Volume 126, Number 15
Four Benson County WWII veterans given trip to Washington, DC
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Four World War II veterans from Benson County were among more than 90 who took part in the Northern Valley Honor Flight to Washington, DC April 17 and 18.
Taking part in the flight were Art Duren and Harris Togstad of Maddock, Boyd Stevenson of Leeds and Arvin Rohrer of Churchs Ferry.
These four veterans of WWII, members of the "Greatest Generation," were treated like royalty on the trip.
The Northern Valley Honor Flight was conceived to honor WWII veterans by giving them all-expense-paid trips to Washington, DC to see the World War II Memorial, which is located on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
All four stated the relatively new World War II Memorial was definitely the highlight of the trip. The centerpiece of the memorial is a large pool with two large fountains and several small ones, ringed by 56 granite pillars inscribed with the names of all the US states and territories from that period which furnished personnel for the conflict. One wall of the memorial contains more than 4,000 stars. Each star represents 100 US military personnel who died in the war.
The veterans spent a few hours wandering around the circular memorial, which was filled with tourist families, Cub Scout troops, and a group of 59 cadets from the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Va.
The Honor Flight program was born in Ohio, according to the organization’s Web site, the dream of Earl Morse, a retired Army captain who was disappointed that by the time the National World War II Memorial was completed in 2004, many of that war’s veterans were not in good enough health to visit the site on their own. Since the first flight out of Ohio in May of 2005, the program has spread to 30 states and tens of thousands of veterans.
World War II veterans are dying at the rate of about 1,200 per day.
Four Honor Flights have flown out of Fargo, carrying every veteran from the region who signed up. The April 17-18 flight was the first flight to leave from Grand Forks and all the remaining Grand Forks area vets should fit on one more flight tentatively scheduled for October, said Lance Akers, the local organization’s fundraising coordinator. The group already is raising funds for that trip now, he said. The flight will cost about $90,000. Tax deductible donations can be mailed to: Northern Valley Honor Flight, PO Box 12905, Grand Forks, ND 58208-2905. More information on the flight is available at http://www.nvhonorflight.com/index.htm.
The group gathered at the Sharon Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minn. on April 17 at 5 a.m. where they were issued genuine-looking dog tags. They were loaded onto buses and taken to the Mark Andrews International Airport in Grand Forks. They were escorted to the airport by motorcycle "Freedom Riders." Airmen from the Grand Forks Air Force Base were there to help with luggage and served coffee. As the airplane departed a color guard and airmen saluted the old veterans, who ranged in age from 80 to 94.
The flight to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC took about 2.5 hours. They were met by civilians waving US flags. By 3:30 p.m. they were at the World War II Memorial constructed in their honor.
Later in the day they visited the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial Wall and the Korean War Memorial. Seeing all this was a little overwhelming in just one afternoon.
They spent the night at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City near the Reagan National Airport and attended a banquet there in the evening.
Our veterans didn’t get a chance to sleep in the next day. They were up for breakfast rations at 6 a.m. April 18. Each time they boarded the three buses roll call was taken to make certain nobody got left behind. By 8:15 a.m. they were at Arlington National Cemetery, where they saw the graves of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, as well as the graves of some notable people including five star officers Admiral Bull Halsey and General Hap Arnold; and Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II, who went on to become a movie star. Our veterans also saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Next they visited the Marine Memorial featuring the six men raising the flag on Iwo Jima and took a bus tour of Washington monuments including the Air Force Memorial, The Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevel Memorial, the Capitol Building, the White House, Ford’s Theater, the Watergate Hotel and the Washington National Cathedral. Whew! That was a full day!
By 6:30 p.m. they were on the flight back to Grand Forks. They all received discharges from the Honor Flight at the Sharon Lutheran Church. A band from UND played at the church and a captain from the Grand Forks Air Force Base presented the discharges.
One of the features of the trip that surprised our veterans was that they had three mail calls during the trip. Upon receiving their applications for the trip, the Honor Flight people contacted their relatives, asking them to write letters to the veterans and send them to the Honor Flight well in advance of the trip. The letters were passed out to the surprised veterans during mail call. They got letters from their children, grandchildren, siblings, brothers and sisters-in-law and others, including school children.
Harris Togstad will turn 85 on May 23. This was his first trip to Washington, DC and he was amazed at how well everyone treated them. He decided not to hike to the Lincoln Memorial while on the National Mall and he sat down on the grass to wait until his companions returned. While sitting on the grass a number of people came and asked if he needed help. One person came with a wheelchair, which Harris didn’t need. "It was embarassing to have so much attention," he said in wonderment.
