Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In loving memory of Buck Burkhartzmeyer January 8, 2022

Donald “Buck” Burkhartzmeyer. (Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home)

HE WAS AMONG the most caring individuals I’ve ever met. He being Donald Burkhartzmeyer, “Buck” to those of us who considered him a friend.

Buck died unexpectedly on Thursday, January 6, at the Faribault hospital. He was 97.

A life-long Faribault resident, he made a major impact on this community. Not in a splashy, attention-calling way, but rather in the simplicity of a kind and generous soul who lived his Christian faith. He was soft-spoken, gentle, giving. Always smiling. I expect many stories will emerge in the coming days about Buck’s acts of love. I have my own to share. But first a little background.

Early in the pandemic, inspirational Scripture was posted in the windows of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

A MAN OF FAITH & FAMILY

Buck was first and foremost a man of great faith. He faithfully attended my church, Trinity Lutheran, where he welcomed me to Faribault nearly 40 years ago. Buck was an unofficial community ambassador, showing newcomers around town. He made me feel comfortable as a new bride living in a new place. His example of devotion to God and service to others proved inspirational. He was involved in church and in many community organizations.

He was, too, a family man—husband of Delilah (she preceded him in death), father of four, a grandfather. Friend to many.

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes anchors a corner in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

BURKHARTZMEYER SHOES

After WW II, he joined his brothers, Alvin (Al) and Walter (Putts) in operating Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. He is the last surviving brother. Their parents, Ferdie and Martha, started the business with a shoe repair and harness shop opened in the late 1930s. The Burkhartzmeyers grew the family shoe business, now with third-generation owners, Brian (Buck’s son) and Bruce (Al’s son). And, yes, the store still includes a repair shop.

Buck specialized in fitting and modifying shoes as a certified pedorthist. Now Brian continues that tradition of offering corrective footwear to meet the needs of customers. Their services are well-known, and not just locally. Inside the shoe repair shop hangs a framed thank you letter from Twins baseball great and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. Buck, who enjoyed Minnesota sports and played basketball while in the Navy, assisted many an athlete with their shoe needs. Helping the everyday person, though, meant just as much to Buck.

Through the decades, our family purchased footwear from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. Work boots. Snow boots. Tennis shoes. Dress and casual shoes. Kids shoes. This is the type of shoe store where owners and/or employees measure your feet, slip your feet into shoes/boots, watch you walk, push on toe ends to check fit, adjust sizes as needed. Every effort is made to get a good and comfortable fit. Buck remembered people’s shoe sizes. Burkhartzmeyer Shoes excels in customer service.

I purchased these snow boots at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

GENEROSITY, FROM CANDY TO SHOES

Buck excelled in goodness and kindness, too. In 2004, the year my eldest daughter graduated from high school, he told her to come down to the store before she left for college. He wanted to give Amber a complimentary pair of tennis shoes. Why? Amber had applied for a scholarship from the Faribault High School Class of 1942, but was not awarded the monies. Buck, who served on the scholarship committee, felt so bad that he decided to give her a new pair of shoes. I’ll always remember the moment we walked into Burkhartzmeyer Shoes to find Buck waiting. He fit Amber with a new pair of shoes and wished her well at Winona State University. That was Buck. Generous. I expect many others in this community can share stories of shoes given to them.

He gave away more than shoes. Buck also handed out red licorice sticks to children after Sunday morning church services. He pulled the candy from his suit coat pocket and slipped it into little hands.

HIS MINISTRY

But perhaps the selfless and loving spirit of Buck is best shown in his many visits with those living in nursing homes. Daily he visited his mother, Martha, at St. Lucas Care Center. She died in 2005 at the age of 107. What a loving son. And husband. Later, when his wife, Delilah, moved into St. Lucas, he visited her daily also. And many others. Endless elders whom he remembered and uplifted with his visits. Employees at Faribault’s east side Kwik Trip, where Buck often stopped after those visits, knew him well.

MORE MEMORIES

A number of years back, Randy and I, as part of our bible study’s Christmas outreach ministry, stopped at Buck’s house to deliver a basket of fresh fruit. I remember sitting in his sprawling living room engaged in conversation. I don’t recall what we discussed. But to be in Buck’s presence was to feel uplifted. And joyful.

