellie Studer were two of the founders of the historical society nearly 15 years ago.
“The Studers are a wealth of knowledge and so interesting to converse with,” Court said. “It was amazing how much I learned in that hour. Because of their dedication and commitment I wanted to be part of that organization to help preserve the history of St. Joe.”
After meeting the Studers, Ellie mentioned she was planning to do a tour of the three local cemeteries where some Civil War veterans are buried. Court was pleasantly stunned because she herself had been doing research about Civil War veterans from the St. Joseph area. Since Court had written an essay for the St. Joseph Newsleader about the Dakota Native American conflict in Minnesota in 1862, Ellie suggested she write another essay about Civil War veterans.
Court’s essay and Studer’s Civil War cemetery tour will coincide. The tour will take place on Memorial Day (Monday, May 26). More information about the tour as it becomes available will be published sometime in mid-May in the St. Joseph Newsleader.
Court has always enjoyed reading about history, but her delving into local history (especially St. Joseph history) is what intensified her interest.
Court has become a volunteer for the historical society and also is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary of St. Joseph, which is also rich in history.
“History is ordinary people doing extraordinary things, that’s how I think of it,” Court said. “I like learning facts, information and what made people do what they did.”
The daughter of Matt (“Coxie”) and Rose Court, Court was raised on a farm 1.5 miles west of St. Joseph and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School in 1966. Until she was 32, she worked as an appraiser for the City of St. Cloud. After she retired, she worked as a gardener in the spectacular Munsinger-Clemens gardens in east St. Cloud for 10 years, a job she loved.
“I was a supervisor in the perennial garden there, and I met people from all over the world.”
Court has packed an amazing series of wildly varied adventures into her life. She has been a dog-sled musher; she’s camped in Death Valley; she’s kayaked everywhere from Lake Superior to the Sea of Cortez by Mexico; when she turned 55, she tandem-skydived near Hutchinson; she loves bicycling and riding motorcycles (she has five of them, including a Harley).
It may sound like Court is in a frantic hurry to complete a “Bucket List,” but she’s taking her sweet time, adding things to what she calls her “Life List.” Among the items on that list, which she plans to do in the near future, are a trip with medical volunteers to help the poor of Guatemala and a long leisurely drive along the iconic Route 66, which stretches all the way from Chicago southwest to California. She also plans a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania and other Civil War battlefields. Since she’s never been to West Virginia and Mississippi, those two states are “musts” on her Life List.
“Some people call what I do wanderlust and adventure,” Court said. “To me, its just normal. I love to experience life. It’s like Death Valley. Most people think it’s this horrible hot place. Well, it is hot, alright, but it’s also very beautiful – the blooming cacti, the canyons. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
An intrepid camper, Court loves to combine camping trips with kayaking and hiking and once did that in a “Circle Route” all around Lake Superior.
And everywhere she goes, Court connects with history and the way the past, the present and future all come together in so many fascinating ways. To Court, history is very much alive, not dead.
Throughout her adventures, she keeps in mind her beloved role models, people who actively make history and who tend to be travelers, explorers, discoverers, people she’s met like Arctic scientists Will Steger and Ann Bancroft, like Paul Schurke the legendary dog-sledder from Ely, like astronaut Sally Ride, like Libby Riddles – the first woman to win the Iditarod dog-sled race in 1985, and like the late Chuck Lindberg, who was one of the soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima in the World War II Pacific – an event that became the subject of one of the most famous photos of all time. Years ago, Court had heard of Lindberg, who live in Richfield, and decided to pay him a visit of respect. She, Lindberg and his wife became very good friends and would have dinner twice a year together without fail. Lindberg, who died six years ago, was the only surviving member of the Iwo Jima raise-the-flag group.
Court lives on Brown’s Lake near Eden Valley, but she loves to visit St. Joseph every chance she gets and relishes her time spent with members of the historical society. She often wishes more people would join the society or at least visit its local artifacts in the museum. As Court has learned first-hand, local history can be every bit as exciting as history anywhere else. People who spend time in the St. Joseph Historical Society Museum will quickly discover that fact, and they will become fascinated by the historical treasures right under their noses, Court believes.
Membership dues to the historical society are $5 a year. The museum is open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the first Friday of the month and from 4-7 p.m. the third Friday of the month. In some cases, it can be opened by special appointment.
The society meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of the month in the museum, which is located at 25 First Ave. NW.