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4 to be inducted in Pillager Hall of Fame

Four Pillager teachers and alumni will be inducted into the Pillager Hall of Fame Saturday, Sept. 29. "Our hall of fame is kind of a unique hall of fame," Pillager Superintendent Mike Malmberg said over the phone Friday. "It's not just tied to at...

Dave Vieths. Submitted photo
Dave Vieths. Submitted photo

Four Pillager teachers and alumni will be inducted into the Pillager Hall of Fame Saturday, Sept. 29.

"Our hall of fame is kind of a unique hall of fame," Pillager Superintendent Mike Malmberg said over the phone Friday. "It's not just tied to athletics or fine arts or anything specific. It has members from all walks of life. ... It's really about people who have done something for our school or who were graduated from our school and went on and did some great things and contributed to society or to our world."

Dave Vieths, teacher

Vieths started at Pillager in 1973 teaching English and working with the theater department. He taught English in seventh through 12th grades, as well as some college courses, and directed school and community plays for many years, picking out "Grease" and "High School Days" as his favorites.

Vieths was a football coach and announcer and also coached softball with Mike Greer, whom he admired and respected.

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During homecoming week, Vieths would be found dressed as a clown riding a motorcycle, passing out candy to the crowd.

Despite the fun side, he took his students very seriously, listening and trying to guide them in the right direction. He went that extra mile to help students make their term papers perfect and even select colleges. Even after retirement, students contacted Vieths to look over their English papers before the due date, and he never failed to send them back with plenty of red corrections. He enjoyed teaching students grammar and came up with little quotes to help them remember the rules.

Aside from English, Vieths taught a class in theater and production, helping students boost their self-esteem and self-confidence through on-stage work.

He also dabbled in theater himself, acting and directing plays in Pequot Lakes and Staples and at Central Lakes College. For many years, he used that theater background, bringing a voice to Paul Bunyan at Paul Bunyan Land. He continued voiceover work after retirement in a commercial for Home Depot and the movie "Tilt," which he deemed his proudest accomplishment.

Retirement didn't last long for Vieths, as he eventually turned his painting hobby into a business that his son, Bryan, still runs after his Vieths' death.

Other community work included the Pillager City Council, fire department and church council at First Lutheran.

Cora Jean Leenheer, class of 1968

Leenheer excelled in English during her time at Pillager and used her writing to serve her local community. She wrote Bible study materials for a ladies group, served as copy editor for many publications and wrote 15 original scripts for the Peak to Peak Chorale dinner theater group.

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After high school she served in missions in Brazil and learned Portuguese, which made her able to return their years later as a translator at the National Institute of Amazonian Research working on a water chemistry project for the Organization of American States.

Leenheer served as president of the Evangelical Free Church National Women's Ministries Board and was involved with the reorganization and restructuring of the ministry.

Over the years, she edited her husband's publications and book, which gave her the chance to accompany him on trips to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Japan.

Leenheer and her husband, Jerry, loved to experience nature and travel. They have organized several canoe trips on the Mississippi River from the headwaters to Little Falls. They have enjoyed many lengthy bicycle trips and began a ride from the Mississippi headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico this year.

Leenheer would say her biggest life-changing event thus far was in 2015 when Jerry was struck by lightning. She performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived, helping to save her husband's life. She gives glory to God for Jerry's second chance at life.

Iduna (Bertel) Field, class of 1915

Field was the first graduate of Pillager School and the only student in the class of 1915.

After graduation, she went to the University of Iowa before landing a job teaching English at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa. She dabbled in poetry and journalism, with original poems published in many books and magazines and literary features appearing in the Milwaukee Journal and the Des Moines Register.

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Field, a longtime member of the National League of American Pen Women, was state president for two years. On several occasions she won first prize for Best Book Review on The Des Moines Register book page. Her short fiction, "The Tryst," was published in The American Short Short Story, an anthology cited as presenting the best selections by American authors in 1935. For four years she was editor of The Annals, a poetry magazine featuring northeast Iowa poets. She conducted a weekly radio program in the '30s and '40s for KWLC at Luther College, with broadcast book reviews on emerging writers.

Field was active in many community and state organizations. She co-founded the Winneshiek County Mental Health Association in 1952, served as its first president and was responsible-along with several others in the community-for the establishment of the Mental Health Center in Decorah, Iowa. It was the first rural Mental Health Center in Iowa. She was also involved in convincing Allamakee County to join with Winneshiek County, forming the first Mental Health Center in Iowa to consist of more than one county. Field, along with a few others, funded the program for eight months before the counties became involved fiscally. She was also active in promoting community mental health services at the state level.

In 1953, Field was honored by the Iowa State Mental Health Association as a recipient of the Award of Merit presented annually to one individual in the state for the most outstanding and distinguished service that year in promoting better mental health. She was elected president of the Mental Health Association of Iowa and served on the board of directors of the state association.

Honored as a 60-year member of Philanthropic Educational Organization in 1992, Field was a charter member of Decorah's American Association of University Women.

She belonged to the Congregational United Church of Christ and was a 50-year member of Eastern Star. She may be remembered for her devotion to the elderly, shut-ins and those who were lonely or alone.

Field died at age 95 on Jan. 5, 1994, in Decorah, Iowa.

Tricia Reimer Kealy, class of 1976

Kealy moved to Pillager in 1970, at the beginning of seventh grade, when her father was hired as the high school principal. Pillager became their new family when Kealy's mom died in a house fire a year later.

Kealy's father helped her develop a love of sports a time when they weren't offered for girls until ninth grade, when Kealy began playing basketball and was chosen as All Conference. She was widely renowned around the community for her basketball skills and as a senior became the first female to receive the Athlete of the Year award.

Kealy was a three-sport athlete, earning 16 letters throughout her high school career. She represented Pillager High School four times at the state track meet, participating in five events.

Along with sports, Kealy was active in band, choir, cheerleading, plays and homecoming court.

She went on to study art and physical education at Bemidji State University, where she was a basketball cheerleader and captain of the track team. She competed at nationals on the 4x800 relay team. BSU honored Kealy as one of the top 60 all-time female athletes in the school's history.

Kealy's teaching career took her to Pipestone and Rockford, where she also coached. She then spent 20 years as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines before moving to Becker to work as a substitute teacher and cross-country and track coach, which she still maintains today.

Kealy's coaching career saw her named the Cross-Country and State Coach of the Year in 2009.

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