Harris joined the US Navy in 1943 and served in the South Pacific for 2-1/2 years. He was a Navy beachmaster on New Caledonia who helped in landing and moving troops, equipment and supplies. His unit hauled medical supplies from Guadalcanal to Bougainville and brought back wounded Marines and Japanese prisoners of war. He was also part of the occupation of Japan. While in the Solomon Islands he got malaria and was hospitalized for several weeks at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He lost 30 lbs. in that ordeal.
While on Bougainville he found out that six people from Maddock were stationed there including himself. They were Wallace "Budda" Rice, a Marine; Bernard Melaas, a Navy man; and Warren Olson, Odin Anderson and Vern Thompson, Army men. Harris didn’t know Vern, but he found out where he was and hiked through the jungle to look him up. Vern had just been wounded in the arm when Harris caught up with him. Vern died in November of 2008.
Harris was discharged in March of 1946 with the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.
In civilian life he worked for the railroad for 35 years. He retired as a railroad engineer in 1983. His wife, Eileen died in 2002. They were the parents of two sons.
Arvin "Buster" Rohrer, 82, heard about the Honor Flight on television and signed up for it.
While on the Honor Flight at Arlington Cemetery, a woman from New York City walked up to him and shook his hand, thanking him for his wartime service. "That really surprised me," said Rohrer.
Another surprise was the mail call. "They thought of everything," he marveled, referring to the people who organized the Northern Valley Honor Flight.
He had been to Washington, DC many years ago, long before the World War II Memorial was constructed. Like all the other veterans, he was very impressed with the memorial.
He joined the Navy in 1945 and was discharged in 1947 as a seaman 2nd class. He served on New Caledonia and American Samoa, where he was a driver, transporting doctors where they needed to go. He also took officers to ships to pilot them into the nearby harbor. He also took doctors by boat where ever they needed to go.
In civilian life he farmed for 40 years until retiring in 1988. He and his wife, Jeanette have spent winters in Texas the past 22 years. They are the parents of four sons, including Steve, who is the Benson County Sheriff.
Arvin might be retired but he still lives on the farm and can’t wait to get on the tractor when there’s farm work to be done.
Art Duren, 84, says he doesn’t have words to describe how grateful he is to have been included in the Honor Flight, for his first visit to Washington, DC. His daughter, Margaret of Crookston, Minn. signed him up for it.
Like all the other veterans on the flight he was surprised by the organized mail calls. He received letters from his five daughters and two granddaughters and V-mails from three Minnesota School kids.
V-mails were popular during WWII when families wrote to their sons and daughters in the military on a single folded sheet of paper.
He was impressed that school children ages 10 or less on the National Mall in Washington, DC stopped to say thank you to veterans on the Honor Flight.
"Everything was free on the trip except souvenirs and alcohol," Duren said. The veterans had a banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, DC and he noticed a woman was drinking beer at the banquet. He asked the waitress how much a beer was. "$7.50" was the reply. Somewhat in shock, Duren asked, "If a beer costs $7.50 how much would a gin martini be?" The answer: $10.
"Needless to say, I didn’t have either. You can call me a tightwad if you want, but I’m not going to spend money that foolishly," he said.
With the blessing of the hotel he kept his room key as a souvenir. That was free of charge.
Duren was scheduled to graduate from high school in June of 1944, but he had enough credits to graduate, so he joined the Navy in March of 1944. He was on the LSM 252 (Landing Ship Medium) for six to 18 months in the South Pacific where he was a 20 mm anti-aircraft gunner. Later he served about six months on the RB Anderson, a destroyer, where he was a ship’s cook. Everyone had battle stations and his was on the twin 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. He was also the hot shellman on the 5" gun. When the gun fired the shell casing was ejected and he had to catch the ejected shell with heavily gloved hands and pitch it into the hold of the ship. The spent shell casings had to be taken out of the way of the sailors because they were hot and would cause severe burns to anyone who came in contact with them.
One day someone dropped a 40 mm live shell out of a four-shell clip and it fell about 15 feet hitting a rivet below, which detonated the shell. It ripped upward and hit several sailors, including Duren with shrapnel. Duren was in the hospital the first three months of 1945 recovering from the wounds. He’s still got scars all over his body.
