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Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer


BCT Summer Music auditions coming soon

Auditions for Buffalo Community Theater's summer musical: "Monty Python's SPAMALOT" are coming up this weekend! 

"Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail,'" SPAMALOT loosely retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features singing knights, showgirls, cows, killer rabbits, and French people. The Tony Award-winning Best Musical, "Monty Python's SPAMALOT" has been hailed as "a no-holds-barred smash hit." (The New Yorker). 

Two audition dates are available, though auditioners need only attend one:  Friday, May 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 12 from Noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Discovery Elementary School Auditorium. The auditorium is located at 214 1st Ave NE and the theater entrance, is at the top of the ramp (Door #5) . Auditions are open for high school age or older.

Audition forms may be filled out online in advance: ( or on the day of auditions. 

Auditioners may arrive 30 minutes prior to audition start time to facilitate filling out the audition forms. The audition process will include singing, dancing, and readings from the script. (Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear for choreography). Auditioners are asked to prepare approx. 16 bars of a song and provide sheet music; an accompanist will be available

More information is available on the BCT website: and also on the Buffalo Community Theater Facebook page.

Regular weeknight rehearsals will begin on June 11 and continue through June and July until performances  July 20-22 and 25-28. 

"This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund."


Wright Co. Regional Watercraft Decontam. and Inspection Program

In a first for the state of Minnesota, Wright County has established a regional watercraft decontamination and inspection program. If you wish to launch a watercraft into Lake Sylvia (east and west), Lake John, or Pleasant Lake in Wright County, a free entrance inspection is required.  The regional site is in the Annandale Business Park --1300 Business Blvd. in Annandale, Minn.

The site will open on May 10, and continue operations through October 31. 

The site is open seven days a week, half-an-hour before sunrise to half-an-hour after sunset.  After the inspection, and if needed decontamination, you will receive a Proof of Inspection to place in the tow vehicle and a zip-tie seal will be affixed. When launching the watercraft, place the zip-tie seal in a collection box at the lake access.

Are there special provisions for fishing leagues? Yes! If there are 10 or more boats needing an inspection, contact Alicia O'Hare ( or 763-682-1933 ext 3) three business days in advance. A best effort will be made to arrange for free at the access inspections for the event.

Also, a reminder that your Proof of Inspection is good until the zip-tie is broken. So, you can get the inspection done ahead of time and launch when convenient.

We remind all watercraft users to follow all Minnesota laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:

• Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft;

• Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft; and

• Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Courtesy inspections and decontaminations continue to be available to anyone wishing to use any Wright County lake.

The Wright County Regional Watercraft Decontamination Inspection Program is a joint effort between the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Annandale, the Greater Lake Sylvia Lake Association, the Pleasant Lake Association, and the Lake John Association. 

Significant financial support has been provided by the Initiative Foundation Aquatic Invasive Species Program (Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council).

For more information contact Alicia O'Hare or visit


BCT's 5th Annual 'Broadway in Buffalo'

slated for May 19 and 20

The Buffalo Community Theater and the Buffalo High School Tri-M Honor Society is again proud to present their 5th annual musical revue "Broadway in Buffalo" on Saturday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m. 

The all-star cast includes many who have had featured roles in past productions all brought together doing a wide variety Broadway songs.  This year's program includes music from shows such as "Kiss Me Kate," "Cinderella," "Phantom of the Opera," "Cabaret," "Wicked," "Grease," "The Music Man," "Sweeney Todd," "Candide," and "Hamilton."

  New to this year's cast are Megan Bares, Sam Carlson, Emilee Feldman, Heather Halstead, Emily Kern, Lisa Schiltz, Abigail Vogeler, and Kari Wendroth.

 Returning to this year's cast are Madelyn Backes, Brad Hagen, Andrew Johnson, Char McDonnell, Brad Robinson, Jonah Schmitz, Laura Smith, Lois Smith, and Allesson Stensing.  Erica Hoops will make a special return performance during the Sunday performance only.  All will be accompanied by Joy Swearingen on piano, F. Michael Miller on bass and Grayson Wubben on drums with the whole show being emceed by Michael Walsh. 

Tickets are $10 for adults and seniors, and $5 for students and are available in advance at GartnerÅfs Hallmark in Buffalo, or at the door.  All proceeds go to providing scholarships for students studying music and the theater  arts.


