OK, there should have been a lot more than 130 people at the Memorial Day observance in Princeton on May 27. And part of the deal was that the day's entire program was held inside because of the heavy rain. There are some who come just to the outside program at Oak Knoll Cemetery and it was inside this year. Every year I am disappointed by the turnout as it seems to grow smaller and smaller, with many looking at the weekend as a three- or four-day respite from work. I wish more people would have taken an hour or two out of their lives and pause to remember those who have served our country.
But that doesn't take anything away from those who participated in activities for the weekend, both at the cemetery and at the school district's performing arts center. There are some who participate every year. They are part of something that is offered to area residents, come hell, high water or rain. They feel a duty to be part of the remembrance each year.
For decades the local American Legion post has gotten volunteers together to place flags at the graves of veterans at Oak Knoll Cemetery and other cemeteries in the area. And now some of those volunteers are ones whose graves are decorated with a flag each year, the number of flags swelling to about 600.
As that group of volunteers from the VFW, American Legion, Sons of the American Legion (SAL), and others gathered at the cemetery about 10 a.m. the Saturday before Memorial Day, they were met with a nice surprise. Princeton residents Teri and Thom Walker, along with another expert planter whose name I don't know, were planting flowers and other plants in the two planters just outside the cemetery's crypt. Nothing had been done there for years and years and when the Princeton Used Clothing Center provided the money for the plants, those three were the ones who did the dirty work of grubbing out the old plants and weeds, and then planting the new ones. It's a distinct improvement.
Then about 30 volunteers — veterans, other adults and some children — began the task of placing the flags at the graves. Every year (this year was no exception) someone new to the task expresses satisfaction about being part of the group that places flags. They might say they didn't know such a thing was being done, or they'll say it's a fine way to remember those who served in the military. "And I'm coming back next year," one person said this year before leaving.
Twenty-five years ago a tradition began of grilling and providing other food for those who take the time to plant the flags. The menu is simple — hot dogs, brats, hamburgers, potato salad, beans and pickles, with an addition this year of chili for those who wanted to make their hot dog into a chili dog. The grill is a huge special grill constructed by the American Legion's Russ Wicktor many years ago, a grill that has been used by other organizations free of charge when it's time to feed a larger group of people. The SAL has taken over paying for the food that is provided, as well as taking care of some of the older graves of veterans at Oak Knoll.
And when that tradition began 25 years ago of providing food for those who volunteer, the American Legion's adjutant at that time, Stuart Nelson. began providing pop and beer to go along with the meal. Nelson, a Santiago Township resident who is a graduate of Princeton High School, has kept that tradition alive for a quarter century at his own cost. His father Sherman served in World War II.
The commanders of the local VFW and Legion posts are involved each year in getting the program together, both at the performing arts center and at the cemetery, as well as a ceremony at Riverside Park where wreaths are thrown into the river. Dave Good of the VFW and Randy Hatch of the American Legion were the commanders involved this year and they are supported by their auxiliaries, both at the inside and outside programs. One auxiliary member who has been involved for decades is June Kunkel, a youngster at age 93. And after the programs the VFW building is the site of a dinner to which anyone who is interested is invited. The members of both auxiliaries are involved in putting that on.
The program at the cemetery has been the special focus for a number of years now for Jim Dalziel, another PHS grad. Dalziel has provided pictures of all the Princeton residents who have lost their lives in Vietnam and subsequent wars, and there is a special ceremony to remember them. That part of the program got moved inside this year and Dalziel made last-minute arrangements to carry on the program. He's done a lot of good work in adding to the cemetery program. His father Rod served in the Korean War, and Jim and his two brothers were Marines, as was their father.
Perhaps forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of the Memorial Day weekend each year is that the flags have to be gathered from the cemeteries as the weekend comes to a close and that is usually done on Monday afternoon, with the American Legion's Jim Pearson the coordinator for putting up the flags and taking them down, a job done for many, many years by Ed Trunk who has passed on. This year, because of the rain, the flags stayed up until Tuesday afternoon because they had to dry out before being collected.
