Twins Stop in Rothsay Home to Comfort 8-Year-Old Fan

ROTHSAY, Minn. — The look in Cole Fielder’s eyes said more than words.

When two Minnesota Twins baseball players and two of the team’s all-time greats walked into his bedroom Wednesday afternoon, the eight-year-old didn’t move.

But his eyes did.

“When his eyes go up, that means yes,” said his mother, Dori Fielder.

Twins Michael Cuddyer and Mike Redmond, along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and twotime World Series champion Dan Gladden, visited Cole as part of the Twins Winter Caravan.

Cole has Type I spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a motor neuron disease which causes the muscles to atrophy, and can’t leave the house during cold months.

Doctors diagnosed Cole with SMA when he was just five weeks old.

Today, Cole is in a wheelchair, on a ventilator, has no motor functions and can’t speak. His eyes are his only form of communication.

“I’m sure it’s a little overwhelming for him,” said Redmond, a catcher entering his second season with the Twins. “On the other hand, I’m sure it’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”

The caravan spent more than 30 minutes at the Fielder’s house in Rothsay, speaking with Cole and his family, taking pictures and signing memorabilia.

“I don’t think they realize what they really did for him and did for us,” Dori said.

The players said they do very few house calls during the regional goodwill tour, which also stopped in Duluth, Wadena and Fergus Falls on Wednesday.

“It’s very unique,” said Cuddyer, a third baseman entering his sixth season. “We don’t necessarily get to single homes.”

While the family rubbed shoulders with the players, the youngest members of the Fielder family, 5-year-old Tori and 4-year-old Noah, enjoyed playing with “T.C.”, the Twins mascot, who brought memorabilia items for the kids.

However, the most surprising moment for the Fielder family was the appearance of Killebrew, who wasn’t scheduled to be with the team.

“To come to a home like this, I think, is a pretty special thing to do,” said the 69-year-old Killebrew. “They’re real Twins fans here.”

That may be an understatement.

Everything in Cole’s room is associated with the major league team.

The pennants on the wall, the blanket on his bed and countless other Twins items show the family’s dedication to the baseball team.

The allegiance began when a Twins baseball game caught Cole’s attention four years ago.

“My brother just started watching it a little bit and he started liking it,” said 13-yearold Nick Fielder. “So we started watching it.”

Today, it’s his best outlet and a bonding tool for the Fielder family.

“I didn’t even start watching baseball until Cole started watching baseball,” said his father, Rick Fielder.

Kay Siebert, one of Cole’s former nurses, spent the past two years urging the public relations staff that handles the caravan to make a stop in Rothsay to visit Cole.

Siebert could hardly hold back tears of joy when she saw Cole with the players.

“I was just tickled,” Siebert said. “This is the kind of thing Cole really lives for.”

An inspiring 103 years

One-hundred and three years is a long time to be alive. Almost too long, one could argue.

But for Mildred Monke, it was a 103-year journey filled with more adventure and challenges than I or many others will likely ever experience in a lifetime.

In June of 1912, Mildred became the first Monke of her generation to be born in North Dakota. She grew up on a farm just down the road from the one where I grew up, but in a wholly different world. She was college-aged by the Dust Bowl years and knew the rigors of living in the country long before cars, satellite TV and Internet connected farm kids to the world.

Millie, a deeply religious woman, wanted nothing more in life but to meet her maker and to be with her family once again. Last Sunday, her wish finally was fulfilled when she passed away following a short but difficult bout with an infection. On Friday morning, we held her funeral at St. John Lutheran Church, where she spent several years as secretary and faithful parishioner.

She outlived two brothers and three cousins, and dozens of relatives and friends, and traveled the world long before the world was easy to travel.

Millie never married and spent 23 of the best years of her life — during which time many of her peers formed families and had children — giving her time and energy to others in India where she served as a Lutheran missionary, mostly taking care of children and the disabled for very meager earnings. I often wonder if the time she spent in India helped prolong her life exponentially, both in a physical and mental sense.

Because so many of our older generation here in Dickinson knew Millie for her work with the church and with various government agencies, last week I was asked several times how we were related.

Mildred Monke is shown during her 100th birthday celebration in June 2012.
Mildred Monke is shown during her 100th birthday celebration in June 2012. Our “Great Aunt,” a missionary, author and public servant, died last Sunday at 103 years old.

