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News from the week of April 6, 2006


Three enshrined on THS 'Wall of Fame'

A songwriter, a business man honored by alma mater and a farm market analyst and commodities trader

Dennis Morgan continues to follow his passions, four decades after leaving Tracy to pursue a music career.

Last week, the former Tracy farm kid was inducted into the Tracy High School Wall of Fame. His sister, Julie, accepted the award on his behalf. Morgan was unable to attend, because of scheduled performances at the annual Songwriters’ Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It was impossible for me to be there,” Morgan explained, in an e-mail to the Tracy Headlight-Herald. He said that he felt very honored by the award.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in giving me (this) beautiful award. “I’m very proud of the award and I’m very proud of Tracy.”

The son of Esther and the late Lester Morgan, Dennis grew up on a small farm west of Tracy. Music, not his agronomy, was his first love, and he got his first guitar at age 1l after watching the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. As a teenager, he played music with friends who included Steve Thielges, John Glaser, Glen Austin, Dan Lenzen and Gary Rue. Morgan started writing songs and played in his first band, “The Outer Limits,” and later “P.J. and the Sleepers.” By the summer of 1968, he was performing at Valhalla as “Morgan.”

According to Morgan’s web site, moved to Chicago to pursue a recording offer. A record company took him to Nashville for the first time, where he recorded some demos. For months, Morgan traveled across the country, performing where ever there was an opportunity.

Morgan returned periodically to Tracy before permanently moving to Nashville, playing and singing at honky tonks and bars and passing the hat for money. He eventually got work as a background singer and guitarist and helped produce and write advertising jingles for national companies.

The songwriter’s first big break came at the age of 23, when Charlie Pride recorded one of his songs. His first No. 1 hit occurred two years later when he and Kye Flemming wrote “Sleeping Single In A Double Bed” for a then unknown Barbara Mandrell.

Morgan has gone on to write 30 No. 1 songs. His music has been recorded on over 300 million records and his songs have been nominated for Grammy awards seven times. He earned a Grammy for the song “I Knew Your Were Waiting (For Me)” recorded by Aretha Franklin and George Michael.

Morgan’s songs include “Let Me Let Go,” recorded by Faith Hill and Vince Gill; “Smoky Mountain Rain” and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it For the World,” by Ronnie Milsap; “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” by Barbara Mandrell and George Jones; “Tennessee Moon” by Neil Diamond, “Just a Little Love” by Reba McIntire, and “Second Nature” by Eric Clapton.

The Nashville Songewriters Hall of Fame member has won a host of awards and Gold and Platinun album designations. He has been BMI’s “Songwriter of the Year” six times.

• • •

Morgan still returns occasionally to his Tracy roots. In 1996, he made a recording with the Tracy Community Children’s Choir. In 2002, he played a concert for Tracy Box Car Days.


Jim Keul learned the value of “deferred gratification” at an early age.

As a small, but muscular candidate for Leo Sebastian’s Scrapper football team in the early 1960s, young Keul was one of the fastest players on the team. He dreamed of carrying the ball and scoring touchdowns.

Coach Sebastian had a different idea, and assigned Keul to play tackle.

Keul would score no touchdowns in his prep football career. But his efforts in the Scrapper line were rewarded with an undefeated football season for he and his teammates.

“My kids know that I like to talk about deferred gratification,” the 1962 Tracy grad said, in accepting his Wall of Fame induction. “Take the garbage out now, and you won’t have to do it later. Study hard now and it will help you get a better job tomorrow.” Keul said that he hoped his family—wife Sue, and children Kim and John—would look on the education banquet as a small “delayed gratification” for the many times they tolerated his absences for work.

• • •

Keul has had careers in the publishing, electronic media, marketing, and printing fields that spans five decades.

He grew up doing odd jobs at the Tracy Headlight-Herald shop, where his father, Vic, was the managing editor. His mother was a public health nurse with Tracy Public Schools. Following high school and college at St. John’s University, Keul became a U.S. Army medical officer, and served in Vietnam. He returned to Tracy in the 1970s to run the family newspaper business. He became a partner in several other community newspaper operations and helped establish Page One Printers in Slayton. In the late 1970s, he formed a company that brought the first cable television service to Tracy.

