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News from the week of May 31, 2006


Retired Marine cites values learned in Tracy

By Seth Schmidt

Retired U.S. Marine Corps. Major Steve Booth says that he learned more than reading, writing and arithmetic from Tracy High School teachers.

“They taught me about leadership, love of country, commitment, accountability and integrity…The lessons (they) taught me served me very well,” the 1970 THS graduate told a Tracy Memorial Day gathering Monday.

The son of Leonard and June Booth received a standing ovation from about 130 people gathered at the Veterans’ Memorial Center.

Booth, who served in the Marines from 1976 to 1994, paid tribute to high school principal, Art Marben.

“Except for my parents and Jesus Christ, Mr. Marben is the person who has had the most positive influence on my life.” Booth also listed a host of other Tracy educators who helped mold his character, including Leo Sebastian, Bill Bolin, Jack Garrett, Al Landa, Ken Knutson, Roger Trulock, Dean Mortland, Ralph Werner, Art Drackley, Keith Stanton, Jane and Kirk Landman, and Vernon Grinde. Booth said that those teachers commanded such respect, students never even considered addressing them as anything but “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

Booth said that he considered it a great honor to be asked to speak about the significance of Memorial Day anywhere. But he felt especially touched to have been asked to address a Memorial Day gathering in his hometown.

“This is a day of remembrance and honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and honoring those who are keeping the wolves away from America’s doors.”

Memorial Day, Booth shared, is personal for him.

“I’ve seen good men die. I’ve put them into body bags…I get a little emotional…There isn’t a day that I don’t think about fallen comrades.” Booth said that the values that these servicemen died to uphold—patriotism, duty, honor, and country—should never be forgotten.

• • •

After graduating from Tracy, Booth earned a degree from Southwest State University. He joined the Marines Corps in 1976. He was commanding officer at a Marine Corps. recruiting station in Cleveland, OH from 1989-91, and was officer in charge at a weapon training base at Quantico, VA from 1992-94. He owned and operated a CBS Fitness health club for ten years, and was elected twice as a Beltrami County Commissioner. He was the Republican-endorsed state Senate candidate in District 2 in 2002.

He has been employed as an explosive detection specialist in Iraq for two separate tours: February to August of 2004, and November of 2004 to March of 2005.

“You really need to be right with your Maker,” Booth said of his work disabling explosive devices in Iraq. Just one misstep or miscalculation, he indicated, can result in being turned into “purple smoke” in an instant.

He does the work, Booth said, because he believes in the mission and he loves his family and country.

• • •

The picture Americans see in news accounts about Iraq is a distorted one, Booth said.

“The media has only told the bad things,” Booth said. For every negative news event that appears on television, magazine, and newspaper accounts, “tens of thousands of good things happen everyday” that aren’t reported.

“They don’t publish pictures of (Iraqis) hugging Marines,” Booth said.

Most Iraqi people admire Americans, and appreciate the fact that Saddam Hussein has been toppled from power, Booth said.

‘Ninety-five percent of the Iraqi people hold Americans in awe.” The Iraqi people look up to the United States, where people can live in peace and freedom, despite America’s ethnically diverse population, Booth said.

The vast majority of Iraqi people, Booth said, deplore the sectarian violence that has broken out in their country, and only want to be allowed to live in peace.

“It is only the extremists who can’t get along,” Booth said.

Booth said that the United States did the right thing in forcibly removing Saddam Hussein from power. Booth compared the evils of the deposed Iraqi dictator to Nazi Germany’s Adolph Hitler.

• • •

In closing, Booth said that one of “the most important things for people in uniform,” is to know that what they are doing is appreciated by the public.. He suggested that the next time citizens see a serviceman, they make a special point to thank them.

• • •

The Tracy American Legion and the City of Tracy unveiled a new display in the lobby of the Veterans’ Memorial Center with pictures of Tracy area servicemen who have died in active service.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano called it “a wonderful display.” He asked that all people in attendance, spend some time looking at the faces of the local men who lost their lives in the military service.


Three named valedictorian

For the first time in Tracy Public School history, the school district is honoring three class valedictorians.

Jillian Tholen, Corey Lanoue and Krysta Tholen were announced as 2006 valedictorians at the Tracy Area High School commencement ceremony Sunday.

Supt. David Marlette, who made the valedictorian announcement, said that all three students had compiled a perfect 4.0 grade-point average (straight A) for grades 9-12. The Class of 2006 is the first group of TAHS students to move through grades 9-12 with the school’s new four-point grading scale.

Bobbi Buyck was named the school salutatorian.

Marlette said that the Class of 2006 “has many outstanding students” and that it was an honor for these four to rank at the top of their class.

