Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In memory of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe May 26, 2017



Ray Scheibe is pictured (to the left) in this May 1953 photo taken by my dad, Elvern Kletscher.



I will think of my dad’s Army buddy, Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, killed by an exploding mortar on June 2, 1953, the day before he was to return home from war to his wife and new baby girl in Nebraska.


A story about Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, published in the July 23, 1953, issue of The Wolbach Messenger.


I will think of this man who served his country on the battlefields of Korea.




I will think of this man who died a horrible death in a region where the threat of war still exists.

I will think of Ray’s daughter, Teri, whom I searched for and found seven years ago in southwestern Iowa but have yet to meet.

I will think of the grief and pain of so many whose loved ones never returned home from war. These are heavy, deep thoughts laced with patriotism and gratitude and conflict.


My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.


My dad came back to Minnesota, walking, living, breathing, yet suffering. Teri’s dad returned to Nebraska. Dead. On Monday, I will remember him and the ultimate sacrifice he made for country.


FYI: Please click here to read my 2010 story about Ray Scheibe and my efforts to find his daughter. 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Faribault mural honors Heisman Trophy winner & native son Bruce Smith November 3, 2015

ATTEND A FOOTBALL GAME in Faribault, and you’ll cheer from Bruce Smith Field.

Peruse the Rice County Historical Society, a short distance from the football field, and you’ll discover an exhibit about Bruce Smith.

In mid-June, pop over to the Faribault Golf Club for the annual Bruce Smith Golf Classic.

Head downtown to Buckham Memorial Library and you’ll find a locally-produced DVD titled Bruce “Boo” Smith #54: 1941 Heisman trophy winner.

Faribault's newest mural honors native son and Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith.

Faribault’s newest mural honors native son and Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith.

Now Faribault has added one more item to its Bruce Smith list—a mural. Last Friday the Mural Society of Faribault installed a downtown mural honoring Smith, who won the 1941 Heisman Trophy for most outstanding college football player. He was the first Minnesotan to garner that prize from the Sportswriters and Sports Broadcasters of America. Smith, a team captain and All-American halfback for the University of Minnesota Gophers, received the award on December 9, 1941, in New York City. That’s two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Bruce Smith, as painted by Dave Correll of Brushwork Signs.

Bruce Smith, as painted by Dave Correll of Brushwork Signs.

After college, Smith would go on to serve his country as a Navy fighter pilot during WW II. He also played football with the Navy.

The mural includes substantial information about Bruce Smith, a nice addition to the mural.

The mural includes substantial information about Bruce Smith. Click on the image to enlarge.

While researching Smith, born in Faribault in 1920, I learned that he:

  •  played professional football for four years—for the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams.
  •  starred in a 1942 Columbia Pictures movie about himself, Smith of Minnesota.
  •  nearly died of a ruptured kidney during a 1947 football game.
  •  retired from football at age 29.
  •  co-owned a sporting goods store in Northfield and worked in sales for a clothing store and a beer distributor. (Perhaps F-Town Brewing,  Faribault’s new craft brewery, could name a beer after him; makes marketing sense to me.)
  •  died of cancer in August 1967 at the age of 47.
  •  was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
  •  had his number, 54, retired by the Gophers, a first for the U.
The mural honors Faribault's most-renowned athlete.

The mural honors Faribault’s most-renowned athlete.

Probably the most interesting fact I uncovered is Smith’s 1978 nomination for sainthood in the Catholic church. A man of strong faith, he prayed before and after games and also ministered to young cancer patients. I find this nomination especially notable given today’s often less than saintly behavior among many football players. But from all accounts I’ve read, Smith was a wholesome hometown boy, much beloved by his community. And that, in my opinion, holds an honor as great as winning the Heisman Trophy.

The mural is tucked away on the back of an historic downtown building.

The mural, comprised of panels rather than painted directly onto brick, is displayed on the back of a flooring business.

FYI: The Bruce Smith mural is located on the back of Floors by Farmer at the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street Northwest in historic downtown Faribault. The latest mural joins murals of town founder Alexander Faribault (directly across from the Smith mural), Fleck’s Beer, the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ice Skating on the Straight River, historic downtown Faribault overview and the annual Pet Parade. Faribault based Brushwork Signs designed, created and installed the murals.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling








And the winner is… July 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:37 AM
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Please allow me to humbly boast today. (Can I be humble and boast?)

On Wednesday I won the equivalent of the Oscar or the Emmy in blogging. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but…WordPress.com featured my blog post, “In praise of preserving country churches,” on its homepage, in Freshly Pressed.

Big deal, you say. Yes, it’s a very big deal. You see, among the hundreds of thousands of WordPress blog posts out there in the world—and we’re talking like 330,000 or so published on Wednesday—mine was selected as among “the best.” Only 11, that’s as in 10 + 1, were picked for Freshly Pressed.

I shot this picture of Freshly Pressed on my computer Thursday morning. The numbers change often, reflecting changes in post counts. Go to WordPress.com and click on "Earlier" at the left bottom of the screen to find my post.

So now you can understand why I’m giddy, thrilled, happy, elated, and whatever other adjective you may select to describe a blogger who’s overwhelmed with this sudden rise to notoriety in the WordPress blogosphere.

And here’s the interesting aspect of this whole event. I had no clue, absolutely no clue, that I was in contention for this prize. Until Wednesday, I had never heard of Freshly Pressed. Sorry, WordPress.com. But I expose this ignorance to clarify that I don’t write for the fame.

My first hint that something big was brewing for me came in a reader comment. Jason wrote, in part: “I was glad to see this on the freshly posted category on WordPress!”

Huh? So I googled and discovered that WordPress.com daily chooses about 10 posts that “represent how WordPress.com can be used to entertain, enlighten or inspire.” Five guidelines are listed for writing posts that increase your odds of making Freshly Pressed:

  • Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
  • Include images or other visuals.
  • Add tags.
  • Cap off your post with a compelling headline.
  • Aim for typo-free content.

Apparently “In praise of preserving country churches” met those criteria.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed Thursday morning. My "In praise of preserving country churches" blog post is on the lower right and was categorized under "art."

And then I got to the warm and fuzzy part: “Why do we do all this? It’s our way of saying we like you. We really like you.”

Well, Freshly Pressed, I really like you, too. As promised, traffic to my blog has soared. Typically I get about 150 views daily. On Wednesday that skyrocketed to 1,052. The following day my numbers still remained high.

Likewise, more readers than ever are commenting, which is good, but also sucks up a lot of time screening and posting. But, hey, I’m not complaining. I value reader interaction.

This “award” from WordPress.com validates that I can blog, and blog well. Considering that I launched Minnesota Prairie Roots only a year ago, I am truly amazed that I have achieved Freshly Pressed status.

My work also has been noticed here in Minnesota as my posts have been featured on Minnesota Public Radio’s Minnesota Today “Blog Box.” and in MinnPost’s “Minnesota Blog Cabin.”

Yet, I don’t blog for the glory, at least not my glory. I blog because I am passionate about writing. I have to write. I love to write. And if in the process my writing is recognized, then that is just reassurance that I am using my God-given talents as I should be.


© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling