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Perham honors its own

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Virtually everybody living in Perham over the last 20 years--and indirectly, many people from around the world--were in some way impacted by the honorees at the annual Leadership and Hall of Fame Awards Night April 10.

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Veterans like Art Maleitzke, Erv Johnson, Al Bretz and John Knight touched people's lives during the global conflagration that was World War II.

Honored side-by-side with those veterans was a varied team of volunteers, including American Legion Post 61 Auxiliary members and United Community Bank employees, who raised more than $20,000 locally for the "Honor Flight" campaign.

Locally, the late Perham councilman, Jerome Boedigheimer, and former city manager, Bob Louiseau, were inducted into the Perham "Hall of Fame" for their contributions to the community.

More than 100 attended the dinner event, hosted by the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce April 10 at Mulligan's.

Local volunteers made trip possible for area WW II veterans

The "WDAY World War II Honor Flight" was organized after Tracy Briggs of 970 AM Radio saw a news story telling about a group in Ohio that was organizing trips in honor of their own state's veterans. Within a short time a committee was organized and fundraising began.

Fifteen months later, more than $575,000 has been raised and 586 veterans have been flown to Washington DC to see the memorial that was built in their honor.

The memorial was completed in 2004, but by then, three-quarters of America's World War II veterans had already passed on, said Lance Akers, who presented the Perham "Leadership Award" at the banquet. Akers spearheaded much of the fundraising for the Honor Flights in the region.

"Nationwide, we were losing 1,200 veterans a day at that time. It rose to about 1,700 a day in 2007, and now the rate is almost 2,000 a day," said Akers.

With only 47,000 World War II veterans remaining in Minnesota, they could theoretically be gone in less than a month, at that rate, said Akers.

"From the time we started the project, we had already lost 80 who had applied for an Honor Flight trip," said Akers. Nearly 700 had applied for the trip.

"Without the courage and sacrifice of these veterans, we wouldn't have the free country we have today," said Harriet Mattfeld, a Legion Auxiliary leader who helped with the local fundraising drive.

Also taking the stage at the banquet was a team from United Community Bank, which played an instrumental role in raising money to send nine area veterans on the Honor Flight.

The nine local servicemen who took in the Honor Flight included:

* Al Bretz

* Don Hinnenkamp

* Jim Huebsch

* Erv Johnson

* Harley Karvonen

* John Knight

* Herb Lubitz

* Art Maleitzke

* George Walter (since deceased)

Speaking at the banquet on behalf of the local WW II veterans was Erv Johnson.

"I didn't do anything out of the ordinary," said Johnson. "Uncle Sam asked me to go...and I went."

A fourth and final Honor Flight is currently scheduled for May 2-3 to fly the remaining veterans who applied.

Boedigheimer honored for service to Perham

Former Perham City Councilman Jerome Boedigheimer served 16 years on the Council, before dying of cancer last year. Jerome earned a "green" legacy with his work on parks, trails, tree planting and other beautification.

Boedigheimer's quiet, thoughtful role on the city council was commended by Perham Mayor Kevin Keil, who presented the Hall of Fame plaque to Jerome's wife, Lina Belar.

"Plant more trees...plant more flowers...love more people...be more like Jerome," said Lina Belar after accepting the honor on behalf of her late husband.

Former city manager named to Hall of Fame

Former Perham City Manager Bob Louiseau served 17 years in the position, resigning last year to take a similar position in Detroit Lakes.

Louiseau's award was presented by Dennis Happel, Perham city attorney, who listed many of the initiatives and accomplishments during Louiseau's tenure.

"Some of the projects took a long time, and Bob was very patient," said Happel, who also listed other Louiseau attributes: work ethic, forward-thinking and an ability to draw simplicity out of a complex problem.

Other Accomplishments:

•Customers of the city run natural gas company increased from 800 to 2,500, including expansion of the system to Big Pine Lake

•The addition to the PACC

•Saving the city hall building, which could have been demolished

•The city's recycling program

•New library

•Construction of food shelf

•Fire hall expansion

•Technology center established

•Downtown redevelopment project

•Sunday liquor authorized

•Wellhead groundwater protection program

•Industrial park expansion

But, of course, Louiseau would qualify the list by noting that he in no way accomplished any of these alone--it was always a community effort.

Boedigheimer a 'Hall of Famer'

In a couple weeks, the crab apple trees that line 3rd Avenue by the Community Center will come into their full spring glory. Their rich purple will serve as a "Thank You" to Jerome Boedigheimer, because the former Perham City Councilman is the person who guided their planting many years ago.

