What started as a way for Marty Matousek to connect with his father’s World War I service has turned into a personal mission to honor locals who fought in the Great War.
It all started when Matousek, who splits time living in Silver Lake and Texas, attended a Memorial Day service this past year and heard his father’s name, which is also Marty Matousek, called out.
“It was the first time I heard my dad’s name spoken as part of that veterans group,” Matousek said. “I was touched. I cried like a baby.”
It dawned on him during the meeting that he had his father’s old naval uniform back at his Texas home, and he called his daughter to have the box with the uniform shipped up to Minnesota. Once he received it, he opened it and discovered three medals in addition to the uniform. One was awarded for good conduct, but another piqued his interest so he did some research at the McLeod County Historical Society.
“It was from the citizens of McLeod County, and the date on it was Oct. 19, 1919,” Matousek said.
On the backside it reads “for patriotism and loyalty.”
During the war, Matousek’s father served in the shipyards of France before he finished his service and came home, at which time he received the medal. Matousek Jr. was quick to point out that even though his dad was awarded for his service, so were 600 other veterans. The anniversary of World War I this August inspired him to recognize those veterans.
“I thought that if we missed this Aug. 19, 2019, which is the 100-year anniversary, then nothing’s ever going to happen,” he said.
Welcoming veterans home
Matousek found an Aug. 22, 1919, issue of the Hutchinson Leader that described a crowd of more than 15,000 people in attendance at the McLeod County Homecoming celebration held in honor of returning soldiers.
“It was the biggest day in point of numbers attending, in the good time enjoyed by all present, and in every other way ever seen in south central Minnesota,” the article stated.
Hutchinson’s population at that time was only about 3,000, but it more than quadrupled during the celebratory commencement. The article stated a county committee planned the event weeks in advance with every municipality. Topics ranged from guest entertainment and fundraising to supplying food and refreshments.
The parade ended at the local high school where World War I veterans lined up and were presented with bronze medals. An estimated 600 medals were awarded to the veterans. The night was finished with a baseball game at the County Fairgrounds where Hutchinson defeated Glencoe.
A continued effort
Matousek reached out to the McLeod County Historical Society to see if they had any records of the names of those awarded medals, but the list was incomplete. He also ran into issues of privacy.
“They have a board, but there’s only about 325 names on there,” he said. “In here (the article) they said it was 600. We’re still trying to accumulate the names of those people. I would love to accumulate that list before this opportunity goes bye-bye.”
In addition to collecting the names of the recipients, Matousek has been in contact with Tim Burley, commander of the Hutchinson American Legion Post 96, to donate his father’s naval uniform so it can be preserved. His father’s medal is also being used to create an enlarged plaque that will be placed at Veterans Memorial Field. The additions to VMF park are scheduled to be finished before July 11, Burley said.
“It’ll be history for long after I’m gone,” Matousek said.
It all started with two families. Now the 240 baptized members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Stewart are celebrating 125 years.
The festivities kicked off in January with a new banner and theme, “Rooted in Christ,” based on Ephesians 3:17. To keep the ball rolling, the congregation is reviving an old tradition each month as part of a step back in time. Not that tradition is anything new for the church.
“We have a German dinner every year,” said the Rev. Mahlon Bekedam. “That’s our most important fundraiser.”
In February, the church practiced the old tradition of men sitting on the right and women on the left of the sanctuary during the worship service. Such was once a common practice that ended at the church in the 1930s so families could sit together. In March, the church used long-handled baskets to gather offerings. In April, women were asked to wear hats on Easter and men were asked to wear suits. On May 5, the church remembered its German heritage by conducting a worship service in both German and English. German services were conducted in the church until 1967.
“It’s been about 50 years since we had any German services, but a lot of people remembered,” Bekedam said.
On Saturday, July 13, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church will host a community celebration. It will kick off with a free carnival for all ages at 11 a.m-6 p.m. Historic cemetery tours are from 1-3 p.m. and the BASICS concert is at 3 p.m. Bekedam said many of the events will have a strong youth focus, but the celebration has also inspired many members of the congregation who have moved away to make plans to visit.
Celebratory worship is the next day. Coffee and fellowship is at 9 a.m. Worship and holy communion is at 10 a.m. Chicken dinner is at 11:30 a.m. Advanced tickets are required. The closing ceremony is at 1 p.m.
A look at history
In January 1894, The Rev. I. E. Wuebben of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church Fernando requested Postmaster Bordwell of Stewart place a notice in the post office indicating he would hold worship at 2 p.m. Sunday at the town hall. The Mueller and Bethke family attended.