In 1983, Keul and his family moved from Tracy to Jackson after the purchase of the Jackson County Livewire. He later also purchased the Jackson County Pilot. In the 1990s, he helped established Rural Connections, an Internet provider company, which was later sold to Earthlink. In Jackson, Keul has been active in work for economic development, and has assisted with several large business and job expansions.

• • •

Supt. of Schools Dave Marlette, introducing Keul, called the inductee “a driving force in the development of Southwest Minnesota.” He said that Keul’s Wall of Fame recommendations are more numerous than any previous inductee.

Marlette read excerpts from several recommendations.

Retired U.S. Army General Glenn K. Otis, a former NATO commander, was an Army Colonel during the Vietnam War. Otis was wounded and was picked up by Keul’s medical unit. The retired general wrote:

“Jim was a lieutenant in a Cavalry squadron whose members were in daily contact with the enemy. He had one of the most difficult jobs in that front-line unit. He was in charge of the medical detachment and faced the daily tasks of seeing to the casualties of this unpopular war. He shared the same dangers as the frontline tank and infantrymen, and was often exposed to enemy fire, yet had to proceed coolly with arranging for the treatment of seriously wounded troops.

“There are no statistics to account for the number of men who are alive today because of the actions of Jim Keul and his medics, led by Jim under very trying conditions in jungles, rice paddies, and extremes of heat and precipitations…”

Sherry Ristau, president of the Southwest Minnesota Foundation, wrote:

“Jim truly defines the words ‘community leader.’ He not only gives selflessly to his home community of Jackson; he also works to create opportunities for the broader southwest regional community. He knows how to bring people together to dream, create a vision, and tackle opportunities that many others wouldn’t even attempt. The leadership he has provided to the Jackson Economic Development Association is unparalleled and the new businesses, jobs and opportunities he’s brought to the Jackson area speak volumes of his commitment and outstanding track record.”

Chuck Prunty, Tracy wrestling coach from 1959-64, wrote that Keul was one of two young men who “stood above the rest” during his 32 years of coaching.

“We had a great team in 1962 and had a wonderful group of young men that I will never forget. Jim Keul was the leader getting us the win or pin when the team needed it…his work ethic was outstanding to go along with a great attitude and a heart to match. He was a great competitor and always placed the team ahead of his individual accomplishments.” Keul, he noted, advanced to the single class state wrestling meet in both his junior and senior years, and finished as the state runner-up in 1962.

• • •

Keul told the Tracy education crowd that he remains passionate about rural economic development.

Any community’s greatest resource, he said, is its people. Local people can promote economic development simply by being good ambassadors for their communities and being alert to potential leads among the people they know and encounter in daily life. Many job expansions, he said, develop from existing local businesses, so community leaders need to be ready to help those expansion prospects. He said that the Tracy school system and Tracy Economic Development Director Bob Gervais were two of Tracy’s best economic development resources.

Expressing gratitude for his Wall of Fame selection, Keul said that Tracy people will always be special to him.

“I really feel fortunate to have been able to meet a lot of great people.”


Ron McDaniel said that he felt like the beneficiary of a large life insurance after being named to his alma mater’s Wall of Fame.

“Someone else has done all the work, and paid for the policy, and I am the one who is benefiting,” the 1968 Tracy graduate said.

“Mr. McDaniel is a huge promoter and major contributor to the Tracy School District,” said Supt. Dave Marlette. “Ron has given time, efforts and financial support. It is (his) unselfish, humble goal to give back to Tracy Area Schools what he feels was a great education and a solid foundation for life.”

After high school, McDaniel attended Concordia College, where he earned degrees in English and political science in 1972. He went on to graduate school in Glendale, Arizona, where he earned a master’s degree in international management. Since 1976, he has been a commodity broker for Continental Grain. In 1979, he was the recipient of a national hedging “broker of the year” award. He has a weekly radio show where he provides analysis and commentary on farm markets.

• • •

The son of Arnie and the late –––––––––McDaniel, Ron said that Tracy schools and teachers provided him with a foundation for success. But ironically, he said, although he works with numbers on a daily basis, math wasn’t his strong suit in junior and senior high school.

