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I took a look today in one of Mr. Webster's dictionaries for the meaning of the word trailblazer. One of those listed was that it was someone "that blazes a trail to guide others." A synonym was the word pioneer, someone who "opens or prepares for others to follow."

Take your pick. But those meanings describe perfectly the work of Ruby Rogde and Jean Hoffman, longtime Princeton residents who decided in the '70s to enter the world of the male-dominated domain in Princeton of the school board. They ran, (Ruby in 1977, Jean in 1979 on her second try), were elected and served a combined total of 24 years.

Ruby passed away in 2006 at the age of 78  and on Wednesday of this week her good friend Jean died at age 90. Jean's passing reminded me of the work and long hours that both put in as they set in motion a change on the school board that gave hope for the many women who have run for, and served, on the board since.

In 1977, as cuts were being made in the school district budget and it was the beginning of contentious meetings for a number of years, Ruby ran for a two-year seat to replace Ted Reineccius who resigned. She won with 791 votes as Anita Minks finished second with 571. Three other women ran. Jean ran in 1978, at Ruby's behest, and placed fourth in the race for three three-year terms, finishing only eight votes behind the third of three men. In the 1979 board election (held in May back then, independent of other elections) Ruby polled 1,234 votes and Jean got 1,204 as they beat out incumbents Spencer Angstman and Eldon Johnson.

The rest is history, Ruby serving for eight years and Jean for 16 years through 1995. When Ruby lost in 1985 there was a controversy about whether or not a third gym space should be added during a remodeling project. She was for it, with a wood floor. The third gym did become a reality, with a concrete floor that greatly disappointed some of the coaches who had to practice on it. Ruby told me a few years later that it was ironical that she lost on an issue that turned out to be a godsend for the district because the space was badly needed.

I got a chance this week to talk to some of the children of Ruby and Jean, curious how they remembered the exploits of their mothers who maintained relatively high profiles during their years on the board, many of those years filled with heated discussions at meetings that often lasted late into the evening.

"She was really big into education," said daughter Janet Steinhagen, a 1975 grad (Ruby was a teacher for a few years in her 20s). Janet said her mother had a office at their house for her school board materials, that she kept a journal about her time on the board, and that her mother was very proud of her time on the board.

"When you're a teenager you just think it's kind of cool, and then later you realize what she did," Janet said. "We (her six kids) weren't embarrassed that she was on the board."

Brother Tom, a 1974 grad, read me a couple lines from a family history that Ruby had written. "Although there were difficult times — budget cuts, crowded buildings, things like that — I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the board," she wrote. He noted that Ruby's sister Idella was a member of the school board in Buffalo, Minn.

Tom said he was proud of her time on the board, saying she had more time then with only one of her six children still in school. "What struck me," he said, "was that I was impressed as I read stories about the board in the Union-Eagle. I saw a different side of her."

He said he was supportive and didn't disagree with her as some children might with their mother taking stands on controversial subjects.. "I figured she knew more than me about it," he said. "She felt it was a worthy thing."

John Hoffman, a 1973 grad and the oldest of Jean's five children, said his mother had a "keen interest" in education. She eventually served on the board of the Association of Stable and Growing School Districts and was a key part of a lawsuit filed to get more state aid for those kind of districts. And she spent six years on  the board of the Minnesota School Boards Association. "She did a lot of work and became somewhat of an expert in finance," John said.

"She took great pride in her job," he said. "She wasn't afraid to take on a male-dominated board. She was a person who had great beliefs about public service - you serve your community."

Son Tom, a 1977 grad of Princeton High School, ended up in education, 16 years as a teacher and 22 in administration. He remembers that Jean first ran for the board because her friend Ruby suggested it. "She was a little reluctant at first but then decided to go ahead," he said.

Her family was supportive, Tom said. "One thing I remember was people calling our house with a concern," he said. "She fielded all the calls. She believed that people's concerns should be heard."

He said she treasured her years on the school board, as well as relationships with other board members, even though she often didn't see eye to eye with some of them.

"My Mom was a hero in my life," Tom said. "She was involved in a lot of things."

I covered school board meetings during the years that both were on the board and got to know them well, both inside and outside of meetings. They were both very civic minded, active in their churches, members of the Civic Betterment Club, supporters of PHS athletics, etc. We had lots of conversations about school-related things, I knew their kids and I knew their husbands. So you could make the case that I'm biased when I say I watched with delight as they blazed a trail for the women who followed in their footsteps. But they really did lead the way.

