HJ-ED-DHJ

Jan. 29, 2007

Lake memories from a 'lifer'

The ‘eyes’ of Howard Lake belong to Gordy Gruenhagen

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

“He’s a lifer,” laughed Helen Gruenhagen as she talked about her husband Gordy, and how he was born and raised in Howard Lake.

“I was born on a farm just north of here (he lives on Howard Lake) where I grew up. We’ve lived here on the lake for 40 years. I didn’t get very far,” Gordy laughed.

Gordy and Helen will be married for 50 years in October. Although Helen attended the old, two-room public school in Winsted in her elementary years, they both graduated from Howard Lake High School in 1956 and were married in 1957.

The couple has four children, 12 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

For close to 30 years, Gordy would walk all the way around the lake five days a week, all year round.

“It’s exactly five miles all the way around. I’ve walked thousands of miles just around the lake,” Gordy said.

“I’d walk when it was 20 below zero and I’d walk when it was hot. I would always go at 5 a.m.,” Gordy said.

When he first started his walks, Gordy explained that many people would stop and ask if he needed a ride. “After a while, they ignored me,” he laughed.

“I had a mild stroke a few years ago and I had to quit,” Gordy said.

A sentimental gold mine

Gordy has fond memories of a previous neighbor and friend who passed away, Al Wildung.

“He was the first farmer in this area to have electricity. He worked for the electric company so that’s why he was the first,” Gordy said.

“His wife was a school teacher and they never had kids. She wouldn’t allow him to smoke his pipe in the house so he would go sit in his pumphouse and smoke. He would write on the wall in the pumphouse things like the temperature and when he starting seeding crops,” Gordy explained.

After a while, Wildung started writing on his Security State Bank calendars instead.

After Wildung passed away, Gordy spotted the calendars at the auction and bought the big bundle for 25 cents because, “I knew what they were because as I would visit with Al, he would show me the calendars,” he said.

“There’s different notes on the calendars like the freeze-up and ice-out dates of the lake, the temperature, when he started seeding oats, that I find interesting,” Gordy said.

“Especially to someone who grew up on a farm,” laughed Helen.

“January, February, and March he would write the most, then I suppose he got busy on the farm,” Gordy said.

“He was a nice guy to visit with, so was his wife,” he added.

“Because Al had a habit of doing this (writing facts on the calendar), that’s how I got started doing it,” Gordy said.

Now, along with Wildung’s records dating back to the 1940s, Gordy has kept his own dating back to 1967.

“I started my records on the wall of my garage. Then, when I bought a computer I switched to recording things on the computer,” Gordy said.

Part of lake research

Every year, Gordy receives a green postcard from Dr. Ken Stewart of The State University of New York, Department of Biological Sciences who is studying global warming.

Gordy writes on the note card the freeze-up and ice-out dates from the previous year on Howard Lake.

“Since I’ve been here, I get this postcard. I don’t know why I ever started getting the survey or where he got my name, but I fill it out every year,” Gordy said.

“Jim Gilbert talks about Ken Stewart Sunday mornings on WCCO. He sends them (the postcards) to Stewart also,” he said.

“We’ve just been here a long time, and we just keep track of a few things,” Gordy said.

Record of freeze-up & ice-off of Howard Lake
by Gordy Gruenhagen

Froze over Ice off

1949 N/R 1950 May 2

1950 N/R 1951 April 28

1951 Nov. 19 1952 April 22

1952 N/R 1953 April 10

1953 Dec. 15 1954 April 13

1954 Dec. 4 1955 April 11

1955 N/R 1956 N/R

1956 N/R 1957 April 19

1957 N/R 1958 April 10

1958 N/R 1959 April 5

1959 N/R 1960 April 13

1960 N/R 1961 April 3

1961 Dec. 8 1962 April 24

1962 Dec. 10 1963 April 3

1963 Dec. 10 1964 April 14

1964 Nov. 23 1965 April 30

1965 Nov. 28 1966 N/R

1966 Dec. 2 1967 April 8

1967 Nov. 29 1968 Mar. 30

1968 Dec. 5 1969 April 17

1969 Nov. 20 1970 April 18

1970 Nov. 24 1971 April 15

1971 Nov. 27 1972 April 25

1972 Nov. 29 1973 Mar. 30

1973 Dec. 6 1974 April 18

1974 Nov. 30 1975 April 27

1975 Nov. 26 1976 April 3

1976 Nov. 14 1977 April 10

1977 Nov. 25 1978 April 16

1978 Nov. 21 1979 April 23

1979 Dec. 1 1980 April 18

1980 Nov. 28 1981 Mar. 24

1981 Dec. 5 1982 April 18

1982 Nov. 24 1983 April 14

1983 Nov. 29 1984 April 14

1984 Dec. 4 1985 April 12

1985 Nov. 21 1986 April 8

1986 Nov. 13 1987 Mar. 16

1987 Dec. 4 1988 April 6

1988 Dec. 12 1989 April 17

1989 Nov. 23 1990 April 1

1990 Dec. 2 1991 April 7

1991 Nov. 7 1992 April 5

1992 Nov. 27 1993 April 19

1993 Nov. 26 1994 April 13

1994 Nov. 30 1995 April 3

1995 Nov. 28 1996 April 23

1996 Nov. 19 1997 April 19

1997 Nov. 17 1998 Mar. 31

1998 Dec. 20 1999 Mar. 31

1999 Dec. 16 2000 Mar. 15

2000 Nov. 21 2001 April 20

2001 Dec. 20 2002 April 15

2002 Dec. 3 2003 April 9

2003 Nov. 24 2004 April 2

2004 Dec. 14 2005 April 6

2005 Nov. 30 2006 April 7

2006 Dec. 5 (but then opened up from mild weather)


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