By Jen Bakken
LORETTO, MN Typically when someone steps down from a council or commission after serving more than 30 years, they receive a plaque or some token of appreciation for their years served.
In Willie Vetsch’s case he was the one presenting the plaque which should be of no surprise to anyone who knows him.
After 33 years on the Loretto City Council, Vetsch’s years of service came to an end in January.
At the first city council meeting of the year the first in 33 years he was not sitting behind the table guiding the direction of the community he presented the Loretto City Council with a plaque containing a picture of the old Loretto water tower that stood on Lorenz Street from 1946 until it was dismantled in 2007.
Vetsch took it upon himself to keep the memories of the historic water tower alive for future generations. The picture is on a piece of barn wood from Nick Oeffling’s property, located north of where the water tower stood.
The water tower needed to be replaced with a water booster station because the expense of repainting, environmental studies because of lead paint needing to be removed, and it would have had to be elevated for better line pressure.
Along with that water tower, many other things have changed in the area during Vetsch’s time with the city council, including many new developments such as The Ponds, Hillview, Whispering Meadows, and Highland.
“We have always taken pride in our ballfields too,” Vetsch said, admitting it has been interesting being on the city council, and saying he appreciates the friends he has made.
His involvement with the community has included 24 years with the Loretto Fire Department as well.
As a carpenter by trade, he drew the plans for the new fire department, with help from fellow firemen, and volunteers completed most of the carpentry work on the project.
Admittedly, he has many memories, but certain ones stand out more than others.
“Oh, the cold fires, those were the worst,” he said of his years on the department. “When everything freezes up, those were not fun.”
One has to wonder if Vetsch ever truly slows down.
Throughout the years, he has been on many committees including the West Hennepin Recycling Board and the Northwest League of Cities.
In 1996, he retired as the building and maintenance supervisor at Saints Peter and Paul Church and School.
Currently, he drives cars part-time for a used car dealership in Corcoran, he volunteers at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, is still involved with the Loretto Sno Birds, where he is one of the group’s founding members.
“That’s enough. It’s time to slow up,” he said. “When I was younger, I could do more things.”
Vetsch has lived in Loretto since 1957. His wife, Mary Lou, passed away nine years ago, and he still lives in the house he built for his family. They raised two sons, Jason, who lives in Plymouth, and Troy who lives in Loretto.
Of course, Vetsch does make time for a few hobbies such as meeting for morning coffee with friends, playing cards, and some fishing.
“Summer fishing yes, winter fishing nah,” he said. “I don’t do that cold stuff.”
As a hockey fan, he enjoys going to Wild games and also watching his grandson play the game.
Though he is in need of a hip replacement, and doctors have suggested further testing to ensure his heart can withstand the surgery, it’s clear it would take a lot to slow Vetsch down.