Lanoue, the son of Ken and Cheryl Lanoue, plans to study agricultural engineering at South Dakota State University. Jillian Tholen is the daughter of Randy and Elaine Tholen. She plans to study biology and pre-medicine classes at Augustana College. Krysta Tholen the daughter of Gary and Theresa Tholen, plans to attend Truman (Mo.) State University and pursue a science degree. Buyck is the daughter of Joe and Lynn Buyck. She plans to also attend Augustana College with a pre-med program.

Stacy LaVoy, the daughter of Steve and Jan LaVoy, presented the class welcome. Jenna Fischer, Buyck, and Jillian Tholen delivered the senior speeches. Krysta Tholen gave the class farewell.

Principal Chad Anderson noted that the five speakers rank in the top six of their class academically.

“They have distinguished themselves as being outstanding, academically-oriented students. They are respectful, hardworking, positive, and driven to be the best they can be…They have left a legacy of success that will be hard to match for upcoming classes.”

Eighty-three seniors participated in the indoor commencement program. The graduation had been scheduled outdoors on the high school football field. But with forecasts calling for sultry temperatures and blustery winds, the seniors voted several days in advance to hold the program indoors.

Temperatures reached 95 degrees Sunday afternoon. No complaints were heard about the decision to hold commencement in the air-conditioned high school gym rather than outdoors.


Veteran teachers look towards new horizons

Russ Roots ready for new adventures

By Seth Schmidt

How did a native of the San Francisco Bay area wind up teaching for 31 years in Tracy, Minnesota.?

Careful career planning or simple destiny? A preference for tornadoes over earthquakes? A fondness for sweeping Great Plains vistas rather than the Golden Gate bridge?

Russ Roots can’t precisely explain why he’s spent the last three decades rooting for the Twins and the Vikings, rather than the Giants and the 49ers. But he cites three contributing factors.

• A vivacious student teacher from Augustana College named Jane Clark, who had once been crowned Miss Fulda.

• The 1973 occupation of Wooded Knee, S.D. by members of the American Indian Movement.

• A invitation to speak at a Tracy Area High School history class.

“Jane and I were teaching at a school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when Wounded Knee was taken over,” Roots recalls. “The FBI took over our school and used it as their headquarters. After awhile, they basically told us all to take an extended vacation.”

Where to go?

The newlyweds, who had gotten married the previous summer, decided to visit Jane’s family in Southwest Minnesota. Her parents still live in Tracy. Her maternal grandparents, Perle and Fern Nelson, uncles, aunts, and cousins, lived in Tracy.

Bill Bolin, high school history teacher, heard about them and invited them to talk about their experiences at the reservation and the occupation of Wounded Knee.

Two years later, Russ Roots was hired as a full time teacher at Tracy Elementary School, and Jane had become a substitute elementary teacher in Currie.

“Maybe because we spoke for those history classes, maybe that’s why we ended up applying in Tracy when we heard that there were openings here,” Russ said.

Beginning in the fall of 1975, Roots taught fourth, fifth, and sixth graders at Tracy Elementary School for 31 years. He said goodbye to his last students last week.

“I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t enjoyed going to work,” Roots said. But the veteran teacher is ready to consider new adventures.

“We’ve had some health issues,” Roots said. “ Life goes by quickly. There are lots of things to do and lots of places to see. If you want to do something, I think you’d better do it while you can.”


California roots

A 1964 high school graduate from Concord, California, Roots earned a bachelor’s degree from Chico State University. His first teaching job was on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation beginning in the fall of 1970.

“I saw the other side of being a minority,” Roots says. “ I was the minority there out there, and being the minority is not the best.” He met Jane, a student teacher at Pine Ridge, in the spring of 1971.

During the 1971-72 school year, Russ taught on a Navaho Indian reservation near Flagstaff, AZ., while Jane took a teaching job in St. Paul. But the two kept in touch. In the summer of 1972, the two were married. They returned to teach at the Manderson Day School on the Pine Ridge reservation in the fall of 1972, where the historic takeover of Wounded Knee by Indian activists place took place in the spring 1973.

The couple taught at Clear Lake, S.D. during the 1973-74, ‘74-75 school years until moving to Tracy.

Tracy Elementary School, built in the wake of the June 13, 1968 Tracy Tornado, was known then as an unusual “open” school without traditional classrooms.

“It was completely open. I remember some people wanted to put up a few curtains between the classrooms, but I was one of the few people who voted against it.”

