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.

April 7, 2001


I don't think Waverly ever knew what power it had as a community to humanize us and form our values and convictions.

The values we learned were often about caring for other people and getting to know all about them.

As Tony Hillerman puts it in his novel "Hunting Badger: "You city folks have so many people crowding you, they're a bother. We rural people don't have enough, so we're interested. Everybody fits in. We sort of collect people wherever we can find them."


Sister Thea Bowman, OSF, died on April 7, 1990. She was a black nun with a doctorate in English Literature plus a world class singing voice.

She was in Corpus Christi for a concert and filled our Cathedral. She led us for over an hour in song and dialogue from her wheelchair. We linked arms and swayed and sang "We Shall Overcome." We were overcome ourselves that day.

One quotation of hers caught me and taught me: "The friends you make who are not of your belief, force you beyond the boundaries of your thinking."

If you want more information about her, click on to: http://www.fspa.org/whoweare/fspanews/theacelebration.htm

When she found out she was terminally ill from bone cancer, she wrote that her prayer:

"Lord, let me live until I die" would be her only prayer from that day forward. Let it be my prayer as well.

"Let me live until I die - but let it be in Waverly."


This item was plucked from the Waverly Star of March 24, 1932:

"Federal Agents Make Raid at Howard Lake"

"Two federal agents from Minneapolis raided the Charles Kringbring home in the south part of town late Monday afternoon."

Reports have it that considerable moonshine was found in the place. The agents destroyed most of the liquor, smashing the containers but saving plenty and enough for the evidence.

"Kringbring was placed under arrest and taken to Minneapolis. His bonds were set at $1,500. Report has it that a federal man, or one working for the department, had been in Howard Lake for several days. It was also said that men from the department have been seen in Cokato and Waverly for several days."

(Editor's note: This was about the same time two of my O'Leary uncles were arrested in South Dakota for moonshine production and sale thereof. They were sent to Rapid City.)


By Gabrielle Sheppard

I have known the name Waverly for as long as I have known my husband, Richard Sheppard, who now lives with me in the UK.

For many years, people like the Smiths and the Sawatzkes seemed like characters in a fabled land called Waverly, far, far away.

Then one day four years ago, my husband and I flew to Minnesota and I finally discovered Waverly with its immense (by European standards) beauty, its magical lakes, its warm, cozy, wooden houses and its witty and kind people.

The colder it got outside (we went in November) the warmer the atmosphere became inside. The Smiths, Don and Gerry, and their son Brad, gave us the sort of hospitality you dare not expect even from close family members and were great company.

When Gerry found out that the next day was Richard's birthday, she got baking (without any of us knowing about it) and we found a wonderful angel cake on the breakfast table.

I have been baking angel cakes ever since and they have become a big favorite with our English and French relatives. (Although I have lived in England for many years, my family are all French.)

We did not stay very long in Waverly and yet it made a lasting impression on me.

For me, Waverly means friendship and kindness that transcend time, distance and culture: true human qualities that endure, like the friendship with Doug and Janelle Sawatzke and Don and Gerry Smith.

I would love to go back to Waverly.


By Richard Sheppard

My family moved from Minneapolis to Waverly in early autumn, 1971 when I was seven and about to start second grade at the four-room public school to the west of St. Mary's.

The classroom style (two grades in one room with one teacher) was probably the last of that era of American teaching. Until Waverly, I had been taught with the new teaching techniques which were popular in "the cities."

I was way over my head in Waverly. The first graders could count higher than me, knew more math, and read more complex books.

In short, I was Mrs. Cosgrove's worst student - first or second grade.

She was very patient and kind with me, however. I did a few things strange to her - like writing my answers directly into the exercise books! These books must have been 20 years old. My experience of schooling was that we all received shiny new paperback books that we could write in and take away. I had no experience of textbooks being passed down year to year, generation to generation.

Mrs. Cosgrove let me eavesdrop on the first grade lessons while trying to complete the second grade lessons and slowly things started to make sense. Mrs. Cosgrove spent quite a bit of one-on-one time with me to get me up to speed. My mother also had bought a large box of books at a rummage sale and I devoured them.

By the end of the year, I was Mrs. Cosgrove's best student, able to read, write (even cursive!) and do quite a bit of arithmetic. She didn't just teach me the three Rs. She taught me how to learn for myself, and for that I am forever grateful. Thirty years later, I think of her often.

