St. Joseph area residents weather week of storms

by Mike Nistler

For the most part, St. Joseph residents were spared the worst when it came to last week’s stormy weather.

A couple different rounds of storms knocked down trees and left some without power, but compared to other places in central Minnesota, that didn’t seem so bad.

By early this week. Xcel Energy reported the number of Minnesota customers without power was down to about 60,000.

The Minneapolis-based utility worked for days to restore power following a series of severe thunderstorms that swept through Minnesota from Friday to early Saturday.

At the peak of outages more than 550,000 Xcel Energy customers were without service.

The utility says it expects to restore power to the vast majority of its customers by Wednesday.

The utility says it responds with top priority to situations that threaten public safety, such as downed wires. The next priority includes hospitals and nursing homes. Then crews focus on restoring service in densely populated areas.

The St. Joseph area received upwards of five inches of rain during the turbulent weather. The moisture caused the groundwater to become over-saturated, which led to many trees toppling over in the high winds.

From Friday through Monday, the area picked up anywhere from 3.95 inches of rain (Collegeville) to 4.77 inches (Melrose), according to Bob Weisman, St. Cloud State University meteorologist.

“The storms produced two waves of straight-line wind damage, the one affecting central Minnesota early Friday morning,” Weisman said. “This line of storms moved from the Morris and Benson area east and southeast throughout the St. Cloud area. Many large branches were torn off trees, trees with one- to two-foot trunks were snapped in half and a few large trees were completely uprooted.”

Winds were measured at 85.5 mph at Benson, 64 at Paynesville and 53 at the St. Cloud Airport, he said.

“Some of the responsibility for the large trees being down was the persistent heavy rains, softening the ground a bit, so large leafy trees were vulnerable,” Weisman said.

[/media-credit] Crews worked to restore power to homes in St. Joseph that were left in the dark after last week’s volley of storms. Downed trees and branches were common but for the most part St. Joseph residents were spared the worst of the storm.

[/media-credit] by Cori Hilsgen
Strong winds ranging from 50-60 mph caused many trees in central Minnesota to uproot and break off, including this pine tree on the College of St. Benedict campus.






Paige, Shawn and Brady Grabow hold the weird-and-wacky bras they designed and created for the "BRAsterpiece" exhibit at the River's Edge Convention Center, which starts July 1. Paige (left) holds a pink-sequined bra that she titled, "It's not the size of the girl, but the size of the fight in the girl." Shawn (middle) is displaying a feathered bra he and son Brady made. It's called "Give a HOOT in the fight against breast cancer." Brady is holding a Pac-Man bra, made by sister Paige.

‘BRAsterpiece’ designed to bring hope to breast-cancer sufferers

by Dennis Dalman

Bras, bras and more bras – of all shapes, sizes and colors – will be exhibited starting July 1 in a show entitled “BRAsterpiece” at the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud.

“BRAsterpiece” is a play on words for “Masterpiece,” and its BRA stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness.

The exhibit, which is designed to raise awareness about breast cancer, will run through Aug. 31. It will feature at least 50 bras.

The bras are actual bras that have been turned into works of art by many local people. They range from whimsical to wildly comical, from thoughtful to stunning. Four of the bra artists hail from Sartell, the husband, son and two daughters of Jenny Grabow, who is a patient coordinator at MidSota Plastic Surgery, a place well known for breast-reconstruction procedures, mostly following mastectomies, partial or radical, as the result of breast cancer.

Grabow’s husband, Shawn, is an outdoorsman who collects things he finds, such as wild-turkey feathers. Shawn decided to use those feathers for his artwork bra. He glued them on, then made a pair of eyes out of black felt. Son Brady helped his father design the feather “Hoot” bra, as they call it. Daughter Kenzie, 17, created a “bedazzled bra” covered in dazzling sequins; and daughter Paige, 12, made a “Pac Man Bra,” painted on one side to look like a Pac Man and the other side the Pac Man’s “enemy.”

A good friend of (which) Grabow’s lost his wife to cancer when she was only 50. The entire Grabow family is well aware of breast cancer because of Jenny’s work at MidSota. They are all hoping others, too, will become more aware of the disease.

