Looking back at 2018 Local events, people dominate headlines

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).
Christopher Reimer
Christopher Reimer, owner of Pedretti’s Bakery, is the third generation of his family to own the popular Elkader business.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Natural disasters, political scandals, a royal wedding, mid-term election surprises and the refugee crisis are some of the stories have dominated the national and international news landscape this year. Much closer to home, we celebrated the people who live here, local events, school improvements and community projects. Here’s a look back at some of those stories.

The Elkader City Council approved an Art on the Byways Project for Founders Park. Three Bells is the title of a metal sculpture created by Marion artist Cara Briggs Farmer. The artwork has been designed to “reflect the rolling hills of the countryside and to echo the bells of the Clayton County Courthouse and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Total cost of the project is just under $8,400. Most will be covered by three grants: Byways of Iowa Foundation, $3,500; Clayton County Foundation for the Future, $1,000; and Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation, $2,500. The remaining $1,400 will come from private donations to the project.

Alpine Communications celebrated 20 years of service to Clayton County. The first local company to provide Internet service to the area, Alpine has gone from offering a dial-up product considered cutting-edge in 1997 to a high-speed, fiber optic service that’s 100,000 times faster.

Lori Burns, Elkader, received the Register’s annual Clayton County Good Neighbor Award. Burns, who launched an effort to provide youngsters with pillowcases, pillows and pajamas, received the award at the annual Elkader community banquet. Three new businesses (T&T Powersports, DeathBall and Drew’s) were also celebrated. Mobile Track Solutions was named Industry of the Year. Tom Chandler received Volunteer of the Year honors, and Wilke’s was recognized for 150 years in business.
A contractor with a special connection to Central Schools in Elkader submitted the winning bid for the school’s capital improvements project.

Ed Larson, who with his wife, Janet, owns the Independence-based Larson Construction Company, is a 1958 Central graduate. His company submitted the lowest of three bids received for the school’s capital improvements project. Their base bid was $7.13 million
Area residents packed the Elkader Opera House to hear about a proposed hotel for the town and to share their opinions on the project. Algerian businessman Abdelmalek (Malek) Sahraoui wants to construct a 36- to 40-room hotel in City Park in the space between the current swimming pool and shelter house. The hotel would have an indoor pool, a prayer room (not a mosque) and a museum to share the history of Elkader and its sister city, Mascara, Algeria. As part of the plan, Sahraoui has suggested that he might also cover the cost of a new municipal swimming pool and renovations to the shelter house, including heating and air conditioning to make it useable year-round.

Few present objected to the project but many voiced their concerns over the location.

Ruth Watkins, who grew up in Elkader, was named 16th president of the University of Utah. She is the daughter of the late Dr. Pete Watkins and Donna Watkins. The family moved to Elkader in 1967 when Ruth was five. Her father became a partner in the Elkader Veterinary Clinic with Drs. Dale Hein and Ken Reimer.

For current Central students, Ruth had special words of advice based on her own experiences living in a small town and attending a rural school.

“There are significant advantages to growing up in a small community,” she said. “We had incredible freedom as kids, with the ability to bike or walk everywhere and to explore the outdoors in all seasons.”

“In a small school, you can be part of everything without the requirement of exceptional talent, as can be the case in very large schools,” Ruth continues. “I appreciated the fact that I, as a fairly average kid, could be part of many different learning experiences along the way. The guidance that I’d give to Central students is to embrace and enjoy as many of those learning experience as they can. Be a part of it!”

The Clayton County Conservation Center launched a new program for youngsters ages 3 to 5. It’s called Nature Kids, and its focus is looking at the natural world through stories, crafts and outdoor activities.

After eight years of serving on the Clayton County Board of Supervisors, Republicans Ron McCartney and Gary Bowden decided not to run for re-election. Both listed the move to the current county office building and courthouse improvements as some of the greatest achievements of their tenure.

Central students launched a recycling effort after RISE stopped collecting aluminum cans. The money received for the cans will be used to fund school projects.

Jesup native Aaron Reinhart was named Central’s next middle school/high school principal. Reinhart and his wife, Brittney, fell in love with Elkader long before he even interviewed for the job. The couple had their engagement photos taken here in 2015.
Reinhart replaces long-time principal Dan Yanda.

2004 Central High School graduate Tony Hauber launched a business venture making a 2-dimensional, tournament-style arcade game. Each unit is completed in Elkader using local craftsmanship.

