Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 13, 2005

Machemehls will be riding in this year’s parade instead of driving

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

At the Lester Prairie parade during Longhorn Days every year, people seem to notice a bright red Jeepster carrying an ambassador candidate or some local dignitary.

This year, the owners of that Jeepster – Ralph and Donna Machemehl – will be getting a ride in the parade instead of giving one.

For all of their services to various organizations and events over the past many years, the couple has been selected to serve as the grand marshals in the Longhorn Days parade Saturday evening.

“It’s an honor to be selected,” Ralph said.

Ralph grew up between Lester Prairie and Silver Lake on a farm on Highway 7, near the school district lines.

“That was the Lutheran/Catholic line,” he said with a laugh, noting he attended parochial school and went on to graduate from Lester Prairie High School before going into the military. Throughout his high school years, Ralph worked at Jenneke Oil.

He served from 1958 to 1960 in the United States Army, and also married Donna (Severson), who was originally from Wisconsin, but had moved with her family to a farm about three miles south of Lester Prairie.

Donna worked for Dr. John J. Smyth. The couple spent nine months in Aberdeen, Maryland on a “nine-month honeymoon,” where Donna worked in civil service for part of that time.

Upon returning home to Minnesota, the couple started a family, and Ralph went back to his old high school stomping grounds at Jenneke Oil for a job.

In 1971, Ralph purchased the bulk oil part of the business, and went on to buy the station in 1972.

The beginning years were difficult for the couple due to the gas shortage of the 1970s. The Machemehls were only allowed to purchase the same amount of fuel as they moved the year before. Farmers were also allotted only the previous year’s amount, and customers were limited to $5 gas purchases.

While Ralph was operating the business, Donna took care of the couple’s three children – Colleen (Radtke), Gregg, and Kori.

Both Ralph and Donna have been involved in countless community activities and organizations throughout the years.

Ralph was a member of the Lester Prairie Fire Department for 26 years, is a 30-year member of the American Legion, is a charter member of the Lester Prairie Lions Club, and has also been active with the Jaycees in the past.

Donna has also been active with the Jaycees, the community chest fund drive, blood drives, and is the secretary of the American Legion Auxiliary.

At St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie, both Machemehls can be found participating in various things – Donna with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, the church choir, and being a co-chairperson of the recent 100th anniversary celebration at the church. Ralph is also a church chairman and an elder.

He has also served on the board of directors for the community chest fund drives. The couple is also involved with Lester Prairie Schools, as Donna was an original member of the Lester Prairie Education Foundation, and continues to serve on that committee.

Since retiring from the oil business in 2000 and selling the station (now Big Don’s Carthedral), the Machemehls have continued to be involved with various projects throughout the community, and have also enjoyed some time traveling and spending time with their four grandsons – Matt, Mike, Ben, and Nick.

“We put more miles on the pick-ups now than we did when we had the station,” Ralph said with a laugh. The two are also members of a Jeepster Association, and attend various rallys with their World War II era Jeepster. They have even been asked to host a rally in 2007.

“We have always liked Lester Prairie – it’s always been our home,” Donna said. “We’d have a hard time leaving here.”

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