There’s one more thing Buck did—and I expect he did this for others, too. Whenever an article about me published in the Faribault Daily News, he laminated a copy and stuck it in my church mailbox. That tells you something. He recognized my accomplishments as a writer and wanted me to understand how much he valued me and my God-given gifts.

Today I mourn the loss of this incredibly kind and generous man who showed such love to me and my family. I expect many in this community can say the same. We are all the better for having known Buck. He touched many lives with his gentleness of spirit and will be forever cherished.

TELL ME: If you have a memory or story about Buck, please feel free to share. Click here to read comments about Buck posted on the Burkhartzmeyer Shoes Facebook page.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home website

 

The winds of December topple holiday trees December 6, 2021

The Holiday Tree Display in Faribault, late Sunday afternoon, when winds tipped trees. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

WICKED WINDS SWEEPING from the northwest into Faribault Sunday afternoon into Monday brought more than cold temps. The strong winds also toppled Christmas trees displayed in Central Park.

Tipped tree. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
Fallen ornaments atop a Christmas tree skirt. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
Fallen snowman tree. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

Randy and I headed out to view the Holiday Tree Display, a project of the City of Faribault Parks and Recreation Department, after the Vikings game. When we pulled up, we observed numerous trees lying on the ground, ornaments littering the lawn, tree toppers askew.

A member of the Wunderlich family stands near the tree (left front) he and his sister donated. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
A cross tops the tree donated by the Wunderlich family. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
Tubes of sand anchor a tree. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

Several tree sponsors arrived to deal with the unexpected damage. A Wunderlich family member who, along with his sister set up a tree honoring loved ones and community members who died of cancer, headed across the street to Ace Hardware for sandbags. I noticed sandbags anchoring several trees. And when two women came to upright their trees, Randy and I convinced them to let the trees lie given the prevailing winds.

Randy chats Sunday afternoon with a member of the Wunderlich family. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
Even though toppled onto the ground, this star topper still shines. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
A particularly beautifully-decorated tree. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

When Randy drove by the holiday display Monday morning on his way to work, he reported more trees down with only perhaps 10 of the 34 still standing. Winds still blew, with the temp dipping into the single digits. It feels a lot like winter now. No snow here, though. But central and northern Minnesota got enough to create travel issues and necessitate late school starts.

Across the street, the beautiful, historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour provides a lovely backdrop. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

Ah, Minnesota. I expect next year precautions will be taken to keep those holiday trees standing straight.

An unusual tree sponsor name. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
So many beautiful ornaments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)
Grey against grey. A rustic star. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

This is only the second year of a project which spreads Christmas joy. All trees are sponsored and decorated by local businesses, organizations, civic groups, etc., and then donated to families/individuals without a tree. It’s a great idea, one which garnered the 2020 Minnesota Recreation and Park Association Award of Excellence for Faribault Parks and Rec.

In the grey of a December day, this red star brings light. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

I feel thankful to live in a community of generosity.

Found among the ornaments. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021.)

None of us ever knows when strong winds will sweep into our lives and knock us down. None of us ever knows when we will need the kindness of others to uplift us, to help us stand, to support us. To give us hope. There is something to be learned from wicked winter winds. We need one another, even if sometimes we think we don’t.

Photographed Sunday afternoon. All trees have now been placed upright. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

FYI: The trees have now been placed upright and staked, and will be displayed until December 10.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Practical ways to serve others in the new year January 3, 2020

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Several years ago, family friends planted shamrocks in our yard on St. Patrick’s Day. What a joyful gift. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO that will bring joy to others? How can you help others? How can you make a difference in your family, your neighborhood, your community?

Those are all questions I expect many of you contemplate, especially at the beginning of a new year. I brainstormed the topic for a post that published earlier this week on the Warner Press blog. I work as the blog coordinator for this Indiana-based Christian publisher and lead a team of three other writers.

In crafting this piece, I created a month-by-month list of specific ways to serve others. I used examples from my own life. I have been blessed by so much kindness and by many opportunities to serve.