Roots liked the school, and the way the classrooms were centered around a central library, and the camaraderie he found on the teaching staff. He recalls some of the school staff from 1975: Linda Papke, Leota Silver, Janet Beyer, Mavis Garrett, Virginia Surprenant, Emory Biteler, Lucille Larson, Janel Rau, Hazel Robinson, Edna Lien, Marj Robinson, Mabel Lingbeck, Millie Horsman, Cliff Michaelis, Delores Jacobs, Jean Miller, Vivian Craig, Florence Jette, Leigh Schimming, Bonnie Johnson, Lowell Stanek, Alyce Fischer, Connie Fischer, Myrtle Muenchow and Verla Gayle Stoffel. Marie Keul was the school nurse, Millie Jensen was a school cook, Ruth Grinde was the librarian, and Swede Beierman was the custodian. Vernon Grinde was the principal.

With the departure of Roots, Rau, and Otto are the only holdovers from the 1975-76 school staff.


Times change

Naturally, some things have changed over the past 30 years.

“I remember that the teacher’s lounge was blue with smoke,” Roots said, recalling a different attitude toward smoking in that era.

The curriculum, he said, was “more basic” 20 to 30 years ago.

“We were able to do more reading writing and arithmetic. There is so much more that we have to do now.”

Today’s students learn keyboarding and how to use of a computer at an early age. Use of the Internet and other electronic media are so commonplace for students, Roots says, that “they want to do everything by computer.” Traditional resources, such as encyclopedias, almanacs, and atlases, are used much less.

An increased amount of class time is devoted to “family life” subjects, and at an earlier age, Roots said.

The student population of the 1970s was larger, more homogenous, and less likely to move.

“The school was bursting. My first year there were fourth sixth-grade sections and three sections in every other grade.”

When Roots joined Tracy Elementary in 1975, the school served about 550 students.

“There was one student of color in the school my first year,” Roots said. Today, about one-fourth of the school’s study body is of Hmong heritage.

Three decades ago, it was unusual to get a new student at Tracy Elementary. Roots remembered that occasionally, an entire school year would pass without a change in his class. Today, students frequently move in and out of the area.

Fifth graders have changed too, Roots said.

“A fifth grader is still a fifth grader, but I guess you would say that they are more worldly than they used to be. They know more things at a young age.” Roots said that he likes teaching fifth graders “because they still like to try and please the teacher, but they are old enough to do things on their own.”

Roots, the teacher, has changed too.

“I am not as harsh of a disciplinarian as I used to be. I let the little things go now.”

He initially used the “strict” discipline approach, because “that is the way I was brought up and that is the way I wanted it.” But, Roots found that his students weren’t used to strict discipline, and attempts to impose stern classroom discipline became counter-productive.

“It works better to be a little looser. Kids still have to understand when it is time to get down to business, but it works better if I let the little things go.”

Overall, Roots said that he has been blessed with good students and concerned, involved parents.

“I talk to teachers in other towns and other states and we don’t have the problems that they have in other places.”

Tracy Elementary School, Roots feels, serves its students well.

“We have had group of concerned teachers that has sincerely want to do what’s best for kids.”

Roots’ has incorporated several favorite subjects into his teaching.

Current events assignments, he said, encourage students to learn about the greater world and get used to reading newspapers, magazines, and watching the news on television.

A unit about Native Americans allowed students to select and study a specific tribe. A “pow-wow” brought the study to a climax.

His students took special interest in an Alaskan dog race by charting the progress of individual mushers.

A unit about Hawaii was spiced up for students with a taste-testing luau.


So what’s ahead?

Their future could include Tracy. Or maybe it won’t.

Russ says that he and Jane are considering a move elsewhere, possibly to the Black Hills area of South Dakota.

Roots says that he and Jane have been happy in Tracy. Box Car City has been the perfect place to raise a family (Jeremy, Class of 1995; Josh, ‘99; and Jordan, 2002;) are all Tracy Area High School graduates. Jane has orchestrated a thriving piano lesson business. They have many close ties.

But, Russ adds, it would also be exciting for them to start over in a new place. They have looked at the option of moving to Spearfish (S.D.)

“We’ll see what happens. Maybe I could get a job in the Black Hills tourism industry and help people enjoy their vacation. That sounds like fun. We’ll take some time deciding what we want to do. But it is nice having some options.”

Dave Sogge to miss 'joy of teaching'

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

On the last week of school, Dave Sogge didn’t look like a man about to retire. Fit, smiling, and suntanned, the 60-year-old took a few minutes off from coaching the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton fast-pitch softball team to talk about his retirement.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” said Sogge.

Retirement will mean two major changes for Sogge. He’s not only retiring from teaching, he is moving to the Fergus Falls area after spending most of his life living in Southwest Minnesota.

