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Pratt retiring as Historical Society director

Photo by Rachelle Klemme. Sandi Pratt, director of the Wadena County Historical Society since 2006, is stepping down and plans to help in the transition to a new director.

The Wadena County Historical Society (WCHS) is undergoing a transition as Sandi Pratt has decided to step down as its director, opening up a new position.

Pratt said she would like to be done by the end of March, and hopefully have time to train in the new director since they want resumes in by March 15.

Pratt said the new director will have a challenging job to fill, and that when she started in January 2006, no one was there to train her in.

"I wouldn't want to put that onto anybody else," she said.

She added that she was thankful that the late Bob Zosel Sr. was there to show her the database.

This will be the second time Pratt has retired. She had retired from Cargill in 2000 before moving back to her hometown of Wadena, and there decided to be on the board of the WCHS starting in 2004. When the director position opened, she realized she would like to work again. And she did - Pratt said she "pretty much spoiled" the historical society by working over the usual hours to accomplish projects.

"I wanted to get everything done before I was 100 years old," she said. "So much to do, all the rooms and everything."

"She puts in so much more time than she really gets paid for, and she's really done a remarkable job," Bob Zosel Jr. of the historical society said.

Among Pratt's accomplishments were updating the museum and organizing the different rooms with a smoother layout. A tour of the museum starts with the two nations displays of Dakota and Ojibwe, which started during Pratt's time. The extensive project culminated in a grand opening May 2011.

Chuck Matthes and Gary Kane put work into building and construction in the museum.

Pratt said the curator work is pretty much done, so the new director can focus on administration and research. She said Bob Zosel Sr. did a lot of research in her time.

"I do like doing the research. It's fun to find things for people. And I do enjoy updating the museum too," she said.

When Pratt started, the WCHS didn't have a website. Pratt called the computer program at M State - Wadena and asked if a student would want to create a site. Wyatt Stangel stepped up, and Pratt said he did a wonderful job.

Later, the site's format was changed to WordPress, and Pratt's son-in-law Eric Frankenhouser carried that out.

During her time, the WCHS acquired the 1886 35-foot courthouse tower which stands just outside the building.

Pratt said the projects were accomplished with the efforts of many workers, board members and volunteers.

The WCHS has a variety of fundraisers and community events over the year. The Presidents' Day sloppy joe fundraiser will take place on Monday. Other events are the lasagna supper in May, the displays at the log museum at the county fair which will be in June this year, the old-fashioned pie and ice cream social in August, the annual meeting in October, the historic harvest supper in November and the Christmas tea and open house in December.

Pratt has had a knack for history for a long time. She had finished an over 400-page book on a Norwegian ancestor, and as a child, she saved wedding and funeral bulletins which would be handy for genealogy later.

Pratt said she and her husband Barry are looking forward to doing some traveling in the future.