Most 95-year-olds have long retired from any commitments, but not Waseca’s Bonnie Lewer, who chose to retire just this week from Meals on Wheels.
She has lived in Waseca for her entire life, having dedicated the last 39 years to delivering Meals on Wheels to those senior citizens in need. That’s more than 30,000 meals since she began with the program.
Her most recent route consisted of 14 meals that she delivered every Tuesday around Waseca. She not only brought a meal, but a friendly face to the door when she delivered the meals.
“She’s very faithful, I can’t remember in my five and a half years that she ever missed a day,” said Harold Zabel, the site coordinator for the Waseca Senior Center. “She’s just a fantastic person.”
Before Lewer began delivering Meals on Wheels, she was an owner of a Coast to Coast Hardware store in Waseca, where the current Thrifty White Pharmacy is located. Her family owned that for nearly 20 years and when they closed the store, she found a new passion in life: delivering meals.
Delivering Meals on Wheels
Lewer received calls from both the Senior Center and the Art Center on the same day. So she accepted both jobs on the same day and retired at the Art Center after about 20 years and continued for another 19 with the Meals on Wheels program.
Lewer said she’ll miss seeing the people the most.
“They’re always so gracious that I come with the meals,” she said.
She added that there is one resident she takes the garbage to the curb for every time she delivers a meal, because she can.
“It’s just one little thing I can do,” Lewer said.
In her 39 years delivering meals, she put more than 20,000 miles on her car and she retired with no accidents while on her route. The employees of the Senior Center also mentioned that Lewer had great attendance and rarely missed her shift.
Retirement is something that has been on her mind for awhile and her son, Larry Lewer, gave her the push to retire just months before her 96th birthday. Lewer sent the Senior Center a letter informing them of her last day so they could find her replacement.
She didn’t drive her route on her last day because there was a surprise retirement party at the Senior Center where her son and her grandson Sam Lewer joined a few employees of the Senior Center and of the Lutheran Charities group. She plans to ride along with her replacement sometime in the near future to say goodbye to her route members.
At the small gathering, Bonnie received cards from family, coworkers and some of the people on the route to congratulate her and to thank her for her work. She also received flowers, a balloon, a gift and a cake during the celebration.
When she opened her gifts, she said, “I can’t believe this, it’s wonderful.”
“She’s so humble, never met anyone so humble,” Sam said.
During the retirement party, she repeatedly commented on how blessed she has been with her great health throughout life. Her health allows her to still live at home, where she has lived for the past 70 years and raised her family.
When she’s not delivering Meals on Wheels for the Senior Center, Lewer can be seen walking her three-mile route around town everyday as well as volunteering for her church.
“Everyone knows Bonnie in town because she walks all over,” Carol Bartelt said.
She is also active with St. John Lutheran Church in Waseca. Lewer assembles the church bulletins, delivers the bulletin to 14 people, helps with communion at the nursing home, waters the church flowers and more than 60 plants at the Woodville Cemetery, and she cuts quilt squares by the hundreds for the church.
“I’m very involved with my church, so I do a lot with them,” Bonnie said. “I’m blessed I can still do it.”
Spending time with her son is also important to her and they like to spend their time playing cards.
She also watches Minnesota sports to fill her time. Her favorite is the Minnesota Twins because she enjoys baseball, but she also likes to watch the Links play as well as the Vikings and the Minnesota Gophers.
Lewer said she likes to be busy and will need to find something to fill her time now that she is retired from Meals on Wheels.
After patching the extension building at the Waseca County Fairgrounds for the past 20 years, the facility will get a new roof.
The Waseca County Board of Commissioners accepted a bid from Meisner Roofing to replace the aging and often leaky flat roof for $50,075. Buildings and Grounds Director Brian Tomford anticipates Meisner will begin replacement work in the spring. Garland Roofing also submitted a bid for the project, which came in at $46,995 that excluded additional costs for new coping.
The Meisner bid includes a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty and a labor warranty. Additionally, Meisner will remove and replace all of the insulation around the roof.
“It’s been one of my projects I’ve been looking at for a while,” Tomford said. “I had a few big projects on my list that needed to get done.”
The commissioners decided to add new coping for an additional cost of $6,000 rather than try to salvage the existing coping.
“It’s going to get bent when you take it off,” Tomford said. “You never know what could happen if you put the old stuff on. My preference was to go with the new coping.”
Sheriff’s Office get a drone
Waseca County will soon have eyes in the sky after the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a drone for the Sheriff’s Office.
