1918 pandemic hit Hettling family hard is top feature story
Even though 2020 was a tough year for nearly everyone, it also gave us a chance to look back into several historical events, as well as some uplifting current events that occurred.
(1) Reliving History
As the world changed dramatically when the coronavirus turned into a pandemic, it gave people a chance to learn about the Spanish flu pandemic that reared its ugly head beginning in 1918.
For one area family, the Spanish flu hit especially hard. Charles A. Hettling lived on a farm three miles northeast of Ivanhoe with his wife, Effie, and their three children, Bernard, 6; Floyd, 4; and Della, 1 1/2.
Royal and Charlie Hettling, who own and operate the Vietnam Memorial and History Center in Minneota, are the grandsons of Charles A. and Effie. Their father was Floyd. Royal and Charlie also have three other siblings, Dan, Carol and Judy.
Effie contracted the influenza and died on Nov. 14, 1918 at age 31, along with her unborn child. At Effie's parents' request, Charles took Effie's body via a train to Humboldt, IA to be buried. When Charles returned to the farm after his wife's burial, he learned that Bernard had also died from the influenza on Nov. 19. Bernard, who was born in Minneota, was one month shy of his seventh birthday.
Charles took the train again, along with Bernard's body, and returned to Humboldt for burial next to Effie's grave.
(2) A Day He'll Never Forget
Minneota insurance agent Ken DeBaere opened up about a tragic event that occurred in his life on Nov. 5, 2000. Telling the story to the Mascot, DeBaere broke down as he told of losing his best friend in a drowning accident.
DeBaere, Shawn Doyle, Scott VanOverbeke and Jeff Arendt set out around 5 a.m. on a dark and chilly morning to go duck hunting on Wood Lake five miles west of Lynd and six miles northwest of Russell.
Waves, kicked up by high winds, came over the boat. Unbeknownst to them because of the darkness of the hour and most of their equipment weighing down the back end, the boat eventually filled with water. The four men then bailed out. DeBaere, Arendt and VanOverbeke made it back to shore, but Doyle did not. His body was later recovered by rescue workers.
DeBaere and Doyle were a year apart at Marshall High School and had become friends in school and as adults. They often hunted ducks, geese, pheasants and deer together.
For many years following Doyle's death, DeBaere made his way to the shore of Wood Lake and tossed a duck decoy into the water in honor of his best friend.
(3) The house that Cass built
One of the most iconic homes built in the are belonged to J.S. Anderson of Minneota. The home, located on the corner of Second and Jackson Streets and now owned by Bette Johnson, was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Minneota State Capitol, as well as state capitols in Arkansas and West Virginia.
The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in April of 1982, joining two other iconic buildings in town on the National Register - St. Paul's Lutheran Church and O.G. Anderson's Big Store.
Anderson was a wealthy Icelandic immigrant who sought out Gilbert to design his home. Using the finest materials available, the three-story home with an eye-catching octagonal tower that can be seen for several blocks away, cost only $8,000 to build. The tower had a beacon in it to guide people during a snowstorm like a lighthouse guides ships in the fog.
Even though Johnson purchased the house in 1972 for only $17,000, it has been appraised at nearly 10 times that amount now.
(4) Hildegard comes home again
Hildegard (Schicka) Kompelien was born and raised in Germany during the war years and often spent time hunkered in a sheltered area with her parents. Hearing bombs and air raid sirens became the norm.
Don Kompelien, a U. S. soldier from Minneota who was stationed in Berlin in 1950 as a Military Officer, eventually met and fell in love with Hildegard. Before he went stateside, he asked Hildegard to marry him and she accepted.
Having never before been to the United States and being only 21 years old, Hildegard boarded a ship on Sept. 9, 1953, and came to the United States. They were married on Oct. 24, 1953.
Four years later, the Kompeliens sent for Hildegard's parents to come to the United States. Hildegard's parents lived in Sioux City, Iowa, and are now buried next to her husband in the Hope Lutheran Cemetery.
The couple lived on a farm outside of Minneota for 56 years before Don's passing in 2009. Hildegard stayed on the farm a few more years before eventually moving in with her son Wayne and his wife Rhonda in Lynchburg, Virginia.
This summer during the annual Wynston Boe Memorial Gold Tournament at Countryside Golf Club in Minneota, Wayne, who won the tournament in 1990, '92 and '97, made the 1,300-mile trip from Virginia to play in the tournament with Hildegard and Rhonda. They visited the old farm site and some other sites in Minneota.
(5) Learning is dog-gone fun
Say the name Roger to anyone in the Minneota Public School and chances are good that they will know who you are talking about.
Roger is a cute chubby rescue dog owned by Caryn Hetland, who has been a Sped Paraprofessional at the school for 19 years. The five-year-old Corgi mix became an official employee of the school as a therapy dog and even has his own locker and is listed on the school's website under staff members.
Hetland brought Roger with her to school last year as a "guest reader" and the students responded in a favorable fashion. So the school decided to make Roger a therapy dog, completing all the necessary paper work needed for certification.