“It’s always been my dream to retire in walleye country,” he said.

Sogge grew up in Windom, graduating there in 1964. He attended St. Cloud State and spent a year in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 before graduating. After graduation, he spent a year teaching in St. Cloud and then moved to Balaton, where he taught English for 27 years.

In 2000, Balaton High School closed, and Sogge took two years off from teaching. He got a position at Tracy Area High School in 2002.

When he began teaching in Tracy, Sogge was no stranger to the community. Always active in coaching, Sogge had coached several sports in Tracy and knew many of the kids and families already.

During his teaching tenure, Sogge served as head coach of five different sports: track, cross country, baseball, softball, golf, and basketball. While he enjoyed coaching all of them, Sogge said baseball and softball are nearest and dearest to his heart, because he was a baseball player himself. Sogge is also an avid golfer, and looks forward to exploring the courses in the Fergus Falls area.

“I’m very much looking forward to the time,” Sogge said. While he will have more time, idleness is not in his plan for retirement.

“I can’t just sit and do nothing,” he said. He plans to get a job, probably something related to sporting goods. “It will be a job that doesn’t come home with me,” he said. He will also be coaching basketball and fast-pitch softball.

Sogge has many fond memories of his years of teaching English.

“The kids will tell you I love Macbeth,” Sogge said, laughing.

He said he loves reading what the kids write, though here in Tracy, doing that has been much more time-consuming than it was in Balaton. One of his favorite books to teach was “Lord of the Flies.”

“Seeing the kids react to something that’s difficult and challenging and sometimes reacting positively—that’s the fun and rewarding part of teaching,” he said.

Another highlight of Sogge’s career has been having kids who have graduated come back and say that they appreciated what they learned from him.

At first, he admitted, he was worried about his upcoming retirement. Those worries waned, however, when the possibilities of retirement began to open up in front of him. He also wanted to retire while he still enjoyed teaching and the students.

Sogge said he has appreciated the time he has spent in Tracy, and even though he has enjoyed it, he is looking forward to not having a place to go every day. He’ll miss the students the most, he said.

“The kids are the joy of being in the building,” he said.


Yes!!! Aquatic Center opens

A new era at the Tracy Aquatic Center began Wednesday, May 31.

The refurbished pool opened its doors to swimmers for the first time since August of 2003. The splashes and dives of 2006 officially ended a two-year process to correct deficiencies in the original design and construction of the pool.

Open swimming hours are 2 to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Special programs will include a 6:30 to 8 a.m. early swim period, and an 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. senior swim Monday through Friday. A 5:30 a.m. Monday-Wednesday-Friday water aerobics class begins June 12, with a Tuesday-Thursday 5;30 p.m.-Saturday 9 a.m. class also offered. An “infant aquatics” class is scheduled for Saturdays for 10 a.m. to noon.

The first of three, two-week swimming lesson sessions begins Monday, June 12. Swimming lessons will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

Daily admission rates are $5, with 10-ticket coupon books available for $40. Season passes are $100 for a resident family, $150 non-resident family, $100 for a non-resident single and $60 for a resident single.

Pool passes, or swimming lesson registrations, can be purchased at the aquatic center office. The aquatic center is located in Sebastian Park in northeast Tracy.

• • •

The aquatic center— which has two large flume slides, a drop slide, lap swimming pool, a diving well, children’s pool, numerous water toys and a concession stand—opened in July of 2002. But problems were noticed in the summer of 2003, and a series of extensive tests and evaluations began in the fall of 2003. A $1.2 million repair project began last summer. Most repairs were completed late last year, with final adjustments and clean-up work finished this spring. The installation of a new pool liner and a new gutter system was the cornerstone of the repairs. The City of Tracy collected a $1.2 million out-of-court settlement this January from an aquatic center lawsuit filed by the city.

The aquatic center has been used to train this year’s lifeguard staff for the past two weeks. This Wednesday will mark the first time the facility has been open to the public.


Courthouse replica planned at End-O-Line

A ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a replica of Murray County’s first courthouse will be held at the End-O-Line Park on Sunday, June 4 at 2 p.m. The dedication will coincide with an open house at End-O-Line, during which all attractions will be open at no charge. Members of the Murray County Board of Commissioners, the Mayors of Currie and Slayton and other honored guests will be in attendance. “Most of this ordeal was David’s idea,” says Louise Gervais, director of End-O-Line. David Hansen is the assistant director of the park. Gervais also said the reason that Hansen wanted to construct a replica, was because Currie was Murray County’s first county seat. Both Gervais and Hansen feel that this fact should be recognized at the park.