That time of year again - first-half taxes will be due on Tuesday, May 15

Robert J. Hiivala, Wright County Auditor/Treasurer, would like to remind all County property owners that first-half property taxes for most properties are due May 15, 2018. 

If for some reason you cannot locate your 2018 property tax statement and would like to get an additional copy, or if you have questions regarding your first half taxes due, this information is available online at the County website at If you have misplaced your tax statement(s), you can print a copy of your statements from 2005 through 2018, if you wish.  

If you don't have access to the Internet, call the Wright County Auditor/Treasurer Department at 763-682-7572 or 763-682-7584 during regular business hours, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Property taxes can be paid in person or mailed and postmarked no later than May 15, 2018 to avoid being assessed a late penalty.  If you are mailing, send to: Robert J. Hiivala, Wright County Auditor/Treasurer, 10 2nd Street NW, Room 230, Buffalo, MN  55313.

In addition, for property owners' convenience, there is a drop box at the north entrance of the County Government Center on 2nd Street NW in Buffalo, to the left of the main entrance.

We accept E-Check and Credit Card payments of property taxes online at the County website at  Enter your PID# or address, then click "Search."  When the correct property information is displayed, click the red "Pay Taxes" tab.

*Please be advised that State law requires convenience fees to be charged to taxpayers who choose to make online credit card or e-check payment for property taxes (M.S. 276.02).  These fees are not retained by Wright County, but rather are paid to a third party vendor to cover the costs associated with the payment services.


Citizens talk new Comm. Center with Friends of Buffalo Community Center

Approximately 200 people attended the Thursday, May 3rd Town Hall meeting, where citizens were asked to provide ideas and input to the community's expectations  for a new Community Center. The meeting lasted two hours, where multiple residents stood to address concerns.

By Miriam Orr

On Thursday, May 3, citizens of Buffalo and other members of Wright County gathered at the Community Center to discuss the potential of a new Center. Moderating the discussion was Karla Heeter of Allina Hospital, who welcomed fellow Wright County Community Center directors from Monticello and Becker in hopes of providing information for the public, as well as finding answers to questions.

"We're here to see if the idea of a new Center in Buffalo is a good idea or not," Heeter said in her opening remarks, which began at 7:00 p.m., "We're interested in your help, and your ideas, as a community."

Jamie Cassidy, Community Center Director for Becker, Minn., was the first to take questions and inform the Buffalo community of Becker's operations, and their own Center. Cassidy gave perspective, stating that Becker's building was constructed in 1994, and services both residents of Becker and non-residents, with memberships being equally split. Becker's Community Center operates on what is approximately a $1.2 million budget, with approximately $641,000 in revenue, which is something every community needs to grasp before thinking about a new Center, Cassidy says.

"What is this going to cost? Have transparency with the people you are working with. Make sure that numbers are there, and that things are managed and allocated properly. This is a huge investment, and you don't want surprises later."

Cassidy also hinted that while there are many avenues to explore in building a new Community Center, those involved have to know which ones are best for their populace, and will make sure their individual needs are met – because not all populations are the same, and may require other amenities that another community may not.

Ann Mosack, director of the Monticello Community Center, echoed Cassidy's statements by addressing citizens with the immediate questions of funding, and really understanding what the community needs before delving into the endeavor of a new Center. The Center in Monticello is approximately 18 years old, and was built for almost $12.5 million, with about $10.5 million of that total coming through lease revenue bonds.

Pictured are speakers at the community gathering. From left to right are Donna Webber, of Buffalo's Community Center; Jamie Cassidy, from Becker, and Ann Mosack, of Monticello. Karla Heeter moderated the event.

Mosack encouraged the community to consider monetary reserves, and how much projects may cost in the future after building a new Center, and how the building's layout and materials may affect funds and projects later on. 

"For instance," she explained, "We're restoring tile at our Center in 2018, and that is expensive. It takes quite a reserve and a very understood budget to manage such an undertaking, anywhere you go. Know what you're getting into when it comes to design, and have a firm knowledge on what you're looking for and what you want. Be able to answer those questions in an informed manner."