Ruth Petermeir is a medical photographer at MidSota Plastic Surgeons, who is also in charge of marketing and communications for “Bra Day USA,” the national campaign to raise breast-cancer awareness.

Bra Day actually started two years ago in Canada. This is its second year in the United States, Petermeier said. Although the BRAmeister exhibit will mention Bra Day USA, the actual Bra Day is slated for Oct. 16 at Le St. Germain in St. Cloud and will feature a presentation by a breast-reconstruction plastic surgeon.

MidSota Clinic is well known for plastic-surgery procedures, including breast reconstructions. Petermeier said only seven of 10 women are informed of the option of breast reconstruction at the time of their breast-cancer diagnosis.

“It’s something all women should be made aware of,” she said. “Not every woman chooses that option, but for many who do, it gives them something to look forward to after treatment. Many women are also uninsured or underinsured, and they tend to be forgotten.”

Eve Wallinga, a breast-cancer survivor who lives in St. Cloud, is another bra artist whose work will be featured in “BRAsterpiece.” Her work of art expresses the idea that “the lowest ebb is the turn of the tide,” a message of hope for breast-cancer victims. The bra shows a little seashore with waves lapping onto it and is decorated with actual little seashells Wallinga has collected.

“Breast reconstruction is important because it’s a way of taking control of one’s body again,” Wallinga said.

Wallinga was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, two years after one of her best friends, Jane Bennett of Sartell, was diagnosed with the disease. Bennett died of breast cancer two years ago after a long struggle.

“I’m doing really good,” Wallinga said. “It’s been seven years since I was diagnosed. Just five years of being cancer-free is a big milestone, so hopefully it’s all behind me.”

[/media-credit] Paige, Shawn and Brady Grabow hold the weird-and-wacky bras they designed and created the “BRAsterpiece” exhibit at the River’s Edge Convention Center, which starts July 1. Paige (left) holds a pink-sequined bra that she tiled, “It’s not the size of the girl, but the size of the fight in the girl.” Shawn (middle) is displaying a feathered bra he and son Brady made. It’s called “Give a HOOT in the fight against breast cancer.” Brady is holding a Pac-Man bra, made by sister Paige.

[/media-credit] The pink-sequined bra.

[/media-credit] The Pac-Man bra.

[/media-credit] The Give-a-Hoot bra.

[/media-credit] Paige works on an imaginative, wild bra.





The All Saints Academy playground has been moved to a new location and  is in place and ready just in time  for the July 4 celebration.

ASA playground is ready for July 4 celebration

photo by Cori Hilsgen

The All Saints Academy playground has been moved to a new location and is in place and ready just in time for the July 4 celebration.





[/media-credit] The All Saints Academy playground has been moved to a new location and is in place and ready just in time for the July 4 celebration.

This line of Canada geese, mothers, fathers and children alike, stopped traffic along Pinecone Road as they strolled across at the school zone toward Pine Meadow Elementary School as if to enroll the young'un's for fall classes.

A wiggle and a walk, and a gaggle and a talk

photo by Tara Wiese

This line of Canada geese, mothers, fathers and children alike, stopped traffic along Pinecone Road on Wednesday as they strolled across at the school zone toward Pine Meadow Elementary School as if to enroll the young’un’s for fall classes.





[/media-credit] This line of Canada geese, mothers, fathers and children alike, stopped traffic along Pinecone Road on Wednesday as they strolled across at the school zone toward Pine Meadow Elementary School as if to enroll the young’un’s for fall classes.

Group seeks funds to rehab vacant rental houses in St. Joseph

by Mike Nistler

With a July 11 deadline looming, local realtor Cori Ehlert hopes to garner support for securing an application to receive state money that would help restore rental houses in the city.

Ehlert is asking the City of St. Joseph, the St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce, the St. Cloud Area Association of Realtors, the College of St. Benedict and local civic organizations to back the project.

And while some of those entities have verbally supported that effort, Ehlert is wanting them to put some financial backing on the table in the form of “participation funds,” which would make the application look even stronger.

His goal is for at least $50,000 in backing to help bolster a chance of receiving state funds that could be used to fix a minimum of five homes out of the estimated 10 to 15 vacant rental  houses in the city. Additional homes could also be completed if the first five homes are finished in a timely manner.

