By Starrla Cray
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN One hundred years ago, a group of service-minded men met at St. Mary’s Church in Waverly, forming the first Knights of Columbus (K of C) council in Wright County.
Although the originators are no longer around, their mission of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism lives on in the 160 current members.
“We’re a service organization,” said member Ken Schoenfelder of Winsted. “We do things to help other people.”
From assisting with Special Olympics to passing out Tootsie Rolls at parades in Waverly, Howard Lake, and Montrose, the Knights of Columbus have contributed to the community in countless ways.
“We basically give all our money to whoever needs it,” Schoenfelder said.
Locally, he estimates that the group donates $12,000 to $15,000 per year.
“One of our main fundraisers is pancake breakfasts, which we have once a month,” he said.
Other events include turkey bingo, radar runs, boxing contests, pork chop dinners, running a food stand at Waverly Daze, helping with the St. Mary’s Fall Festival, parking cars at Winstock and Higher Ground, tree sales in May, and casino nights, to name a few.
In addition to charitable giving, these activities also encourage camaraderie among members.
Mass and open house
To honor the people who’ve been involved in the Waverly Knights of Columbus, a centennial celebration is planned Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8.
The May 7 event is for members and their families. It will start with 5 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Church. The Minnesota Knights of Columbus male choir will sing before, during, and after the service.
The fourth degree honor guard will be in attendance, and will lead a procession to the K of C hall. The evening will include a social hour and dinner, followed by a short program.
In addition to Waverly’s K of C members, state officers and members of councils that have split off from Waverly are expected to attend.
The main focus will be spending time visiting with old and new friends, and there will also be a large collection of memorabilia available for viewing.
A time line from 1911 to 2011 will be set up along the south wall, awards and certificates will line the north wall, and photographs from past events will be displayed throughout.
Sunday, May 8, the public will have the opportunity to view the items as well, during an open house at the K of C hall from noon to 3 p.m. Refreshments will be served.
A shining history
The Waverly Knights of Columbus has a rich history. Thirty years before it began, the national K of C organization was founded by a group of men in New Haven, CT. Named after Christopher Columbus, the group sought to provide financial aid for needy families.
Waverly’s group was formed March 11, 1911. A few past grand knights (group leaders) include John Kennedy, JP MacDonald, Joseph Gagnon, Lewis Cullen, W. Claessens, Greg Otto, E. Munstenteiger, Marcel Ochu, and Bernard Jude. A full list of grand knights is on display at the K of C hall.
Members traveled from St. Michael, Monticello, Maple Lake, Delano, Buffalo, Loretto, Watertown, Winsted, and Silver Lake to meet in a large room over the Campion grocery store. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were more than 600 members.
As the council grew, it became increasingly difficult to meet in a central location, so other groups were formed.
In 1953, Maple Lake founded its own council, which has grown to 180 members. The group sponsors many activities for the St. Timothy parish in Maple Lake.
Delano was next, in 1958. Some of the Delano K of C activities include bowling leagues, Valentine’s Day sweetheart dances, youth basketball tournaments, youth day at the Metrodome, marathons, and an essay contest.
In 1974, Buffalo broke away, as well. They have become well-known for their Christmas tree sales and Tootsie Roll drives, which raise money to help local people in need.
The last area to leave was Winsted, in 1982. Members come from south of Waverly, Silver Lake, Lester Prairie, and Glencoe. Their claim to fame is the annual Lenten fish fry, where they serve 3,500 people in about four hours.
From these new councils, other councils formed all over Wright County, including Clearwater, Monticello, St. Michael, and Rogers.
In Waverly, the K of C purchased the grocery store building in the 1930s, and continued to meet upstairs until 1968, when Ron Lachermeier was the grand knight. Don Klinglehoets did the remodeling on the first floor.
In the 1990s, the Waverly K of C decided to build a new hall. John Rasset, who was the grand knight in 1993, was the general contractor.
Other building projects of the council include the stone marker at St. Mary’s Church, and the granite altar at the cemetery.
Journals of past projects will be on display during the centennial celebration. If anyone has additional information or photographs that could be included in the collection, contact Schoenfelder at (320) 485-4448.
The Waverly Knights of Columbus is always looking for new members.
To learn more about the national Knights of Columbus organization, click here.
Centennial festivities for the Waverly Knights of Columbus include an open house Sunday, May 8 from noon to 3 p.m. at the hall (301 5th St. N).
The public will have the opportunity to view awards, certificates, photographs, a time line and other memorabilia.
Refreshments will be served.
Knights of Columbus members will participate in a celebration Saturday, May 7, which will include mass at St. Mary’s Church, as well as a social hour, dinner, and short program at the Knights of Columbus hall in Waverly.
Questions about either event can be directed to member Ken Schoenfelder at (320) 485-4448.