HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 21, 2005

Jack and Petie Littfin named grand marshals for winter festival

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

“Life is great!”

This simple statement on the spare tire cover of Petie Littfin’s Jeep sums up her and her husband Jack’s outlook on life.

The Winsted couple has been selected to be the grand marshals for the 2005 Winsted Winter Festival parade Saturday, Dec. 3.

“It’s kind of a shock. I thought there were other people who should have been selected,” Petie said.

“This is kind of against my philosophy of doing this stuff, I don’t need to be patted on the back,” Jack said modestly about being selected as grand marshals of the parade.

Petie has been involved in many things at Holy Trinity, including serving as a substitute teacher. Their three children also attended the Catholic school.

Petie was instrumental in getting the Girl Scouts organization started in Winsted. When their daughter, Judy, was 10, Petie was able to launch the local Girl Scout program , which continues to be a vibrant program in the community to this day.

“Now, I’m really involved with the lake association,” Petie said.

Jack has stayed busy over the years being involved with the Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce, serving on its board, and as president for several years, as well as several industry-related boards and committees.

Both Jack and Petie have been involved in the Winsted Summer Festival, Winstock, Higher Ground, and just about every other activity or event that has taken place in Winsted over the past many years.

Petie was quick to note the Winsted Winter Festival conducted a lighted parade one year before the Minneapolis Holidazzle parade, and always tells people that Minneapolis stole the idea from Winsted.

The Littfins to their hometown stems from family histories in Winsted that date back to the mid-1800s.

The Littfins are the fourth generation to live on the east shore of Winsted Lake, where their home is today.

In 1862, the Littfin family settled in the area where Marvin and Jill Fiecke currently live.

“We’re what you call local,” Jack said with a smile.

Petie, who is the daughter of Clarence and Josephine Sterner, also has a very strong history in the Winsted area. Her parents owned and operated a John Deere business in town.

Following graduation from Holy Trinity High School, Jack went to the University of Minnesota, from where he graduated in 1962. Petie, also a Holy Trinity graduate, attended and graduated from college in Mankato.

Jack also served in the Navy for six years before returning back to his hometown of Winsted. Because Jack’s family owned a lumberyard, which was where the current office facility for Littfin Truss is located, he jumped right into the family business, and carried it on to what it has become today.

“I think the community of Winsted is really a vibrant community,” Petie said. “I wouldn’t retire and move any place else – I would never go down south for the winter. I love winter.”

Both Jack and Petie cited the progress that is being made on improving the water quality of Winsted Lake, and the proposed plans for the lake front promenade.

“I think the association has done more for the lake in 10 years . . . we’ve really turned this lake around, and it’s all because of the hard work of members of the lake association,” Petie said.

Jack noted that during the Spotlight on Winsted planning last fall, the lake was listed as the number one asset the community of Winsted has.

“Everybody needs to work on it,” Petie said. “Not just people on the lakeshore, but people along the watershed and everything.”

“We’ve kind of turned our backs on Winsted Lake up until now,” Jack added.

“People say ‘you have a beautiful lake, why don’t you look out that way,’” Petie said. She has served as the president of the Winsted Lake Watershed Association for the past four years, and said she enjoys seeing the work that has been done by the group.

“We have a very good work ethic in Winsted,” Jack added. “I know from my own experience that the work ethic in Winsted is head and shoulders above the work ethic that our competitors have in the Twin Cities market.”

Petie noted the new streetlights on McLeod County Road 1 as an example of the way Winsted keeps looking to improve itself. She reflected back to her high school days at Holy Trinity also, in looking at the overall picture of Winsted.

“I hope Holy Trinity can continue to be the great school it already is,” she said.

What makes Winsted attractive is its ability to provide a “small town living” environment, but being close enough to the Twin Cities,” Jack said.

“The big thing is the jobs that are in town. Up until the 2000 census, there were more jobs in Winsted than there was population,” Jack said. “It was really a unique position for a small town to be in.”

Littfin Truss – a cornerstone of the community for many years

Littfin Lumber started in 1962, and has grown to become the largest single truss manufacturing company in the United States. The company began as a supplier of building materials to local contractors and the general public.

In 1963, that was expanded to include sales of complete buildings, and crews were added for construction and remodeling. By 1964, a small manufacturing plant was built to make wood pallets.

In 1971, the company started manufacturing engineered wood trusses with a homemade jig capable of producing 50 trusses per week. While most of these trusses were used for Littfin’s own building crews, a market was developed throughout the nation for engineered wood trusses. The company began providing trusses throughout the Midwest through a Lumber Dealer network.

“We were building manufactured trusses to speed up on-site labor at job sites,” Jack said. “The idea was to end up building more buildings per month, and speed up production on job sites.”

By 1979, the company had outgrown its manufacturing facilities and began construction of a new 48,000-square-foot facility on 105 acres of land one mile west of Howard Lake.

The mid-1980s saw the addition of a 11,000 square foot saw room, and another addition took place through the 1990s, expanding the facility to nearly 140,000 square feet, and capable of producing more than 3,000 trusses per day.

“Right now, we have about 340 employees we provide jobs for from throughout the whole area,” Jack said. “We’re shipping trusses all over the Upper Midwest basically.”

Littfin Truss now has its offices in Winsted and St. Cloud, and its main manufacturing plant in Howard Lake. Currently, there are about 50 employees in Winsted, 20 in St. Cloud, and the rest in Howard Lake, Jack said.

“The main thing is that we provide a lot of jobs for 340 people,” Jack said.

Littfin Truss is the largest manufacturer in the area right now, with Jack citing the closings of Sterner Lighting and DairiConcepts.

“We’ve been involved in probably more than 50 percent of all the construction in the Winsted area,” Jack said, noting that throughout the years, the trend has changed from his company building the entire project, to now just specializing in the truss aspect of the building.

Always keeping busy

In their spare time, Petie enjoys fishing and photography, and “anything outdoors – you name it, I’ll be there,” she said.

“It’s the greatest – you don’t even have to catch fish, it’s just nice to relax,” she said, also noting she enjoys swimming, skiing, and spending time in her garden.

Jack also enjoys spending time in the outdoors, as well as working on his model trains, and woodworking.

“There’s got to be some action, otherwise I get bored pretty easy,” Jack said with a laugh. He prefers hobbies that present something in the end.

“It’s like watching football,” he said. “When you’re done, you’ve been sitting there for four hours, but you have nothing to show for it. If I spend five hours working on my hobby – when I’m done, at least I have something to show for it.”

The Littfins also travel to visit their three children, who have moved out of state.

Their daughter, Jill, married Dan Heffron and lives in Middleton, Wis.; Jackie married Steve Beeghley, and currently lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.,; and daughter Judy married Paul Schmeling, and lives in Altadena, Calif.

The Littfins have one grandson named Jack, which is Jill and Daniel’s son, and one grandchild on the way, who is Judy and Paul’s child.

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