Memories etched into eternity on 'Wall of Fame'
By: By Mike Granlund, Superior Telegram
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
A wall can be a very significant thing. You have the Great Wall of China, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. We once had the Berlin Wall until President Ronald Reagan uttered those symbolic words: “Tear down this wall!”
In sports, the most famous wall is probably the Green Monster; the left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston, home of the Red Sox baseball team.
Locally, we now have a “Wall.” The Wall of Honor is located within the Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex at Northwestern High School in Maple (just west of the concession stand).
What began as a fundraiser for completion of the athletic complex project has turned into more; much more. The names etched onto the tiles on the Wall of Honor provide a lasting memory of people, events and accomplishments. Some of the names are legendary such as all-state athletes Tom Burke, Jeff Anttila, Steve Tecker and Donnie Hissa, as well as state champions Darrel, Doug and Bruce Nelson, Steve Tekippe, Mike Kauther and Jessica Weyandt; and the long list of Tiger football 1,000-yard rushers dating back to 1973, and numerous other Tiger families and individuals.
Tributes to lost loved ones represent a very special place in the hearts of those left behind. When people see names like Rich Budish, Barbara Williams and Heidi Zosel, they evoke many fond memories from their family and friends. Some tiles are on the wall simply to indicate support for the school and the Tiger team.
Two initial wall tiles command prominent spots on the Wall and honor the memories of former Middle School Principal Walter Simpson and High School Teacher and Coach Jim Weinandt. Both men were much revered by their peers and students, and the Wall provides a fitting tribute to their contributions to the area.
Bill Pelkey, is vice-chairman of the Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex Association and chair of the committee that works with the “Wall of Honor” and is very satisfied with the progress of the Wall.
“We have been able to donate $35,000 so far to the School district for the facilities from the proceeds of the Wall and also the proceeds from the Pat Moreland 5K and Mini Track Meet and the Coaches Classic Golf Tournament,” Pelkey said. “The Wall is serving its purpose and is a lasting tribute to those on the Wall.”
Pelkey is especially pleased with work performed by the people and local businesses who helped build the Wall.
“The Wall itself is an impressive structure that blends in with the other structures on the site and is a credit to all the trades people who volunteered their time and to the local businesses that donated materials for the Wall,” Pelkey said. “Everyone really appreciates their efforts.”
Volunteers who helped construct the Wall include John Urbaniak, Greg Knoll, Bill and Grant Ronchi, Pat Trautt, Darren Coryell, Gary Tuura, Brian Taves, Andy Moss, Jason Springer, and Paul Martinson. Businesses that donated materials include Lake Country Masonry, Todd’s Redi-Mix Concrete, Bill Ronchi Construction, KRA Builders and Iron River-Poplar Building Products.
Pelkey noted that there is still plenty of room left on the Wall of Honor to add more tiles.
“The Wall represents a lot of NHS tradition with families, accomplishments, and events, but there is still a lot of tradition that should be up there,” Pelkey said.
The tile will cost $100, $250 or $500 depending on the size of the tile ordered, with each donation being tax deductible. Orders can be placed by calling Pelkey at 715-374-3530 or contacting any of the committee members. Other “Wall” members include John Urbaniak, Bob Coleman, Terry Hendrick and Dennis Wedan.
The Wall of Honor in Maple may not be as long as the Great Wall of China (more than 5,000 miles) or as tall as the Green Monster in Boston (37 feet) and may not have the eternal significance as the Wailing Wall or the emotional attachment as the Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, but in its own way, the Wall of Honor in Maple provides a landmark to the lasting memories of the people and events of Northwestern High School.
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