The local agency that will submit the application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership of St. Cloud.

According to Jason Krebsbach, community development director at the CMHP, the rehabilitation funds would be used to address the city’s vacant rental housing issue brought on in part by new student-housing requirements at CSB.

CMHP proposes to purchase vacant single-family rental homes in designated areas of the city. The homes would be purchased based on a review of all the vacant rental properties, the property owners’ interest and the overall home condition. Ehlert, a St. Joseph resident and a realtor with Edina Realty, would assist the CMHP in home-purchase transactions, Krebsbach said.

Once a home is purchased, the CMHP would perform a complete Housing Quality Standards inspection and have a lead-paint-risk assessment completed. Based on inspection results and lead assessment, the CMHP would complete a plan to rehabilitate the property.

The CMHP, with Ehlert’s assistance, would then determine if there are any rehabilitation items to be addressed in regard to conversion from a rental property to an owner-occupied home.

Once the rehab on the house is done, the home would be put up for sale. The sale price would be determined by a market analysis of similar properties, Krebsbach said.

“Homes will be eligible for purchase by homebuyers with gross annual incomes of 115 percent of area median income or less,” he said. “Our target homebuyer will be those with gross
annual incomes of 80 percent of area median income or less. Homebuyers at these
income levels will have access to “needs-based” down payment/entry cost

Ehlert said the homes in need of rehab were once used for student rentals. They are larger homes with several bedrooms and bathrooms, which are not in the best condition and thus not likely to currently make good family housing. By fixing the homes and making them more likely for resale, the effort becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved, including the neighborhood, the new residents of the home and the city.

Sartell Pediatrics makes magazine’s honor roll

by Dennis Dalman

Sartell Pediatrics has been honored in a featured story in the monthly “Minnesota Physicians” magazine as one of eight architecturally superb health-care buildings in Minnesota.

Sartell Pediatrics is owned by Dr. David Smith and his wife, Jill, program manager. The clinic is located on 2nd Ave. S. in Sartell in what used to be a drive-through bank and, later, a bar-nightclub.

In November 2012, the Smiths opened Sartell Pediatrics after a long process of considering precisely how to retro-fit a former drive-through bank and – years later – a bar into a homey, comfortable, aesthetically pleasing facility.

Their patients and their parents have commented constantly how welcome they feel when they come there for diagnoses and treatments.

Sartell Pediatrics was one of 50 submissions by health-care related facilities in the state for Minnesota Physicians magazine’s Health Care Architectural Honor Roll.
The article praised Sartell Pediatrics’ “unique” and “challenging” way of retro-fitting an older building into a new clinic that is pleasing, comfortable and welcoming to patients.

The magazine staff also praised the ways in every step of the design process the Smiths and their architects emphasized functionality combined with warmth and comfort.

The panel of architectural judges praised the opening of space and natural lighting on the south wall, the high ceilings, the vibrant colors in exam rooms, and the natural earth tones and stonework on the entry and lobby areas.

Sartell Pediatrics’ interior design was done by HMA Architects, based on input from the clinic’s owners, Dr. David and Jill Smith. The contractor for the 4,000-square-foot remodeling job was R.A. Morton Construction Managers. The cost of the retrofit project was $600,000.

Other medical facilities that made the magazine’s honor roll are Amberwing, Duluth; St. Luke’s Medical Center, Duluth; the Mother Baby Center, Minneapolis; Stillwater Medical Group, Mahtomedi Clinic; HealthEast Midway Clinic, St. Paul; Riverwood Healthcare Center, Aitkin; and the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families, Plymouth.


Moeller says ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ to Kennedy, St. Joseph

by Cori Hilsgen

Diane Moeller is saying “goodbye” and “thank you” to Kennedy Community School and St. Joseph.

Moeller’s official last day was June 7, the last day of the school year.

“It was an incredibly difficult day for me,” Moeller said. “Saying good-bye to the student body was too hard, I cried. Saying good-bye to the staff after the buses left – again, I broke down. I love this school, all the kids and families. The staff is like my family. Leaving is an incredibly emotional experience for me.”

If it were easy to walk away, then the experience would have been meaningless, she said, adding it is good to sometimes cry and experience sadness.