The drone comes with a steep price tag of $41,745 and Federal Aviation Administration training for a sheriff’s deputy.
Waseca County Sheriff Brad Milbrath said the drone will mostly assist in search and rescue calls for the Sheriff’s Office but the drone will also help the Planning and Zoning and Disaster Management departments.
Milbrath said his department had three or four searches in the past year and that it can be difficult to get help from other agencies to provide an aerial view. Just a couple of weeks ago, deputies spent three hours searching for a suicidal person when the Minnesota State Patrol helicopter had to travel from Brainerd. Waseca County has also reached out to Freeborn and Blue Earth counties for assistance in search calls because both counties have drones.
When Waseca County has gotten assistance with a drone searches have gone from hours to minutes, Milbrath said.
Milbrath and his department planned to add a drone for a few years and have a deputy already licensed by the FAA to operate the drone.
Milbrath’s department ordered the drone following the commissioner’s meeting Tuesday and anticipates it’ll arrive next week.
Waseca Public Schools will continue with the hybrid learning model and focus on improving it with the hope of bringing students back in-person full time in the future, Superintendent Eric Hudspith said last week.
Hudspith told the Waseca School Board Oct. 22 that students are doing well overall with the hybrid model of distance learning and in-person learning, but they’re working to improve the experiences.
Waseca Intermediate School students are doing well, Hudspith said. Classes are moving at a slower pace than what is typical to get through content, but students are grasping the information and doing well with the assessments, he said.
At the high school, the administration is working through a “significant” amount of failures, he said, adding that there are almost as many students failing now as last spring when the schools were full-time distance learning.
“This has a lot to do with distance learners, who are not as engaged as we’d like them to be,” Hudspith said. “Students, when they are not at school, on their off day are having a harder time keeping up with their school work.”
The WJSHS held conferences early in the school year to intervene before the end of the grading period to allow those failing students to improve.
At WIS this fall, 97% of students are in attendance and 93% of students are in attendance at Hartley Elementary. At the WJSHS, 83% of students are in attendance in grades nine through 12 and 80% of students are in attendance for seventh and eighth grade.
These attendance numbers at the WJSHS are significantly lower than what the administration wants, which WJSHS Principal Jason Miller said is linked to students not checking in when distance learning.
“Some of the things we have to get better at with our model is engaging those students when they’re not at school, until we get them back into school,” Hudspith said. “I feel really positive and confident that our principals, social workers, counselors and teachers are on top of this and working through this with families as best they can.”
A survey is being sent out to teachers by administration to get ideas on how to improve the processes at the schools and how to improve the student and teacher experience with the current hybrid model. One will be sent to families as well.
Changes are already taking place in the buildings. The number of students allowed in the buildings means more specific needs can be met in-person. That includes allowing special education programs being in-person four days a week and deciding if there’s room to bring back more students needing intervention in-person more often.
“We know we are going to work on transitioning students back to school more, that’s our goal,” Hudpsith said. “So when the health conditions allow us to do that, that’s what we’re moving toward.”
Twelfth-graders at Waseca Junior Senior High School got a glimpse into local politics this week.
John Hanson, an American government and political science teacher at the school, gave his students the chance to learn firsthand how politics work through WHS Coffee Break Debates held in the Performing Arts Center.
The two senior classes came up with questions based on what is happening in Waseca to ask candidates for the City Council’s Ward 2 seat during a debate on Tuesday.
John Mansfield and Les Tlougan are seeking represent Ward 2 on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Senior Brody Wirtz led the debate as the moderator, asking for an opening and closing statement along with five in-depth questions that each candidate had three minutes to answer with a chance to respond.
Wirtz asked the candidates about their qualifications for the position, their thoughts on bringing in estates on the edge of town such as Clear Lake Estates or the Hylands into the city limits, their thoughts on the budget, what the health of the city will look like in the next five to 10 years, the greatest strengths of Waseca and steps to bring new businesses or to expand business in town are.
Tlougan is the Ward 2 incumbent. He retired after working in the Waseca schools for 35 years and continues to serve the community in various ways. He shared with the students his five questions to ask when getting involved in leadership. Mansfield, Tlougan’s opponent for the Ward 2 seat, is a small business owner in Waseca running on four pillars: faith, family, veterans and small businesses.
While the two candidates debated, the rest of the class watched and took notes about the different topics, learning about their local government and how democracy works through debate.