That's a short rundown of what happened this years and happens every year, as well as just some of the names of those involved. Those who participate don't ask for publicity — they just feel a need to help out. Some have done it for years and years.
The last few days we've heard a lot about D-Day, the June 6, 1944, invasion of 50 miles of the beach at Normandy that included more than 160,000 American troops, more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft. It boggles the mind to think of something like that, an invasion credited with turning the tide of World War II. More than 4,000 U.S. troops lost their lives that day. But, just like Memorial Day observances, there are millions of Americans who don't know much about D-Day. It happened 75 years ago and the importance is lost for many.
So, feel lucky that the Princeton area still places importance on Memorial Day, that it places importance on its sons and daughters who have served and are serving, and that some are willing to take the time to make sure we don't forget. It's small-town America at its very best.
Daily diary for the 2019 Twins
Saturday, June 1 — A decent start by Jose Berrios, a clutch relief job by Taylor Rogers and a two-out two-run single in the ninth inning by Eddie Rosario (47 RBIs) gave the Twins a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Friday after the 14-3 thumping the night before. Win No. 38 of the season came on June 1, 37 days earlier than No. 38 last season. The win came without a homer as the team was held homeless in back-to-back games for only the third time this season. The Rays led 3-1 in the fifth inning before a rally tied the game.
Sunday, June 2 — Marwin Gonzalez and Byron Buxton homered in a 6-2 win Saturday over the Rays that gave Minnesota a 14-3 record in the last 17 games. The Twins scored in five straight innings in the game and Kyle Gibson upped his record to 6-2. It was the 25th straight game in which the team has scored at least three runs, the longest streak in team history. The Twins struck out 12 times (Miguel Sano had 3) but got some clutch hitting against a good team that was still 14 games over .500 after the Twins won.
Monday, June 3 — For the second game in a row the starting pitcher for the Twins didn't give up an earned run in a 9-7 win over the Rays in Sunday. Gibson (5 innings, 1 unearned run) and Jake Odorizzi (6 innings, 0 runs, and a personal eight-game winning streak) combined for 11 innings and a 0.00 ERA in those two games. It's hard to lose with pitching like that. Odorizzi was a big story in the game but the game ball would probably go to Buxton after a game that showed why, five years ago, many in baseball (not just the Minnesota organization) considered him one of the top two or three prospects. He hit his American League-leading 20th double, also singled, stole a base and scored two runs, one on a safety squeeze when very few others in the majors would have even tried to score. Perhaps the best part of his day was a catch up against the wall and the resulting 303-foot throw to first to double up a runner. Maybe no other outfielder makes that play. He still strikes out too much but is having a good year. Perhaps the best part about the team's 40-18 start, and an 11 1/2-game lead, is that there hasn't been a super-long winning streak. The team has been consistent, posting a 15-3 record after a loss. Mitch Garver came off the injured list after missing 15 games. Oh yes, the win gave Minnesota a 3-1 series win over a team with very good pitching. And it may have soothed the fans who were worried after the 14-3 loss three days earlier.
Tuesday, June 4 — With the Twins not playing yesterday it's time again to look at a few ex-Twins. Leading the way this week is Eduardo Escobar with Arizona .He leads the National League in games played (60) and at-bats (240) - in other words, he plays every day. And he has 14 doubles, 15 homers, has driven in 48 runs, is hitting .288 and has a very good slugging percentage of .567. Might he look better at third than Miguel Sano?The Twins got three Class A players in the Escobar trade with Arizona — Jhoan Duran, Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel. I don't think we'll see any of them soon. Duran, 21, is 0-5 as a pitcher at Fort Myers with a 3.61 ERA. Outfielder Trinidad, 23, was in Class AA but was hitting only .205 and was demoted to Class A Fort Myers this week. Maciel, 20, an outfielder with only 6 homers in 972 minor league at-bats, is hitting .308 at Cedar Rapids, a low A league. Fort Myers is a high A league. Remember that manger Paul Molitor wasn't told by the front office that Esciobar had been traded? He found out from reporters who knew it before him. That was embarrassing.