Those crab apples won't be alone in saying "Thanks" to Jerome, because over 1,000 boulevard trees and flower gardens throughout the City of Perham also are there because of his efforts, as well as the prairie flower planting near the airport. Jerome put oodles of time into the boulevard plantings each year...lining up people who wanted plantings, lining up the volunteers for Arbor Day event, then making sure that the new owners gave the trees TLC throughout the summer. Those trees had a tremendous survival rate, largely due to the fact that Jerome made sure each participant upheld their end of the bargain.

And then there are the recreational opportunities in Arvig Park that he helped create...softball fields, soccer fields, horseshoe courts, golf expansion, as well as the spiffing up of Paul Miller Park on Little Pine Lake.

The long-term legacy of Jerome's 16 years on the Perham City Council is a green one, because green was a strong driving force in his life. Interestingly, Jerome was "green" before the word became a metaphor for nature awareness.

Perham's recycling program has Jerome's fingerprints all over it. The program was ahead of its time when adopted, and has been in place for many years.

Jerome was appointed to the City Council in 1991, when then-councilman Jim Johnson became mayor. He sat on the council until he died in October of 2007. Jerome was involved in many of the good things that came about during those 16 years.

Interestingly, Jerome had proposed the idea of a Parks and Recreation Board in 1989, two years before he was appointed to Council. When the Parks and Rec Board was formed, he became its first and only chair, and never missed a meeting until the time of his death.

As a lifelong resident of Perham, he brought a strong community history and "desire to help" to his council position. Time and again, the council would turn to him to ask about decisions that had been made in the past, and his recall of events helped guide the council to strong decisions.

Jerome played a prominent role in the business community. He began in the antique business on Main Street, and moved "Jerome's Antiques and Compatibles" to the present, 6,000 square foot antique store on 3rd Avenue in 2003. Jerome was a walking antiques encyclopedia, and could pull information on just about any antique item out of his head.

In keeping with that antique philosophy, he and his wife Lina Belar purchased the old MJ Daly house many years ago, perhaps Perham's most vivid example of a classical home dating back to the early years of the 19th century. Jerome and Lina lovingly restored the Daly house to its original grandeur.

When cancer took Jerome's life in October of 2007, it took away one of the strong pillars in Perham's success. But the memory of Jerome will last for decades, in the memory his friends, colleagues and constituents, as well as in the "Green" legacy he left behind.

Former city manager honored

Bob Louiseau served 17 years as Perham City Manager, from 1990 to 2007. Interestingly, he served in Detroit Lakes before coming to Perham, and resigned from his Perham position in 2007 to become city manager in Detroit Lakes.

It was a time of great growth in the city. Part of that growth was in size itself, with the city adding over 400 acres of land. But more importantly, that growth was in population, economy, jobs and services.

In his years as City Manager, Bob became involved in project after project, and issue after issue. Some of those projects stretched out for many years. For instance, the city first began considering Coney Street traffic lights in 1998, and it was 10 years later when the lights finally were installed. The rebuild of Main Street in 1996 is another example, because the planning for that project took over 3 years.

On the other hand, other projects didn't take nearly so long. Perhaps one of the fastest...and most successful...was the city's involvement in the purchase of Tuffy's from Doane's Pet Products, an event that took a mere several weeks to complete from start to finish.

One of obvious sign of growth was the population itself. Perham's population was 2,100 when Bob became city manager in 1990, and had expended to 2,749 when he accepted the job in Detroit Lakes 17 years later.

Of course, a lot of other people are also involved in running the city. Bob worked with four mayors during his 17 years, including Terry Karkela, Marlin Zitzow, Vince Pankonin and Kevin Keil. In those same years he worked with 16 councilpeople, including Jim Johnson, Pat Miller, Donna Polensky, Louis Westland, Randy Grover, Jerome Boedigheimer, Vaun Bruhn, Katy Strom, Frank Sczygiel, Larry Kempenich, Keith Huntley, Bill Parks, Kevin Keil, Harriet Mattfeld, Anita Mycke and Tim Meehl.

And all department heads for the city were hired during Bob's tenure, including Finance Officer Karla McCall, Public Services Supervisor Merle Meece, EDA Director Chuck Johnson, Police Chief Brian Nelson, Librarian Susan Heuser Ladwig and Planning and Zoning official Dave Neisen.

Annexation came up 22 times during Bob's tenure. The city generally only proceeds with annexation when the landowner requests it, unless a parcel becomes totally surrounded by city property. Some of the larger annexations included golf course-44 acres, Country Pines-54 acres, Phossco-16 acres, Clearwater-92 acres, Happel Addition-38 acres, Prairie's Edge-30 acres, Redline-21 acres.

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