Mildred and my grandpa Clarence were double cousins. Their fathers, both from Illinois originally, married sisters from their hometown and moved to North Dakota when their father purchased farmland for them. Though they were cousins, Mildred and Clarence acted more like siblings — especially later in life after so many other relatives had passed, including Millie’s mother Sophie at 101 years old.

So to us, she has always been “Great Aunt Mildred.”

It was obvious that the bond between my grandpa and Millie grew stronger as they came to terms with their mortality. When grandpa died two Christmases ago at 93, it left Millie as the last of her generation. When she was told of my grandpa’s passing, you could tell it hurt her. There were many times she told us and others that she was ready to meet her God.

Because I only knew her later in her life, most Mildred stories naturally were ones told to me by my family or her friends and acquaintances. But perhaps what impressed me the most about Mildred is that in her early 90s, she decided to sit down at a laptop computer and write a 110-page book, “North Dakota to India: Memoirs of a Missionary.”

She wrote of her time growing up on the farm. She talked about the conflict she faced as a 20-something who didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life — a problem just as real in the 1930s as it is today — which led to her decision to go to India. She wrote endlessly about the people who kept her there so long. She wrote of the cities and places she saw in the Middle East, including Mount Everest, and the trips she took across the United States, including to both Hawaii and Alaska in her retirement years.

Though her book contains many inspiring anecdotes and moments, Mildred perhaps summed up her life best in a sentence she wrote 20 years ago during her funeral planning. “Mildred leaves this world confident in the promises of her Lord and Savior, and in the great thanksgiving and praise for friends and relatives who made life meaningful and good.”

From the beginning to the end, Millie was a faithful woman. Faithful to her God, and to her family and friends. In many ways, she exemplified what she all hope to be.

We’ll miss you Millie. Thank you for everything!

Insight: Interview with Lynn Helms

Following the State of the City address on Tuesday, Press Managing Editor Dustin Monke had an 11-minute chat with state Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms about the state of the southwest North Dakota energy industry.

They chatted about falling oil prices and rig numbers, the oilfield job outlook in western North Dakota and what kind of chances there are for oil production to ramp up in the Bakken.

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Check out this week’s full episode of Insight on the jump.

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Target Logistics to temporarily close Dunn County crew camp

MANNING — Target Logistics is temporarily closing its massive crew camp in southern Dunn County, the company said Wednesday.

Citing dwindling capacity and low oil prices, the company says plans to close the nearly 600-bed crew camp 8 miles north of Dickinson and reopen in late spring or early summer.

“The capacity is down, somewhat due to the oil situation and somewhat due to the weather,” said Randy Pruett with Pierpont Communications, which provides media relations for Target Logistics. “This is not uncommon throughout the crew camp industry.”

Pruett said he didn’t know exactly when the camp was closing, but said those staying there were being relocated to other Target Logistics properties in North Dakota.

The news was announced earlier in the day at the Dunn County Commission meeting.

Continue reading “Target Logistics to temporarily close Dunn County crew camp”

Dickinson hotels were half empty in 2015

Dickinson hotels were about half-full in 2015, according to year-end average data obtained by the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau on Wednesday.

Terri Thiel, exective director of the Dickinson CVB, said hotels in Dickinson averaged about 48.2 percent occupancy during 2015, which is down from 71.5 percent occupancy in 2014.

Those numbers are a bit lower than average and close to 2005 figures — long before the oil boom hit the area and when Dickinson had nearly 800 less hotel rooms.

Thiel said the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in north Dickinson, the city’s newest hotel, plans to open Feb. 2.

Permanent fix: Richardton-Taylor school officials propose $15 million remodel

Brent Bautz walks out of his office at Richardton-Taylor High School and points to the ceiling.

There, the school superintendent shows where brick is cracked, displaced and appears to be pulling away from wooden beams, some of which have large cracks in them.

The school building that houses the district’s 130-plus junior high and high school students is 55 years old and, Bautz and others believe, needs to be replaced.

“A lot of people, they don’t realize when you walk down the hall and you see that stuff,” Bautz said. “When people come here most of the time, it’s just for games. Of course we always want everything to look nice. People say, ‘Oh there’s nothing wrong with the school, it looks fine.’ But foundationally, we have some issues.”

