Posts Tagged: luther college

Live Generously: Larry Grimstad

Larry Grimstad“I’m just a banker with a passion for renewable energy,” Larry Grimstad says, in typical humble fashion.

In truth, the longtime Decorah resident is much more than that. He’s a highly respected community leader who has spent well more than a decade working to reduce his carbon footprint on the world and educate others on the importance of doing the same.

“We need renewable energy – wind, solar, and geothermal – and some of us have just got to take the initiative so others will come along,” he told the Des Moines Register in 2012 when asked about his efforts to promote environmental sustainability in Winneshiek County.

Larry, who served as president of Decorah Bank and Trust from 1978 to 2002, put those words into action three years ago when, through his company Decorah Solar Field, he partnered financially with Luther College to erect a $1.2 million array of 1,250 solar panels along Pole Line Road on the north edge of the college’s campus. The eye-catching array provides the bulk of the electricity used by Baker Village, a student-housing cluster that also uses clean energy (geothermal) for heating and cooling.

“I spent my career as a community banker so it’s a natural thing to figure out ways to help build good things for the community,” he says of investing in the array. “The more of that you do, the more you to want to do even more.”

Not surprisingly, Larry is just as generous with his time. He currently serves as board treasurer of four organizations – First Lutheran Church, Seed Savers Exchange, the Oneota Film Festival, and the Winneshiek Energy District – while also participating in events like the recent Decorah Energy Extravaganza that help educate the community about the myriad benefits of clean energy. The event showcased 10 solar-powered homes, including the one he built with his wife, Diane, in the early 2000s.

“It’s my responsibility to my grandchildren,” he replies when asked what drives his seemingly tireless efforts to leave this place in better shape than when he found it. “I have to do what is right for them and their generation.”

– by Sara Friedl-PutnamLarryGrimstadGraphic

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Live Generously: Mark Faldet

Mark FaldetIt’s easy to let fifth-generation Decorah native Mark Faldet fool you: He’s the kind of guy who, having traveled the region for work at Luther College for 30 years, could tell you – down to the last left-hand turn – how to get to the best pulled-pork sandwich shop in Iowa. BUT, he himself has never lived more than a mile as the crow flies from his childhood home, a farm on the first crest of Locust Road. In fact, he’s never been away from Decorah for more than 13 consecutive days in his 60-ish years. “It was never my intention,” he says, “but it’s been a pretty good bit of luck, or fate.”

Mark’s was perhaps the hardest interview to procure in this series, thoroughly convinced as he was that none of his volunteerism would warrant this kind of attention. Though in many ways, his under-sung turns of community service are among the most accessible – the smallest of gestures that make a small town thrive.

Some will recognize him as a long-time member of Decorah’s city Tree Board, a division of the street department that oversees the planting and maintenance of the town’s majestic boulevard trees. Others cite him as a regular visitor to the area’s nursing homes, where he knows and is known by the generations that created the fabric of his childhood. Through his high school years, his extended family celebrated every aunt, uncle, and cousin’s birthday together.

And still others have seen Mark pushing a self-fashioned broom/pan contraption down Water Street after the annual Nordic Fest parade, taking some of the back-breaking work out of scouring for candy wrappers, paper decorations, and other debris. When it looks like rain, he’s cleaning leaves and branches out of storm drains in his Broadway neighborhood, where he’s lived for 28 years. And when the snowmelt pools and freezes on the sidewalks in spring, he’s been known to scrape and salt his block, then the next, and sometimes the next.

“To stay in the town you grew up in is in many ways a lot harder than moving away to ‘grow up,’” he says, his eyebrows shooting up in reference to youthful antics he had to live down as he matured. “There’s something about the way people in a community like this still depend on each other that compels them to do right by each other, to give back more freely. It’s understood: you don’t give away what you expect to get back – you can always tell the newcomers by this, you know? – but in return, you get a community with the right balance of understanding and generosity and forgiveness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” – by Kristine Jepsen

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What We’re Loving: Driftless Winter 2015-16

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A little list of what we think is awesome in the Driftless Region right now…

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Hotel Winneshiek + Fun Events

Have we mentioned how lucky we feel to have the beautiful Hotel Winneshiek operating in our community? It is a seriously amazing anchor to Downtown Decorah – the renovation of the historical property in 2000 brought new life and new businesses to (the already pretty hopping) Water Street, and it’s not too shabby to look at, either.