He was discharged from the Navy in June of 1946 and remembers well the trip from San Diego, Calif. to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station for his discharge. "It took us three days to get by train from San Diego to Great Lakes, Ill. because our train was shuttled off to the side for every freight train we encountered. We didn’t have any priority at all and we had nothing to eat but bologna sandwiches and water."
He laughs as he compares that trip with the wonderful way he and his fellow veterans were treated on the Honor Flight.
Duren was discharged as a ship’s cook third class. He was married in 1948 and he and his wife reared nine children.
After his discharge he operated bakeries in Wolf Point, Mont., Towner and Leeds before purchasing the bakery in Maddock in 1956, which he ran until retiring in 1994. Marge Duren died in 2005.
Boyd Stevenson, 83, was winter-sitting the home of Hank Violett of Leeds, who was spending the winter in South Carolina. Violett called him from South Carolina and told him to sign up for the honor flight and called a second time to give him a phone number to call. Violett was on one of the honor flights out of Fargo last year. Stevenson put his name in for the trip and was on the standby list for the Honor Flight. Five of the veterans scheduled to be on the flight died before the flight took place, so he was able to go. It was his first jet plane ride.
Like the other veterans, Stevenson was amazed by the treatment they received. Everyone was given a throwaway camera, a cap, a T-shirt, an umbrella, dog tags, souvenir K-Rations, a book telling of everyone on the trip, a book telling of the World War II Memorial and other gifts.
Eight or nine of the veterans were in wheelchairs. At least one was permanently disabled enough to require a wheelchair but others were put in wheelchairs to help them get around better. Volunteers pushed them around.
They had a memorial service at the North Dakota column at the World War II Memorial in memory of those five veterans who died before they could take part in the flight.
Boyd had been to Washington, DC before, but that was before the World War II Monument was constructed. He said with some pride that the World War II Memorial was "the biggest and the best monument in Washington."
A Korean family was on the mall with an old Korean veteran of World War II. The family asked Boyd to pose with the Korean veteran so a photo could be taken. "It was amazing," he said.
Boyd joined the Army in March of 1945 and served his entire overseas hitch on the Hawaian island of Oahu. He was a military policeman with the 762nd MP Battalion. They patrolled the ammo dumps and guarded some German POWs. There were lots of soldiers stationed at Scofield Barracks and young soldiers are known to let off steam, so the MPs didn’t just sit around.
"We thought we were going to New Caledonia to prepare for the invasion of Japan, but when the atomic bomb was dropped, the war ended," Stevenson said. He was discharged in November of 1946 as a sergeant after serving in the Army for 22 months.
As a civilian he worked for Baker Electric Cooperative. He started working there about two weeks after being discharged from the service in 1946 and retired 38 years later in 1985. He and his wife, Della live in Leeds. He has five boys and a girl and she has three boys.
A portion of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC is shown in this photo. The Northern Valley Honor Flight took North Dakota WWII veterans to Washington to see the monument erected in their honor. Four of the more than 90 veterans were from Benson County. (Photo by Art Duren, Maddock)
New butterflies at Leeds School
Leeds elementary first graders observe their newly hatched butterflies. The students closely monitored the intriguing transformations from the larva stage to the pupa stage and into painted lady butterflies. Madi Dulmage, Jarrel McGarvey and Shelby Follman watch the butterflies in the butterfly net.
Leeds art show
The Leeds Elementary Art Show, in conjunction with the elementary music program, will be held Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. Elementary art the students have worked on throughout the year will be on display. Also on display will be the winning entries to the 2009 North Dakota State Student Art Show and the 2009 North Dakota Junior Duck Stamp contest.
Clay sculptures such as "The Little Mermaid" by Arnikka Thompson shown above, will be on display. Third grade students made a sculpture using clay and an old shoe.
Reganne Ritterman’s Junior Duck Stamp contest entry will also be on display. She received third place at the state contest.
Team takes first
The Leeds High School Boys’ Golf Team captured first place at the Dunseith Invitational Golf Tournament on Monday, May 4. Left to right are Darren Young, Dustin Paulson, Trevor Torgerson and Steve Hausmann.
Earn star ratings at state
Fourteen students from Minnewaukan High School participated in the North Dakota State Class B Music Contest held at Minot State University on May 2. In order to participate at state, students had to receive a star rating for their performance at the Region 4 music contest held in Cando on April 9.
State performances were given by two girls’ ensembles and one mixed ensemble. Mandee Neeland and Beth Beecroft also performed solos. Star ratings were received by the girls’ ensembles and Beth. The students are under the direction of Debbie Dyste and were chaperoned in Minot by Bob and Rosie Helland.
