by Dennis Dalman – [email protected]
One morning recently, Ron Hurd was enjoying a morning ritual – having a chat session and coffee with his retired buddies – when a woman popped in holding a bunch of balloons.
To Hurd’s surprise, the woman from the Sartell Area Chamber of Commerce announced to Hurd he had been selected as the chamber’s “Sartell Senior Volunteer of the Year.” He will be formally honored, along with other honorees, in April at the annual Chamber Banquet.
Hurd was surprised; his pals weren’t. Even though they joshed him, they knew he deserves the award, aware as they are of all the volunteerism he does.
In fact, Hurd’s life practically revolves around volunteering. He has learned how to combine volunteer tasks with his hobby, woodworking, and how to make volunteer work not “work” but lots of fun.
His “reward,” he said is seeing smiles on the faces of those who benefit from his volunteering. One of those tasks was to build a wheelchair ramp at the home of an 8-year-old handicapped girl. When she took her first “trip” down that ramp in her wheelchair, she looked up at Hurd, smiled and said a big “thank you!”
“That smile said it all,” Hurd said. “That smile was the best thank you I could ever get.”
Another time he built a wheelchair ramp in the dead of winter for a Vietnam veteran, who hadn’t been out of the house in four months. The man was as eager as a caged tiger to scoot his wheelchair down the ramp, get on a bus at the end of the block and spend the day people-watching at Crossroads shopping center in St. Cloud.
Hurd’s volunteering runs the gamut: building handicapped ramps, working at the Bernick’s Arena, building log furniture for a number of good causes, such as for the Boys and Girls Club silent auctions, all kinds of work for his church (St. Francis Xavier), tasks for the Senior Connection (Hurd is a member of the group’s board) and other jobs here and there too numerous to mention. When there is a good deed to be done, Hurd is eager to step up, roll up his sleeves and lend a helping hand. Hurd is also a member of the current task force studying options for building a community center in Sartell.
“It’s so much fun to do things for people,” he said.
One of his most gratifying volunteer jobs is to build ramps for the annual deer hunting event at Camp Ripley for physically disabled veterans.
Another impetus for Hurd to volunteer, besides his love of people, is the fact he grew up in Sartell, a city he dearly loves. He attended grade school in what is now the School District Services Building. Then he graduated from Tech High School (Sartell did not have a high school in those days). For many years, Hurd worked as a pipefitter in the construction trade in the greater St. Cloud area. After his knees became problematic, he became a real-estate broker for Castle Realty for about a dozen years until he retired at age 57.
His wife, Sandy, worked for Northwestern Bell Telephone in St. Cloud for many years. One of the groups both Ron and Sandy do volunteer work for is “Telephone Pioneers,” a group of retired telephone-company workers. One of their tasks is to build handicapped ramps. Sandy does a number of other volunteer jobs, including singing with the “Family Fun” singers who perform at nursing homes, churches, schools and other venues.
When Hurd isn’t sharing time with family or volunteering, he can often be found in his large basement woodworking shop, making his specialty log items: coffee tables, chairs and just about anything imaginable. Some of his rustic log chairs for children seem to have come right out of the storybook of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Hurd chooses the poplar logs from the woods way up north. Back home, he debarks them and then his imagination takes over as he cuts, sands, glues and polishes. Most of his woodwork is donated for good causes.
The Hurds have two sons – Eric, who works for Northland Capital, a leasing company; and Brian, a teacher at Mary of Lourdes Catholic School. Eric’s wife is Lee Hurd, executive vice president of Bursch Travel; and Brian’s wife is Terry, a social studies teacher at Sartell Middle School.
Despite Hurd’s busy life, he makes sure he finds time for his morning ritual – shooting the breeze over coffee with his old-time buddies. All of them, despite some age differences, grew up in Sartell and most still live in the city. The most regular members of the group are Bob Becker, Jan Bettenberg, Jim DeZurik, Lint Edgerly, Neal Pearson, Bill Smoley and Craig Stevens. And if the walls had ears, oh, the stories they could tell.