Helen Albers and her Red Maple tree on Bridge Square

Last week in a discussion thread on the Bridge Square project blog about the Civil War monument there, Northfielder Helen Albers wrote:

I want the beautiful Red Maple tree, which I planted years ago, to remain where it is. It is a perfect tree. How fortunate I have been to enjoy our Bridge Square for eighty years!

I told her I wanted to take her photo with the tree and asked her for more details on how it happened.

Hi Griff, Believe I am a regular “Johnny Appleseed.” Being a tree-lover, I plant them about town. When my husband Lowell died, I planted an English Columnar Oak in the UCC garden as a memorial. Then, I planted two Red Maple trees along the Central Park sidewalk, followed by a beautiful Red Maple tree on south side of our Middle School (now Weitz Center) which has inspired our schools to do more plantings. To beautify Bridge Square, I decided to plant the very beautiful Red Maple, which is now shining brightly with Christmas lights for all to enjoy.

Helen Albers & the Red Maple she planted on Bridge SquareHelen Albers & the Red Maple she planted on Bridge SquareHelen Albers & the Red Maple she planted on Bridge Square

I took these photos of Helen Albers last night with her Red Maple tree at the start of Winter Walk.

When I got home, I looked through my gallery of Northfield photos and found two photos that show Helen’s tree in the summer:

The Helen Albers Red Maple on Bridge SquareThe Helen Albers Red Maple on Bridge Square

Left: May 24, 2008; Right: June 18, 2009.

Update Jan 8, 2014:  Helen sent me a photo of the tree, taken last summer:

Helen Albers tree in summer

R.I.P. Dan Freeman

Dan Freeman

From Suzanne Freeman, posted to Dan Freeman’s Caring Bridge page last night:

Around 7:30 this evening, my dad died.

As you all can imagine, while we knew it was coming, no one expected it so soon.  I arrived at noon to relieve Cynthia and he was about the same as yesterday – groggy but awake.  The hospice nurse had asked to speak with me and told me she’d seen a marked decline since her visit Saturday, but I knew that.  She said the nurses would continue checking on him more frequently which they did. 

He was pretty restless most of the day and very confused, but we watched a movie for a bit and he grooved to the Les Mis soundtrack in his wheelchair before asking to go outside for a while.  I had a nurse help me with his oxygen and we went to sit in the shade in the courtyard.  When he was ready to go back inside he didn’t want me to leave and get a helper, so the two of us somehow managed (mostly me) to get his wheelchair and oxygen tank inside the door, promptly after which he started feeling very ill.  The nurse helped him calm down and gave him some medications and a nebulizer, and he seemed relatively stable for a while.

Brett Reese called right around that time and then asked if he could stop by for a few minutes; meanwhile I was trying to communicate with everyone I could who was asking about his status today.  Brett arrived just in time to give me a shoulder to cry on.  Duane Everson came by to check on Dad and sang to him (as did some other friends earlier). 

Dave Topp and my brother Jeff arrived when Dad was feeling particularly antsy, and though he had a ton of meds in him he couldn’t settle into sleep.  Whenever one of us suggested he lay down he said, "No."  A couple of times I was successful in convincing him to rest, but then he’d sit up again and just rest his hands to his side or his head on his hand.

Sondy Berg Jensen came by to relieve me and help me schedule his helpers over the next several days (and to bring me some much-needed snacks), and soon Dave came out to where we were sitting to tell me that the nurse said I should get back to his room.  A few minutes later Dad took his last breaths.

My mom, Nate and Jeff (who had just left and had to turn back around from Richfield) and I gathered in Dad’s room, had some Brandy Dans with Nate and Jeff’s respective significant others, and cried a massive amount of tears.  Brett arrived for a visit and was as shocked as we were to find Dad no longer alive. 

