By Linda Scherer
“Hopefully, in a small way, somewhere, my decisions helped make Winsted even better than it is,” Eldron Hecksel said recently after resigning from the Winsted Planning Commission June 25, due to health reasons.
Hecksel has suffered four heart attacks. He has good days, but the not so good days leave him unable to plan too far ahead.
“Some days I can hardly get out of bed,” Hecksel said. “I am just totally worn out.”
“I always felt if you were on a committee, whether it was volunteer or elected, you should attend as many meetings as you possibly can, and I can’t right now,” Hecksel said.
His reasons for resigning from the commission and cutting back on some of his responsibilities are understandable, but the position he leaves open on the commission will not be easily filled.
“Eldron is very dedicated to the idea of the planning commission and helping to obtain its goals,” chairman of the Winsted Planning Commission Marv Ebensperger said. “He is very interested in the development of Winsted and likes its growth potential.”
“He is a great person on the commission, very active, knowledgeable,” Ebensperger said, “and he is going to be missed.”
Although Hecksel is 65, retirement is not part of his vocabulary.
Just last weekend he did an auction in Watertown.
Auctions have been a part of Hecksel’s life for as long as he can recall. He grew up on a dairy farm in Waverly and attended every auction he could.
In 1964, he decided instead of attending auctions he wanted to be the auctioneer, so he enrolled in the Reisch American School of Auctioneering.
He has been an auctioneer for 44 years. During the 1970s, it was a full-time job for him.
“You kind of have to be an entertainer to be an auctioneer,” Hecksel said. “People won’t bid if you just stand there talking. You have to keep them interested.”
His auctions have taken him to Mound, Hutchinson, Buffalo, Glencoe, and this area.
He has managed to have as many as seven auctions in just five days, and he remembers having three auctions for the same guy.
“I have sold just about everything there is,” Hecksel said. “Cattle, milk cows, farm machinery, antiques, garage equipment, hardware stores, grocery stores, land, and houses.”
He even auctioned the old McLeod County jail which was moved to another location to make room for the current jail.
Many items auctioned went for more than Hecksel thought they would. In fact, he said that happened a lot.
Because of his auctioneering experience, he has spoken to numerous clubs and organizations including the Minnesota State Auctioneers’ Association and was asked to teach at an auctioneer school.
Hecksel’s youngest son, Jason, has now teamed up with Eldron and together they work Hecksel Auctions.
Besides an occasional auction these days, Eldron sells real estate. He has been selling for America’s Best Realty since 1977.
He sees real estate as something he can do no matter how old he gets. He and his wife, Sharon, currently own the building that his office is in, along with Sharon’s Beauty Salon, Curves, and Entertainment Plus.
The building is for sale and if they sell, Sharon’s Beauty Salon has a long-term lease and will remain in the building, but Eldron plans to move his office to his home and work from there.
That will give him easy access to his garden. He likes planting and watching things grow which is probably something left over from his younger days on the farm.
“I love to garden and I enjoy it out there where I can talk to my plants,” Eldron said.
He raises many fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, and strawberries.
The Hecksels make Winsted their home
When Eldron married Sharon Lauzer April 20, 1969, they moved to Winsted. They will be married 40 years this coming April.
The couple met in the fall of 1967 when Eldron was hired to combine soybeans for Sharon’s parents, George and Lorraine Lauzer.
Eldron shared meals with the family and Sharon was there helping out at home.
The Lauzers owned a dairy farm near Waverly by Lake Ida, just one mile from Eldron’s parents, Woodrow and Ardis Hecksel, who also owned a dairy farm.
It was Sharon who made the first move to date in the spring of 1968 when she asked Eldron to take her to her Howard Lake prom.
A year later they married and moved to Winsted. Even though they have moved a total of five times during their marriage, none of their homes have been more than five miles from each other.
They have four sons:
• Jeff is married to Kelly Kappes and they live in Lester Prairie with their five children.
• Brian married Karen Anderson and they live in New Ulm and have one child.
• Neil is married to Sharon Lindeen and they live in Lester Prairie with their two children.
• Jason is married to Karen Lindeen and they live in Silver Lake with their three children.
Eldron made the annual Winsted festival a reality
In 1973, Winsted had its first summer festival called American Legion Days. It was sponsored by the Legion but it was through the efforts of Eldron Hecksel that the festival became a reality.
“I had been working at the Blue Note as a bartender for five years. It was when Ray and Cliff Ruzicka owned it, and we had put a Blue Note parade unit in the Mayer parade,” Eldron said.
“Then I got to thinking about Winsted having a parade, too.”
At the very next meeting of the American Legion, Eldron suggested a Winsted festival and parade, but his idea was not received with a lot of enthusiasm. He soon found out that it was going to take time to convince others that a festival would be something people would enjoy.
“Everybody said they wanted more information, and they needed to know what it was going to cost,” Eldron said.
Eldron returned to the second Legion meeting with all of the information requested, but it wasn’t until a third meeting the plan was finally approved.
“And then the ball was in my court,” Eldron said.
And the work began. He had to find rides for the kids and get parade units together, but before he could do any of that he needed to go to the city council to see what kind of permits he needed for the parade.
“Kenny Kohler was mayor at the time,” Eldron said. “Everybody just kind of stared at each other and nobody knew what it was going to take to put a parade together or the kind of permit they needed.”
Eventually, everything came together, but Hecksel recalls there were only a few people from the Legion who helped with the first festival and parade. Eldron also remembers it was not very organized since it had never been done before, and it was hard to know exactly what was needed. Some equipment was last minute.
“I had to go out to Kenny Kritzeck’s silo and climb to the top to get an extension cord from the silage unloader. We needed to run it out to the polka bands so they had electricity. We didn’t have enough cord and nobody else had one,” Eldron said.
The first parade had 101 units and the event was enough of a success that the second year brought more volunteers out to help and the event just kept getting better.
Eldron continued to be in charge of the festival parade until 1986 when health problems started plaguing him.
Problems with his legs made it difficult to stand long enough to line up the parade any longer.
Just one of a six-man building committee
Just this spring, Eldron was part of the six-man building committee that added a handicapped entry, an elevator, and the new addition to St. John’s church in Winsted originally built in 1960. The dedication was April 27.
Eldron wanted it understood in an interview following the dedication that there were six men on the building committee. He did not want his name mentioned separately.
Bruce Gatz was on the building committee with Eldron.
In addition, Gatz worked with him on other church related projects when Eldron was congregation president a position that Gatz took over when Eldron decided not to run again.
“I have nothing but good things to say about Eldron. I have enjoyed working with him on the church councils,” Gatz said.
“He puts community and church to the forefront because he knows he can make a difference,” Gatz said. “There are a lot of guys who do not. He has done a lot of things over the years, and I have a lot of respect for all that he has done.”