Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Country Crooner April 24, 2015

Portrait #18: Dunnell Lenort

 

Portrait 16, Dunnell Lenort, Village of Yesteryear 2012

 

If you were to read the biography of country and oldies rock n’ roll singer Dunnell Lenort, it would read like a country song.

Heartache and hardship. Good times and bad. But through it all, he perseveres.

I knew none of this when, in July 2012, I listened to Dunnell perform “I Fought the Law” at the 26th annual Steele County Historical Society Extravaganza at the Village of Yesteryear in Owatonna. It was an afternoon of living history, activities and entertainment.

I often wonder what brings a singer onstage to perform with a passion. So when I chose Dunnell’s image for today’s portrait feature, I googled his name to learn more. After hearing Johnny Cash on a home stereo at age five, Dunnell knew he wanted to sing.

But his journey into music starts even earlier. A stroke at only eight months old paralyzed Dunnell’s right leg and arm, beginning 20 plus years of trips to Gillette Children’s Hospital for treatment and multiple surgeries. Through it all, one thing kept this young man’s spirits high—music.

His music career has ebbed and flowed. He once performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and as an opening act for Roy Clark at the Surf Ballroom. (Buddy Holly performed his last show there before the February 3, 1959, fatal plane crash near this Clear Lake, Iowa, venue.)  Mostly Dunnell has entertained audiences in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. County fairs, casinos, community events. He lives in Twin Lakes, a small town in Freeborn County.

In early 2008, Dunnell’s beloved wife, Angie, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor. Things were going good until the couple was seriously injured in an automobile accident several months later.

Angie lost her battle with cancer on September 24, 2014.

On the home page of Dunnell’s website, you won’t find a photo of him. Rather, you will find an image of Angela and these loving words:

I love you Angie and will miss you so very much.—Dunnell

I would like to thank everyone who have expressed their condolences to myself and the family at the loss of my companion, friend and wife Angie. I will miss her tremendously. God’s blessings to you all.—Dunnell

Now that’s a country love song if ever I read one.

Dunnell has many performances booked already for this year, including an appearance again at the July 12 Steele County Historical Society Extravaganza. He’ll take the stage at the Village of Yesterday at 1 p.m.

If you happen to hear Dunnell perform anywhere, remember his inspirational story. His is a story of strength and love, holding strong to hope and a dream.

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This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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