“It says it was a great job,” Moeller said.

Moeller will miss everything about Kennedy – the children, staff and families. She loves being around the children – they give purpose to the work. The camaraderie of the staff was fun – they work hard and play hard. Many of the families and Moeller have been through a lot together. She has come to call many of them friends.

She never felt like it was a job, because she loved the people she was with every day. She wants to say “thank you” to the students and staff for giving her that.

“I love everything about my role as principal with you,” Moeller said. “It’s a calling inside of me to serve in a larger capacity, to help our district with a big achievement gap and to help all our students learn and be able to graduate.”

Leaving the school has been a difficult decision, but Moeller said she feels she can work for the good of the school in a larger way. She doesn’t think her new position will be better than being principal at Kennedy, but rather it will be different.

She also wants to thank the city.

“The support this community has shown not only me, but the entire Kennedy community, has been instrumental to our success,” Moeller said.

She said things such as the St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce members welcoming her, the partnership formed with the colleges of St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, the many businesses who allowed students to learn by taking field trips, the friends at the monastery, the police and fire departments have all shown that St. Joseph encompasses what a community can do to support the school.

Moeller said the new school would never have been built, and built “green,” if it hadn’t been for the citizens of St. Joseph who said at a meeting in 2006 they would support a new building if it was built green.

When the referendum passed, the district kept their word and built it as an award-winning green school.

This past  year Moeller left Kennedy for four months to accept another position in the district.

Dave Earp filled in as principal, but when he retired in April. Moeller completed the school year covering both positions.

Moeller said the process is in place to find a new principal, but she is still at Kennedy until a replacement is named. She will be directing summer school, getting staff ready for the next year, doing the schedules and many of the other duties she has performed in the past.

“I’m hoping to have all this in place for the new person,” Moeller said.

Moeller has been doing both jobs since April 1 and said Kennedy staff is amazing. They work hard and go above and beyond what they need to do. The staff at the district office also helps. With that kind of support in both positions she said she could make it work.

“I also made lots of lists of details and worked some pretty long days – still am actually,” Moeller said. “There is a lot to do in both worlds.”

Some of Moeller’s most rewarding experiences at Kennedy, she said, were any time the students and staff gathered or any event that brought all the families together. She said she always feels a sense of pride seeing people have a good time together and always feels rewarded when the staff comes together for the children. For her, it’s rewarding to see that strong network.

“I love seeing the positive climate,” Moeller said.

In spite of the growth of St. Joseph, Moeller feels it’s still a tight-knit city.

One moment that stands out for her, she said, was when the entire school went to the corn field to break ground for the new school. Seeing  the buses drive up with children eager to see where their new school would be, having children from each grade dig with a gold shovel, getting to dig the first hole herself with a backhoe were very rewarding experiences.

“Then to work incredibly hard for the next year-and-a-half to that rewarding opening of the new school – indeed a highlight of my career,” Moeller said.

Challenges during her time at Kennedy, she said, included any time the resources didn’t stretch to meet the needs or class sizes were larger than she agreed with. She said funding formulas working the way they do tied her hands.

“I feel frustrated when staff, parents and others come to me to try to convince me the classes are too large,” Moeller said. “I get it, and feel frustrated to be operating out of my belief system.”

Other challenges, she said, were when she and staff faced some challenging student needs. She said sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what works and that is hard.

“I also see the urgency on the part of the parent, and that creates a challenge for me personally as well,” Moeller said.

She said she grew in many ways during her years as principal. The biggest change was she realized she could empower others to be leaders.

She also grew in how to deal with behavior issues. She discovered the “cookbook” approach did not work for her. Moeller learned each child had unique needs and maybe needed some different approaches.

“Overall, I think it was effective,” Moeller said. “We get many compliments on our Kennedy students’ behavior. If a child could learn from a mistake by visiting with me, I felt successful.”

When Moeller began her career at Kennedy in 1999, it was a kindergarten through fourth-grade school with about 220 students. Pre-school was added and then fifth- and sixth-grade was brought back. Within a few years, portable classrooms were added.

The town grew and the school ran out of space. St. Joseph supported the building of a new school which served pre-school through eighth-grade. Enrollment is approaching 800 students for next year.

