February’s Person with a Passion, Merle Felling, has given his time and talent to many local organizations. He especially enjoys spearheading projects in the community, such as remodeling efforts in the Holy Family School offices and Centre for Christ building, located in the previous Minnesota National bank building.
Felling’s interests have not swayed far from his early days. In his youth, he enjoyed building and fixing. The oldest of five children, three boys and two girls, Felling grew up on a dairy and hog farm south of Sauk Centre. In second grade, he wanted to be a carpenter. By the time he was in the eighth grade, his interest in working with metals developed. He found there was so much more he could do with metal.
At ages 14-15, Felling helped build the pole sheds at the Stearns County Fairgrounds. When he turned 16, Felling started working for Gillies Welding Co. He attended Alexandria Vocational School in 1968-1969 for the machinist program, followed by employment in the Twin Cities area.
Felling was active duty in the Air Force from 1971-1974, and during that time he worked in welding in Phoenix, Arizona. Upon returning to Minnesota, he returned to work at Gillies Welding Co., and purchased the business in 1974.
As he was building his business, Felling took on custom fabricating jobs.
“Wood burning stoves, hot water boilers and fireplace inserts … but I always had an inkling for trailers,” said Felling, who built his first trailer at age 12. In 1985, the downtown location of Sauk Centre Welding and Machine Works moved to its current location south of the Interstate.
The trailer business “started small, a couple trailers a month, to currently producing 6,500 units a year,” Felling said. Growth and expansion through the years evolved into a second production facility in Litchfield in 2011. Felling is now chairman of the Board of Felling Trailers, as his children, Brenda (Felling) Jennissen and Bonnie (Felling) Radjenovich, along with spouses Pat Jennissen and Paul Radjenovich, have taken over the helm since 2015.
Felling has been involved in Sauk Centre Opportunities, an organization devoted to leading and growing the industrial sector of Sauk Centre, and held the role of president for one year. He also was on the Board of Alexandria Technical College. Continuing the opportunity and strength of technical programs is integral to keeping industry going, and Felling said at one time Alexandria Technical almost eliminated the welding program.
The technical industry is growing again in strength following a decline beginning in the 1980s, when college degrees were emphasized. Felling believes vocational trades are again growing in popularity, but will take time to regain their footing.
Prior to the program, “Trailer for a Cause,” Felling donated trailers to the organization MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) for a number of years. To bring awareness of the ramifications of drunk driving, MADD would load vehicles involved in drunk driving accidents and transport them to schools. They would be on display for students to see firsthand how impaired driving can lead to serious and fatal consequences.
Locally, Felling is involved with the Sauk Centre Chamber, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Foundation Board and the Finance Council for the Diocese of St. Cloud. He also has been a longtime member of the Our Lady of Angels Church Finance Council and Parish Council.
In the coming year, Felling has plans to complete several projects at St. Paul’s and Our Lady of Angels churches. He continues to enjoy using his skills to help others.
In his free time, when the weather is fair, Felling enjoys a round of golf.
Congratulations Merle Felling, February Person with a Passion.