by Cori Hilsgen
Tenth-grader Brandon Zimmer is an ambitious Boy Scout who recently completed building an outdoor pergola to earn his Eagle Scout award.
By completing the Eagle Scout Service project, Zimmer was able to show his leadership skills while building a project for the benefit of others in the St. Joseph area.
His project included building and installing a pergola and picnic table at Kennedy Community School. He dedicated the project in memory of Darlene Bechtold and Pat Forte, who formerly worked at the school.
Zimmer, the son of Kristi and Randy Zimmer of St. Joseph, attends Apollo High School. He joined the Boy Scouts when he was 6 years old.
Zimmer said there are several reasons he decided he wanted to build the pergola and table for his Eagle Scout project, but he especially wanted to give something back to remember “Grandma Darlene” and Forte in a way that would also benefit the school.
“Grandma Darlene always had a smile, she was full of love and she always loved to hug the kids,” Zimmer said. “Mr. Forte always inspired me to try my best. He gave every kid a nickname and he was always full of energy. Both of these people left a huge impact on not only me but everyone they touched.”
Kennedy Principal Anna Willhite commented on Zimmer’s project.
“Brandon Zimmer is an exceptional young man,” she said. “He is always focused on helping others and doing what is best for the community. Brandon organized the entire project from start to finish including the design and celebration. We are very proud of Brandon and his accomplishments and are blessed to call him a Kennedy graduate.”
To complete the project, Zimmer first had it approved by his scout leaders and then the beneficiary (Kennedy school). He then made sure the family and friends of Bechtold and Forte approved of the project.
Next, Zimmer applied to the Central Minnesota Council office in Sartell. When the project was approved, he began fundraising.
“Thankfully, the St. Joseph Lions Club, the Mark Zimmer Foundation and Kennedy Community School were all willing to donate and support me and my efforts,” Zimmer said. “While I was fundraising, I was coordinating with Ms. Holly Nelson, the media specialist from Kennedy, about where she wanted the project to go, and approximately how big it was going to be.”
He and other volunteers first installed the posts for the pergola. Tim Haeg of Watab Inc. came with his auger to drill the holes and Zimmer and his fellow troop members leveled, secured and backfilled them.
“Sadly, after this step was completed, the weather didn’t want to cooperate with us,” Zimmer said. “We, luckily, got the stringers running north and south in before it snowed. Once spring came, we were able to gather the rest of our materials and we were able to finish the pergola.”
Zimmer was able to coordinate with Kevin Cox of C&L Excavating, Haeg, and his fellow troop members to spread the blacktop millings under the pergola and pack it down so it would be smooth.
When that was completed, he purchased a table frame and the other materials needed to build the table. They placed it under the pergola and drilled holes for a memorial plaque, which he had also purchased. The plaque states “Dedicated in Loving Memory of Grandma Darlene Bechtold and Mr. Pat Forte. This Eagle Scout Project was completed by Brandon Zimmer Troop 84, 2019.”
Both Bechtold and Forte left a huge impact on students and staff at Kennedy.
Bechtold was a local day care provider for 28 years. When she retired, she missed working with children and discovered the Foster Grandparent Program. She worked at Kennedy for 12 years before her death Feb. 5, 2018, after suffering a traumatic stroke. A reading nook in the school’s library was formerly dedicated to her.
Forte was a former sixth-grade teacher at Kennedy Community School who died on June 15, 2017, after an 11-year battle with cancer. A rain garden in front of the school was previously dedicated to him.