The small group of Lutherans began gathering for worship in the home of D. W. Mueller, which was at the corner of Bowman Street and Hall Street, Stewart. When it grew to 13 families in 1894 it became an official congregation and incorporated under the name Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Congregation of Stewart. That same year, a lot was purchased from D.A. Stewart, the city’s accredited founder, at a cost of $100. The church was built at 330 Herbert St. and dedicated on July 8, 1894. The building used as the first church is still used as a private residence today.
The Rev. Wuebben served St. Paul’s Church until his retirement in the spring of 1900. The Rev. C. H. Kowalske filled the vacancy in September.
The Ladies Aid, today known as the Women of St. Paul’s Church, began in 1904 and has been active for 115 years. The Oct. 16, 1904, issue of the Stewart Tribune reported that the Ladies Aid hosted a fundraiser, which included the sale of quilts, pillows and aprons to support the church. Quilting continues to be an integral activity of the church, including those made for mission projects and quilt sales.
By 1902 the congregation had outgrown its building and voted to build a new church at 330 Grove St. Service was held there until a third church was built and dedicated on Jan. 11, 1948. The previous church was relocated to Brookfield Township of Renville County on March 4, 1948. It is now known as Trinity Lutheran and continues to serve the congregation in Brookfield Township.
Art glass windows were added in 1951. An 1973 addition enclosed the main entrance and added classrooms and a pastor’s office. In 1980, the congregation voted to purchase a Casavant Freres pipe organ, which was installed in the balcony.
Rally Sunday at the Sunday School started in 1928, and despite smaller class sizes continues to be observed each September.
One or two pieces of history tie together many members of the congregation.
“We had a couple of pastors who served for a long time back to back,” Bekedam said. “Between 1900 and 1979, we had two pastors.”
C. H. Kowalske served from 1990 to 1942. M A. Schultz served from 1942 to the late 1970s.
“So many members were baptized by them or married by them,” Bekedam said. “If they weren’t deeply connected with Kowalske they were with Schultz. Both were very strong leaders.”
Have you ever had a great idea for a business or nonprofit that would make a difference?
The Initiative Foundation of Little Falls wants to hear from you. It has teamed up with the Southwest Initiative Foundation, which is headquartered in Hutchinson, and the West Central Initiative to search 41 Greater Minnesota counties for entrepreneurs with great ideas to help their communities.
“We know one person with the right tools can make a difference in a community,” said Chris Fastner, program manager for the Initiators Fellowship. “It’s about supporting local leaders and making good things happen in their communities. There are a lot of younger people interested in getting more involved.”
The two-year fellowship awards a $30,000 stipend each year for up to seven early stage entrepreneurs who have an idea to take on a social challenge and pursue leadership growth. But that’s just one piece of the program. Fellows receive executive-level mentorship, programming and educational opportunities. Applicants must be age 18 or older. They can be recent college graduates, young professionals, mid-career or in encore careers. Applicants must live within one of the three initiative foundation regions or an adjacent tribal nation. Those with diverse backgrounds, experiences, ability, economic status and perspective are encouraged to apply.
Four participants graduated from a pilot version of the program in December. This second round has grown from 14 to 41 counties.
“One individual (Quinn Nystrom) was working a full-time job,” Fastner said. “She had this desire. Kind of on the side she had been speaking about diabetes education. She was an advocate. She wanted to develop this into a social business. With the business mentoring, the training and annual support she was able to cut down her other job to part time and expand this business. In the last couple of months she has been showcased in the (Star Tribune) and some national newspapers for leading caravans to Canada to buy insulin and bring awareness to the exorbitant price of insulin.”
Hudda Ibrahim, a Somali-American in St. Cloud, expanded a fledgling business designed to address a workforce shortage in the St. Cloud area.
“(She helped) employers become more welcoming, creating a more welcoming environment for new immigrants,” Fastner said, adding that she also helped new Americans navigate the workforce.
To read more about the previous fellows, visit greaterminnesota.net/fellows/fellow-alumni. To learn more about the fellowship or to apply, visit greaterminnesota.net/fellows.
The program is funded by Granite Equity Partners, the Bush Foundation, Sourcewell and CliftonLarsonAllen, among others. It was inspired by Echoing Green, an international program. A member of the Initiative Foundation’s board of trustees learned about Echoing Green and wanted to see if a similar local program could be started.
“That’s the backstory,” Fastner said. “Fundamentally, the way I’ve been thinking about it is it’s just in the DNA of the initiative foundations to support rural revitalization.” We’ve always supported entrepreneurship and business development, and rural leadership. This combines the two into one.”