Wednesday, June 5 — I have a different opinion than Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, and Henry Lake on WCCO Radio's post-game show, about the outing of Devin Smetlzer last night in a 5-2 loss to the Indians. Both the manager and Lake said they thought Smetlzer pitched well. That's the first time I've heard someone say that about a pitcher who went 6 1/3 innings and gave up 5 runs, as well as 4 homers. I want Smeltzer to do well as much as the next guy but I'm sure the Indians had a scouting report for his second start in the majors. And I wouldn't doubt if he is headed back to the minors soonwhen Michael Pineda returns. Let's hope Smeltzer is a pitcher of the future for Minnesota.
Thursday, June 6 — It's only one game but giving up leads of 5-1, 6-3 and 7-5 (that in the 7th inning) did't look good in the loss to Cleveland, as well as a Miguel Sano error that produced three unearned runs and a base running mistake by Max Kepler (0 for his last 21 at-bats) that ended the seventh inning earlier than it should have. It was just an ugly game with a rain delay of an hour and 45 minutes. The guy on WCCO told us that he knew Cleveland wasn't going to give up despite being down by 11 1/2 games when the series began. That's not news - it's too early for a team that has dominated the division to roll over and die with 100 games to go. Now we'll see if the Jose Berrios finally has a good game tonight to stop the little life that has been breathed into the Indians.
Friday, June 7 — The Twins (41-20) kept their streak alive of not losing three in a row this year (they're the only team in the majors that hasn't done that) by beating the Indians 5-4 as Max Kepler had a three-homer game in Cleveland for the second time in his career. It was a good time to play the Indians (31-31) as three of their best pitchers are on the injured list. Manager Baldellil pulled starter Jose Berrios, who was pitching a 2-hitter, in the seventh inning and Cleveland got back in the game after trailing 5-1. The 100-pitch thing is ridiculous. Do you think the Cleveland hitters weren't happy to see Berrios taken out of the game? And maybe it's an age thing but I dislike it when hitters strike out on a third-strike ball that isn't caught and then don't run to first. Make the guy make an accurate throw!! Best headline of the year so far? The Star Tribune's head on Friday: "It's Eins, Zwei, Drei for Kepler" — a reference to him being born in Berlin, Germany. Bring on the 23-36 Tigers and manage Ron Gardenhire this weekend. But don't take it for granted.
On Monday, June 17, when the Twins play the Red Sox at Target Field, the first ball will be thrown out by Gustavus Adolphus baseball coach Brad Baker and the Gustavus team (25-13) will be introduced on the field and then have a hand in raising the flag. The significance in that is that two Princeton grads, senior Sam Archer and sophomore Damon Rademacher, were part of the first Gustavus team to win an MIAC title since 1980 when Baker was a player. The team barely missed advancing to the Division III tournament, losing twice to St. John's in the region, one loss coming in the ninth inning with two outs. Rademacher pitched for the Gusties and was the closer in many games. He had a 3-1 record, 4 saves, and an ERA of 3.20. Archer was named to the all-conference team for the second year. He started all but two games, missing those two because of illness, and was a catcher, pitcher or DH as a starter. He drove in 23 runs, third on the team, and was 4-1 as a pitcher in 49 innings. He ended his career for the Gusties with a 15-3 record as a pitcher, sixth all-time, and made 40 appearances, 5th all-time. His lifetime ERA of 2.63 is fourth-best at Gustavus. He was mainly a pitcher until this year but was usually the starting catcher, the position he played at Princeton. He played football there for a couple years and got a start as a sophomore . . . Baseball is up and running for the summer in Princeton. The town team has had three games, the VFW team (9th & 10th-graders) started its season this week, and the Legion team opens with a game here next Tuesday against Forest Lake. High school coach Jordan Neubauer is the VFW coach, with Troy Kinney assisting. Jesse Zimmer, former PHS coach and assistant Legion coach with Kinney, and Newbauer will be co-coaches for the Legion team. Kinney resigned as Legion coach after 19 years . . . The Section 7AAA tournament was held in Princeton this week but the finals were moved to Duluth for Thursday when Grand Rapids advanced to the final against undefeated Duluth Denfeld, which had graduation Thursday night. Grand Rapids won 5-0 in the first game Thursday to force a second game but lost 10-3 in the title game.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
June 11, 1959 - Skeeter Lane of Princeton, the cleanup hitter, had two hits for Zimmerman in an 11-7 loss to Clear Lake in town team baseball.