Pictured, left to right, back row, are Errin Ambers, Brittany Omen, Mariah Peltier, Shayna Sherman, Emily Swenson, Chandra Anderson, Jordan Every and Alex Beecroft. Front row: Miriah Thompson, Beth Beecroft, Kylee Rallo, Raquel Quinones, David Quinones and Mandee Neeland.
Drowned house burns
Have you driven south of Minnewaukan on Old Highway 281 and noticed the house which has been standing in Devils Lake is gone? It was burned in March. This was the home of the late Roy and Millie Newcomb. The hundreds of trees planted by Newcomb have also been claimed by the lake.
Teacher with Leeds roots writes first novel
Editor’s note: The following article concerns Dan Jones, the son of Derry and Kim Jones of Lake Bronson, Minn., formerly of York and Leeds. He is the grandson of John and Marilyn Conway of Leeds and Donna Sogge of Cedar Falls, Iowa, formerly of York, and the late Roy Sogge. Dan attended first through sixth grade at Leeds.
BY JEFF OLSON
Roseau (Minn.) Times-Region
Dan Jones, the author of Riding Scared, has surprised himself. And it’s not because he recently wrote his first book. That was the first of his two goals following graduation from high school a dozen years ago."One," he said, "was to write a book."
And his second goal?
"And two, I said I’d never be a teacher, no way, no how," he said. "I’m one for two." He’s happy with his .500 batting average on those two goals. "I hit a point that being a teacher was what I’m supposed to do," he said, now in his eighth year of teaching after graduating from Bemidji State University with a BS degree in English.
His first novel has caused some interest among his senior high students. Maybe it’s just to see if the gentleman can really write. After all, he teaches writing skills. "A number of my students bought it and have read it or are reading it," he said. "They’re mostly girls and a couple of guys."
Their reactions have been favorable. Jones, who teaches Advanced English at Roseau High School, a position he has held for the past five years, admits that the biggest surprise is that he has written a romance novel that has been well-received. "It surprised the heck out of me having a young, female character," he said.
The novel opens with then 14-year-old Carrie Roberts, whose father, an abusive spouse and parent, kills her mother and she arrives on the scene shortly after her father torches their family home.
The law is there and she gallops off on her mother’s horse, eluding a posse that isn’t chasing her because she is a suspect, but because they’re worried she is in shock. They are chasing a phantom, who rides into the Montana hills and leaves them chasing around in circles. And that’s just in the beginning of the novel, with more twists and turns in the story than even veteran authors can pull off with years of experience. The word count on the novel is around 92,000 words, which he started writing a year ago in December and wrapped up in June of 2008.
"I averaged 2,000 words a day," he said. "Some days, I’d write way more and other days, way less. Once I started writing, it really went fast. I got hooked on it."
The more he wrote, the more he realized that the hero was female, and he had to describe her realistically to make the novel meaningful.
And who did he turn to?
"My sister, Rebecca Jones," he said. "I’d call up and say, ‘I need help with female-related stuff, especially fashion.’"He got the fashion tips down, but he also got inside the main female characters in this adult novel.So the big question was whether his mother, Kim Jones, has read the book. "She was one of the first to read it," he said. "She said she cried at times, so I knew I had something." One of a writer’s objectives, he said, is to get the audience to connect with the characters and feel something. This past June, he finished the novel and then began the tedious task of editing. "It was edit, edit, edit," he said. PublishAmerica in Baltimore published his book.
And how much did it cost? "I got paid to print it," he said. "When the publisher picked it up, I got paid a royalty. I get a commission on every book they sell." Jones admits to having had some reservations when he presented a copy of his book to his dad, Derry, the manager of the fertilizer plant in Hallock.
"I was embarrassed to give it to him," he said. And why was that? "Because it’s a love story and guys aren’t supposed to write love stories," he said. Maybe that’s just a stereotype because men aren’t opposed to romance. If they were, floral shops would go bankrupt. He had initially worried that his parents would say they liked it because they were worried about hurting his feelings. Just like his wife, Derry Jones liked the novel. Judging from the comments on Average Customer Reviews on Amazon.com he has written a winner on his first venture. According to Robyn: Any novel that grabs my attention in the first few pages and keeps it up to the very end is worth buying and telling others about it. This is definitely one of those novels. I will be looking forward to his next publication in the future.
