by Dennis Dalman
An artistic rendition of Sartell’s paper mill will be up for sale starting May 25 at The Pantry at Rolling Green II mall in Sartell at the corner of Second Street S. and Pinecone Road.
The print of an oil painting by a commissioned Iowa artist, J.D. Speltz, was created about five years ago. There are still a few dozen limited-edition prints left, both framed and unframed, and those will be up for sale at The Pantry. Lisa Feuling, manager of the Pantry, quickly agreed to sell the prints in order to help a good cause.
Proceeds of the sale will go to the Retired Sartell Firefighters organization to help fund that group’s volunteer civic activities, such as helping elderly residents check and install smoke detectors and batteries.
Retired firefighter Ken Schulte explained how the art print came about. On Memorial Day 2012, there was an explosion at the Verso paper mill that killed one employee, Jon Maus of Melrose, injured a few others and – ultimately – caused the permanent closure of the plant. The mill had been a landmark and economic bedrock for Sartell and the surrounding area for more than 100 years. The news of its permanent closure was devastating emotionally to so many individuals and families who had earned a good living because of the mill work.
The Retired Firefighters organization, in an effort led by members Schulte and Dennis Molitor, decided the mill should be memorialized in a print, and they commissioned the Iowa artist to paint a picture from which prints could be made. The painting, titled “A Time to Remember,” depicts in glowing nostalgic colors the paper-mill site as seen from across the Mississippi River. Old brick buildings from the early 20th century are visible, as well as the much-later addition – the huge baby-blue building with its iconic condensation tower. The foreground evokes riverside flora and fauna, including some flying ducks.
Schulte grew up across the street from the paper mill, which was started in 2005. He was a volunteer firefighter for 20 years before retiring a few years ago. He is also now retired from his job as branch manager of Edward Jones in Sauk Rapids.