Speaking on behalf of the Buffalo Community Center was Director Dana Webber, who stated that the building was purchased by the City of Buffalo in 1989, for about $90,000, and in 1990 it was remodeled, costing another $60,000.

The operating budget for the current Center is around $200,000 for the year, and the Center is currently under the management of the City, as it is a city entity. Allina Health, the American Legion, Lions clubs, and others also provide grants to the Center, as well as donations. There is no membership cost, unlike Becker and Monticello centers, and the building hosts almost 140 different groups per week, with a steady average of 200 patrons a month.

"Currently we are looking at changing programming of the building, and making sure they are geared to the wants and needs of the people, in a way that we can best service them. We want to be clear – the Center isn't just for seniors, it is intended for all ages, and all hosts of peoples," Webber stated during the meeting.

Interest is not lost on the public, despite the daunting finances and figures set before the idea of a new Community Center. Heeter opened the mic for public address, encouraging the community to voice ideas, where a common "wish list" was constructed to begin to cultivate what exactly Buffalo's Community Center would need to provide to taxpayers.

Jeremy, a resident of Buffalo, spoke first, opening his address with the statement, "This conversation should be about how we make this happen, not if." He confirmed the need for gym space in Buffalo, stating that his family is very active during all seasons, and he currently drives to other communities to find the opportunity for his family. Jeremy also presented the concern that members of city government weren't present at the meeting, and how the idea of a Center was "long overdue for this community, and is also a huge component for older adults and their welfare."

Aaron, a resident of Buffalo since 1997, stated that he observed that the community needed to be multi-generational, and that the current Center was primarily seen by citizens as more of a gathering place for seniors, and didn't necessarily fulfill the needs of the community as a whole.

Stacy, another Buffalo resident, spoke on behalf of the swim clubs in Buffalo, stating that a center with more than adequate pool space was a must. "We need space that is appropriate for seniors, children, the handicapped, those in competitive sport, and those who want to lap swim," she stated. "Scheduling is such a mess right now, working in the school, and is highly competitive – many of the kids now don't get a lot of practice time, and that is a problem."

The overall consensus of the public's gathering was that a new Community Center is definitely a sought-after presence on the citizens' radar, and that the idea has been in talks for many years. One citizen stated that this discussion has been in the works for well over a decade, and other communities have used that time to develop bigger Centers, in a growing economy.

Sandy Tool, a member with Friends of the Buffalo Community Center, addressed the audience by stating that a gathering and discussion wouldn't be all that it takes to get a new Center on the books. "This will take a lot more than a group of ten people on a committee to get rolling," she commented. "We need everyone's interest and help – if this endeavor requires a referendum, like the City states, we're going to need every volunteer and every voice out there to make this happen." Tool continued in stating that currently, the community was looking for City encouragement, and public comment and investment before further consideration.

Jack Harrold, another member of the Friends of the Buffalo Community Center, stated that almost 160 seats were set up in the Center's meeting space. Every one of those seats were full on May 3, with many others standing to observe. The meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.  


BCO prepares for "Music of the Countryside"

BCO Conductor Ernesto Estigarribia guides members of the orchestra in rehearsals for the May 12 performance of "Music of the Countryside," featuring songs by Dvorák, von Suppé and Ginastera. (Photo courtesy of Zanna Joyce)

On Saturday, May 12th, the Buffalo Community Orchestra will offer their annual spring concert, "Music of the Countryside."  The concert will feature Dvorák's 8th Symphony, in addition to the Poet and Peasant Overture by von Suppé and Estancia Suite by Ginastera.

The 7:30 p.m. concert will be held in the Performing Arts Center at Buffalo High School.  Concert-goers will have the opportunity to listen to BCO Conductor Ernesto Estigarribia as he discusses the evening's music in a Conductor Chat at 6:30 p.m.  Following the concert, refreshments will be served in the Commons area.  

Tickets for the event will be available in advance at Buffalo Books & Coffee and at the door on the night of the performance.  Online tickets are available through the BCO website.  Adult tickets are $12.00 and Senior tickets are $10.00.  The BCO offers free admission for children and students.  Please visit for more information.   

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


Howard Lake man charged with Delano shooting

Thomas Moist

By Miriam Orr

On May 1, at approximately 2:24 a.m., Wright County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a report of a drive-by shooting near the entrance to Stahlke Bus Service garage in the city of Delano.