"Simply put, Roger has brought peace and joy to the school," said Elementary Principal Jen Mahan-Deitte. "We adore him and we can't imagine school without him."
(6) COVID around the world
When COVID-19 became a pandemic, life became much different in the United States. We also wondered what it was like in other parts of the world. Did they have as strict of guidelines in other countries? Were people hoarding toilet paper and disinfectants? Were schools and businesses closed?
To find out, we reached out to several former Minneota exchange students. Not all of them responded, but we were will able to get a feeling of life around the world through six exchange students.
The six who responded to our questions were: Alessia Giondi of Fiori, Italy, whose host family in 2018-19 was Joel and Jackie Skillings; Sebastiano Beraldo of Treviso, Italy, whose host family in 2018-19 was Chad and Moriah Reiss, and Jim and Mary Myhre; Tsung-Tai (Amos) Tu of Hsinchu, Taiwan, whose host in 2017-18 was Brenda Swoboda; Wouter Janus of Veghel, the Netherlands, whose host family in 2016-17 was Mike and LuAnn Fier; Stephanie Vifian of Berlin, Germany, whose host family in 1986-87 was Jon and Barb Guttormsson; and Ida-Celine Ribe of Lyngen, Norway, whose host family in 2018-19 was Jeremy and Courtney Frie.
Most of the other countries had similar health guidelines, businesses shut down, distance learning and more. Some countries were arresting and/or fining people who had more than three people to a group.
(7) Sculpting is his life
Don Haugen grew up in Minneota and went on to become one of the country's top sculptors who has made statues for Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, a bust of Ronald Reagan that sits in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, and even a sculpture for the International Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Haugen now resides in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Teena Stern, who is also a sculptor.
Haugen's favorite piece he was commissioned to sculpt was the "Faces of War" Vietnam Memorial in Roswell, Georgia, that he completed in 1997.
"It focuses on the agony of war and many people have cried when looking at it," Haugen noted.
Haugen lived in Minneota until he was six years old and the family moved to Illinois. They returned to Minnesota and Haugen graduated from Spring Valley in 1952. When he got out of the service in 1956, Haugen returned to Minneota and lived there until 1961 when he attended the University of Minnesota.
(8) Friend of the feathered
Perhaps the most commented story we published this year involved 12-year-old Kelly Myhre of rural Minneota. Kelly has a large following ... or is it fowl-ling?
The personable daughter of Rick and Stephanie Myhre oversees the 13 hens on the farm. She is like "Mother Hen" to them. When she calls out "Chick-a, Chick-a, Chick-a, all of the baker's dozen hens comes running .
Kelly rides bike with one of them, swings with them, or relaxes on the deck while petting them until they fall asleep. They even follow her to the mailbox to get the mail.
She has names for all 13 of her feathered friends. There is a hen house on the property where the hens all gather to sleep or lay eggs. A sign on the outside of the shed reads: "Last one in is a rotten egg".
And when they are all inside the hen house at night, Kelly always tells them "Nighty night, sleep tight, don't let the raccoons bite", referring to a common predator of the hens.
(9) Secret Snowmen
When business owners went to work one morning in early December, they were greeted at the door by a three-foot snowman. Not your typical snowman made out of snow; these were well-made and maintenance free. Only a few knew who they came from, while most were in the dark.
The Mascot did a little digging and it was finally revealed that Kevin Jerzak and his family made the snowmen out of a 4 x 4 post sleeve with a face, buttons, hat, scarf and corncob pipe for all 57 businesses in town, including Minneota Building Materials, which he manages.
"I didn't do it for publicity or anything," Jerzak said. And I wasn't promoting anything or trying to sell anything. It was meant to brighten people's spirits. It was also for something positive and happy instead of negative news."
Kevin, his wife Sandy, and daughters Trisha, LeAnn and Kelly helped make and deliver the snowmen. A fourth daughter, Michelle, lives in South Dakota. Jerzak estimates it took him three months to make the snowmen, working on them off and on when he had the time. He paid for all the materials himself.
Who says you can't build a snowman without snow?
(10) Haen becomes Eagle Scout
Jacob Haen, a 2020 Minneota High School graduate, officially became an Eagle Scout on Sept. 13 during a Court of Honor ceremony in Ghent.
Less than one percent of all scouts across the nation become an Eagle Scout, mainly due to the dedication, patience and commitment required.
“I've been working on it for 10 to 12 years now," said Haen, who earned 36 merit badges. "It's as hard as you want to make it. It just depends on how much work you want to put into it. I decided that I was willing to put in the time and effort."
To become an Eagle Scout, 21 merit badges must be earned; 16 of those are required while the other five can be selected by the Scout. He was awarded Bronze, Gold and Silver Eagle Palms; each palm representing an extra five merit badges over the required 21.
Haen is the son of David and Lisa Haen of Ghent. He belonged to Troop 30 of Minneota with Justin Knutson his Scoutmaster.