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News from the week of November 24, 2004

Alliance church carries on Thanksgiving tradition

There was a passing of the torch, so to speak, last week in Tracy. Actually, it was the passing along of two 50-pound bags of potatoes.

But the symbolism was there, nonetheless, as three organizers of the annual Thanksgiving Day dinner at Lake Sarah Lutheran Church in Garvin brought the potatoes to the Tracy Alliance Church, the new home of the annual free dinner.

Gail Radke, Ardys Williams, and Julie Stewart were met at the church by Mark Priegnitz.

"All of the donations we received were passed on to them," said Radke. "That’s their foundation."

For Priegnitz, the decision of the Dovray-Garvin Parish, which includes Lake Sarah Lutheran, Our Saviors Lutheran in Dovray, and Willow Lake Lutheran in rural Tracy, presented the opportunity to act on something he’d felt in his heart.

"I had just been thinking about what Thanksgiving and Christmas are about," he said. These thoughts led to the desire to do something for others on these holidays.

Stewart had meanwhile called Tracy Alliance Pastor Edsel Miller, asking whether the church would be willing to carry on the tradition begun at Lake Sarah Lutheran in 1995.

"What we really wanted was to find someone to keep doing it," said Stewart.

When Priegnitz heard the request, he said, "I almost jumped out of my seat."

Divine intervention?

"I think God’s hand was in it," said Stewart.

There were many factors that led the Dovray-Garvin Parish to stop putting on the dinner. Mostly, they just did not have enough people to get the work done.

"It was hard to let it go, but it was the right time," said Radke. "The important thing is that the mission is going to go on."

The ladies say the dinner was never a burden to them.

"We just made the commitment," said Williams. "We always had fun."
Plenty of laughter went into the preparation process. Every once in a while a potato would get tossed to an unsuspecting helper.

The donations received during the nearly 10 years the Garvin church hosted the holiday feast were overwhelming, the ladies said.
"The people who didn’t have any place to go for Thanksgiving would donate," said Williams.

TV program retells Smarzik holiday story

By Val Scherbart Quist

Those who tuned in to watch television program "On the Road with Jason Davis" Saturday night saw some familiar faces.

The program re-aired a segment from 1998 about Joe Smarzik and the want ad he placed in the Tracy Headlight-Herald in 1977 looking for a family to eat Christmas dinner with. The ad later became the subject of a song and book by Christian singer, songwriter, and author Deanna Edwards.

Homer Dobson, who with his wife, Betty, answered Smarzik’s ad 27 years ago and shared many holidays with him, was among those featured in the segment. Dobson was interviewed again for Saturday’s show, which included follow-ups on the story.

Dobson said he was contacted by the show a few weeks ago, and that Jason Davis and his crew were in Tracy on Nov. 9. The crew spent about an hour and a half filming in Tracy. The follow-up segments were filmed at the Church of Christ. Dobson said Tracy Floral brought fall arrangements to the church for the filming.

The show also included an interview with Edwards, and mentioned that plans are in the works for a TV movie based on Smarzik’s story. Edwards is involved in the project.

Dobson said the segment’s re-airing brought back many memories of Smarzik, who died one year ago on Thanksgiving at the age of 98.

"We missed him at Christmas time last year," he said.

He said the message of the story remains as true this holiday season as it did when it first aired.
"The thrust of the story was to renew interest in people’s lives and be aware that those who live next door or on the next block need companionship. This is a difficult time of year for many people."

Education banquet draws crowd

Alumni, staff & students receive laurels

Ignorance, sloth, and hunger had no place at District 417's American Education Week banquet table last week—both literally and figuratively.
Every available seat was taken at the banquet, which boasted the theme, "Celebrating the American Dream—The Dream that Begins in Our Nation's Classrooms."
"The kind of turnout we have tonight demonstrates how much our community values education," said High School Principal Chad Anderson. He said that about 470 tickets had been sold for the banquet, which was held at the Mediterranean Restaurant.
Second-year Superintendent Dave Marlette said that he had never been in a school district "that even came close" to duplicating what Tracy does with its American Education Week banquet.
Three Tracy High School alumni were inducted into the school district's "Wall of Fame." Howard Rose (Class of1940), La Vonne Wyffels Lutz (1951) and Vince Wixon (1962) each received a commemorative plaque from Marlette.
Dozens of students and school staff members were also feted at the banquet.
Third grade teacher Janelle Rau and high school math mentor Amy Larsen were honored as District 417's 2004 "teachers of the year."
Paraprofessionals Deb Miller and Cookie Knott received the Tracy Education Association's "Helping Hands" award.
Mev Jackson—a former school paraprofessional and now a customer service representative for Minnwest Bank South—was announced as the recipient of the district's "school support" award.
Dorothy Alyger, Richard Hanson, Deb Maki, Jean DeSmith, Margorie Nielsen, Muriel Coulter, Kathy Brandt, Chris Miller, Mary Carter, Katie Gervais, and Eileen Schimming were recognized with "years of service" pins.
Academic letters and stars were presented to qualifying students in grades 10-12. Several dozen students were honored with "outstanding student achiever" certificates.
Conrad Rettmer was the banquet's master of ceremony. The high school Chamber choir sang prior to the traditional meat and potatoes banquet meal.