"Their friendship was a bond," Ruby's daughter Janet told me. That bond turned out to be a good thing for Princeton.


Sports shorts

Last week I promised a list of busts for those on the Minnesota Twins who didn't perform up to expectations this season, even though the team won a division title. Some of those on the list were injured and contributed little because of that. I was concerned before the year that some players with career years in 2019 wouldn't repeat those years. And it happened. We'll start with the pitchers. Leading the list is Jake Odorizzi who won a team-high 15 games in 2019. Injured most of this season, he pitched only 13 innings and had a sky-high 6.59 ERA. A complete bust. Taylor Rogers was a very dependable reliever in 2019. This year he had a 2-4 record, blew some saves and had an ERA of 4.05. He was a bust but will likely be back in 2021, while Odoroizzi probably won't. Jose Berrios, called by some the ace of the staff, was 5-4 with an ERA of 4.00, threw way too many pitches to get  outs and thus averaged only about five innings a start. He was better in September but I'd call him a semi-bust, with hope for better things in 2021. (Sound like a tired refrain?) Sergio Romo (1-2, 4.05) was a semi-bust. He was good early on but struggled at the end and is likely to be elsewhere in 2019. Among the position players Mitch Garver leads the way as a complete bust after hitting 31 homers last year, one every 10 at-bats. He was hurt much of the year, got only 72 at-bats, and hit .167 while driving in only five runs and hitting two home runs.  Next on the list is third baseman Josh Donaldson, the biggest off-season signee. He was hurt more than half of the season, hit only .222 and knocked in only 11 runs. He was very good at third base when on the field but was a bust, with much better things hoped for in 2021. He has three more years on a contract that may or may turn ouit to have been a good idea. Max Kepler hit 36 homers last season, did very well against lefties and had a good slugging percentage of .519. This year, after two homers in the opener, he had only seven more, hit only .228 and struggled most of the season, his slugging percentage dropping 80 points to .439. Semi-bust or bust? You decide. They say shortstop Jorge Polanco had an injured ankle this year and maybe that contributed to his bad season at the plate (.258 after .295 last season), although his defense, other than the error in the playoffs, improved markedly. He had 40 doubles last season, only nine this year, and was dropped in the batting order - semi-bust. Marwin Gonzalez, while very valuable as a utility man, hit only .211. I'd put him on the semi-bust list. Miguel Sano had a couple hot streaks but hit only .204, struck out every other at-bat, and had a horrible last two weeks of the season. He was surprisingly decent at his new position of first base, and more than half of his low total of 38 hits were for extra bases. But he was also a semi-bust. The Twins won the division and failed miserably the playoffs. There were a lot of big-name players who were busts or semi-busts . . . Surprising happening: The Astros managed only seven runs in two games against the Twins, yet scored 33 runs in four games as they knocked Oakland out of the next round of the playoffs. They had more runs (8) in the first seven innings of their first game with Oakland than they did in 18 innings vs. Minnesota pitching . . .  The PHS girls tennis team, after a slow start and having to replace a number of players from last year's team, finished third in the M8, beat Hermantown 7-0 in section playoffs Tuesday and then won 5-2 at Hibbing on Thursday to reach section semifinals. Their reward (?) is a game against top-seeded Elk River next week but they were much better at the end of the season. They do have all their singles players back for 2021 . . . PHS grad Tony Stay, a very good player during the string of good seasons by the Princeton Panthers when they went to the state tournament eight years in a row and finished second in 2000, lives in Florida but has played with relatives on the Foley town team for a few games a year the past few years. He had a hit off the bench in a state tournament game this year and then, as Foley lost a game that knocked them out of the tournament, he broke up a no-hitter in the fifth inning and then hit a three-run homer in the ninth for the team's only runs. He said last year he might hang around for 10 more seasons . . . The death of St. Louis Cardinal great Lou Brock recently reminded me of the season he had in 1961 playing his first year of professional baseball in St. Cloud. He came to the Class C team a little late after finishing the season at a small college in Louisiana and ended up leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, triples and, of course, stolen bases. I attended a bunch of games that summer and twice saw him go from first to third on a teammate's sacrifice bunt. He played four games with the Cubs that September and then had a Hall of Fame career after being traded to St. Louis.  The St. Cloud Rox had been a Giants farm team but had just switched to an affiliation with the Cubs.  All three St. Cloud outfielders from 1961 made the major leagues, one of them being the son of the New York Giants' legendary Mel Ott who hit 511 homers in his major league career . . . I'm pretty sure the Minnesota Vikings I've been watching for 60 years, and other NFL teams, have equaled what the team's top offensive players have done the past couple weeks. But it's been unusual . Dalvin Cook has run the ball 49 times for 311 yards (6.3 average - 181 yards in one game, 130 in the other)) and 4 touchdowns against the Titans and Texans. Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson has 11 receptions for 278 yards (25.3 yards per reception, 103 yards and 175). Adam Thielen has 10 receptions for 143 yards (14.3 average,114 yards vs. the Titans) and 2 touchdowns. And quarterback Kirk Cousins has completed 65 percent of his passes (32-for-49) for 513 yards and 4 touchdowns. Both receivers and Cook were over 100 yards vs. the Titans, and Cook and Jefferson were vs. the Texans. And yet the team is only 1-1 in those games because of a porous defense . . . PHS grads junior Reilee Schepper and sophomore Kelsey Dorr are on the tennis team at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Schepper also competing with the track team, both indoors and outdoors. Their team was 5-0 and ranked nationally last spring before the pandemic ended college sports around the country. Their fall season this school year was also canceled. Send me a note if you know about other PHS grads on college teams . . . The PHS boys soccer team is 11-1-1 and hoping for a good run in section playoffs. There are no state tournaments in any sports this fall season.


PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES  Oct. 14, 1965 — Princeton and Mora tied in football, 6-6, the only Princeton touchdown coming on an 80-yard punt return by Dave Duncan. Oct. 14,  1970 — Princeton had 300 yards rushing and beat Mora 20-12. Don Cordes had 177 yards and a TD, and Mark Blaske (77 yards in 12 carries) also scored. Oct. 15, 1975 — Dan Teboe, Jim Bowden, Mike Mingo and Perry Finelli were all-conference (2nd through 5th) as Princeton won the Rum River Conference cross-country meet. All seven PHS runners were under 18 minutes . . . Dan Johnson ran for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns,and caught 3 passes for 74 yards, but Princeton lost 42=28 to Sauk Rapids. Oct. 16, 1980 — Steve Wankel (125 yards rushing, 770 for the season) had his third straight game of more than100 yards as Princeton beat Chisago Lakes 36-14. Wankel and Jason Boser each scored twice . . . Kelley Talberg had 17 spikes as Princeton (8-8) beat Onamia in volleyball. Oct. 17, 1985 — Chris Grigsby ran for 134 yards and Dan Voce and Dean Swan scored in a 12-0 win over St. Francis that gave Princeton the Blue Division title in the Rum River . . . Jon Sather (6th) and Vaughn Dierks (14th) made all-conference as Princeton placed third in the RRC cross-country meet.  Oct. 18, 1990 — Carey Burke led the list of Princeton runners in the Twin Cities Marathon, running 3:13 in his 13th marathon . . . Robyn Lee (107 yards) scored a touchdown to tie Milaca 20-20 and Tom Kluk (112 yards) ran for the two-pointer as Princeton rallied to beat Milaca 22-20. Oct. 19, 1995 — Jason Kok (4th) and Sara Strand (13th) earned all-conference honors at the Rum River Conference cross-country meet . . . Princeton football coach Doug Patnode was inducted into the hall of fame at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Oct. 12, 2000 — Princeton beat Milaca 34-18, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions of the second half. Dane Larsen threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns, Paul Gibbs ran for 102 yards and Evan Portiin caught 4 passes for 122 yards …The girls tennis team (10-7) beat North Branch 4-3 to qualify for Section 7AA semifinals.  Oct. 20, 2005 — Former PHS player Josh Lundeen was player of the week in the UMAC North Division as he caught 8 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown for Northwestern College . . . Making all-conference in the first Mississippi 8 Conference cross-country meet ever were Dylan King for the boys and Shannon Guse and Traci Arnold for the girls. Oct. 21, 2010 — Ashley Urman made all-conference in cross-country by finishing 16th at the M8 meet . . . Mary Claire Mayerchak won twice in singles to advance in section tennis. Oct. 15, 2015 — The girls tennis team (21-3, 9-0 in the M8) won its fourth straight conference championship with a 5-2 win over Rogers and also earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 7AA tournament, with Bri and Kelsey Dorr getting the No. 1 seed in doubles in the south half . . . The girls soccer team (12-3-1) finished second in the Mississippi 8 with a 4-0 win over Big Lake as Alanna Mattson scored twice. The team also got the No. 1 seed for section play. (Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the area for the past 53 years.)

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