Dad expressed his wish that the funeral take place at Valley Grove Church, so I’ll be contacting them tomorrow to find a day and time available this week.  That will likely be a private service since the church is so small.  We decided that we’ll have a public visitation and what I hope will be a big blow-out memorial event to honor my extraordinary father.

When we’ve decided on plans, they’ll be posted in the Northfield News, here, KYMN, Facebook and pretty much everywhere else we can think of.

Thank you to everyone who sent their good wishes, visited Dad, cared for him, and generally loved him. 

I’m rather numb as I write this, but I’m going to miss him more than I know right now.

Now raise a glass to Mr. Northfield, a rather spectacular guy.

Photos: Lynne Young and Liz Wheeler retirement reception

Lynne Young, Scott Neal, Liz Wheeler20130430_162251DSC09625DSC09626
I went to last week’s retirement reception at Northfield City Hall for Lynne Young, Northfield Public Library Director, and Liz Wheeler, Director of Human Resources, IT and Risk. Former Northfield City Administrator and current Edina City Manager Scott Neal was among the dignitaries who attended.

DSC09628Griff Wigley and Liz WheelerDSC09629
I was pleased that City staff chose one of my photos of downtown Northfield to give to Liz. The photo is used on the City’s new website.

Mary Closner say don’t think twice, vote twice for swag, and by Monday midnight, please. She could win $5,000 for her business

Mary Closer, proprietor of swag – fine & funky art in downtown Northfield, stopped by my corner office at GBM last week. She has been spamming her friends and enemies (I think I’m both lists) with this email:

I’m still trying to get votes for the Intuit program that supports small businesses by giving financial support. You just click on the link below and go to the search button. Put in "swag – fine & funky art" and vote for me, oh please. You can vote daily and on all the different kinds of technology you might have access to. You don’t have to sign up for anything or download anything. I’m so very appreciative of the assistance from all of you! I need the boost (hopefully $5K) to keep doing what I hope to be doing for a very long time! Art is my thing!

When you get to the vote page (follow her instructions above), you’ll see this text:

swagI recently took over the store from my 87-year-old Mom. She is my only "employee." I’m 48-years-old and she still bosses me around & makes me get her tacos. I’m trying to incorporate technology in the store for the first time after 10 years in business. I’ve started a website, Facebook page, and am working on getting set up with Quickbooks. I need help! I can’t afford to hire a techo-slave/geek/"pool boy" to help me learn the wonders of QB, WordPress & Twitter & social media "stuff." I long to blog about my fabulous store, but alas, I need $5,000 to pay for my techo-helper! Pretty please!!!

As of this writing (12:22 PM Sunday), she’s at 931 votes. Let’s get over 1,000 by midnight Monday. Vote today and again tomorrow.

Meetings and straw polls and chat, oh my

It’s not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon Northfield for me.

bicycle commuters - stakeholders group meetingbuilding owners - stakeholders group meetingcommunity meeting - Transformational Technology proposal

live chat replay webinar archive transformationaltech staw poll

The face-to-face meetings and online engagement activities for both the  City of Northfield’s Downtown Parking Management plan and the Northfield School District’s Transformational Technology proposal have kept me busy this week.

Gillian Wigley, January, 2013crashed Toyota Gilly Wigley recovering at home

And to top it off, my daughter Gilly was in a serious car accident in Minneapolis earlier this week so I’ve been making daily treks to the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) all week. As of this morning, she’s doing much better: no apparent complications from a concussion and a lacerated liver, and she doesn’t have to have surgery for her fractured pelvis. She’s moving over to the adjacent Knapp Rehabilitation Center later today.  If you know her, contact/follow her on Facebook.