Just yesterday, for example, a small package arrived from a friend. Inside I found a lovely gratitude journal that encourages me to make note of daily gratitudes. I’m not surprised Beth Ann (also a blogger) gifted me with this. She is one of the most positive people I know and has always encouraged and supported me.

And last week a blogger from Pittsburgh sent me an Instant Pot after reading an earlier blog post that included my crossed-out Christmas wish list. I’ve never met Ruth. But I follow her blog and know her to be a kind and caring soul.

Days prior I received a cash gift from an equally kind and caring soul who remains anonymous to me.

For me, serving others on a daily basis comes primarily in listening and offering words of encouragement. I also give of my time to volunteer whenever such opportunities arise. It’s not only the right thing to do, but an honor.

As 2020 begins, we have 366 days to connect with others, to offer support and encouragement, bring joy, help in hands-on ways. I’d love to hear how you are making a positive difference in your world or beyond.

CLICK HERE to read my Warner Press post, “A Year of Serving Others.”

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Faribault’s holiday generosity December 12, 2019

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’VE WRITTEN THIS BEFORE, but I’ll repeat it. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

Example: Randy and I visited some older folks last Sunday afternoon, delivering poinsettias as part of a shut-in outreach at our church, Trinity Lutheran. We talked everything from art to farming. We remembered, laughed, delighted in the conversations which took two hours out of our day. Two hours. Time is a gift. We gave it and experienced the joy that comes in connecting with those who can’t get out and about like they once did.

This coming Sunday afternoon we’ll gather with friends to wrap a whole lot of gifts for individuals and families in need through Trinity’s Angel Tree Project. My friend Mike heads that annual endeavor and tells us we have more gifts than ever to wrap. The need is great. But so is the generosity of those who each December amaze us with the items they purchase for Angel Tree gift recipients. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A Community Christmas Dinner sign banners the front of Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault.

 

Another Faribault church, Fourth Avenue United Methodist, is also giving back to the community this Sunday with its annual free Community Christmas Dinner. We’ve attended numerous times, delighting in the company of other guests and of this friendly congregation. A dinner of chicken breast, meatballs, King Hawaiian stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, candied carrots, dinner rolls and cupcakes will be served from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the church basement.

 

Another giving and embracing message posted outside Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church. Love this.

 

But Fourth Avenue United Methodist is doing more than serving food. A free-will offering at the dinner will go toward Believet Canine Service Partners, a Northfield-based nonprofit which provides service dogs to disabled veterans at no charge. Since 2015, Believet has paired 12 dogs with vets. Cost to train and place a single service dog is approximately $28,000, according to the Believet website. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

Inside the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Also this weekend, the Faribault-based choral ensemble Beau Chant (French for “Beautiful Singing”) presents two holiday concerts in Faribault. They will perform “Tis the Season” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14, in Newhall Auditorium at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and at 3 p.m. Sunday, December 15, at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Cost is $12. When I consider the time these singers commit to practicing and then performing during the busy holiday season, I realize that this, too, is a gift. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A streetscape shot along Central Avenue shows the restored marquee at the historic Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2019.

 

And, finally, the Faribault Area Community Band gives a free hour-long holiday concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 15, at the Paradise Center for the Arts. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me how you, or others in your community, are giving back this holiday season.

 

NOTE: I have highlighted here only a few of the many ways individuals and organizations in my community are giving to others during this holiday season.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lul & her family need our help October 20, 2017

We each have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of others via our words, our actions, our gifts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MY DEAR READERS,

I know you to be kind, caring and compassionate. So I am asking, if you wish and are able, to help a family in my Minnesota community.

Lul Ahmed and her family need your assistance as the 13-year-old recovers from injuries sustained after she was struck by a Lincoln Navigator on the way to her bus stop Tuesday morning. As of Thursday afternoon, she remained in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

As you might expect, the Ahmeds face financial challenges now with missed work, travel and other expenses.

I don’t know the family. But that doesn’t matter. They are in need and I can relate, in a small way, to their experience. Eleven years ago a car struck my then 12-year-old son as he crossed the street on the way to his bus stop. Unlike Lul, he received only minor injuries.