Central Community Hospital and Guttenberg Municipal Hospital, affiliates of the Mercy Health Network, are now sharing the services of a newly hired surgeon. Dr. Tamara Holzer will be doing hernia repairs, gall bladder removals, appendectomies, and more at both facilities, enabling patients to have procedures done closer to home and, in many cases, nearer their support systems.

The results from a special deer collection authorized by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources yielded good news for Clayton County: No signs of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) were found in the 90 samples submitted for testing. Allamakee County did not fare as well: One sample collected there tested positive for CWD; another sample is going through a second round of testing after coming back “suspected positive.”

Using the Wilson Reading System, which combines the rules of the English language with a unique method called sound-tapping, Central’s youngest students are strengthening their reading skills. Introduced in the 2014-2015 school year and now used with students in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade, the program has produced measureable and impressive results: 52 percent of kindergartners recently scored in the 85th percentile for reading, and 100 percent of fourth and fifth graders, who’ve been exposed to the program for a couple of years, have met the state’s benchmark for reading accuracy.

Emily Yaddof-Gibbs, hired a year ago as Elkader’s Economic Development Director, announced that she would be leaving in April. Her husband, Brian Gibbs, accepted a position with a satellite facility of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Jay Moser announced his retirement as Elkader’s longest serving pharmacist. He and Kay, who’s handled the business end of the operation, have sold Moser Pharmacy to Chris and Jenni Clayton, owners of stores in Strawberry Point and Sumner. Jay served the community for more than 50 years, counting his college days.

Several companies interested in the pharmacy approached the Mosers about buying the store but the couple held off until they received an offer they knew would keep the pharmacy in Elkader operating as it always has operated.

Thanks to an interest in gardening and the availability of a greenhouse, Central students are stocking the school salad bar with leaf lettuce and tomatoes. growing fresh produce was designed as a way to utilize the fertilizer produced by the school’s vermiculture project. That project, which was launched last year, uses worms to increase the efficiency of the school’s composting effort. Central students have been composting school lunch waste for about three years.

180 members of the American Legion and guests from all over Northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin packed Johnson’s Reception Hall to hear National Commander Denise Rohan speak about her goals. Rohan, who was born in McGregor and grew up in Elkader, was elected as the first female Commander of the American Legion last August at the Legion’s National Convention in Reno, Nevada.

    After more than two decades with the City of Elkader, Public Works Director Jerry Gamm retired.  Gamm joined the department in 1994 and became its head around 2002.  During that time, Gamm and his co-workers have been involved with everything from filling potholes on city streets to fighting numerous floods and cleaning up the aftermath.

After seeing the movie “Wonder” and listening to their homeroom teacher read the book it’s based on, Central 4th and 5th graders started writing notes about classmates doing nice things.

Notes are written on small pieces of paper and touch on myriad acts of kindness from sharing school supplies to holding doors open to stacking chairs for others. “Katie helped me clean my locker,” wrote one student. “Braxton threw my papers in the recycling,” wrote another. “Vaughn passed me the ball yesterday at recess,” wrote a third. More than 140 “kindness notes” have been written and affixed to a bulletin board in a pattern that forms a single word: K-I-N-D.

With her 87th birthday approaching, Joanne Ishman has decided to close the jewelry store that she and her late husband, Dale, have owned and operated for nearly 60 years.

Central Community Hospital announced a $20,000 gift from the late Carroll Larson. A 1961 Central graduate, Larson later earned an undergraduate degree at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, WI. Carroll then attended Golden Gate University in San Francisco where he earned his MBA.  Carroll served in the United States Air Force from September 28, 1967, to January 10, 1991, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. The Foundation will decide how to use the gift.

Construction of Central’s $6 million capital improvements project is on schedule. Though the renovation process has gone smoothly, it has not been without challenges. Some spaces have been significantly downsized or relocated. For example, the high school media center, which will become the new commons area, has been merged with the elementary media center; a nearby classroom handles the overflow. The business office has been moved into the space that previously served as its reception/waiting area.

Tom Chandler was named a Main Street Volunteer of the Year at a ceremony in Des Moines. The award is given to people who make significant contributions to the local Main Street program. The car and sailing enthusiast and former Central teacher received the same award nearly two decades ago.

The Elkader City Council gave approval for a first-ever beer garden at Sweet Corn Days. Co-organizer Danielle Shea said the addition of the beer garden would help the annual summer festival become sustainable. The event costs about $25,000.
The Older, Wiser, Livelier Souls got a first-hand look at shrimp production at their monthly event.