Update 2/15: Gilly is now recovering at our house, camped in a bed in our living room (right photo)

Jerry Bilek is gearing up for the Arrowhead 135: a mind- and toe-numbing experience

Jerry Bilek and his Mukluk. Photo by Bill Nelson.Jerry Bilek and his Mukluk. Photo by Eric Johnson.Jerry Bilek and his Mukluk. Photo by Eric Johnson.
Northfielder and Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore owner Jerry Bilek is competing in the Arrowhead 135 this weekend.  As you can see from the photos sent to me by Eric Johnson and Bill Nelson, Jerry is going to use his Salsa Mukluk fat bike for the race. Other winter ultra-athlete racers compete on foot and skis.

Here’s a peek on what’s he’s in for:

MPR, January 27, 2012:  ‘Carnage’ a draw for some Arrowhead 135 ultra-marathoners

Frostbite. Sleep deprivation. Harrowing descents in pitch blackness. It’s all part of the strange allure of the Arrowhead 135: an extreme ski, bike or foot race in far northern Minnesota that begins before dawn on Monday morning.  It’s one of the nation’s craziest endurance races, and a huge challenge for participants.

Strib, February 9, 2011: 135 miles: Do or die

For the next three days, they will haul themselves and their survival gear 135 miles through Minnesota’s North Woods — from International Falls to Tower — in the most mind- and toe-numbing endurance race in the lower 48 states.

Trekking the equivalent of St. Paul to Iowa while dragging a sled behind you on 30-below nights might seem a sadistic death sentence to most. Relocate the quest to Minnesota’s most remote wilderness in the midst of a bitter winter — with rescue an iffy proposition — and you’ve got a race that’s irresistible to some

With no self-understanding, Lance Armstrong tries to talk his way out of something he’s behaved himself into

Armstrong videos on Oprah
I wasn’t able to watch Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey but I’ve read enough and watched those video clips. This analysis piece in today’s NY Times, Amid Tears, Armstrong Leaves Unanswered Questions, does a good job of summing up the problems with it:

He personally chose Winfrey for his big reveal, and it went predictably. Winfrey allowed him to share his thoughts and elicited emotions from him, but she consistently failed to ask critical follow-up questions that would have addressed the most vexing aspects of Armstrong’s deception.

She did not press him on who helped him dope or cover up his drug use for more than a decade. Nor did she ask him why he chose to take banned performance-enhancing substances even after cancer had threatened his life…

At times, Winfrey’s interview seemed more like a therapy session than an inquisition, with Armstrong admitting that he was narcissistic and had been in therapy — and that he should be in therapy regularly because his life was so complicated.

I wasn’t so bothered by her lack of critical follow-up questions on who helped him. She’s not an investigative journalist like Mike Wallace. But she wasn’t a very good talk-show interviewer either, and certainly not a good therapist.

It’s clear to me that Armstrong doesn’t have much self-understanding.  He’ll need that if his verbal apologies are going to mean anything. You can’t just apologize and say admit to being a ruthless bully and jerk.  You have to be willing to reveal the mistaken thinking that led to your behavior.

He also needs to make amends to those he harmed (see #8 of the AA’s Twelve Steps). I first heard the phrase “You can’t talk your way out of something you’ve behaved yourself into” from a recovering alcoholic who was speaking about Step 8. It’s pretty clear to me that so far, Armstrong is hoping that admission of guilt and a little show of emotion will be enough.

Mike Leming, Santa Claus to kids in Northfield and Thailand

A couple weeks ago I noticed that St. Olaf sociology professor Mike Leming was featured in Felicia Crosby’s Just Curious column in the December 2012 Entertainment Guide  (I’ve extracted it here in a  PDF).

Mike Leming in Entertainment GuideBut make no mistake about it; children in various parts of the world know Northfield’s own Mike Leming as someone pretty special, and the gifts he and his wife Ann bring make a very real difference in a lot of lives.

So here’s a little bit about Mike – his connections with his students, with a people and culture half a world away, and his thoughts about uncovering the Santa in each of us (it begins with finding your heart).

Merry Christmas, Mike, from the believers at The Entertainment Guide.

And so I made a mental note to be sure to take photos of him doing his Santa Claus thing at the First National Bank of Northfield during Winter Walk last week. Mike was also on KYMN’s Wayne Eddy Affair last week.

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

Dan Freeman: reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated

Longtime Northfielder Danny Freeman walked into the GBM this morning at around 6:45 am to get a cup of coffee.  I’d heard that he was in poor health so I intercepted him to see if he had time to talk. He declined, as he had to get to his Sunday morning KYMN radio gig. 

But since he looked like hell and his voice sounded like shit, I decided to pester him further and so I went down to KYMN’s studios and knocked on the window. He let me in and we chatted for five minutes.

Dan Freeman, KYMN studios Dan Freeman
Dan told me he’s had a serious lung infection for several weeks and has been recovering at the St. Lucas Care Center in Faribault where he’s been on oxygen nearly 24×7.  He’s gradually getting better and expects to be back home this week in time for his 72nd birthday on Wednesday.

Separated at birth? You decide

Carol Korda and Chis Ellison; or is it Chris Ellison and Carol Korda?

These two Northfield women are commonly mistaken for one another.

I took this photo earlier today at the Northfield Senior Center.

Who are they? And do the men in their lives understand the dangers?

Update 9/2, 7:45 am: Rob Hardy’s comment correctly identifies one of the women as Chris Ellison. The other is Carol Korda. But which is which?

Paul Krause’s ‘Harvest’ documentary airs on TPT in September

Paul Krause and his 'Harvest' documentary web page

Paul Krause stopped by my corner office at GBM last week to let me know that his Harvest documentary, (which "chronicles the creation of Ray Jacobson’s sculpture of the same title") is scheduled for broadcast on TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) several times in September.

See the Harvest page on Paul’s Dancing Sun Multimedia site for dates and times.

Northfield Lines’ driver Jack Parker can park a bus like a Mini Cooper

bus, Northfield Lines bus, Northfield Lines Jack Park, driver, Northfield Lines
Robbie and I were having lunch on the deck at Chapati on Saturday when a Northfield Lines bus pulled up in front of the Archer House to pick up a wedding party. With cars parked in the spaces at both ends of the no-parking zone, I assumed the driver would just be able to pull in a tiny bit, but would otherwise be blocking much of the lane on Division St.

But he backed it in, just like backing a car into a parallel parking spot.  While backing up, he got so close to that Mini Cooper (center photo) that I assumed the bus had an external video camera at the rear to guide him.  When the car parked near the front of the bus pulled out, he was then able to bring the bus all the way to the curb, which is when I took the photos.

The driver was long-time Northfielder Jack Parker who said the bus was not equipped with any cameras or other electronic tools to assist him in parking. He attributed his being able to eyeball it to being a farm boy. Impressive.  He said he loved his job way more than over-the-road and when I watched him greet the wedding party as they stepped onto the bus, it was obvious.

Gene Finger and Chris Ellison: sporting about town in a pregnant roller skate

Chris Ellison and Gene Finger GEM e2 GEM e2
While eating lunch on the sidewalk bench in front of Hogan Brothers last week, I spotted Gene Finger and Chris Ellison driving by in their new GEM e2 two-passenger electric vehicle (GEM = Global Electric Motorcar, now owned by Polaris).

For more about Gene and Chris, see the Oct. 11 Northfield Patch profile, Active for Life: Northfield’s Gene Finger and Chris Ellison "Retire" From Retirement.

Keys in the ignition, parked over the line. Who is the outlaw owner of this 75 Olds outlaw and how does he get away with it?

75 Olds, parked over the line 75 Olds, keys in the ignition 75 Olds

And why doesn’t Northfield’s Parking Quality Control Commission do something about it?

Help Bonnie and Josh get a $250,000 small business grant: just click a button

Owner William Rowan, son Josh and daughter-in-law Bonnie, on May 2012 shake-down cruise. Photo by Doug RautenkranzFormer LoGro RepJ reporter Bonnie Obremski and hubby Josh Rowan departed Northfield three years ago but we hear from them regularly.