The Faribault Diversity Coalition, a remarkable group in my community fostering acceptance and working with local immigrants, is accepting donations of cash and gas or grocery cards for the Ahmeds.

Donations may be dropped off or mailed to:

 

Faribault Diversity Coalition
324 Central Avenue N.
Faribault, MN. 55021

 

Mark gifts for “Lul’s Family.”

I’d like to take this a step further and ask that you also include a get well or other card of support for the Faribault Middle School eighth grader and/or her family. I so appreciated encouraging words and cards after my son was struck in 2006. I expect the Ahmeds would feel the same.

Thank you, dear readers, for considering my request. We have the power, through gifts and words, to comfort, help and support a family, to show them compassion and kindness.

Audrey

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Jackie makes three August 23, 2013

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THRICE NOW I’VE MET, in person, Midwest bloggers with whom I initially formed online friendships. And they—Gretchen at A Fine Day for an Epiphany, Beth Ann at It’s Just Life and Jackie at Who Will Make Me Laugh—are as genuine in person as they are in their postings.

There are no pretenses. All three of these women are kind, generous and caring individuals who are the real deal.

I first met Beth Ann last December when she and her husband, Chris, drove up from Mason City, Iowa, to hear me read and present on poetry at the local library. Beth Ann didn’t tell me she was coming; she simply showed up. I recognized her from her online photo. We instantly connected and she has since visited me.

As an example of Beth Ann’s caring ways, she uses her blog to raise awareness of and donate monies to worthy causes via her “Comments for a Cause.” For each comment made, Beth Ann and Chris donate 50 cents to the selected cause. Fifty cents per comment adds up.

In the Worthington area, Gretchen is an active volunteer with many organizations and the entire family has participated in community theatre. A theatrical performance brought Gretchen, her husband and three children to Faribault last summer to see a play directed by a friend. Before the show, they dined at our house. This summer my husband and I dined at Gretchen’s home. It’s as if we’ve known them forever instead of just a year. They are that kind of warm and welcoming family.

Me, left, with Jackie

Me, left, with Jackie

Ditto goes for Jackie and her husband, Rick, whom we met on Sunday afternoon after moving our son’s belongings from his apartment in Rochester. It was our boy’s move three months ago that truly connected me, on a personal level, with Jackie. I asked her for suggestions on apartments and she presented me with a list. Later, when I was looking for thrift stores in town, she gave me another list. How nice was that?

But I wasn’t at all surprised at Jackie’s kind spirit. I’ve followed her blog for quite some time and knew we shared similar values and interests. Think driving down a country gravel road; appreciating barns, country churches, old country schools and cemeteries; photography; the importance of faith and family in our lives. Meeting Jackie in person on Sunday was like reuniting with a long-time friend.

As a bonus to our visit with Jackie and Rick, my husband and I met their son, Gavin, and their sweet granddaughter, Audrey. Upon our arrival, Audrey was playing with a tin of jewelry. She’s quite the diva, and I mean that in the most fashionable and nicest way. By the time I left, I was wearing a beautiful stone and bead bracelet in my favorite hues—green and purple—gifted by the darling little girl with the big brown eyes.

The bracelet Audrey gave me. My one regret is that I didn't have a photo taken of me and Audrey together.

The bracelet Audrey gave me. My one regret is that I didn’t have a photo taken of me and Audrey together.

Jackie has often written about Audrey’s giving spirit, so evident in her gift to me. I was deeply touched. I expect the spirit of generosity has been passed through the generations.

Now whenever I wear that bracelet, I’ll think of Jackie and Audrey and how individual writers and photographers, threaded through blogging, can form an unbroken circle of friendship.

FYI:

To read Jackie’s blog, Who Will Make Me Laugh, click here. Jackie, a nurse by professions, is an especially talented photographer who claims she could spend all day editing images.

To read Beth Ann’s blog, It’s Just Life, click here. Threads of compassion and care run through Beth Ann’s blog posts. I am trying to convince her to write a book of devotionals.

To read Gretchen’s blog, It’s a Fine Day for an Epiphany, click here. Gretchen is an incredibly talented writer, evident in her postings. She’s written a children’s book manuscript, which I fully expect to be accepted for publication someday soon.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling