William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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Picture peace. That was the challenge for seventh-graders at Oltman Middle School who competed in the New-Park Lions Peace Poster contest. The winners, announced Nov. 13, were Arachi O'Brien and Brie Hamilton. Runners-up were Eric John (EJ) Ehli and Maddi Sand. O'Brien, 13, grinned and bounded out of the bleachers when her name was called. Hamilton, 12, said the creative process involved some technical obstacles. "I had to like, deal with proportions and stuff and that was kind of stressful, " she said.
Patti Wiens returned to New Life Academy Nov. 17 for its 40th anniversary celebration. The non-denominational Christian school and church was founded in 1977 by a group that included Wiens and her husband, the late Pastor Dick Wiens. The congregants met in a church in St. Paul before moving their present location in Woodbury for the 1979-80 school year. They now have 750 students in preschool through grade 12, who represent a total of 85 different churches.
Local lawmakers and preservationists gathered Nov. 8 at the Miller Barn in Woodbury to celebrate a $160,000 state grant that will pay for the restoration of the nearly century-old structure. The money was appropriated from the state arts and cultural heritage fund through the efforts of State Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, and state Reps. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, and JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury. The Woodbury Heritage Society will use the funds to replace the roof, paint and repair the siding and to install a new metal cupola on the roof.
The organizers of a local 5K are not thankful another race has been scheduled in Cottage Grove two days after their Turkey Day event. Since 2010, the annual Hale to the Bird 5K run/walk on Thanksgiving morning has drawn local runners and walkers to the 3.1-mile course that begins and ends in Hamlet Park. Over 550 participated in last year's pre-gobble gallop, which raised $6,000 for the Friends in Need Food Shelf. This year, however, race organizers have competition: The Cottage Grove Turkey Trot 5K debuts two days later in Kingston Park.
The community flew its faith flag at the 11th annual Cottage Grove Prayer Breakfast, where civic leaders, elected officials, business owners, clergy, veterans and residents celebrated their shared devotion to a higher power. Nearly 200 attended the interdenominational event at River Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove. It was organized by Michael and Paula Bushilla, owners of the Hope Glen Farm wedding venue. Keynote speaker Jerry Molnar, a Christian businessman and Bible evangelist, spent the night in the treehouse suite on the property.
John "Jack" Lanners was Woodbury's secret weapon. The businessman, volunteer and civic leader usually did his best work behind the scenes. But he was hardly a wallflower. In 2013, the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce selected him Citizen of the Year. He served as the grand marshal in the 2015 Woodbury Days Grand Parade. And it was his charisma and energy that brought family members together, whether for pickup football or his annual Memorial Day picnic, where he'd take out last year's Christmas tree and used it as kindling for the bonfire.
It's hot in Iraq, Maj. Noelle Racette told the students at Armstrong Elementary School. "If you can take a handful of sand and mix it with talcum powder and take a hair dryer and blow it into your face, that's what it's like living in Iraq," she told the audience. Racette shared her experiences at the Nov. 8 Veterans Day observance at the school. She described her job in military intelligence as "trying to think like the enemy." Students got to pass around a chunk of plaster from a palace that was built by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The lights dimmed, drums sounded and a bagpipe keened at the start of the Nov. 10 Veterans Day ceremony in the Park High School gym. Wolfpack Air Force Junior ROTC MN-871 presented the 11th annual program. Park senior and cadet Alisia Johnson, 17, sang "God Bless the USA," while accompanying herself on guitar. Vietnam veterans in attendance included Bud Schmidt and Ervin Schlorf of Cottage Grove and Jed Swenson of Woodbury. Korean War veteran Mel Hottman also attended.
To hear her tell it, Leah Restad had a modest goal when she prepared to take the ACT test. "I was just hoping that I would get a high enough score to not have to take the test again in the spring," she said. The East Ridge High School junior earned a perfect score — 36 — on the standardized college readiness exam. District 833 juniors and seniors took the ACT last month. One-tenth of 1 percent of test-takers achieve a perfect score, according to the ACT website.