Bautz said Wednesday the school district is in the early stages of discussing a possible $15 million remodel of the existing school, which would include tearing down the south wing and reconstructing a two-level building in its place, and an almost complete overhaul of other parts of the building.

The project, which would require a bond issue, includes adding a multipurpose gym that could double as a cafeteria and commons area, a new band and choir room, a remodel of existing locker rooms, and a new secured entrance near administrative offices.

EAPC Architects Engineers, a Bismarck firm, recently finished a 40-page assessment of the building and described its issues in plain terms.

“In general, the high school buildings have significant structural and foundation deficiencies that include life safety concerns,” the firm wrote in its executive summary.

The report also found multiple areas of the school out of compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Duane Zent, Richardton-Taylor’s school board president and an area farmer, said the board believes the plan to tear down the south wing and build a new structure in its place is the most cost-effective way of ensuring the school’s future.

“The board feels like we need to build a new building because our building in such bad shape that to pour more money into it, it’s going to be an unending project and we’ll still have an old building at the end of the day,” Zent said.

Zent, who graduated from the school in 1976 when the building was just 15 years old, said he remembers hearing the school was meant to last 30 years.

“These old buildings are not designed for any of this,” he said.

Why the need

Despite the oil slowdown in western North Dakota, Richardton-Taylor’s enrollment remains up compared to five years ago and it’s still steadily growing with nearly 300 total students.

There are 134 kids in the 7-12 building, and 164 kids in grades K-6.

Preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders are in the old St. Mary’s Catholic School building in Richardton, which is leased by the district for thousands of dollars a month, and second- through sixth-graders are in Taylor. The junior high and high school students are in Richardton.

After a remodel, fifth grade and up would likely be sent to the Richardton school with the rest of the kids going to Taylor, which would also have air system improvements through the use of grants funding and mills, Bautz said.

“With the Taylor facility, structurally it’s fine,” Bautz said.

Richardton Mayor Frank Kirschenheiter said he’s a proponent of the remodel because the school system is a big reason why people choose to live in and around the community. Richardton-Taylor has a history of success in both its academic and athletic programs — notably Student Congress, speech, one-act play and, of course, football and basketball.

“Before the oil boom, the only draw we had to get people to town was that school system,” Kirschenheiter said. “It’s a school system that’s as good as any in the state and we have to keep it that way.”

However, Bautz, the board and city leaders like Kirschenheiter aren’t sure how taxpayers will react to the remodel plans, especially in the wake of the oil slowdown and current low ag commodity prices.

Alongside the school project, the city of Richardton may be faced with a large street reconstruction project in the near future that would require special assessments.

Minor street work in the town of about 550 people started three years ago, Kirschenheiter said, when cost estimates were much higher. Now that it’s easier to find engineers and contractors to do the work, the city wants to push forward with projects.

Like the school, the city’s streets were completed in the 1960s. Kirschenheiter said they’ve only had one chip-and-seal project done since.

“We don’t want it to be a burden on our taxpayers,” Bautz said of the proposed school project. “And that’s what’s so frustrating about it.”

Bautz and Zent said the school wants to have its plans for the remodel in order before they’re present to the public. No discussion for the project outside of regular board meetings has been set.

“We want to make sure … when we start going out and talking to the public that these are the right numbers, this is what we’re looking at, this is what it’s going to do to your taxes and that it’s a doable thing,” Bautz said.

Kirschenheiter, who said his grandfather told him “I paid for the school to educate you,” said he has similar feelings now that he’s in that position.

“It obviously is in need of repair,” Kirschenheiter said. “It has outlived its useful life in my opinion. Something has to happen.”

Stockert a posterboy for US mental health reform

Mental health is an issue seldom talked about in our country in the wake of violence.

However, we had a mental health situation close to home make national headlines last week when Scott Stockert, a Dickinson man with a history of mental health issues, drove his pickup to Washington, D.C. with the alleged intention of kidnapping President Barack Obama’s dog, Bo.

He claimed to arresting officers that he was Jesus Christ and was planning to run for president.

The story went viral not only on The Press website, but on countless others throughout the world.

Millions got a good laugh out of it.

The comments section on our Facebook page were mostly humorous in nature. Yet only a handful of people brought up possible mental health concerns.

The situation wasn’t really something to laugh about.

Continue reading “Stockert a posterboy for US mental health reform”