According to Margaret: This book draws you in and makes you feel every emotion that the characters are feeling. It’s a quick read and one you won’t want to put down.
According to Ann: This is the type of book you can’t put down until you finish it. So don’t start too late in the evening. Two weeks ago, the author had a book signing at the Roseau Public Library. It went very well. "I sold 43 or 44 books," he said. If his mother has her wishes, he’ll write many more. "Mom wants me to write mysteries," he said. He had another book signing at the Karlstad Public Library in February. There is one slight hitch. He’s sold out all available copies. He is hoping to have more books available shortly. Jones has made an impression on his fellow English instructors at RHS.
"It’s a darn good start," said Ann Olson. "What a role model for our students!"
Dan Jones, center, is shown with two of his students, Kristina Karl, left, and Dawn Comstock, right. He is the grandson of John and Marilyn Conway of Leeds. (Photo courtesy of Dan Jones and the Roseau Times-Region.)
Legion post honored
David Daeley, left, American Legion District 3 Oratorical Contest vice chairman presents a plaque to Steve Roher, commander of the Gunnerud-Dietrich American Legion Post 86 of Minnewaukan for the post’s membership achievements. The Minnewaukan post was the only post in the district to exceed its membership goal by the required dates. The post had a goal of 31 members and ended the year with 35 members.
On the right is post adjutant (secretary) Richard Peterson. Daeley is Benson County’s Veterans Service Officer and Rohrer is the Benson County Sheriff. Peterson holds a Legion cap pin presented for the achievement.
Communication Arts Teen Division contestants were, left to right, back row, Jaden Kallenbach; Preston Gilderhus, grand champion short take; Andy Backstrom, grand champion illustrated talk; Ben Backstrom, blue ribbon short take. Front row, Jeanne Johnson, reserve champion interpretive reading; Katie Rice, grand champion interpretive reading and blue ribbon short take; and Janna Rice, reserve champion short take. Not pictured are Kya Knoke, blue ribbon interpretive reading and Kristine Keller, grand champion public speaking.
Communication Arts Pre-teen Division contestants were, left to right, back row, Becca Johnson, blue ribbon commercial; Brady Kallenbach, grand champion commercial; Caleb Johnson, blue ribbon interpretive reading; Ashley Risovi, reserve champion commercial; and Hailey Kallenbach, reserve champion commercial. Front row, Will Rice, grand champion commercial. Not pictured are Faith Dosch, blue ribbon commercial and Cooper Knoke, grand champion interpretive reading.
In the Consumer Choices competition, left to right, are Ben Backstrom, honorable mention; Preston Gilderhus, reserve champion; and Katie Rice, grand champion. Not pictured is Kristine Keller, grand champion in the Project Expo event.
Warwick Earth Day
Thanks to Miss Lindsay Allmaras’s fifth graders and Miss Amy Olson’s first graders, the Warwick City park is litter free, as well as the hedge on the south side of the Warwick School’s parking lot. Kindergarteners in Mrs. Charlotte Franks-Erickson’s class took on one east to west block and filled more than 20 grocery bags with litter. Left to right are Mackenzie Robertson, Jayla Guy, Julian Hill, Nathan Cavanaugh, Tabatha Joramo and Marlin DeMarce.
Trevor Yetterboe’s 4th grade class made quite a haul cleaning the Warwick School grounds on Earth Day. Left to right are Keahna Little, Troy Redfox, Brandon Robertson, Kristina Archambault, RaeAnn Leaf, Katelyn Omen, Hailey Tollefson, Aiana Richotte, Sydney Ramsey and Ricardo Littleghost. Mr. Cory Delorme also took a high school group and they walked around the outskirts of town.
After school program
The Warwick School has an ambitious after school program which includes both 21st Century and extended day activities for grades 1-12. Shown in this photo, left to right, are Phoenix Joramo, John Tollefson, Shastene Lambert and Angel Georgeson working in Miss Amy Olson’s reading for fluency class.
Pictured in Mrs. Linda Ferguson’s accelerated math class are, left to right, Maddie Leaf, Tashella Feather, Amber Redfox and Bill Brown.
Mrs. Barb Eversvik’s living skills class is enjoyed by, left to right, Shelly Richotte, Megan Joramo, Virginia Fassett and Cindy Volk.
Two members of Mrs. Charlotte Franks-Erickson’s readers’ theater class do a related activity for the play they are reading. On the left is Hailey Tollefson and on the right is RaeAnn Leaf.