Moeller’s new position is assistant superintendent and her role is to support the superintendent. She is most responsible for teaching and learning.

Moeller works with curriculum, instruction, assessment, Title I, interventions and pretty much anything having to do with the work that is done as a school district.

“As difficult as it is for me to leave Kennedy, I feel I can really make a difference for students and teachers in this role,” Moeller said. “Having been a teacher for 22 years, I knew how to support teachers when I became a principal. Now, having been a principal for 14 years, I feel like I understand what schools need to be successful. My goal is to support the good work already taking place in all our schools and to build on that with resources that can enhance learning. In a positive way, I hope to still be impacting the Kennedy kids, as well as the 9,000 others.”

Diane Moeller says “goodbye” and “thank you” to Kennedy Community School and the St. Joseph area for all they have done to support her as principal for the past 14 years. Moeller has accepted a new position with the district as assistant superintendent.

[/media-credit] Diane Moeller says “goodbye” and “thank you” to Kennedy Community School and the St. Joseph area for all they have done to support her as principal for the past 14 years. Moeller has accepted a new position with the district as assistant superintendent.




Bernie Sykora of Sartell was one of three women recently ordained as a priest.

Historic women-priest ordination takes place

by Dennis Dalman

During the ordination of three women priests last Sunday, there were tears flowing throughout the church, but they were tears of joy.

The ordination, which is not recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church, took place at a “guest” church, St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud.

One of the ordained priests is Bernie Sykora, 80, of Sartell. The other women priests are Martha Sherman of Salem, S.D. and Corene Besetzny of Red Wing, Minn. The three were ordained by Bishop Regina Nicolosy, also of Red Wing.

Almost 250 people attended the historic ceremony in St. Cloud, which has long been a bastion of Catholicism. The ordination of women priests is punishable by excommunication from the Vatican-based Catholic Church. That is, those involved in the ordination, cannot take the holy sacraments, such as the Eucharist during the Mass, but the women do anyway in purposeful disobedience of orthodoxy.

“I was exuberant, exhilarated and delighted all through the ceremony,” said Jeanette Blonigen Clancy of Avon, an author on religious and spiritual issues who has a master’s degree in theology. Blonigen Clancy is a member of the Community of Mary Magdalene, First Apostle movement, an organization of Catholics that stresses more inclusiveness for the Catholic Church, including the ordination of women priests. Also known as the “Womenpriest” movement, the ordination of women began in 2002 when male bishops ordained women priests on a boat in the middle of the Danube River in Germany.

Blonigen Clancy said she cried – tears of joy – at many points during the ordination in St. Cloud, as did many others.

The ceremony began when the pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church welcomed the guest congregation to use the church as a venue for a historic event – the first ordination of women priests in the St. Cloud area and one of the first women priest ordinations in the 2,000-plus-year history of the Catholic Church.

Just before ordination, when Bishop Nicolosy asked each ordinant if she was ready to become a priest, each said, “Yes, I am ready.” After Sykora answered yes, there came time for a laying on of hands during which members of the congregation came forward to touch the heads of the women and say a few words. Sykora’s nephew came forward.

“That’s when I lost it again,” Blonigen Clancy said.

Sykora has been one of her friends for several years. She knew what a powerful moment the ordination was for Sykora and for women worldwide.

“I found it beautifully inspiring and joyful and uplifting to think women were doing in that church what we have been barred from doing for thousands of years,” Blonigen Clancy said. “That laying on of hands was so moving, it easily got to me.”

During the service, Blonigen Clancy sang in the choir – songs that had been chosen by the three ordinants, songs that had been edited slightly to change male pronouns to female ones. One song, for example, contains the line, “God my Mother come to me, lift me up so tenderly.” In other songs, the word “Lord” has been changed to “God.”

Blonigen Clancy was impressed people came from such a wide area to attend the ordination: including from the Twin Cities and South Dakota. She was also pleased USA Today published a story about the ordination and the story had been translated into Spanish and published in Colombia in South America.

“It was a ceremony of emotion-filled joy and awe,” she said.

[/media-credit] Bernie Sykora of Sartell was one of three women recently ordained as a priest.