Wadena almost too hard to leave

I can hardly believe Im writing my last column for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. In a week, Ill be moving back to Aberdeen, S.D., to take the job of city editor after being editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal for nearly five years. The Wadena area...

I can hardly believe Im writing my last column for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.

In a week, Ill be moving back to Aberdeen, S.D., to take the job of city editor after being editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal for nearly five years.

The Wadena area, without a doubt, is the most wonderful part of Minnesota. Nobody loves Aberdeen for its looks. At first. At first, it seems harsh. True Minnesotans probably would hate its treeless, flat plains with nothing to stop the harsh winds and snow. But South Dakota grows on you.

What seems unfriendly and harsh begins to look like independence. There is a sense of everyone taking care of his own and not expecting anything from anyone.

I like that. It is a simple philosophy, and much of the Wadena area is like that. So is my hometown in western Kansas.


While I probably will never again live in my beloved Kansas (thanks to a husband who thinks 112 degrees is too hot), Aberdeen is home. But so is Wadena. I do not leave lightly or without a fair amount of stomach churning. I will cry my eyes out the day I leave my beautiful house.

I appreciate Wadena for many reasons, mostly because of people. There is so much to say and not nearly enough space here to say it.

While there is so much to be thankful for, here are some things Ill miss:

" Stores where the staff know just what youre looking for even when you dont. Not only that, but those clerks probably can tell you how to use the stuff you didnt know you needed in the first place. And they might even deliver it to your door. Try finding that at a big box store.

" Store owners who know you by name and where you live, so youll never have to tell them where to deliver the stuff that you just bought.

" The most beautiful movie theater Ive ever stepped foot in. Youll never find pop-sticky floors here. And geez, what a bargain. We could nearly afford to drive from Aberdeen to Wadena for what wed save in ticket and concession prices. And there is no 1938 charm in a run-of-the-mill mall theater.

" Incredible parks run by the city and helped along by some volunteers. Spend an early morning or evening at Sunnybrook Park alone, and youll know what I mean.

" Being able to drive from one end of town to the other in roughly three minutes if you hit green at both stoplights (not that Im encouraging speeding through town just to beat my record; Id hate to get stopped by our fine police officers during my last few days in town).


Mostly, though, Ill miss the people. I could fill the pages of this newspaper naming the people who have a special place with me. I feel like one of those long-winded actors at the Academy Awards hearing the music that will force me off stage.

So lets say Ill miss more people than I can list here. My wonderful coworkers and I have had some amazing times, and Ive developed friendships I hope will follow me the rest of my life. The City Council, whose meetings Ive covered over the last five years, is one of the most professional groups Ive ever written about. Its not easy to take the lumps of governing a city. Ditto for department heads. Youd have a hard time finding a more intelligent, diligent group.

Ill miss hearing stories of Wadenas past from Bob Zosel, who has more history in his brain and does more for this community than probably anyone will ever know. My dog Shep doesnt know it yet, but will miss the kind but firm training of Lucille Belch. This spring was to be our third time in her class, and we both needed it.

I have been so privileged to tell the stories of so many fascinating people.

Each impacted me but none more than the stories of Al and Helen Fultz as they dealt with Als cancer. Theirs was a story about life and love and faith. I was so nervous about doing it justice that I would barely sleep the night before an interview. I would leave way too early, drive around the block several times and still arrive at their home way too early. Then when I wrote the story, I would barely sleep, again for fear of not doing it justice. They had entrusted me with the faith that I would tell their story, one that was deeply personal yet universal. I was right to sweat and worry.

Im usually good at being unbiased, but I can tell you that when Al was hospitalized for the last time and the week he died, I had trouble seeing the computer screen through the tears. I am forever honored they allowed me to tell even a portion of their story and even more grateful for the impact they had on my life.

Some stories and people you never forget.

Im thankful for the impact that Wadena had on my life. I wont forget you, and remember that if youre in Aberdeen, stop by if you dont mind a little dog hair.

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