Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

 March 31, 2001


When I walked into the office of The South Texas Catholic here in Corpus Christi, Texas, this morning with some overdue copy clutched in my hand, I ran into Jim Barnhardt, the associate editor.

I confessed to him that I have been moonlighting for the Howard Lake-Waverly Herald up there in Minnesota and his face lit up.

I knew he was from North Dakota but I hadn't known he is a first cousin to Dr. Brent Schank, who hails from Dickinson, N.D. and has been in practice as a chiropractor in Winsted now for some years. He and his wife Barb have two children, Connor and Camden.

And Jim's brother, Terry Barnhardt, who grew up in Mandan, N.D. like Jim did, married a woman who had graduated from Buffalo High School, Teresa Wilcox. Teresa moved to Maple Lake before eventually obtaining a doctorate in Texas.

The two Doctors Barnhardt, Terry and Teresa, are both now on the psychology faculty of Texas A and M University in College Station, Texas. They have two children, ages 4 and 2.

Dr. Teresa Barnhardt, Jim's sister-in-law, is already tenured. Jim says they are still loyal to Wright County.

While we were talking, Jim clicked on to the Howard Lake-Waverly Herald and came up with a beautiful photo of Dr. Schank himself, in an advertisement for the Winsted Chiropractic Clinic.

Do I now think the world is too small? Nope. I think it's just about the right size.


I am late in thanking Dale Kovar and the rest of the staff of the Howard Lake Waverly Herald for giving me this opportunity to publish myself, which is more than I could have ever asked for.

When I asked permission to use the name "Waverly Star," they not only allowed it, but set me up with a web site just for myself and my version of The Waverly Star.

It has enabled me to be a part of the town I love even though living regrettably far away.

Not only that, but Dale also gave me a free subscription to The Howard Lake Waverly Herald. It takes nine days for the paper to arrive but it's worth waiting for.

It takes one day to fly it from Minnesota to San Antonio and 8 days to go from San Antonio to Corpus Christi by stagecoach.


When I asked my Waverly stringer last week why I wasn't getting any help in the way of news items from Waverly, no matter how much I begged, she said it was very simple: there never will be any news to report from Waverly because Waverly has no news. Period.

What a relief!


Pat's Country Curls, the beauty shop out on Highway 12 on the way to Howard Lake, operated by Mrs. Pat (Bill) Demarias, was chock full of news last Saturday, March 24th, even though a fly on the wall would have had a hard time knowing what to make of it all.

Everybody who came in that day had a different version of the burglary at Pete's Grocery the night before.

Some said a Wright County deputy sheriff on patrol down Waverly's main street spotted two men inside the store and crept up on them. One of the burglars fled out the back door while the deputy subdued and handcuffed the other one.

In calling for backup, there was a serendipitous K-9 unit not too far away (Willmar maybe?).

The dogs arrived and ran down the fugitive. The fugitive was bitten by the dogs and had to be transported with bites on the hinder (some say) to the hospital either in Buffalo or Minneapolis.

Some reported it was Jimmy Franske of Pete's Grocery who had been bitten. In yet another version it was Jimmy Franske who had subdued the burglars and then called the fire department.

Jimmy is the champion fund raiser for the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department. He has worked in the same store [Ed. note: It used to be Franske's] since boyhood and he is now on the wrong side of 50, which makes for a record career.


When I arrived at the lakeshore that Sunday of the "reunion," Aug. 26, 2000 and looked over the crowd, I knew right away I wanted to stay forever and never leave Waverly again.

Throughout my life of comings and goings, I always was homesick before I reached the next town: Howard Lake or Montrose, depending on which direction I was headed.

I've reflected since that day on what kind of arrogance it is that makes us Waverlyites think our town is the best town that ever was. I will bet you that the people of Lester Prairie, for example, now on the verge of their own reunion from hither and yon, have the same nostalgic feelings we have.

And yet I think Waverly is special, as unique as a fingerprint.

I think it all began with Father Joseph Guillot, who was born in France in 1855. Back in France, it had been his desire to be a missionary to the Indians but instead he ended up with us.

Although he was not the first Catholic pastor in Waverly, it was he who set the tone for the town when he became pastor there in 1883 and said to his French-Canadian flock, "We will build a Catholic church here. Not a French church or an Irish church. It will be a church where everyone can belong: Germans, Belgians, Bohemians, Poles - everyone. And we will build an American school where classes will be in English, classes for all races and nationalities."

Robert Zeller read this quote to us at the reunion.

Waverly, then, didn't make the mistake of building two Catholic churches like so many other towns did.

Delano built two churches, one for the Polish and one for the Germans.

Belle Plaine built two churches, even with separate cemeteries, one for the Germans and one for the Irish.

The same mistake was made all over the country, not just in Minnesota towns.

Visit our cemetery. There we are all laid out together: Here lies everybody!

But we don't have any cute tombstones, like the one on Margaret Daniels' grave in Richmond, Va., that says:


On Aug. 26, 2000, I had been gone so long, just like Rip, that I didn't recognize one Waverly dog and not one dog knew me, but the cemetery where my parents and my brother, Myles, are buried; that was still familiar ground.