I would really like to thank her.


Richard's teacher, of course, was the beloved daughter of Mrs. Ogle.

My mother's favorite person in Waverly was that very same Mrs. Ogle, whom she admired immensely and constantly.

This was not only because of Mrs. Ogle's daily attendance at early morning Mass after she had already started things rolling at Ogle's Cafe, but most of all because of Mrs. Ogle's calm acceptance of all those around her.

She was noted for her quiet wisdom, in addition to her love for her children and kindness to all. She was simply a saint.

It was the pride of my mother's life that one young lady who had been forced out of Waverly by small-town gossip had reported to a visitor who went to see her in Minneapolis that the only women in Waverly she ever wanted to see again were Mrs. Ogle and Mrs. O'Leary.

My mother thought it wonderful that she should be named in such company.

Mrs. Ogle's funeral in 1966 was one of the biggest St. Mary's Church ever saw.


My mother also had a large funeral. She was buried from St. Francis Cabrini Church in Minneapolis in 1963.

I will never forget the people who came all the way from Waverly to attend the wake and funeral.

If you want to know why I am crazy about Waverly, some day I will print the beautiful, familiar names of those who signed the book at the Malone Funeral Home in Minneapolis when my mother died.

I will some day print the names of those who signed the book at the Peterson Funeral Home in Buffalo when my father died in 1961, and all those who attended my brother Myles' funeral in St. Mary's Church in Waverly in 1994.

Myles' funeral was the last time I ever saw Waverly's beloved Wayne "Gramps" Kuka, who had terminal cancer himself at the time. Wayne had moved to Willmar years ago and had made a life for himself in the banking business.

At Myles' funeral I received Holy Communion from the hands of Bette Stifter Reinert, my schoolmate, as she was a Eucharistic minister at the Mass. I knew everyone in the beautiful choir that day.

I remember also the kindness of Marion (John's wife) Gagnon, who gave me her Rosary to put into the coffin with Myles, something we O'Learys had overlooked.

Go ahead and laugh but every time I read over those names, I start to weep - out of gratitude - for those still living and those now with my mother and father and Myles - and Mrs. Ogle - in St. Mary's Cemetery.

May they rest in peace.


New Ulm's Battery of Black Powder, mobilized after the New Ulm Massacre in 1863 is still on active duty.

The stunning fact is that the cannons, and the men and women firing them, have never been decommissioned. They have survived not only the Civil War, but the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

New Ulm's is the only battery in the United States which has kept its powder dry all this time.

"Colonel" Fritchie of New Ulm, who was kind enough to transport two of his cannons to Rockford for the wedding last Saturday of Brad Driver, is now the commander of the famous New Ulm Battery.

He is a friend and colleague in the festive firing business with our own Eddie Marketon and Harold Reardon, whose gun-smithing days together go back to childhood.

The groom for whom the booms were done is the grandson of Eddie and Florence (Karels) Marketon and the son of Daryl and Bonnie Driver.

Three booms rang out over Rockford at the appropriate times.

No Fourth of July celebration nor any boat race can occur in Waverly without Harold's cannon.

That cannon serves as the starter's gun for the boat races and Harold's cannon is in great demand otherwise. The Wright County sheriffs no longer respond to calls of complaint. They take Harold's word for it that he isn't using live ammunition.

I had my own experience with one of Harold's cannons. It was on the Fourth of July in 1997 on the north shore of Waverly Lake right in front of Harold's house. The cannon was aimed out onto the lake.

Harold offered to let me fire it off by touching the smoldering punk to the powder, which I then did - and got knocked right back onto my can.

Harold and Pat and Jeanne Painschab fell over also but it was only from laughing at me.

The scary thing was at the time I fired I saw a woman fall off backwards from her water skis. I thought I had killed her. I left back for Texas without ever knowing for sure one way or another.

She must have been someone from "the cities" because none of the witnesses recognized her.


I just finished a novel called "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant. If you have ever wondered at the genealogy which begins the Gospel of Matthew, this book will bring all those names to life.

It is seldom I have read a better book. It helps that the author is a Jewish scripture scholar in addition to being a compelling story-teller.

The patriarchs in the Hebrew scriptures owned outright: their wives, their concubines, their slaves, their cattle and their children. They could dispose of them as they wished.