Deputies stated that upon arrival at the scene, they found a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe parked, with a series of bullet-holes in the rear and passenger side of the vehicle, noting the bullet-hole in the passenger side window. The detective  on-scene  noticed that there were several shell casings at the scene of the shooting, that appeared to be fired from a 9mm weapon.

The victim,  Joseph Campbell of Watertown, explained to the detective that he had noticed a silver passenger vehicle with a burned-out headlight sitting in the lot of a gas station. He had turned onto County Line Road, where he noticed the vehicle traveling behind his. Campbell was about to turn around in the Stahlke Bus Service lot when the silver vehicle accelerated and passed his vehicle on the right shoulder.

Campbell reported that he heard gunshots hitting his vehicle, with rounds shattering the passenger windows, sending glass fragments into his face. He believed five rounds were shot at his vehicle, and he was unable to identify the suspect.

Stray bullets also had penetrated the Stahlke Bus Service building door, as well as a bus inside the garage.

The detective on scene was approached by a citizen, who stated that she was looking for her nephew, one Joshua Thomas Moist, who had called her for a ride at the location.

Wright County Sheriff's Office detectives obtained surveillance videos from Coborn's, where the video confirmed the presence of the victim's Tahoe and the suspect vehicle, which was identified as a 2002 Chrysler, where the driver was found to be the only passenger, and wearing distinctive clothing.

Alerts were issued for the driver and the vehicle, which was reported in the Rebecca Lake Park Reserve, by a police officer with the Three River Parks district. The officer found the vehicle stuck in mud, with multiple 9mm casings in the front windshield. Upon identification of the vehicle, members of the Wright County Sheriff's Office performed surveillance on the registered owner's home, and the homes of his relatives.

Moist was taken into custody at his grandmother's home in Howard Lake where a 9mm handgun was discovered in the glove box of a vehicle, fully loaded. Members of the Sheriff's Office noticed that Moist was wearing a holster at the time of his arrest, and Moist's relative stated that he had called her early on May 1 for a ride, as he'd been stuck in the mud. She'd been unable to find him, and her husband had later picked him up outside of the Delano Subway, around 8:00 a.m., where he was looking filthy.

The relative was able to provide a statement of Moist's clothing, which matched the video of the Chrysler's driver. She stated that Moist had come back to her residence, and she had taken him to the home of his grandmother in Howard Lake.

Moist's grandmother stated that a few days prior, she and Moist had been looking at family photos when he had placed a handgun on the table, stating that it was a BB gun. He had told her that he knew who had killed his cousin, who died of a drug overdose in June of last year; Moist told her he would, "take care of it."

His grandmother confirmed that Moist had come home wearing the shirt that detectives had identified on video surveillance.

In a brief statement that was inconsistent with information obtained from video surveillance and lacking detail, law enforcement determined from the investigation that Moist had sought out the victim, followed him in his Chrysler while carrying a 9mm handgun, and opened fire on the victim's Tahoe. 

The first charge currently against Moist carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the second charge carries 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. A third charge is for seven years, $14,000, or both. Moist first appeared in court on Thursday, May 3.

The Herald Journal confirmed that Moist was previously convicted of a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in 2008.


Buffalo City Council schedules hearings on two annexations

By Doug Voerding

The annexation process has begun for three large parcels of land on the west side of Dague Avenue north of Buffalo High School.

On Monday, May 7, the Buffalo City Council set a public hearing for June 18 at 7:00 p.m. to consider the annexation.

TSM Capital, LLC, has purchased the 98-acre property with plans for future residential development. The property had previously been owned by the Ordorff family.

The site abuts the Buffalo city limits and infrastructure is nearby, allowing for sewer and water connections at the time of development.

The council was concerned about providing electricity to the site, which is not in the electricity service area of the city.

Electric Utility Supervisor Joe Steffel told the council that the nearest source would be at the corner of County Road 35 and Dague Avenue near the high school.

"I would like to research this," said Steffel. "I could get numbers for providing electric service to the 98 acres."

The council directed Steffel to do the research, which may be available to the council later this summer.

The concept plan for the site will be on the Planning Commission agenda later this month.