Speaking of the cemetery, Dan Antil sent me another great e-mail this week telling the story of "Little Allright" buried in St. Mary's Cemetery:

"Tony Smith, who ran the hardware store/shoe repair shop next to Franske's store told my father this story. In 1910, a circus was in Waverly and a Japanese boy was among the performers who were mostly Orientals.

"After the circus left Waverly, it went to Cokato where many of the circus people were killed in a fire when the Cokato Hotel went up in flames. Seven of the survivors were put on the train and shipped to Waverly where there was medical care available.

"The one who lingered the longest was a little boy around 10 years old. The ladies who were taking care of him tried their best to keep him comfortable. When they asked him if he wanted water or anything else, he would say 'All right.'

"It was the only English he knew. He was buried in the southwest corner of St. Mary's cemetery.

"Now here's where the story gets weird.

"As you know, I married Robbin Rethlake, who is George and Lee Berkner's granddaughter. When the Berkner house burned down on Jan. 10, 1999, I traveled to Waverly to see what contents of the house I could salvage. At the end, as the bulldozers were going to work, I spotted a piece of wood with an odd shape near the front of the garage.

"I picked it up and here is what it said: 'In Memory of Little Allright. Born in Japan. Died March 7, 1910.'

"I was really surprised when I put the story my father had told me 25 years ago and this marker together. I now have the marker in my garage in Texas."

If anyone visits the cemetery, please let me know if Little Allright has a headstone. If not, maybe there should be one."


Mr. Antil also told me about working for former governor Elmer Andersen who owned a publishing company in Princeton.

"Elmer was a very good boss and he had insights on every subject. He has now written a good book entitled 'A Man's Search.'

When I left Princeton to move to Texas, he even loaned me money to help me in my transition. He is still with us, and a truly wonderful man."

There is another former governor in the news. On March 4, Harold Stassen died at the age of 93. He became governor in 1938, the first Republican governor after 20 years of Democrats. Stassen cleaned up the patronage system, put Minnesota on a fiscally stable course, and overall made such a good record for himself that he was seriously considered as a national candidate for years thereafter.

At 31, he was the youngest governor in U.S. history. He was a popular and progressive figure. He brought the first black officer into his state's National Guard, and he did so before World War II, when such a move was truly daring.

Governor Stassen was a religious man, a Baptist, and in fact one of his sons is an ordained Baptist minister, a scholar and a writer. He writes often for "The Baptist Peacemaker" and is active ecumenically in the peace movement.

The New York Times said of Stassen, "Like his fellow Minnesotan and contemporary, Hubert H. Humphrey, Mr. Stassen exuded a Midwestern ebullience and optimism, and he refused to agree with those who maintained his quest for the presidency was quixotic. 'I know I've had an impact,' he said, 'that some things I have done have really counted for world peace . . . I sometimes wish people would ask not how many times I've run a political campaign, but how many times I've been right on the issues.' . . . Mr. Stassen kept his dignity and his sense of humor, joining in the laughter at the cartoons showing his supporters convening in a telephone booth."

The next time you hear all the griping about politicians, think of these two Minnesota gentlemen: Elmer Andersen and Harold Stassen.


I was glad to hear from Pastor Uecker, a Lutheran pastor in Milwaukee, this week.

I only knew one Uecker and he was an excellent pool player who used to beat Oscar Lueck in the Waverly Pool Hall when Bud Walker ran it.

Pastor Uecker is interested in compiling a family genealogy and would like any help he can get. The Ueckers were mostly from Howard Lake.

He is in no way related to the card game by the same name, Euchre, which is the joy of many a retired farmer during the Minnesota winters.

His e-mail address is: Ervross@aol.com.


Last Thursday, Ms. Debbie Munson, daughter of Ray and Patty Munson of Howard Lake, and granddaughter of Dennis and Rosie Reardon of Waverly, left for the Phillipines where she has a two-year commitment to serve in the Peace Corps, most probably with Filipino fishermen and their families who are living in poverty.

She was featured in the Mpls. Star-Tribune not long ago after graduating from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul last June.


So says Burt Kreitlow who rejoiced at seeing the names of Cletis Rasset, Jerry Cullen, and Tom Barbeau, plucked from the 1932 Waverly Star for another appearance in this edition.

"Cletis Rasset, the chicken man:" He was clerk of School District 58 north of Montrose when I taught there from 1935 to 1937. I had three of his children in the classes: Jay, Marie, and Floyd. The Cullen twins went to high school in Howard Lake when I did, Jerry and Virginia.

"Tom Barbeau was there at the same time. Tom and Jerry were on the basketball team and I was the cheerleader. In those days it was the person with the loudest voice who got the cheerleading job. I could neither sing nor dance nor do acrobatics, but I sure could yell."


There are definite signs of spring. Raccoons are boldly abroad in greater numbers than winter allows. A robin has been sighted atop a snowbank and - clearest sign of all - a Harley headed west roared through Waverly the other day and was sighted by one of the Karels men before it faded from sight on the hill by the tunnel under the Great Northern tracks zooming towards Howard Lake on Highway 12.


"Poverty - has a woman's face."

Send me news - but not your tired nor poor nor huddled masses yearning to breathe free. They make poor copy and I am still fighting for my job.


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