World War II sunken sub found; mystery ends
1. Brother not missing anymore After wondering what happened to her brother, Earl Eugene Halvorson, who was aboard the U.S.S. Grayback that sunk off the coast of Japan during World War II, Elaine Johnson got her answer on Veterans Day. For 75 years the Grayback's whereabouts remained a mystery until a Lost 52 Project's discovery team, led by explorer Tim Taylor and his wife Christine Dennison, located the submarine in 1,400 feet of water. Johnson, who thought that her brother might have been captured and taken prisoner by the Russian Army, always flew an American flag and a POW/MIA flag outside the front door of her home in Marshall on Memorial Day for many years. "I guess I won't have to use this anymore," she said tearfully, while clutching the black POW/MIA flag. Halvorson, Seaman First Class, was born on a farm outside of Minneota. He and 79 other Grayback crew members were declared missing in action in 1944 and all were presumed dead two years after that. Earl Eugene Halvorson was only 17 years old when he went off to war in 1942. He was 21 years old when he died.
2. Bolt provides roadside delivery Outside the Minneota City Office building on July 3, Police Chief Bill Bolt was forced to play the role of doctor when a young woman in labor was unable to make it to the Marshall hospital for the delivery of her child. About to give birth after her water broke at home in Porter, Stephanie Schilling was riding in a car driven by her sister, Dorothy Trinka, along Highway 68 en route to the Marshall Avera Hospital. Schilling informed her sister that she was about to deliver the baby and wouldn't be able to make it to Marshall. As Trinka sped up, Schilling called 911 for assistance. Reaching Minneota, Trinka pulled the car into the City Hall parking lot where Bolt and Training Officer Austin Thompson were quickly on the scene. Assistant Fire Chief Brad Minnehan, and First Responders Justin Pesch, Seth Myhre and David Moriarty were also soon on the scene following the 911 call. As Bolt got into the vehicle to deliver the baby, the others shielded the mother from onlookers, gave her oxygen, controlled traffic, and stayed in communication with the North Memorial Ambulance that was arriving. "They all helped a great deal," Bolt said. The mother and baby were then transported to Marshall Avera Hospital via ambulance. Bolt had never delivered a baby before but has witnessed other law enforcement personnel perform the task when he was a member of the police force in Worthington. Christopher Lyle Pesch Jr. weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 21 inches long.
3. Three heads are better than one On April 13, the Luke and Marla Moorse cattle farm was one of the most talked about places in the area. That's when a Red Angus cow, Number 1218, gave birth to triplets; which is a 1 in 105,000 chance of happening. All three calves weighed between 60-65 pounds, within the normal range for even a single-born calf. But even more against the odds was that all three calves were heifers, a 1 in 8 million chance, according to Washington State University. If a cow has triplets, the odds of all three calves surviving is less than 25 percent. "I've never seen or heard about if before," said Luke. "And I was on the Cattle Association and I still never heard anyone talk about it." "I've seen some cows that only had one calf that was bigger than (1218) was," Luke said. "Sometimes when you see the mother is bigger than normal, you figure they are having twins. But I never even thought this cow was having twins." This was the sixth year that Cow 1218 has given birth; the first five years were all single births. 4. School goes 'Zeke Strong' Ezequiel "Zeke" Monzon was a little embarrassed by the overwhelming support the young man was receiving during his battle with Class 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Even though he knew his illness was serious, he shrugged his shoulders when asked if he was scared. "Maybe a little when I first heard about it," he said. A few weeks later, he revealed that "I'm not scared anymore. I have faith in God." Monzon was diagnosed with Hodgkin's in early May and spent his 14th birthday in the hospital in Sioux Falls. "It wasn't so bad," he said about being in the hospital. "I had a lot of my family with me and we had a nice party." Kelsea Anderson, an English teacher at the public school, delayed her lessons one day and had her students write inspirational cards for Zeke. Zeke's classmate, Peyton Gillund, came up with the idea to make a #Zekestrong hashtag and Anderson engineered a drive to have t-shirts printed with #ZEKESTRONG - His Fight is my fight. During the school's spring band and choir concert, band director John Voit called Zeke down from the audience and the band performed "A Gathering of Angels" in his honor. Zeke was also presented with a gift bag that contained a "prayer shawl" from St. Edward's. Monzon underwent five rounds of chemotherapy at the Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls and in June the family was told his tumor was shrinking. "He's a tough kid," his mother Nyomie said last summer. "We've put this in God's hands." In mid-December, Zeke's port was removed and he is now declared "cancer free". 5. Remembering a hero People came from all over to recognize the 50th anniversary of the death of Sgt. Thomas James Bradley at the Vietnam Memorial and History Center on June 15 in Minneota. Bradley's siblings, Dick Bradley and Deb Ahmann, were on hand to share stories with Tom's 1965 high school classmates and others who knew him well. On hand was a copy of the final letter Bradley had written home before he was killed on June 19, 1969 at the age of 21. Bradley and others in his U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, had been stationed near Saigon. Bradley was killed in action. His Purple Ribbon and other medals also were on display at the Vietnam History Center run by Charlie and Royal Hettling. One of those in attendance was Mark Garrow, who was a year younger than Bradley. When Garrow got word of his close friend's death, he went to Bradley's parents' home in Minneota to pay respect. One of the reasons Ahmann and her brother Dick wanted to have a special anniversary memorial event was to hear some stories from others about their brother. "I haven't seen some of these people in 50 years," Dick Bradley said as she scanned the room.