“Geography, history, and English were my favorite subjects, but the logic of math was something I didn’t have a liking for.”

Yet, McDaniel said, Tracy teachers stressed the importance of being diversified. For example, McDaniel said he wasn’t much of a musician in high school. Singing on key was a struggle for him. Yet, Leo Sebastian, his football coach, confronted him and asked why he wasn’t in choir. At his coach’s urging, joined choir and enjoyed the experience.

“Be diverse in your education. You always learn something,” McDaniel said.

The market analyst offered these suggestions for today’s students.

• Carefully consider all evidence when analyzing an issue. Initially, believe no one, including yourself.

• Don’t give up on a decision too early.

• Read and learn as much as you can.

• Study hard, be prepared, make decisions, and learn from mistakes.

• Act with integrity, be poised and confident, strive for competitive greatness.

He said that he also tries to follow the advice from his father, growing up on a farm. “Do the job right the first time.”

• • •

Marlette shared a letter that McDaniel wrote after learning of his Wall of Fame induction.

“I am most grateful and humbled…so many noble and good people have been touched by our school. Tracy is bedrock for me. I would like to thank the taxpayers, school board, administrators, staff, and caring teachers/coaches for making the investment in kids like me.

“I have been the beneficiary of loving parents, a devoted family and wife (Marcia) and a wonderful hometown community. Many folks have volunteered countless hours, and more than a few have sacrificed their health and their lives in order to give my schoolmates and I the freedom and opportunity to flourish.

Life is about competition, balanced with love, service, and compassion, I love to compete, to strive for excellence, and to succeed. …I study hard, play to win, learn from my mistakes, and move forward.

“…there is great joy in sharing and giving back to one’s community. A personal goal of mine is to help make sure that young people have the same opportunity that I enjoyed. I am very proud of the tradition of excellence and competitive spirit that has been the hallmark of Tracy School and Tracy Community.”


Nancy Jones, Chris Howard honored as 'teachers-of-year'

Parents, students, and community members gave “teachers of the year” Nancy Jones and Chris Howard standing ovations at District 417’s annual education banquet Thursday.

Jones is a sixth grade teacher at Tracy Elementary School. Howard is the high school industrial arts instructor and FFA advisor.

Howard, who is leaving the school district this summer to farm near his hometown of Miller, S.D. indicated that his decision to resign had been a difficult one.

“It hasn’t been an easy year, knowing that this is going to be my last year,” Miller told the banquet crowd.

Jones said later that she is grateful for the honor.

“It’s wonderful to be able to work in a community with so many good families, good kids, and supportive staff members,” the elementary mentor said.

• • •

A 1978 graduate of Windom Area High School, Jones earned a degree in elementary education from Southwest Minnesota State College in Marshall in 1982. After college, she worked at a B. Dalton bookstore in Marshall. She and her family moved to Tracy in 1988 after Nancy accepted a teaching job at St. Mary’s Catholic School. She taught at St. Mary’s for seven years.

In 1995, Jones became the lead teacher at Wee World Pre-School, and was also employed as the office receptionist for Tracy Publishing Company.

She began her career at Tracy Elementary in 1997 as a kindergarten instructor, later moving to the sixth-grade.

She and her husband, Tim, have two children, Zack, a 2001 Tracy Area High School graduate, and Danielle, a 2004 Tracy grad.

Taylor Hoffbeck, Tracy Elementary student council president, presented the award to Jones, commending the teacher on her warm, caring attitude toward students.

• • •

Howard joined the high school faculty in 2000, after earning his bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings.

“It’s easy teaching in a place where the students want to learn,” Howard said, after being introduced by David Schiller, high school student council president. Howard said he felt fortunate to have taught in a supportive community.”

“I’ve never been turned down when I ask people for help,”

Howard and his wife, Amy, have two daughters, Alana and Maya.


Glowing report card

Community gets kudos for education support

“I am so proud to be a part of this community and this school system.”

Emcee Deb Miller seemed to sum up the sentiments of many at the annual Tracy education banquet Thursday night.

“I have never seen a community support education like this,” said Supt. of Schools David Marlette.

High School Principal Chad Anderson agreed.

“I’ve never been anywhere where they have a banquet like this honoring academics.”

