by Cori Hilsgen
Club members of the St. Joseph Y2K Lions appreciate their senior citizens and want them to be recognized for all the wonderful service deeds they do in the area.
That’s why they recently chose Fran and Marilyn Court to be this year’s Senior Queen and King for the annual Fourth of July parade.
“They have been very active in the St. Joseph community,” said St. Joseph Y2K president Kay Lemke.
The Courts said their being chosen was totally unexpected and they had no idea they were being considered. They had not even thought about the possibility.
They said it is sort of shocking because they feel there are many people involved in the community whom they would consider more deserving.
The Courts, both 81, have volunteered in the St. Joseph area for many years. They both have helped with the July Fourth Church of St. Joseph parish festival since moving back to St. Joseph in 1970. Fran served as chairperson or co-chairperson of the beer stand for 26 years, with the last two of those years being two-day events. Marilyn helped and scheduled the bar servers for all of those years.
Fran’s band, Franks Accordion Band/Frandango played for the 5-9 p.m. festival crowd on the side of the church building for many of those years. Both have also worked in a number of other parish festival stands yearly since then.
Fran was the leader of Franks Accordion Band for several years in the early 1970s, playing mostly old-time music. As the music venues changed, they changed the band name to Frandango and played mostly country and country rock with some old-time music.
He retired from performing in the music world in 1994 when his guitar player developed kidney and pancreatic cancer. Because the two had played together for more than 20 years with several drummers, Fran said it just wasn’t the same.
He still plays the diatonic accordion (button box) and digital guitar on occasion but said his arthritic fingers can no longer keep up with his mind.
Fran is active in the American Legion Post 328, St Joseph Lions, St Joseph Recreational Association, Knights of Columbus Council 7057, Reserve Officer’s Association and is a member of St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club, Moose Lodge 1400 in Waite Park and the National Rifle Association. He has also served on the Parish Finance Council for the past six years.
In the American Legion, Fran served as commander for three years, post finance officer, membership director, fundraising chairman and bowling chairman for 12 years. He has served as post home committee chairman and other officer positions in the past.
In the Lions Club, Fran served as a president for one year and as a secretary-treasurer for 10 consecutive years. He is proud that during those 10 years the St Joseph Lions were voted top club of 68 clubs in the district twice. He also helped establish the brat sales at the St. Joseph Meat Market with then owner, Al “Junior” Pfannenstein.
Fran has been the photographer for the St Joseph Lions and for the American Legion Post 328 in St. Joseph for many years and is also the webmaster for the American Legion Post 328.
As a member of the St Joseph Recreational Association, Fran has served on the board of directors for more than 30 years and served as gambling manager for six years.
Fran managed one of the Sal’s Bar softball teams for a number of years and was a player/manager on the El Paso and St Joseph Meat Market teams for 15 years.
In the Reserve Officer’s Association, he served 10 years as president and 10 years as secretary-treasurer of St Cloud Chapter 11, which is the only chapter in Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities and consists of officers of all military services.
Marilyn is active in the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 328. She served as president of the Auxiliary for three years and is a volunteer waitress serving basket menu items before and during the Legion Club’s twice-monthly bingo sessions.
Marilyn also started quarterly casino fundraising bus trips for the Legion Auxiliary and has coordinated those trips for 12 years.
Since Fran traveled frequently with his career, Marilyn said her primary mission in life was bringing up a family of six children. When their children were younger, she did in-home daycare. As they grew older, she sought secretarial work and was employed at what is now Drs. Styles, Cotton & Milbert in St Joseph, retiring in 1999.
During the years the Court children attended Kennedy Elementary School, from 1974-1984.
Marilyn helped teach religious education classes at the Church of St. Joseph parish. She has also been a Eucharistic minister at the church for more than 25 years.
On Saturdays during bowling seasons when their children were in the program, Marilyn supervised and taught Junior League bowling at the El Paso for 10 years, with assistance from Ozzie Thelen and Joyce Hennen.
Marilyn still bowls twice each week. Fran can no longer hold a bowling ball because of his arthritis.
The Courts have been married for 59 years. Marilyn was born in St Joseph and lived on Minnesota Street until she and Fran married.
Fran was born in a log house in St Joseph Township where his family farmed. His family then moved to his grandfather Dominic Court’s homestead when he was 5 years old and later moved to Minnesota Street in St. Joseph when he was 13.
After they married, the Courts lived in St. Cloud from 1959-1970. They moved back to St. Joseph in 1970 and built and have lived in their current home, on property that had been Fran’s grandfather Court’s homestead in St. Joseph Township, since then.
The Courts have six children; two daughters and four sons. They also have 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Fran and Marilyn said they felt raising their children was best done in a country setting. Their children had responsibilities on the farm and chores were done before and after school. They also had a great deal of space for recreational activities such as dune buggy riding, snowmobiling and dirt bike riding.
Fran has spent his entire adult life in the Army Reserve as a soldier or as a civilian working for Department of the Army and speaks proudly of his involvement. After graduating from Cathedral High School in 1956, he visited recruiters for all services in St. Cloud the following day. Since these recruiters had their June quotas already filled, the Army recruiter suggested he contact the Reserve recruiter. Fran did so and after he learned they had openings, he enlisted.
As an Army Reservist, Fran advanced from private to staff sergeant in seven years. In 1965, he received a direct appointment as a second lieutenant and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1993, the highest military rank achieved by a St Joseph native.
Fran said that distinction is shared with Lt. Col. Roger Linnemann who served during the WWII/Korean war era.
During Fran’s 37 years of active/reserve service, he trained at 20 different military installations stateside.
He said the most noteworthy assignments were as assistant operations officer of the 205th Infantry Brigade, assistant commandant of the 5042nd United States Army Reserve School with a three-state area of responsibility, and acting commandant of the Fourth United States Army Area School at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, with a 13-state area of responsibility.
Fran said the ultimate assignment was as commander of the 409th Infantry Battalion in St Cloud, the unit he first enlisted in the day after graduation from high school in 1956.
Other assignments throughout his career included antitank gunnery sergeant, battalion motor sergeant, infantry rifle platoon leader, heavy mortar platoon leader and infantry company commander. Fran’s military assignments took him to Alaska six times.
As a Department of Army civilian, he supervised a workforce of 32, half civilian and half active duty, operating Army Reserve training centers in six northern and central Minnesota cities on a full-time basis. In that capacity, Fran worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to purchase the property in St Joseph that became an Army Reserve Training Center and Area Maintenance shop.
“We have had a busy life,” Fran said. “We have enjoyed serving the community while we raised a family in our hometown of St. Jo(seph).”
The Courts said they don’t know how many of their family will be home to see them honored in the Fourth of July parade. Their children live in Cold Spring, Lincoln, Minneapolis and Sartell in Minn. and Marine, Illinois.
Choosing a senior king and queen is an ongoing tradition for the Y2K Lions. Senior royalty are selected based on their service and volunteerism to the area.
The annual parade, organized by the St. Joseph Lions, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, July 4, in St. Joseph.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.