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38 years in boat biz

For a guy with a passion for water, boats and motors; his retirement will be a life of...well...more water, boats and motors.

"This is has been my love for years. I love this industry...and I love my fishing," said Roger Karger, who is one of the most familiar East Otter Tail faces in the marine business.

Karger is 70 years old, but he probably would have kept right on working if it wasn't for some health issues.

"Health is the only reason I'm slowing down a bit," said Karger, who started on the mechanical and service side of the boat biz in 1970. "I don't feel 70, but my body keeps telling me I am...But I'll probably keep coming in and putz around once in a while."

But, mainly, Roger's probably going to be fishing. "I'm a fishing fool," laughed Karger.

Karger's last official day at Hoot's Sports is April 26, with beverages, hot dogs and cake served.

A Parker's Prairie native, Karger moved to the area in 1970, as a mechanic with the old Sports Port shop in New York Mills. "I moved to the area chasing snowmobiles," said Karger. That was back in the wild years of the burgeoning industry, when there dozens of sled manufacturers, most of them now lost to history. Karger worked on the "Wild One" line of snowmobiles--anybody remember that brand name?

Within ten years, he had advanced to service manager, then into sales full time, and then on to Carr's Marine in Ottertail, where he worked for more than 25 years. For the past six years, Karger was with Hoot's in Ottertail, and now with Hoot's Sports in Perham.

"Ted Carr, my boss at Carr's Marine, was a very good teacher. He got me interested in sales," he said. "I enjoy people. I have families that I've sold boats to the second and third generation. It's a unique, fun business...and it really keeps you going." Karger's four kids all graduated from New York Mills High School: Terry, Tim, Tracy and Trudy.

His wife Betty has been a familiar face in another industry--health care. She has been a nurse in New York Mills and Wadena.

Reflecting back on his years in the marine business, Karger said the biggest change is the evolution from bare bones, simple fishing boats to the "big and beautiful."

"The boats now are so beautiful compared to the earlier days. It kind of makes you wish they would have been around when you were younger."