Central high school principal Dan Yanda reflected on 39 years in education. On the eve of his retirement, Yanda reflected on the changes (technology), challenges (balancing demands of the job) and rewards (visiting with graduates) of his long career.
Elkader native and police officer Tyler Bazyn completed his training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Ariel Dennler, daughter of Kurt and NiCole Dennler, is the Class of 2018 valedictorian. She will attend Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids where she will major in finance.

In prep sports action, the Central boys golf team won sectionals, Samuel Nemechek qualified for state competition in the discus, and the girls track team, which finished second in the conference and district, qualified for seven events at state.
The Elkader Municipal Pool opened with the following improvements in place: a new guard chair, pool heater and water fountain.

The Carter House Museum opened for the season with its salute to “World War II and the Home Front.”

Kate Lower was hired as Main Street Director and Economic Development Director, replacing Emily Yaddof-Gibbs who left in April. The Volga native and Central High School graduate, had been working with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.
Ron and Mary Kuehl, owners of Treats, were honored with a Dairy Best Award for their use of dairy products.

The field of candidates vying for two open positions on the Clayton County Board of Supervisors was narrowed to four people. Along with Democrats Richard Dinan and Joleen Jansen, the November ballot will also include Republicans Steve Doeppke and Sharon Keehner. Doeppke and Keehner were the top vote-getters in the June primary. Keehner received 402 votes and Doeppke, 258.

After almost a century’s absence, what is thought to have been the first automobile in Clayton County has finally made its way back home. The 1904 Crestmobile has been refurbished and is now on display at the Garnavillo Historical Society. The auto was owned by Judge James O. Crosby who purchased it for $600.

Marilyn Nielsen and Janice Possehl, both of Elkader, received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for their 35 years of dedication to the Central Community Hospital’s auxiliary rummage sale. The award was presented to them by Governor Kim Reynolds.
The Osborne Conservation Center Wildlife Exhibit welcomed a new resident: a 3-year-old cougar. She came to Iowa from northern Minnesota where she lived and worked at a wildlife studio.

The final two in a series of four “think tanks” meant to gather public input for updating Clayton County’s comprehensive plan were held. At the meetings, attendees were asked to share their thoughts on goals, strategies and actions in areas like economic development, housing, transportation, public facilities, agriculture, natural resources and more.

The Clayton County Fair Board announced it would not offer a traditional midway. The owner of the company hired to offer rides backed out of their contract. Instead, the fair offered a number of inflatables.

New pharmacy owners Christopher and Jennier Clayton have settled in. They purchased Moser Pharmacy from Jay and Kay Moser, who retired in April.

Clayton County has received a $50,000 Historic Resource Development Program (HRDP) state grant for continuing restoration work on the County Courthouse clock tower. The grant will be used for the upper areas of the tower. Since this is the highest part of the project, the costs escalate due to the use of tall cranes needed to get to the upper areas.

The areas in need of restoration are basically from the top of the windows on all four sides upwards, including all the roofing, wood decorative pieces, the wooden louvers, metal work and weather vane. This area has significant deterioration. Kendrick Lumber in Edgewood is donating all of the wood that will be used for this phase of the project. This donation was obtained through the efforts of Clayton County Supervisor Ray Peterson.

Elkader resident and World War II veteran Robert Buckner, a life-long Cubs fan was honored him by his team prior to their home game against rivals St. Louis Cardinals.

Organizers of the Volga City Truck Cruise announced their plan to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records by organizing a parade of more than 2,000 trucks for their annual cruise. (Ed. Note: The group eventually fell short of their goal.)
More than 90 percent of Clayton County business owners described their operation as “emerging,” “growing” or “stable,” according to survey results unveiled at the annual Clayton County Development Group (CCDG) meeting.

Pedretti’s Bakery, Elkader, celebrated 50 years in business. Three generations of Pedrettis have had a hand in building the bakery business that Joe and Mary Pedretti launched in 1968. The current owner is Christopher Reimer, grandson of the original founders.
The Central school year started with five new teachers. In addition, students, faculty and staff got their first look at major improvements made over the summer as part of Central’s $6 million capital improvements effort.

Noted children’s book author and illustrator Art Geisert announced that his latest work, Pumpkin Island, would have its national launch in Elkader. Pumpkin Island is the story of a small town completely overrun by hundreds of orange squash. The book features pages of Geisert’s trademark illustrations from hand-colored etchings. Several downtown buildings provide the backdrop for his work. Elkader Library Director Lisa Wilke Pope assisted with editing.