Marlette said that Tracy has a school system that allows motivated students to succeed in whatever field they choose. “You can get there from here,” he said, borrowing a college-recruiting phrase.

About 385 people attended the catered banquet at Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill. Ron McDaniel, Dennis Morgan, and Jim Keul were inducted into the Tracy High School “Wall of Fame.” Nancy Jones and Chris Howard were honored as District 417’s “teachers of the year.” Sharon Hohler and Karen Ziemke received the Tracy Education Association’s “Helping Hands” award. (See related stories). Other awards presented at the banquet were:


Academic letters

Twenty-nine students in grades 10-12 were recognized for earning academic letters and stars. To earn a letter, students needed to earn at least an “A-” (3.67) grade-point average for four consecutive quarters. Stars are presented for the second and third time a student qualifies for an academic letter.

Sophomore letters—Kyle Fraser, Eric Lanoue, Steven Paradis, Maria Schmidt, Jennifer Vroman, John Gervais, Katie Olafson, Andrew Prairie, Rachel Stobb, Spencer Zwaschka.

Junior letters—Emily Gilmore.

Junior first star—Celia Brockway, David French, Jacqueline Haecherl, Mail Lia Moua, Emily Scharfe.

Senior first star—Nicole Hansen, Brad Lanoue.

Senior second star—Bobbi Buyck, Sarah Fritz, Stacy LaVoy, Mai Vue Moua, David Schiller, Krysta Tholen, Jenna Fisher, Cory Lanoue, Casie Miller, Victoria Ruppert, Jillian Tholen, Jackie Vroman.


Student achievers

St. Mary’s School, Tracy Elementary, and Tracy Area High School students each honored students for academic achievements. Award recipients from each school were:

St. Mary’s—Cody Christian, Lauren Schaar, Karli Tholen.

Tracy Elementary— Heidi Bengtson, Ashley Daniels, Haleigh Daniels, Anna Johnson, Katherine Johnston, Bradley Schmidt, Erin Story, Kassidy Van Gelderen, Cecilia Trejo.

Tracy Area High School—Seniors: David Schiller, Stacy LaVoy, Mai Vue Moua, Daniel Malmberg, Bobbi Buyck, Amanda Olafson, Brad Lanoue, Jenna Fischer, Derek Daniels. Juniors: Mai Lia Moua, Celia Brockway, Logan Sanow, Emily Gilmore, David French, Cha Her, Levi Miller, Brady Jackson. Sophomores: Mallory Fultz, Rachel Stobb, Lindsey Daniels, Steven Paradis, Jessica Her, Va Xiong, Leng Thao, Jennifer Vroman, Andrew Prairie. Freshmen: Joshua Hook, Carly Miller, Isaac Dolan, Zer Moua, Spencer Anderson, Ka Lia Thao, Mail Kao Vue, Bridgit Kirsh. Eighth grade: Megan Gilmore, Aric Carpenter, Ashley Hedges, Brittany Larson, Mai Che Vue, Damali Vue, Joshua Soupir. Seventh grade: Joseph Hook, Rachel Wilking, Eric Carter, James Fultz, Megan Van Essen, Teng Xiong, Zachary Campbell, Bee Thao.


Service pins

District 417 employees observing their 10th, 20th,, 30th, 40th employment anniversaries were given service pins.

40 year—Connie Lien, high school paraprofessional.

30 year—Russ Roots, fifth-grade teacher.

20 year—Randy McIntire, high-school art teacher; Jeanette Hollingsworth, finance assistant; Sue Nackerud, high school principal secretary.

10 year—Ed Brandt, math teacher; Bill Tauer, activities director; Marla Anderson, elementary paraprofessional; Kris Hansen, high school paraprofessional; Marcella Vogel, high school paraprofessional; Bob Bruder, transportation director.

School Support Award

Seth Schmidt, editor of the Tracy Headlight-Herald, received the School Support Award. School Board Chairman Dan Zimansky made the presentation.

Section is Saturday at SMSU

Tracy Area High School students are the Section 3A, Sub-Section 11 speech champions. The speakers won the tourney in convincing fashion by 54 points. The champs had 182 points followed by Redwood Valley with 128. Other sub-section teams competing were Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Lakeview, Dawson-Boyd, Canby, and Minneota.

