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A fond farewell

Marie Nitke/FOCUS The fellowship hall at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was packed full of well-wishers on Sunday afternoon. They were there to thank and congratulate longtime school principal and teacher, Bonnie Stohs. Stohs is retiring after 15 years at St. Paul’s School.

When Bonnie Stohs was asked to be principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Perham, she was told the stint would be brief, about a month or two, at most.

That was in 1998. Fifteen years later, after a much longer than expected career at the school, she laughs and shakes her head at how things turned out so differently – and she’s clearly happy that they did.

In front of a large crowd of family, friends, coworkers and other well-wishers at her retirement party on Sunday, Stohs said, “It has been a fantastic, fantastic 15 years. I have really enjoyed it.”

The party was held in the fellowship hall at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and the room was packed from corner to corner with people there to praise Stohs for her work and wish her well as she moves forward into the next phase of her life.

Stohs has served as principal as well as fifth and sixth grade teacher at the school. Her last day will be June 30. Mike Kunza, the school’s third and fourth grade teacher, will take over as principal. ReNae Tangen will take on the role of fifth and sixth grade teacher.

In a letter to Stohs, Reverends Donald Fondow and David Strohschein of the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, had a lot of good things to say, including: “You have been a blessing, and many children have been blessed, because throughout your teaching ministry you faithfully and passionately and consistently taught them about their Lord and savior, Jesus.”

“We thank God for you!” they added. “You received a gift – the gift of teaching – and you have used that gift of grace exceptionally well!”

The crowd of people at the church on Sunday agreed, nodding and applauding as the letter was read aloud. The apparent consensus among them was that Stohs would be missed at the school.

Many of the people in the room have had long histories with Stohs – one man there was a former student from her first year of teaching, now grown up with kids of his own. Another was a family friend who has known Stohs since toddlerhood. All had many positive things to say, and hugs to share.

School board member Jon Ebeling said the mission of St. Paul’s School – “Touching lives forever spiritually, academically, physically and socially, with the love of Jesus” – has “no doubt” been achieved by Stohs throughout the course of her career.

Stohs, who said she originally didn’t want a retirement party or any recognition of the sort, smiled and admitted to the crowd Sunday, “But I do have to say, I’ve enjoyed today.”

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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