In a separate matter, the council decided to hold another public hearing on June 18 for the annexation of property on the east side of Braddock Avenue NE near the Wright County Law Enforcement Center and the soon-to-be-built Justice Center.


Electric Utility

Steffel presented the council with an updated policy and agreement concerning the Buffalo electric utility and the generation of solar electricity.

The new policy makes the city council the oversight board for the solar distribution tariff, keeping local control for the setting of rates and policies, instead of giving the control of the state Public Utilities Commission.

Second, the new policy complies with state statute in allowing the public to request all information about solar power. For example, citizens can get information about the process of adding solar to their homes and what the payback would be.

And, third, the policy defines contracts with wholesale suppliers of electricity. The city does, at times, schedule the purchase of additional electricity from outside sources.

The council approved the new policy.



The council hired Lori Lohmann as the new Finance Officer/Utility Billing Assistant. The position was filled ahead of the upcoming retirement of Mary Jo Stubstad, who has worked for the city for 34 years. There were 107 applicants for the position.

The position will be shared with duties in both the finance department and utility billing, as well as general office duties and assistance with the upcoming primary and general election.

The council accepted the resignation of Street/Parks Maintenance employee Brett Goelz, who has worked for the city for 24 years. In his resignation letter, Goelz said that he is going to take some time to travel with family and will be working for a farmer.



Representatives of the Buffalo American Legion Post 270 continued its more than twenty year tradition of donating $5000 to the Chamber of Commerce for the Buffalo Days fireworks show.

The council accepted donations for the Flora of Buffalo program from Judy Steeber, $115; Anonymous, $100; and Veronica Stifter, $65. The city is still accepting donations for the Flora of Buffalo program.

The Buffalo Community Center received $500 from the American Legion and a $900 grant from Allina for a line dancing program. The Erv Schmidt Toy Shop received $100 from Ron and Judy Jacobson.

The Buffalo Rotary donated five American flags to be flown at Buffalo Airport in honor of Patrick Dorf. The flags are valued at $100.


Other Action

In other action, the council:

• agreed to enter into a joint powers agreement with Wright County to administer stormwater control structures on property north of the Wright County Law Enforcement Center.

• approved a Master Partnership contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation that raises the maximum obligation the money the state can give the city for shared services in planning state highway projects to $1 million. The state is planning the reconstruction of Highway 25 from Settlers Parkway to the downtown commons in 2022.

• granted an easement request from Wright County. The county needs about 4000 square feet from the city for the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of County Road 34 and County Road 134 near Bentfield-Mills Park.

• appointed Bryan Brengman to a five-year term on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Wesley Jung, who was filling out a term, had also applied for the position.

• approved the transfer of the liquor license of Thirsty Buffalo to new owners RBB&G, LLC.

• accepted a petition from Bill and Denise Jundt for the Jundts to pay the sewer and water assessment for a new home they are building on previously-vacant property on Pulaski Road. The assessment of $17,390 had never been assessed against the property.

• called for a public hearing at 7:00 p.m. on May 21 to certify seven delinquent utility accounts to the tax rolls.

• renewed a golf cart license for Angela Moore of Kensington Way.

• announced that the compost site is now open Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The site is closed Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

• learned that the annual Fly-In and air show at the airport will be Sunday, June 10, as part of the Buffalo Days celebration. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


Buffalo High School Prom, 2018

A total of 206 couples participated in Buffalo High School's Grand March on Saturday, May 5 for the 2018 Prom. Pictured on the runway is Andrew Eastlund (left) and Jayden Perry (right). See more photos in a special 2-page Prom pictorial on Pages 4C and 5C of the school section. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)


2018 load restrictions now over

The 2018 Spring Load Restrictions will end on Wright County Highways on Friday, May 11, at 12:01 a.m. 


Over 1,400 marijuana plants seized

By Miriam Orr

At 11:30 a.m. on May 3, in Dassel on the 500 block of Marcia Avenue, the Meeker County Sheriff's Office seized over 1,400 marijuana plants that were growing in a home.

Items used for cultivating the plants were also seized at the residence, where two men were arrested. One, a 37-year-old, who authorities confirmed is wanted in another state for a crime the Office didn't disclose.

Also arrested on felony charges was Trong B. Ly, 45, of Brooklyn Park.