June 11, 1964 - Princeton lost 7-4 to Nowthen in town team baseball. Reliever Terry Erickson struck out eight in five innings and Bob Nick, Steve Lindell and Bob Nienaber each had two hits . . . Dale Thiel had three hits as the Legion baseball team beat Braham, 8-6.
June 11, 1969 - Al Miller drove in two runs and Ron Deglmann pitched a 4-hitter as Princeton beat St. Cloud in Legion baseball, 4-2. Then Bob Soule pitched a 4-hitter and struck out 9 in a 6-4 win over Milaca.
June 12, 1974 - Doug Froelich placed fourth in the 440 at the state track meet . . . Brad Blankholm threw a 1-hit shutout in a 7-0 win over Crosby-Ironton and Princeton swept the doubleheader with an 8-7 win.
June 14, 1979 - The Princeton town team swept previously unbeaten Hinckley, 5-0 and 5-4. Dave Mingo pitched a 5-hit shutoutand then drove in the winning run in extra innings in the second game. Luther Dorr drove in two runs in the first game and hit a three-run homer in the second game as Tom Wolcyn got the win . . . Mark Tadych struck out 12 in an 8-3 Legion win over St. Francis.
June 14, 1984 - PHS senior Greg Braford won the state Class AA golf title at Majestic Oaks in Ham Lake, shooting a 111at the 27-hole tournament shortened by nine holes because of rain . . . Ross Dahl, JV hockey coach at Mankato State, was named boys hockey coach at Princeton.
June 8, 1989 - The PHS girls golf team, after placing sixth two years in a row, won the Class AA state championship, paced by Judy Bornholdt (third in the tournament) and Karen Bromberg (seventh). Other team members: Michelle Hagen, KathyAdair, Lori Adair and Melody Olene . . . The Princeton Panthers beat Rush City 19-3 as Troy Scheffel, Chris Klinghagen, Chad Campbell and Bryan Hoff homered.
June 16, 1994 - Lu Schwochert was 48th and Sheless Davis 55th at the state golf tournament . . . Jason Miller shut out Cannon Falls in a 12-0 nonleague win on the road for the Princeton Panthers and homered. Miller and Brian Dorr (2 homers) each drove in five runs. Simon Thielen and Mike Sternquist combined to shut out Forest Lake, 14-0.
June 10, 1999 - The Princeton Panthers hit 10 homers in five games, beating a strong Isanti team 6-1 as Jason Miller (2-0, 1.23 ERA) struck out 14 and Tony Stay and Brian Dorr homered, and beat Long Prairie 20-10 with 20 hits as Dan Patnode and Dorr homered, Patnode getting four hits and Dorr scoring five runs.
June 17, 2004 - The 4x100 relay team of Mike Patnode, Alex Geithman, Devon Soule and Grady Milesko placed seventh at state in :43.92, a school record . . . Ryan Kotnik was all-conference in baseball . . . The Princeton Panthers beat Forest Lake 7-3 and beat Cambridge 12-2 and 7-1 as Jason Miller and Travis Stay pitched the doubleheader wins. Manager Curt Wilson threw out three would-be base stealers while catching the second game.
June 11, 2009 - Katie Loberg was second in the high jump at the state meet and was fourth in the triple jump. Kadie Savage was 16th in the 300 hurdles . . .The Princeton Panthers, off to a 10-1 start, beat Chisago Lakes, Quamba and Aitkin. Jake Maros homered in each of the last two games, Tyler Roehl homered in the 7-5 win over Aitkin and Brian Dorr had four hits in that game.
June 12, 2014 - The Minnesota State High School League made a change in football, replacing conference play with district play. Princeton's district, North Central, included all Mississippi 8 schools and many others such as Alexandria, Brainerd, Elk River and Moorhead . . . Named to the all-section team in baseball was Sam Archer
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.