In more recent years, the Hotel Winneshiek has also been a hub of fun activity. Their new motto is “The Welcome is Real” – they hope folks will think of the terrazzo-floored lobby as the community living room, and the Steyer Opera House as a place to dance and have fun. To drive this notion home, they’ve hosted some pretty cool events – ranging from their “Live in the Lobby” music series to the dead-of-the-winter Winneshiek Music Festival. This whole “why have it if you don’t use it” mentality is one we can get behind. Seriously – get that China out of the cupboard, people! And get those butts off the couch for some of these great events:

Winneshiek Wedding Market, January 24, 2016 – Three floors of wedding fun! We think the idea of strolling all around the Hotel, mimosa in-hand, as you plan your wedding sounds like a lot of fun. Details at hotelwinn.com.

Winneshiek Music Festival, January 29-31, 2016 – There’s a great line-up of local and regional favorites for this year’s fest! Check out the poster on page 18!

Live in the Lobby, Sundays and Tuesdays (schedule starts again in spring, with occasional pop-ups this winter) – Free music performances in the Hotel lobby! Check Hotel Winneshiek Facebook page for details.

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Grown-Up Coloring Books! Sonja Emily, Chuck U, etc.

OK, ok, ok… so you may have already caught the ‘rage’ of coloring books for grown-ups. It’s everywhere! What’s the big deal about coloring? Many psychologists are saying filling in those blank little spaces with color is the next best thing to meditation – that it’s a huge stress-reliever and a great way to relax the mind. It’s become so popular, in fact, that almost half of the best-selling books on Amazon (Dec 2015) are adult coloring books.

Lucky for us, some local and regional artists have jumped on board the coloring train. And we totally love that! Check out this issue’s “Paper Project” from Luther grad / Minneapolis artist Sonja Emily. She currently has coloring gift cards for sale at Milkhouse Candles and Gifts in Decorah, and is rumored to be stocking them up with some coloring books soon, too. We love her fun and whimsical work (you can get more details about Sonja on page 32). One of our other favorite Minneapolis artists, “Chuck U” has also turned several of his incredible – and often totally intricate – works into a totally entertaining coloring book, plus our local Dragonfly Books (you can read more about THEM on page 24) has a great variety of coloring books to choose from too! Hooray for creative outlets for, truly, anyone!

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Neste Valley Reserve / Dry Run Trail

Back in 2013, the Neste Family partnered with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Winneshiek County Conservation board to start the process of converting their 170-acre heritage farm into a new park just outside of Decorah. The INHF was able to secure the property from the family and will transfer it to the Winneshiek County Conservation Board once fundraising on the million-dollar project has been completed. The property encompasses an impressive span of land including oak savannas, wetlands, and one mile of the Dry Run Creek, which will all be permanently protected as parkland. It’s the first new park established by WCC in 21 years! Exciting!

The property will also be the link that will allow an 8-mile Dry Run Trail to connect the Trout Run and Prairie Farmer Trails in Calmar via Highway 52. That would make over 43 miles of nonstop trail in Northeast Iowa! We love this vision, and want to encourage our readers to donate to the INHF in the name of this project – they still need $235,000 to make it happen! Getting this park in action would be an amazing gift to pass on to future generations (and a great way to start Living Generously). Find more information at inhf.org/neste-valley-recreation-area.cfm or by contacting Winneshiek County Conservation at www.winneshiekwild.com or 563-534-7145.

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Luren Singers / Dave Judisch to receive The Medal of St. Olav

DaveJudishWe love the Nordic roots that run so very deep in our little Northeast Iowa community, and it would be hard to embody the Decorah/Nordic connection more than the Luren Singing Society has for the past 148+ years. This group lives up to its motto “We Love to Sing” – in Norwegian, to boot. Although the Society has humble roots, as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2018, others are taking notice as well. Earlier this fall, the Norwegian Honorary Consul General notified long-time director Dr. David Judisch that he had been awarded The Medal of St. Olav by His Majesty King Harald V of Norway.

The medal is awarded to only a handful of honorees each year in recognition of “outstanding services rendered in connection with the spreading of information about Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their home country.” It is an award of high-distinction given to non-Norwegian citizens. Judisch has directed the Luren singers for over 40 years, and has been in director-in-chief of the NSAA (Norwegian Singers Association of America) for over 30. During that time he has also helped lead seven tours of male choir singers to Norway to perform and travel. Judisch will be presented the award on February 4, 2016 at the Luther College Convocation in the CFL. Congrats to Dr. Judisch and the Luren Singing Society! For more information and performance schedules, visit: www.lurensingers.com

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