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A welcomed sight

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Those holiday journeys which take us over the river and through the woods often include a brief respite at one of Minnesota’s highway rest stops.

A familiar sight at those wayside stops are the green uniforms and gray hair of Green View employees such as Arlyn Wahl, a custodian and alternate crew leader at the Brainerd Lakes Area Welcome Center. He and his crew are the ones responsible for the clean floors, rest rooms and smudge-free windows that make traveling by vehicle a little more pleasant. They also blow the snow and take care of the lawn.

Wahl, 82, has worked at the welcome center since 2005, the year it opened. He works for Green View, a private enterprise that employs workers who are 55 and older and is funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The chance to earn a little extra income and keep busy was what appealed to the Fort Ripley Township resident.

While working at the welcome center he has met travelers from Australia, Africa, Germany and all over the U.S. They have included motorists, truckers, bicyclists and hitch-hikers.

Because Green View relies on state funding, this year’s state shutdown meant that Wahl had to stay home, while the Brainerd Lakes Chamber staff kept the rest rooms open.

“I had a lot of stuff to do around the place (home),” he said “Some of it didn’t need doing, but I did it anyway.”

The Fulda native’s Green View job caps a long working career that includes farming, a filling station job and a 27 year career with Graco Inc. in the Twin Cities where he did sheet metal work and spent the last eight years in the paint department. Wahl retired from Graco in 1992 and moved just north of Fort Ripley in 1993.

He and his wife, Dawn, have six children and two great-grandchildren. The couple has been married for 56 years. A veteran of the Korean War era, Wahl made a point to note that he has one grandson who is serving in the U.S. Air Force at the Iraq embassy, another one serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and another one with the U.S. Marine Corps, who is stateside now but recently served in Afghanistan.”

“Proud of the boys,” he said.

He took his own brood on many car trips. The children amused themselves by playing license plate games and alphabet games with billboards. He admitted it was a little easier to keep kids from getting restless in the pre-seat belt era.

“The kids could roam around,” Wahl said.

When he’s not working his 24-hour a week shift, he keeps busy at home gardening, wood-working and working on his 1965 Mustang convertible. Wahl is a member of the Lone Eagle Auto Club.

Working in his senior years is not unusual in his family. Wahl said he has an aunt who is 100 and living in a nursing home. His mother-in-law, whom he affectionately referred to as a “stubborn Dane” lived until she was just 12 days shy of her 103rd birthday. He said his knees sometimes give him a little problem but other than he has no serious health problems.

Wahl said he doesn’t pay much attention to the souvenirs and gifts at the chamber’s gift shop but that people who work there are like family to him.

“I visit with the gals,” he said.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or