6. Remembering Bill Holm To many who knew the iconic figure, it was hard to believe Feb. 25, 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of Bill Holm's death. "I still hear his voice when I read his work," said Minneota native Dana Yost, one of Holm's former students. Holm was dubbed by one poet as the "Polar Bear” of American Literature because of his 6-foot-6 frame, shaggy beard and resounding laugh. He won numerous awards during his illustrious career as a writer, poet, composer, musician, historian, professor and essayist. Although often described by some people as "controversial", "political" and "opinionated", even more people referred to him as "gifted". "I think of Bill frequently," said Sandy Josephson. "And I'm sad he isn't still with us sharing his amazing talent and ways to look at life." Holm graduated from Minneota High School and Gustavus Adolphus College. He then spent four years of graduate work at the University of Kansas. He eventually returned to Minnesota, but often traveled around the country and to other countries, including an annual trip to Iceland. Holm published 16 books and numerous pamphlets, magazine articles, and other writings in the United States, and was a contributor to several publications in China, Sweden and Iceland. Holm, who had been battling health problems for a few months prior to his death, collapsed after getting off a plane at the Sioux Falls airport and later died from heart problems compounded by pneumonia. He was 65.
7. Vets try to save building As the number of Post 199 American Legion veterans continues to decline, so do their hopes of being able to maintain the 62-year-old Legion building. On the 100th anniversary of the American Legion organization, nine Post 199 veterans met on a cool April morning to discuss the future and wondered how much longer they would be able to call the building home. "We don't want to lose this building," said Legion Commander Jim Fink. "But unless we can come up with some ideas on how to keep it open, we might have to try and sell it." When asked how much longer the Legion members could continue to operate the building before being forced to put it up for sale, Fink responded "By the end of the year." "The kids don't seem to be coming back to town after they graduate from college or get married," said veteran Leon Kack. "That affects everything." The Legion building costs such as property taxes, insurance, utilities and repairs have been funded in part by the members themselves. "The last four or five years have been a struggle to pay the heating, electricity, insurance, and things like that," announced Fink.
8. Tragedy struck 50 years ago Many students and faculty members at Minneota Public Schools are unaware of the names associated with the Male and Female Athletes of the Year. We tried to explain that in an October article. Bob Andersen and Tom Christianson, who graduated from Minneota in 1966 and 1968, respectively, were killed on Oct. 19, 1969, two miles east of Madison, SD, on State Highway 34. The two had been close friends for years. Christianson was a sophomore at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and was visiting Andersen, who was a senior at General Beadle College (later renamed Dakota State) in Madison, SD. Christianson and Andersen had gone out to a club in Sioux Falls on Saturday night. As they were returning to Madison early Sunday morning, they collided with another vehicle driven by Richard Graff of Rutland, SD, who was also killed. The two vehicles collided head-on, but the cause of the accident was never determined. Upon impact, the Graff vehicle went backward into the south ditch, while the Ford Falcon carrying Andersen and Christianson came to rest in the middle of the highway. Moments later, a vehicle driven by Volney Stier, broadsided the Falcon and split it in half. The front end of the Falcon was located approximately 400 feet from the rear end. Andersen and Christianson were both three-sport athletes at Minneota. Anderson was a quarterback in football, a point guard in basketball, and a pitcher in baseball. Christianson was a running back, guard and shortstop in the same three sports. The Andersen-Christianson Award has honored the top male and female athlete since 1970. And the Musical Student of the Year was also called the Anderson-Christianson Award for many years.
9. Minneota's first AFS student returns Minneota's first-ever AFS student, Ramon Britez of Paraguay, returned this fall for his 50th class reunion. Britez joked that his wife Ana did not make the trip with him from Paraguay. "She knows I'm a good boy, so she let me go alone," he laughed. Britez's host parents for the 1968-69 school year were the late Carl and Audrey Lawrence. Their son, Brad, was in the same senior class as Britez and urged him to attend the reunion. Ten years after graduating from Minneota, Britez and his wife returned to visit classmates and friends. The year before that, Brad traveled to Paraguy to visit. This was the first time Britez was back in Minneota in 40 years, although Brad Lawrence and his wife Patricia ("Kit") have been corresponding with Britez via email over the years. Even after all those years away, Britez still remembered the locations of certain businesses in town, as well as the names of his classmates and teachers.
10. This was Jimmy's day During the annual Lyon County Relay for Life event at the Red Baron Arena in Marshall, Jimmy Wohnoutka of Minneota was among the many in attendance. Wohnoutka was first diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma 11 years ago. Little did Wohnoutka know, however, that he would be supported by so many on this day. Wohnoutka admittedly hadn't felt well in the last few months prior to Relay for Life. But he woke up on this Saturday feeling much better. "I was a little surprised, but I had a little extra (spring) in my step," he explained that day. "I've had to use a cane lately to help me get around, but I really don't need it today." But there was an even bigger surprise in store as Jimmy and his wife Kathy prepared to attend the event. Chanda Bossuyt, their daughter, had called her mother to ask if they could first stop at AmericInn in Marshall before going to the Red Baron Arena. When Jimmy and Kathy arrived there, they were met by five of Jimmy's nine siblings who live in various cities throughout Minnesota. They had arranged to come to surprise and support their brother. It was the first time the 10 siblings had all been together in 10 years. There were 11 siblings, but one brother died of cancer five years ago. His wife, however, was with the group.
NOTE: There were several more important feature stories in 2019. However, there wasn’t room to print them this week. They will be printed in next week’s Minneota Mascot.