Their current adventure: the restoration of an 87-year-old wooden schooner named ‘Hindu’ (which has its own Wikipedia entry: Schooner Hindu) and the start of their charter sailing business.

I got this from Bonnie via a post to my Facebook Wall:

Hi Griff! Hoping you might vote for us to get a small business grant at https://www.missionsmallbusiness.com/. Search “schooner hindu” and we should pop up.

Chase and LivingSocial are awarding up to 12 individual grants of $250,000 to 12 small businesses and to be eligible, Bonnie and Josh need at least 250 votes.

Mission Small BusinessWhat do you need to do to help? Just visit the website Mission Small Business.   You’ll be prompted to login with your Facebook account.

Once you’re logged in, search for “Schooner Hindu” or find it by entering Key West, Florida. You’ll then see a button to click to SUPPORT it.

There is a story coming about this WWII Jeep. It involves VFW Post 4393.


Feel free to speculate while I work on the blog post.

Peter and Jesse are putting up a geodesic greenhouse in their backyard

Peter Seebach and his geodesic greenhousePeter Seebach and Jesse Hajiceck bought our beloved old house on South Linden St. back in 2007 so I was delighted to learn from Seebs last week that they were constructing  a geodesic greenhouse in their backyard.

The dome is a kit from Growing Spaces and Northfielder Mike Paulsen is doing the construction.

I think you’ll be surprised to see what they’re going to use it for.

Neighborhood Watch alert issued on Ed Kuhlman, space invader

Ed Kuhlman invades Griff Wigley's space Ed Kuhlman invades Griff Wigley's space

Ed Kuhlman is back from his trip to Greece and promptly violated my personal space yesterday with a hug in my morning neighborhood office space at GBM

His wife Barbara warned me but alas, not even a fist bump could deter him.

Does the Carleton Arb have a new contender for the title of ‘Spooky Old Tree’?

spookyoldtreecoverBack in 2008, I blogged about the demise of the spooky old tree in Carleton’s Lower Arb.

Last week, Robbie and I had breakfast with Northfield newcomers Rebecca Bliss and her husband Don Hasseltine (new VP of External Relations at Carleton). 

When I told their young daughters about the spooky old tree in the Arb, they alerted me to a spooky tree they discovered in the Upper Arb that "only creaks when people walk by."

DSC08669 DSC08666 Tree in the Upper Arb that "only creaks when people walk by." Freaky!
So with moms and dogs in tow, we paid the tree a visit on Tuesday and sure enough, it creaked just loud enough for a hearing impaired geezer to hear.  Freaky.

Who are the parents of the kids in this model railroad train display photo?

DSC08324 IMG_3494 DSC09084
Adrienne Falcon, Director of Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) at Carleton College, sent me a large print (left) of one of my photos that was part of the Frames of Engagement exhibition at the Weitz Center for Creativity open house last fall (blogged here).

I’d like to give the print to the one of the families whose kids appear in the photo.

IMG_3495 IMG_3496
I took the photos of these kids (two more above) at the model railroad train display at the Northfield Library during the 2009 Winter Walk (album here).

My war with David Hvistendahl escalates; more to come this week

David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl and Griff Wigley
David Hvistendahl and I had, um, words yesterday at the St. Patrick’s Day parade and at the Northfield Historical Society’s annual meeting.

On his KYMN Law Review radio show this week, he’s promising a scathing retort to my audio mashup of his trash-talking City Hall. Stay tuned wired.

Patsy is 60 today; last Sunday, too. Probably tomorrow as well.

 Patsy Ophaug, 60th birthday at the Goodbye Blue Monday DSC07741 
The Boys of the Goodbye Blue Monday, 6 AM Edition, fattened up on scrumptious coffeecake last Sunday to help Patsy Ophaug celebrate her 60th birthday. Then earlier today I noticed the Grand Event Center‘s marquee proclaiming, "Believe it! Patsy is 60 today."   Same Patsy? I’ve no idea, but let’s assume so unless someone whines.