The Star Tribune confirmed that the U.S. Marshal's Office, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were involved with this case.


Library's 4th annual pillow cleaning

The Friends of the Buffalo Library is sponsoring the fourth annual Pillow Cleaning Fundraiser.  The Carlson Pillow Cleaning mobile unit will be in the Buffalo Library parking lot Friday evening, Friday, May 18 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday, May 19 from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Pillows cleaned on Friday can be picked up on Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pillows are cleaned, deodorized, sanitized and fluffed while you wait.  All proceeds benefit Buffalo Library programs. 

Call the library staff for more information, (763) 682-2753.


Spring plant sale at Sturges Park May 19

The Wright County Horticultural Society 2018 Spring Plant Sale will take place Saturday, May 19, 8:30-11:00 a.m., at Sturges Park in Buffalo.

Wonderful variety and selection of perennials, annuals, vegetables and shrubs grown by local members is what makes the Wright County Horticultural Society Plant Sale so special and has earned us the reputation of "having something for everyone."  Knowledgeable gardeners and Master Gardeners will be available to answer your questions.

 A portion of the proceeds from the Plant Sale will help the society maintain public gardens in the city of Buffalo.

The Plant Sale will be held rain or shine.  Payment by cash or check only.  For more information, contact Kathy at 763-497-1979.


Summer bug checks - tick it off the list!

Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a report, stating that cases involving disease contracted by mosquito, tick, and fleabites have more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016. Minnesota has seen cases from ticks that have at least doubled from 2004 to 2018, and the CDC also identified nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks, which have been discovered since 2004.

Be sure to thoroughly check your family and pets over for any signs of mosquito bites, ticks, and fleas. Make sure to examine your clothes thoroughly, and shower as soon as possible. Check you and your loved ones' bodies thoroughly – common places include under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

For more helpful tips and tricks on staying bug-free this summer, please visit the CDC's website at


The Bluebird Effect

How one man's loss sparked his passion, and how his passion helped his grief

By Miriam Orr

A t first glance, Ron Rudolph's home, tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac in Corcoran, is picturesque and quaint. Atop a hill, overlooking the other homes around, the home is quaint, complete with a garage-turned-workshop and a beautiful lawn. To anyone, the home looks perfect and complete.

To Ron Rudolph, however, the home is missing a great deal.


The Rudolph journey

Ron Rudolph found himself pacing the floor at 1:00 a.m., unable to sleep and emotions flaring. Idle hands, accompanied with tossing and turning in bed, had found him both exhausted and anxious as the house around him was far too quiet and…empty.

Empty, not in the sense of lacking belongings, but because Ron had just buried his wife.

Ron has made his home in Corcoran, where he has resided for over twenty years, made his living at Scherer Brothers Lumber, and developed his love and passion for woodworking. Here, Rudolph and his late wife, Pat, raised three children: Kristy, Nicole, and Peter, who attended school in the area while Ron and his wife worked to support a family.

Life was good. Pat worked as a nurse at North Memorial Hospital, and Ron continued his work with lumber, as they raised their children and pursued their version of the "American Dream."

Then, in 2004, the news came – Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When they received the news, Ron explained that the first emotion was fear, almost immediately. "It was scary," he stated, "We weren't sure what would happen. We'd heard stories of others going through this, so we weren't sure where it would end for us at all, at first."

Pat was a trooper, however. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments after her diagnoses in 2004, with Ron and their family right by her side. It was difficult, Ron said – the trips to the cities and the shuffling of schedules was rough, but the hardest part was watching Pat grow weak from treatments, and endure a grueling surgery.

Shortly after her treatments and surgery, Pat went into remission, and was clean of cancer.

"We thought we were okay after that," Ron shared. "We were so relieved, thinking we'd kicked it with the treatments and the surgery. She was healthy and went back to being herself."

It was July, 2016, when Ron and Pat were on their annual 4th of July trip when he noticed that she wasn't acting like her normal self. They were walking by the water, Ron remembers, when Pat was suddenly very dizzy and unbalanced.

"She stumbled into me, and said she was really dizzy," Ron explained. "It was so unusual, so we decided to take her to the hospital."

There, with the help of an MRI, they discovered a brain tumor.