In "The Red Tent" the women form a sisterhood which sustains them and enables them to keep secrets from those men, who never enter "The Red Tent," a place of menarche, midwivery, and birthing.

Some of the insights which fit into the narrative:

Dinah: " . . . the priests and magicians of Egypt were fools and charlatans for promising to prolong the beauties of life beyond the world we are given, by stuffing the pyramids with 'things.' Of all life's pleasures, only love owes no debt to death."

"Time is a mother's enemy."

"The floor of gratitude is like the nectar of the hive."

In the last chapter of the Book of Genesis, the 12 sons of Jacob end this era by representing the formation of the Israelites into their 12 tribes.

They may not come out looking very saintly in this novel, but Anita Diamant does make them come out looking very much authentic, from Ruben to Benjamin.

Just as Diamant makes them seem like real people, so does she evoke the daily life of Egyptians around the time of the Pharoah Hyksos, between 1750 to 1600 B.C.

In the old cliche, she "makes the Bible come alive" but this time in a dramatic, compelling, and unforgettable manner.

Go to the Howard Lake Library and see for yourself.


Erv Uecker is still tracking down Wright county relatives, looking for Tuckenhagens, no matter the spelling. He has just now discovered that one of the Tuckenhagen ancestors had been a colonel in the Prussian army before coming to Marysville in 1854.

This week, he offers a plug for the Lakeshore Motel, a place Jeanne and I also enjoyed. Rick Nolan had picked us up at our back door there and took us for a boat ride. How many motels can offer that kind of service?

Here's what Erv says about it:

"It was spring of 1998 and I was just retired from the active ministry. Sitting back and doing a little thinking about the paths my life had taken, I realized how little I knew about three-quarters of my ancestors.

Particularly, my father's paternal Wright County Uecker/Heise side and the maternal Carver County Wolfram/Schmidt/Klein side. I had met only five Ueckers other than my dad in my 66 years - my grandfather Ed and my uncles Ernst, Bert, and Gep. and my great aunt Bertha Uecker Reinmuth of Howard Lake.

I didn't have a clue as to where Wright County or Howard Lake were located, other than somewhere "out west." I had been born and raised and spent over 50 years of my life in Chicago before moving to that wonderful beer, brat, and bowling city, Milwaukee, Wisc.

I met a cousin in my pursuit of kinfolk, on the Internet, and we developed both a working relationship and a friendship which has grown ever since. The mother of my cousin, Marilyn Pauman Wurm, of Maple Lake, was Alma Uecker Paumen, my dad's cousin. As Marilyn and I worked together, I began to get "itchy" to get to Wright County and see the places where my ancestors had farmed and worshiped, lived, and died.

At that time we had a large Belgian sheep dog that traveled with us. Finding a motel was always a problem. I checked with the Minnesota Tourism Office and after a long search, I found a place that would take us: It was the Lakeshore Motel on Waverly Lake.

I reserved a room (at $25 a night) for the duration of our stay. Several days before leaving Milwaukee, I was chatting with someone in Minnesota who asked me where we would be staying. The retort to my response was "You're staying where???"

Upon arrival we drove through the town of Waverly and on that damp, cold, rain-drenched and cloudy afternoon, the deserted streets appeared to be a movie set for an old Western.

I thought to myself, "We're staying where???"

But the warmth of welcome and the modest but clean and cozy accommodations provided a pleasant stay for our first foray into Wright County.

Daylight and sunshine revealed to us the beautiful Waverly and Little Waverly lakes and a town that was alive and active, though perhaps somewhat diminished from its glory days. It was typical small-town USA and proved itself worthy of carrying the motto: "Home of Hubert Horatio Humphrey."

Since that "You're staying where???" day three years ago, I have come to appreciate the people, commerce, and history of Waverly and Marysville Township. I am happy we were "forced" into staying in Waverly - the only place in Wright County which would give shelter to our beloved pet and to us.

As a postscript, I might mention that Marilyn and I are hosting the third Uecker Reunion at the Legion Club in Maple Lake on Saturday, July 7th. We also publish the "Uecker Union Times" periodically.

Anyone interested can e-mail me at: Ervross@aol.com

Erv Uecker, Milwaukee

"The man I ignored yesterday died today and left me alone."

- From John Shea's poem, "On the Secret Solidarity of the Human Race."

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