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Family shares James Wallin's self-written bio

Before he passed away suddenly early Saturday morning, Brainerd Mayor James Wallin had been hard at work writing his autobiography. He was named 2015 Citizen of the Year earlier in September, and his wife Minna said he was working on the two-page...

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Brainerd Mayor James Wallin talks in his home recently about receiving the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award. File Photo - Steve Kohls

Before he passed away suddenly early Saturday morning, Brainerd Mayor James Wallin had been hard at work writing his autobiography.

He was named 2015 Citizen of the Year earlier in September, and his wife Minna said he was working on the two-page autobiography so he had something prepared in case he needed to formally accept the award.

Monday, his daughter Amy dropped the document off at the Brainerd Dispatch, and said the first line prompted a story about her father.

Wallin wrote he was "born at home on November 22, 1941, and raised in a log house on a small farm in Pelican Township," and the family "had no electricity or running water till I was about 12."

Amy said her father told many people he grew up without electricity or running water. He used to ask people what he had in common with Abraham Lincoln, and then tell people they both grew up without those amenities.

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One time, while speaking at a class of young students, Amy said her father asked the group if they knew what he had in common with the famous president.

"One girl said, 'You're both old,'" Amy said.

Wallin's autobiography mentions his five brothers, one of whom, John, is his identical twin. He also mentions his two sisters, his 49-year marriage to Minna and his four children: Todd, Amy, David and Mindy.

He outlines his 38 years of service on the Brainerd City Council, with 10 years as council president and 17 years as mayor. He retired from the Minnesota National Guard with 35 years of service, and was a member of American Legion Post 255 for 41 years.

He served as a member of a variety of community organizations as well as a Sunday school teacher at Zion Lutheran Church.

Wallin worked in the printing business for more than 54 years, and his bio proudly states he brought "over $30 million in sales into Brainerd from out state companies." He also mentions his past 11 years as co-owner of J&M Printing, Inc., which "have brought over $500,000 in sales into Brainerd each year, all from out state customers."

Wallin wrote about how he loved photography, hunting, fishing and tending to the perennial flower garden at his home, and how he loved to "put up our large Christmas light display each year and enjoy all of our children we have been blessed with."

Wallin's love of gardening and his home's impressive Christmas light display were mentioned by many following his passing as some of his more favorite pastimes.

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Wallin wrote about a major accomplishment he was extremely proud of: initiating legislation to prevent billboards from the stretch of Highway 371 dedicated as the C. Elmer Memorial Highway leading into Brainerd.

In 1990, Wallin designed the city of Brainerd's Tower Award, "our most prestigious award we give," he wrote.

Just last year in 2014, he designed a new seal for the city of Brainerd, and expressed "my thanks to Chip Borkenhagen for his patience and computer skills."

Perhaps the last line of Wallin's autobiography is the most notable.

"I have lived in Crow Wing County all my life with the past 49 years in Brainerd," Wallin wrote. "I live in God's country and have been blessed in so many ways by Him for which I am truly grateful."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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