Miss Tracy competes in state pageant Sunday

Jenna Schaar will be competing in the Miss Minnesota Teen USA pageant Sunday, Nov. 28, in St. Paul.
The Tracy Area High School senior is the reigning Miss Tracy. She is the daughter of Lisa and Terry Schaar of Tracy.
The Miss Minnesota Teen USA competition will be held in the Minnesota Ballroom at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel, beginning at 4 p.m. The competition consists of three segments: evening gown, fitness/swimwear, and personality interview.
Contestants will vie for scholarships and prizes. The winner will have the chance to compete for the national title of Miss Teen USA.
Schaar's pageant sponsors are: Tracy Lanes, Tracy Publishing, Tracy Dance Studio, Tracy American Legion, Tracy Eagles, State Farm Insurance, Tracy Lions, The Etc., Silver Shears, Currie Town & Country, and the family of Lt. Col. And Mrs. F.D. Maner Jr.

Dealership develops export business

By Val Scherbart Quist

Tracy, Minnesota wouldn’t be the first place people think of when asked about car exporting.
If you had asked Jeff Salmon of Salmon Automotive one year ago if he thought he would be exporting cars today, his answer would likely have been "no." But that’s exactly what the Tracy businessman is doing.
The new business venture began when Salmon received a call from Olafur "Oli" Steinarsson, an Icelandic man who stayed with the Salmon family as an AFS student during the 1984-’85 school year.
"He called and said, ‘I need some help getting some vehicles,’" Salmon said.
Since returning to Iceland, Steinarsson has been involved in the ocean shipping business and was CEO of a saltwater fishing business. He became involved in the car business when approached about a dealership that was in trouble.
Steinarsson put a group of investors together, and now runs the dealership with two long-time friends. The dealership, in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, sells about 4,000 new and used cars every year.
Salmon received the call from Steinarsson in March and exported his first shipment of cars—two Intfinitis—in May. The shipment arrived in Iceland during the second week of June, when Jeff and his dad, Dean, were there visiting.
"It was kind of exciting to see them," he said.
Iceland is a small country, about the size of Minnesota. Salmon said there is basically no manufacturing there, so everything people there want or need is imported. Because of high import taxes, a car that would cost about $40,000 here can sell for up to around $90,000 in Iceland.
Exchange rate changes also have a big effect on the car exporting business. Now, for example, Steinarsson can buy $2,200 more car under today’s exchange rate then he could a month and a half ago, Salmon said. This has also led to relationships that Salmon has developed with Canadian exporters. He has sold five used cars to Canadian exporters in the past month.
Salmon has exported about 40 cars so far. He is limited somewhat by restrictions on American-made cars, which cannot be exported new. Most new foreign cars can be exported, however, and any used vehicle can be exported.
None of the cars Salmon has exported has been off the lot in Tracy. What happens is that Steinarsson receives a request from a customer for a certain type of vehicle, often with very specific features. Salmon then gets to work, looking for the requested vehicle on online auctions.

Wall-of-Fame inductees grateful for Tracy roots


1940 Tracy High School graduate Howard Rose succinctly summed up his sentiments as was inducted into his alma mater's "Wall-of-Fame." The former college president was honored along with La Vonne Wyffels Lutz (Class of 1951) and Vince Wixon (1962).
Superintendent Dave Marlette introduced the inductees. Each of the inductees, he said, had gone on to distinguished careers after receiving a high school education in Tracy. Their success, he said, supports his belief that a public education in Tracy is an excellent foundation for the dream's of today's District 417 students.

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Wixon, who was the state of Oregon's "teacher-of-the-year" in 1988, said that he felt "well prepared" academically when he left Tracy to attend Luther College.
"I had strong, committed teachers" in Tracy, Wixon said. He thanked the crowd for his Wall-of-Fame selection.
"It's nice to be well thought of."
After earning a bachelor's degree from Luther, Wixon earned a master's degree from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. The English teacher taught at Crater High School in Central Point, Ore., for 23 years. He has also taught classes at Washington State, Northern Illinois, and Utah State universities, and helped edit and produce a series of poetry books and documentary videos and CDs. Now retired from full-time teaching, Wixon is frequently invited to lead writing and poetry workshops.

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Wyffels Lutz was Tracy High School's class salutatorian in 1951. She expressed gratitude for the opportunities that Tracy Public Schools had provided, as well as the Wall-of-Fame honor.
She said that she was pleased that District 417 has adopted a philosophy of encouraging "lifelong learning."
Successful people, she said, are constantly re-educating and reinventing themselves to adapt to changing times.
Wyffels Lutz earned a bachelor's degree at the College of St. Catherine, and a master's degree from the University of Iowa. In 1966 she began working for the Minneapolis Health Department in material and child health. In 1967, she joined the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics. She was named to the Governor's Council on Aging in 1972. In 1986, she established a private practice in professional nutrition management. She became a health facility evaluator for the Minnesota Department of Health in 1992.
Now a resident of Marshall, Lutz is an advisor to the Southwest Minnesota State University senior college, and is involved with a variety of writing and volunteer pursuits.

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Rose, a member of Tracy's 1940 all-state basketball team, attended Drake University before serving with a U.S. combat parachute team in Word War II. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. After World War II, he attended St. Olaf College, where he played football. He later coached St. James High School to a state championship and was the first football coach at the then-new Alexander Ramsey High School in St. Paul.
After earning masters and doctorate degrees, Rose returned to St. Olaf as dean of academic affairs and as a professor. He later become president of Valley City State College in Valley City, N.D., and dean of education and dean of graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse.