By Starrla Cray
WINSTED Winsted’s Gerard Stifter has had more than one reason to celebrate this year.
He retired from his local accounting business the end of September, and now, he’s being honored as the Winsted Winter Festival parade grand marshal.
Stifter will lead the Saturday, Dec. 2 parade in downtown Winsted, starting at 6:30 p.m.
A lifelong resident of Winsted, Stifter has many happy memories of the community. He attended Holy Trinity High School, which is where he got to know his late wife, Rosemary.
“We started going together after we were cast in the school play,” Stifter recalled.
After graduation, Stifter farmed for about 15 years. When he started to develop allergies, he decided to “retire” and pursue something new.
“When I was looking for a career change, I wanted something that could support five kids,” he said. “Accounting had some potential.”
Stifter knew a little about accounting, since he had been active on the local co-op creamery board while farming. He soon became well acquainted with the subject, studying year-round at St. Cloud State University. After 2.5 years, he graduated as a certified public accountant and was ready for employment.
His first accounting job was in St. Paul, where he worked for about 12 or 13 years. Then, the company merged with a national firm, and Stifter’s office was in Minneapolis.
The family thought about moving closer to the metro area, but the benefits of staying in Winsted outweighed the inconvenience of driving.
“We enjoyed it out here in Winsted,” Stifter said.
Stifter had plenty of opportunities to see other parts of the country, as well, since the accounting firm had 70 offices nationwide.
“I made it to all 50 states, mostly for business,” he said.
Rosemary often went along on business trips, and got to know the Washington, DC area quite well.
The firm Stifter worked for had a policy of retirement between the ages of 55 and 62, so when the time came, Stifter took some time off before moving on. In the meantime, he did consulting work with one of his clients and also traveled a little.
About a year later, in 2002, Stifter and his wife started their own accounting business in downtown Winsted.
“I wasn’t ready to get out of accounting completely,” Stifter commented.
Auditing for major clients had been Stifter’s specialty at the large firm, while the Winsted business focused primarily on tax work.
“We enjoyed it,” Stifter said, explaining that Rosemary was his “right-hand person” who answered phone calls and managed the office. More recently, Stifter’s daughter-in-law, Donna, had been working for him.
At the end of September, Stifter sold his business accounts to Peterson Juergensen Hemerick & Co in Hutchinson. Although the Winsted office will no longer be open, Stifter said he has confidence that Peterson Juergensen Hemerick & Co will treat his clients well.
“I’ve known the partners for 15 years or so,” he said.
Now in retirement for the third time, Stifter is spending more time reading and doing genealogy research. He’s traced his family back to the 1700s, with ancestors in Austria and Hungary. On his late wife’s side, he’s gone back to the 1500s, finding relatives mostly from northern Germany.
Of his family nearby, Stifter has four sons living in Winsted John, Michael, Thomas, and Eugene as well as a daughter in Maple Grove. Stifter also has eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.