St. Peter honored with Quilt of Valor
Bernie St. Peter of Wadena was this year's veteran given a quilt personally made by the Homespun Quilt Club
Bernie St. Peter started the Veterans Day program within the Wadena Elementary School back in 1989 and all these years later, it's an event that still gets to him.
The program is now handled by Wadena-Deer Creek music teacher Mike Ortmann at the W-DC Middle/High School, who continues to close out the ceremony with the playing of "Taps." That song reverberates for most anyone who hears it, especially those who've served in the military.
"It will take you right back to that doggone field you were standing in," St. Peter said. Sandie Rentz
St. Peter grew up in a frugal family in Bemidji with a father who impressed the importance of civic duty. His dad served on the township board for 48 years, so the idea of serving just came naturally for Bernie. After graduating from college in Bemidji back in 1971, he knew he needed to take a walk to Selective Service that day as the Vietnam War was still raging on. From there, he was on his way to serving as an E4 Spec in the U.S. Army as an infrared radar repairman. He would test out the equipment identifying deer in the nearby fields among the vehicles and other static items around them. What do you expect from a deer hunter from the north woods of Minnesota. While he never served overseas, he said he was ready and willing to do so.
To honor St. Peter's service to the country and for honoring veterans in the local school district, he was awarded a Quilt of Valor handmade by the local Homespun Quilt Club. Club members presented the beautiful quilt on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
"You saw the need for students to be made aware of the sacrifices of our veterans defending our country and this program was a way for the whole community to come together and to celebrate their service," Sandie Rentz, a member of the Homespun Quilt Club, said.
The Veterans Day program is an annual event typically held at the Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School gym with music, speeches, essay recitals and moments of remembrance as our area veterans pictures are shown on large screens for all to see. The event also typically includes a breakfast served by the students. This is the second year the event will be held virtually with no breakfast or public gathering due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The group hopes to be able to bring back the in-person portions next year as the gathering of generations is an important part of this event.
St. Peter said that he and Ortmann talked about the importance of the Veterans Day program at the school. St. Peter came to work as a teacher at Wadena back in 1978 and stayed on between Wadena and Deer Creek schools until 2007, for 29 years, teaching elementary classes. Prior to that he worked in other schools including Loman as a lead teacher and teacher of seventh and eighth graders for five years. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Army from 1971-1973.
Ortmann said what he loves about the Veterans Day program is the students seeing the veterans. They see them stand during the music and be honored. The students in turn are given the opportunity to stand and honor the veterans. St. Peter was passionate about starting a Veterans Day program locally because he knew it was important to honor and remember those who've served.
"I just felt that we needed more patriotism in the school," St. Peter said.
He also loved that the Veterans Day program was an opportunity to work with many other community members who care about veterans. It was the kind of team work that he appreciated while serving in the Army.
Bernie met his wife Betty in 1970 and the couple have two children Suzette and Michelle, who graduated from Wadena in 1991 and 1993 respectively. The couple still live in Wadena, in the home they built shortly after moving to town.
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Wadena Homespun Quilters is a group comprised of approximately 12 quilters from the Wadena/Perham area. The club usually meets on the second Thursday of each month in the evening. The purpose of the group is to share a common passion for quilting, to learn quilting techniques from each other, and to contribute to the community by creating quilted or sewn items for people in need. Past service projects have included Quilts of Valor, quilts for victims of fires, quilts for babies and foster children, and fleece caps for cancer patients.
The group has given out Quilts of Valor for four years. The first year it went to LeRoy “Bebe” Kresien, then Tom Malone and Roland Larson. Kresien passed away in September 2020 at age 94.