Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Jan. 7, 2002

Former Winsted resident carried Olympic torch

By Ryan Gueningsman

"It was the greatest day of my life."

That's how former Winsted resident Larry Kettner described his quarter-mile run with the Olympic torch in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 5.

Kettner carried the torch on its 65-day trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 2002 winter games.

Kettner, blind since 1970, is able to do all of his own cooking, canning, and can give better directions through the streets of St. Paul (where he currently resides) than most people.

Kettner lived in Winsted from 1974 to 1986.

He worked in the globe department on an assembly line at Sterner Lighting Systems for a little more than two years.

"Those big globes on the IDS Building ­ I worked with some of those, and the Nicollet Mall lights, too," Kettner said.

He worked there until he got laid off. Following his layoff, he traveled all across the United States, and joined many different groups and organizations to keep himself busy ­ including the National Society for the Blind, the Moose Lodge, the Lions Club, and most recently the Hopkins Elk Lodge.

Kettner stayed in town and enjoyed life in Winsted until he moved in 1986.

"One thing I remember most about Winsted is, when I'd be out walking, people would always holler 'Hi' from across the street. People were so friendly," Kettner said.

He was chosen to run a quarter of a mile with the torch in Charlotte, N. C.

Kettner now works five days a week in the kitchen for the Blake School District in St. Paul, who has its food service through a company called the Compass Group.

His supervisor, Kymberli Chase, suggested the nomination to her corporate supervisors.

"The corporate office for Compass is in Charlotte, so some people from down there, and Kymberli, nominated me to carry the torch," Kettner said.

"They nominated me, and from there on, I don't really know how they pick and choose certain people.

"I didn't know what to say," Kettner said, when he was notified of the honor.

Kettner and Chase boarded a plane and headed to Charlotte, N.C. where they were taken to a hotel Dec. 4.

The next morning, they had a nice breakfast, and went to the corporate office of the Compass Group.

"That afternoon, we had a luncheon with the big guys, there were 10 people seated at the head table, and I was one of them," Kettner said.

Following that luncheon, Kettner headed back to his hotel and changed into his Olympic windsuit that he would wear while he carried the torch.

"After I changed, we went back. There was a professional photographer there, and we had our pictures taken ­ there were several other different people there, too. Then I had to go up and talk a little bit.

"I was pretty nervous when they gave me the microphone ­ I thanked them for picking me to carry the torch, and then it was time to go," Kettner said.

Although he was originally supposed to carry the torch a half a mile, it got shortened to a quarter of a mile because they were behind schedule.

"I was supposed to get it at 6:45 p.m., but first got it at 7:30 p.m.," Kettner said.

"I had a guide, Katie Russel, and there was a security guard right there with me. Four motorcycle cops were in front of me. There were a lot of people lined up, most of them from Compass, and it was a great feeling.

"The only thing I'm not too happy about is that none of the newspapers or television stations here in the cities would do anything with this. It was just kind of disappointing because my family, co-workers, and friends would have enjoyed reading about it and hearing about it," Kettner said.


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