Northfielder Brenton Balvin: rink rat, preacher, and opinionated blogger

Brenton Balvin, Griff WigleyBrenton Balvin's blog: Living in the Pace of Grace
I had coffee this morning with Northfielder Brenton Balvin, a blogger since 2005 (Living in the Pace of Grace), and someone I’ve followed on Twitter for many months.  We chatted about our lives, past and present, for over an hour and half. 

Brenton’s tweets and blog posts are personable, often opinionated, and cover many different topics but nearly always linked somehow to Northfield and his life as a husband, dad, rink rat, store manager, part-time preacher, kids baseball coach, and many other roles. He’s an occasional commenter here on LoGro and his blog posts often appear on Northfield Patch.

I like it that Brenton isn’t shy about his opinions.  A recent favorite: What is More Offensive: Pornography or A Woman Breastfeeding in Public?

WCCO News recently aired a Good Question segment about breastfeeding in public as a result of a Texas woman’s nationwide call to for a "nurse-in" at Target stores after she said she was humiliated by Target employees.

The segment reminded me of a blog post I wrote in July 2006 (Pornography yes – Breastfeeding no – Are We Serious?) on the hypocrisy and idiocy of the fact that our nation accepts and promotes the normalcy and legitimacy of pornography, and yet demands nursing mothers sit in dirty bathrooms and closet spaces to feed their infants just so passerby’s aren’t exposed to the slightest embarrassment of having to see a sliver of a breast performing its most natural function.

Psychological and spiritual advice from Chris Hardwick: Be smarter than your brain

A buddy of mine alerted me to an article in the Oct 21 Wired, Self-Help for Nerds: Advice from Comedian Chris Hardwick, an excerpt from his book The Nerdist Way – How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life).

This blurb caught my attention:

The Nerdest WayA simple mantra has guided me through the darkest bouts of autocerebral asphyxiation: You don’t have to believe everything you think. I know, right??

If you are having trouble uploading positive images to your ego satellites, here is a great tactic: Ignore your fucking brain altogether.

It doesn’t mean to lead you in bad directions! It’s just that, unless properly trained, it usually takes into account only your short-term happiness. “Get drunk in the morning!” “Eat 50 Chocodiles” “Instead of working, you could masturbate!”

These are all examples of things that will bring you only microbursts of temporary happiness but could have negative long-term effects. You can simply say to yourself, “I hear what you’re saying, brain, but I choose to ignore you.”

If your brain rages beyond that, you can diffuse it by acknowledging its request and explaining in detail why it could be devastating were you to honor it. Be smarter than your brain.

That’s not only hilarious, it’s psychologically and spiritually brilliant.

Are there therapists in Northfield who would agree?  Are there members of Northfield’s clergy who would agree?

Northfield photographer Leslie Schultz is now a novelist

Leslie Schultz and her daughter Julia at the GBM in Northfield The Howling Vowels
I met Northfielder Leslie Schultz and her daughter Julia a couple months ago at the NAG’s photography invitational reception (photo of them here) where Leslie was one of the featured photographers.

Last week I met up with them at GBM because Leslie has just had her middle grade novel, The Howling Vowels, published by the Do Life Right publishing house. Description:

Welcome to Sundog, Minnesota! When homeschooled, Norse-myth-obsessed Alexa Stevens moves from New York City, she doesn’t know what to expect. What is a small town like? Explore a new landscape with Alexa as she observes wolves in the wild and forms a close pack of friends.

Leslie will be doing a reading/book signing on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. at the Northfield Public Library.

More about the book:

And you can buy the book right in downtown Northfield at Monkey See Monkey Read.  I stopped by to make sure proprietor Jerry Bilek has the book in stock. Proof:

Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read

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