by Dennis Dalman
It will soon be a time of reminiscence once again for people who worked at the paper mill in Sartell, including many people who live in St. Joseph and Sartell.
A group of former Verso workers have organized a social get-together for Saturday, Feb. 15 at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course north of Sartell. Currently, that core group of people are still seeking names and addresses or emails of anyone who has ever worked in the paper mill, including those from many years ago when the mill was called Champion or St. Regis. In more than 100 years, generations have worked at the historic mill. All are invited to the Feb. 15 get-together.
“Our records are not complete so we ask (former workers) to share the invitation with neighbors, friends or co-workers who worked at the paper plant,” said Dennis Molitor, one of the committee members.
The other members of the organizing committee are John Bemboom, Sandy Brockway, Lori Bunde, Lyle Fleck, John Lovitz and Don Miklos.
Registration is required for the event. People who plan to attend should call Molitor at 320-252-7055 and, if Molitor doesn’t answer, leave a message with the name(s) of those who will attend. The deadline for registration is Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Earlier this month, the committee sent out lots of invitations via email and by postal mail.
The Feb. 15 event will start with a 4 p.m. social hour with a chicken dinner to follow at 5 p.m. To help stretch the committee’s limited resources, a nominal fee will be charged per person/couple. There will also be door prizes.
Molitor and others are hoping there is enough interest among former paper-mill employees to start a “Sartell Mill Employee Club” that could meet quarterly or as often as its members decide. Even those who cannot attend the Feb. 15 dinner should call Molitor to let him and committee members know if they are interested in an employee club.
“To say a lot has happened in the last two years is an understatement,” Molitor noted in his invitation. “We hope time has made your adjustment to life after the mill a little easier with each passing month.”
One year after the explosion and fire on Memorial Day 2012 that shut down the Verso mill, there was a Verso reunion a year later, Memorial Day 2013, at Pinecone Regional Park in Sartell. There were some funds left over from that get-together, so the Verso committee was left wondering how best to spend the money. It had considered briefly splitting the money up among former workers, but it dropped that idea when members realized each worker would get a very small sum. Then, the committee decided to hold another get-together. Members worked for three months trying to get together a list of names of people to invite.
The funds came from American Iron and Metal, which purchased the defunct Verso plant, proceeds from a silent auction, a donation from the Steelworkers Union and donations from the Verso mill workers in Bucksport, Maine. All told, the funds amount to about $10,000, Molitor noted.
Molitor worked at the paper mill, under its various ownerships, for 38 years, his last position being that of safety coordinator.