As part of the launch, Geisert’s publishing team from New Jersey will visit, and his book will be sold for the first time. (Ed. Note: At the October 27 launch, more than 700 copies of the book were purchased. People waited in line for up to two hours to have their books autographed.)

The two newest members of the Central Hall of Fame are brothers Jim and John Kafer, who both graduated from Central High School, received appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy and graduated from the Academy with political science degrees, achieved the rank of colonel, and earned numerous promotions, major awards and decorations throughout their illustrious military careers.

A number of candidates for local, regional and state offices participated in a forum that was attended by nearly 150 voters.

Local artist Mary Webber published a book of personal essays titled A Full Cup of Tea.

Utoni Ruff celebrated 30 years with the Clayton County Food Shelf. Described by many as naturally friendly, outgoing and compassionate, Utoni often goes the extra mile for the people in need.

Members of the Whistlin’ Bit Saddle Club celebrated 70 years. Though Mother Nature threatened to cancel the group’s annual ride, weather held long enough for them to have it.

“As far as I know, in 70 years the ride has only been canceled two times,” said longtime member Cindy Mueller. “Once, years ago at National, a semi of horses slid into the ditch due to the snow. No horses were injured but the ride was cancelled because of the snow and ice. A few years ago in Elkader, we had a monsoon-type fall—kind of like we’re having this year. We had to cancel that year due to rain.”

Descendants of Civil War veteran Hiram Davis gathered at the Clayton County Poor Farm Cemetery for a dedication ceremony of a headstone for Davis.

The Elkader City Council voted on an ordinance that will restrict parking in front of Central Schools to 15 minutes. The regulation, which covers both the east and west sides of First Street NW, is in effect from 8 a.m, to 4 p.m. on school days. Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp said restricted parking is one of several actions the school is taking to develop a more welcoming culture.

Central’s Jasmine Mueller qualified for state by finishing in 5th place at the district cross-country meet.

Dragonfly Books, Enchanted Lion Publishers, and Arthur Geisert donated a portion of the sales of Pumpkin Island to the Elkader Public Library. The donation totaled over $1,900.

Republicans Steve Doeppke and Sharon Keehner were elected to the Clayton County Board of Supervisors. Republican Anne Osmundson defeated Democrat Lori Egan for the Iowa House District 56 seat. In Iowa House District 55, a recount was requested by Democrat challenger Kayla Koether who lost to incumbent Michael Bergan by eight votes.

Central students in Ann Gritzner’s Environmental Project Monitoring Class spent two days collecting carved gourds, which were then taken to Turkey River Farm, Elkport, where they will be used as feed for pigs. More than 300 pumpkins were collected.
“This diverted about 3,000 pounds of organic waste that may have ended up in the landfill but instead will be composted or fed to animals,” Gritzner said. She added that students had less than two weeks to organize the effort. Both Gritzner and Natasha Hegmann hope the project will continue in the future with even greater results.

For the first time in 20-plus years, Central reported an increase in its student population. While it was not a major increase (+5.5 students), any increase is a positive for the long-term financial outlook of the school district, said Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp.
Central’s certified enrollment now sits at 424.1 students, up from 418.6 the year before.

Mercy Health Network and Central Community Hospital leaders gathered for a blessing and official welcoming of the hospital as a wholly owned member of Mercy Health Network. The official ownership change took place on October 1, 2018.  After six years, work on the Clayton County Restoration project was completed with the placing of a fully restored weather vane.

Allamakee-Clayton REC named its next general manager. Hollee McCormick will replace Paul Foxwell who is retiring in May 2019.  She has been with the REC for four years as its manager of economic development and community relations.
Elkader City Council members directed staff to send a letter to downtown businesses reminding their employees to park off-site. The action was decided after parking concerns for the Senior Meal Site clients were shared with council.
Elkader’s newest police officer, Eric Van Horn, has graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Central preschoolers launched a “kindness project” that they hope will embrace all students. The preschoolers invited the kindergartners to their classroom for games, the kindergartners did something nice for the first graders, first graders had a “kindness event” for the second graders and so on.

The Elkader City Council approved closing Mechanic Street from Main Street to Founders Park. The street, which runs adjacent to the only house left in the area, will be covered in heavy-duty plastic provided by Builders First Choice and then flooded to make an ice rink.

An artist is expected to be in Guttenberg for seven to 10 days in July 2019 to paint the recently arrived Freedom Rock with a patriotic mural to complete the project. The rock has been placed at Limbeck Pond (commonly known as Horseshoe Pond), along Highway 52 North in Guttenberg.


Rate this article: 
No votes yet