Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 9, 2001

Korean War veteran, sculptor earns award for his handicraft

By Lynda Jensen

Looking into the laughing blue eyes of Jerome Rasmussen, 70, it would be hard to tell about what a tough life he's had.

Rasmussen, a Korean War veteran and stroke victim, enjoys life with his wife, Jean, in Waverly, and recently earned a second place distinction in the regional competition at the National Veterans Creative Arts Program at St. Cloud.

As a stroke victim, Jerome is sharp as a tack, but is unable to express himself, Jean Rasmussen said.

This is true for nearly all stroke victims, Jean said. "They don't lose their intelligence, they just can't express themselves," she explained.

The stroke affected the right side of his brain and prevents Jerome from speaking full sentences, but he remains keenly aware of his surroundings and he is alert to everything around him, she said.

Jerome has a wonderful sense of humor and manages to keep his sunny side up, despite agony through surgeries from being wounded in the army, Jean said.

Another thing distinctly alive in Jerome's life is his creative influences, as he expresses them with oil paints to paint pictures and modeling clay to create sculptures.

Jerome started out life as a young recruit stationed in Korea two days after the war started, and he had his right leg smashed to pieces on his birthday a month later from mortar fire, Jean Rasmussen said.

He was riding a transport that was retreating from the burning town of Taejon, Korea, when the vehicle was bombed.

Shell mortar killed all 12 men aboard except three of them - one being Rasmussen.

On that day, July 20, 1950, Jerome said he received the best birthday gift ever - his life.

Since then, he's had 50 surgeries on his leg and nearly constant pain from the damage he sustained. He suffers from chronic osteomylitis, which means the inside of his bone becomes infected, Jean said.

The interior of his bone was regularly scraped from infections until a surgery in 1974, when doctors ran salt water through it continuously to heal the interior of his bone. This was extremely painful, Jean said.

After the surgery, Jerome managed to work his way around on crutches, going to school to become a doctor, but complications with his leg in 1953 caused him to discontinue this dream.

He received a Ph.D in environmental sciences, Jean said. Jerome spent 24 years in the area as a real estate broker.

He was consigned to a wheelchair when the stroke impacted his life, Jean said.

Those in Howard Lake will know him by his parents, who used to live in the house that stood where the parking lot for Kim's Kountry Kafe (formerly known as Red's Pizza) stands today.

Jerome's sister is Betty Hatrick, who is married to Red Hatrick, the original owner of Red's Cafe.

Jerome is also brother to another prominent local person, David Rasmussen.

David sculpted wooden pieces that are evident nearly everywhere, from the wooden Viking ship at the Norseman Restaurant in Cokato, to a 15 foot elk that stands in Colorado Springs.

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