The bluebird effect

"It was a tough journey, after we found out about the brain tumor," Ron states quietly in his workshop, sitting on a faded barstool in a typical working man's jean-jacket and boots. Not far from him is a skill-saw and a stack of cut planks and other assortments of wood.

The tumor, which doctor's found in Pat's brain, was located at the base of her brain, in the area that controls speech and balance. Ron commented that since the diagnoses, Pat had not been able to balance properly and her speech was affected by the tumor. The family, again, underwent rigorous radiation treatments, Ron working full-time at his job, and also as the primary caregiver to his wife.

Treatments, however, couldn't beat the tumor. Eventually, Ron dedicated himself to home hospice, which he did for a while, but was unable to fully provide the extent of care that Pat would need around-the-clock. As her condition worsened, the last six weeks of her life found Pat in a hospice home, with Ron going to see her every day.

"It was so difficult." Ron was teary-eyed. He was quiet for a long moment, contemplating his next words, before continuing quietly. "No one ever thinks about that, putting your loved one in hospice. It was surreal, especially since we thought we'd had this beat once."

Ron had the opportunity to retire from his job, which would've allowed him to be home more and take care of his wife. However, Ron stated that going to work was the best thing he could have done, because it helped him cope with the process, and realization, that he was going to lose his wife, the second time around.

On January 11, 2018, the Rudolph's said goodbye to their wife and mother, which brings things around to a restless widower in the early throes of 1:00 a.m. With a heart heavy with grief and far too many thoughts, Ron Rudolph found himself sitting in his woodworking shop, desperate for something to break the cycle of tormenting sadness.

"I was looking around the shop for something easy that I could make," he said. Ron gestures around his shop, pointing to a birdhouse mounted on one of his shelves, "I saw that bluebird house, and realized that I could do that pretty easily, so I just started rummaging for the materials and cut myself some boards."

That first bluebird house came about easily, Ron commented, and helped him be able to think on something other than his grief. It kept his hands busy and his mind focused, as woodworking is a demanding trade and requires focus and concentration, skills that Ron has been honing for almost forty years in the industry.

He had built somewhere around a dozen bluebird houses before one of his daughters, Kristy, caught on. Soon, Ron was selling the birdhouses, by word of mouth, for around $10.00, until Kristy posted them on Craiglist, and the demand almost doubled.

"This was just something I discovered that could get my mind off my loss," Ron shared. "It wasn't anything fancy – just simply something I love doing, that came natural, and helped me focus on something else. It's helped me process and get me out of the house, which is just flooded with memories."

It's been a little over four months since the family's loss, and things are very raw. Sitting in his workshop, Ron is at home and comfortable, though his face shows every ounce of grief and loss that a husband could emanate. Around him, however, are stacks of supplies – as well as completed birdhouses. Actually, there are 77 of the completed pieces, to be precise. And, every one of them are sold.

"There is such a demand for these," Ron explained. "I'm not sure if it's because bluebird houses are the thing in demand, or if people are just touched by the reason behind their construction, but regardless, it keeps me busy, and that's what I like."

Not only do the birdhouses keep Ron's hands and mind busy, as well as help him process his grief, but it has also tied four generations of their family together. Ron's father, who is 90 years old, comes and helps him work in the shop, as do his children and grandchildren.

"Time is really the ultimate healer in this situation," shared Ron, "but it is also the enemy here. I simply needed something to kill time, and this is what just so happened to unfold. It's brought my family together in a time that has been hard for us, and that is special for me. This has had such an affect on us."

Since February, Ron has built approximately 500 of the bluebird houses, but it doesn't stop there. As the season unfolds, he's expecting the busyness to grow. He works at his own pace, however, and isn't in the business of supplementing income. He stated more than once that the project, and the publicity, is about helping others process loss, and maybe somehow managing to give them an escape.

"I don't want this to be about money or a business." Ron said. "I want this to inspire someone else, and show them that there is a way to process this, and time continues to tick – this is a way to fill up that time, and get yourself back on your feet, at least for me. That's the end goal."

For now, Ron and his family are staying close in the wake of loss, and continue to process the loss of a loved one. For inquiries, Ron asks that you contact him online by email, at, and asks that you take into consideration his commitments and process of grief, and how that may affect his working schedule.


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