Businessman, principal, coach earn honors

By Louis Hoglund A beloved principal, a longtime Perham businessman, and a coach who has transformed a fledgling program into state champions were center stage March 30. It was the annual Leadership Banquet, and three of Perhams fi...

By Louis Hoglund

A beloved principal, a longtime Perham businessman, and a coach who has transformed a fledgling program into state champions were center stage March 30.

It was the annual Leadership Banquet, and three of Perhams finest were honored --in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 150. The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce event was hosted at the Lakeside Golf Club.

Named to the Hall of Fame were Mary Thomas, principal of St. Henrys School for the past 26 years; and business-civic leader Bob Perry.


Gymnastics coach Charlie Fleck, who lead his team of gymnasts to three consecutive state titles, was honored with the annual Leadership Award.

Dedicated St. Henrys Principal

Mary Thomas honored

Endless energy...selfless dedication...moral compass...grounded spirituality...

Blasphemous as it may sound, Mary Thomas would be an ideal candidate for local sainthood--at least in the eyes of her staff, students and virtually every Perham citizen who had contact with her over the past 36 years.

Like many good Catholic girls, Mary attended St. Benedicts--after leaving her hometown of Shakopee. Her degrees included home economics, philosophy and sociology. She also had additional training at the University of Minnesota.

She taught a stint in Charleston, South Carolina, when she was 21-years-old--the same age as a number of her students, which posed some special challenges.

Coming to Perham in 1970 was, literally, a dream come true. She wanted her three children to have a Catholic education, and ideally in a facility operated by the Benedictine sisters.


Her late husband Joe, who died 14 years ago, accepted a position in the Perham public schools as a music teacher. She was a stay at home mom for a number of years, but in 1980 she was named principal of St. Henrys and she immediately began etching a mark in Perham that will never be erased.

Ten of her colleagues took the stage at the leadership dinner--all of them offering heartfelt, inspirational comments about Mary Thomas.

A fountain of ideas, Mary her mind was working even in her sleep and she cant wait to get up in the morning and start working on those ideas...For Mary, sleep was such a waste of time, said teacher Sigrid Winjum.

She lifted this entire community, said St. Henrys teacher Deanna Evenson.

Her selfless dedication shines through in all aspects of her life, said Pam Guck

Mary Thomas is simply the best in the west, said Sister Sylvia Schik OSF. I worked with her for 17 years, and I want to do it again in my second childhood.

Making final comments was Rev. Joe Herzing, who had heard that a Perham parochial school had the finest principal in the world. As fate would have it, Rev. Herzing was assigned to St. Henrys and in his brief tenure here, he has experienced first hand and marveled at her love and dedication.

At age 66, Thomas plans a busy life in retirement--at the end of this school year.


When I say Im retiring, Im saying that Im retiring from the need to make money, said Thomas to the audience. She plans to continue, in her own way, to help make the world a better place.

Citizen Bob Perry takes well-earned spot in Hall

Bob Perry may live in Arizona, but his heart is always in Perham, Minnesota, and it always will, that was a comment from Barb Schave regarding longtime floral and greenhouse owner Bob Perry.

Schave and her husband Larry accepted the Hall of Fame plaque in behalf of Perry, who sold his business in Perham in 1976, and has been retired in Arizona for much of the past 30 years. But he returns every year for a visit--and some fishing.

Bob now lives in Arizona and was not able to attend the banquet. However, Tami Kalina, the presenter of the award and long time friend of Bobs, called Bob via her cell phone and the entire crowd was able to yell congratulations to him followed by a round of applause, which he thoroughly appreciated.

Perry made a substantial donation to Perham last year, which be used for scholarships. He has also been a contributor to a number of other projects in his beloved Perham, including the Community Center.

Leader of Charlies Angels honored

Vince Lombardi, Herb Books, John Wooden, Teddy Roosevelt and even President John Quincy Adams were quoted in the tribute to one of Perhams most successful coaches.


Charlie Fleck, Perham High School gymnastics coach, was presented the 2006 Leadership Award for his outstanding achievements.

Charlies Angels girls gymnastics team won three consecutive state team titles and has many girls who have won individual titles. Charlie was pleasantly surprised during the presentation when Doug Huebsch, Bob Kinlund, and Linda Mickelson, ushered in his girls consisting of past, current and future gymnasts to enjoy the evening with him.

Linda Mickelson said it best when she said not only is Charlie Fleck a leader and winner himself and brought a winning gymnastics program to Perham, but he has made winners out of all his girls and has helped put Perham on the map.

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