Competitors who placed in the top four places are advancing to the Section 3A tournament at Southwest Minnesota State University. Tracy will have 17 entries at the tournament.

Tracy had a total of seven champions out of the possible 13 categories at sub-section.

Seniors Jenna Fischer and Bobbi Jo Buyck along with freshman Skylar Carlson topped their individual categories by going straight No. 1s in all of their rounds including finals. Senior Brad Lanoue and junior Celia Brockway were first in duo interpretation, senior Danielle Thooft took first in serious poetry, junior Levi Miller was first in serious prose and sophomore Rachel Stobb won the serious drama title.

Second-place medal winners included sisters Casie and Carly Miller in duo interpretation, junior Emily Gilmore in serious drama, and sophomore Jeremiah Martin in serious poetry.

Third-place medal winners were juniors Patrick VanNevel in creative expression, Bekah Zens in great speeches, freshman Alicia Rykhus in serious poetry, and seventh grader Tara Norstegard in storytelling.

Fourth-place medal winners are senior Jacob Gilmore in creative expression, junior Allison Rasmussen in serious prose, sophomores David Nilius in great speeches, Jordan Christiansen in informative, and Ben Van Moer in storytelling.

Students who placed at sub-sections, but did not advance to sections were sophomore Brittnee Michael in storytelling and freshman Megan Nelson in serious drama. Both are first alternates to sections.

Two competitors—Jessica Mason and Melissa Noerenberg—did not compete at sub-section due to illness.

“It was a wonderful day,” said Coach Tamara Purrington. “Many of the teammates were battling or recovering from illnesses, but that did not stop them. They took the tournament seriously and went into competition with everything they had. We are very proud of each member of the team. We are all looking forward to sections.”

The Section 3A tournament will be held this Saturday, April 8, at SMSU. The competition starts at 9 a.m. and is open and free to the public.

New manager takes helm at Shetek State Park

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Melody Webb is the new manager at Lake Shetek State Park.

Webb said the position was a career opportunity for her, and a promotion from her previous position. She was assistant manager at Flandrau State Park near New Ulm before accepting the Lake Shetek State Park job. Prior to that, she was manager at Glacial Lakes State Park, until the position was reduced to part-time.

Webb began her career in North Dakota Parks. Through work in the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, she enjoyed working in several parks.

“I’ve spent 20 years working primarily in prairie parks,” said Webb. She’s currently driving to Lake Shetek State Park from New Ulm, but hopes to be able to move into the manager’s house soon. She is originally from the Mankato area.

Webb said she has an appreciation for parks such at Lake Shetek.

“I really enjoy the WPC/CCC era of state parks,” she said. “The history is just phenomenal.”

Webb’s was originally trained to work in park interpretive centers, and hopes to be able to bring more interpretive programs back to Lake Shetek.

“That’s what drew me to parks and a career in parks,” she said.

Webb said park jobs have changed drastically since she began her career. Most people who work in parks chose that path because they enjoy working with people and being outdoors. Now, much of their time is spent at a computer instead of interacting with the visitors.

One of Webb’s goals for the park is resource management. She hopes to work on improving water quality, prairie restoration, wetland improvement, and controlling wild species such as buckthorn that are sneaking into the park.

Webb’s ultimate goal is to make the park the best it can be. She said she understands the benefit parks have to local communities, and that a stronger park helps to build stronger communities.

“Sometimes fringe parks such as Lake Shetek State Park get forgotten,” said Webb. “I would like to see some major improvements so visitors have more to come see, do, and enjoy.”

Cuts in recent years have forced many parks to cut programs and staff. Webb said the staff at Lake Shetek Park has done an excellent job considering these obstacles. Having seen a similar situation during her time in North Dakota, she is hopeful that Minnesota state parks will be able to make a similar turn-around for the positive.

Webb said she has made her desire for park improvements known to the division, and is hopeful that they will come to fruition. She is also pleased to hear that Lake Shetek State Park has a strong “friends” group, and is looking forward to working with them on projects.

“I’m really excited about being here,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to be here and make positive changes when the division is taking notice and wanting to make improvements. I think this will be an exciting time for this park.”