Young family’s brief time in Pelican Rapids during 1957 creation of statue forged lifetime memories

John Effertz, a young man who just moved to Pelican Rapids in 1957, is among the last people alive who had a hand in assembling the big pelican statue–and his fond memories linger to this day, as the big bird marks its 60th birthday. He is pictured with his son Doug, who was two years old at the time, and his wife Gloria.

One of Pelican Pete’s most enthusiastic fans is also one of the last people alive who assisted with creating “The World’s Largest Pelican.”

His name: John Effertz, and he was a young father and family man who had just moved to Pelican Rapids in 1957.

“For that many years, he really looks good,” said Effertz who came to visit Pelican Rapids in July. Joining him was his wife Gloria, and his son Doug–who was only two years old when his father helped assemble the famous big bird.

2017 is the Pelican’s 60th birthday, and the Effertz family wanted to make the trip from Wisconsin to see the creation. Also, they visited Doris Ishaug and a few other Pelican folks who befriended the young family six decades ago during their brief time in the community.

Son Doug, now 62 years old, has a photo of himself as a youngster–sitting on the tail of the pelican.

The family’s short stay in Pelican has left a fond, life-long impression on the family. Which isn’t entirely surprising, since John had a hand in creating the iconic statue that has become forever associated with Pelican Rapids.

They also found it to be a friendly town, which etched into their memory spanning 60 years–though they returned to their home state of Wisconsin, where they have lived since. “You couldn’t find nicer people.”

To the best of anybody’s knowledge, Effertz is very likely the last person living who worked on the statue. And–he pitched in as a volunteer.

His connection dates to May of 1957, when he was working for the Sioux Feather Co. in Barron, WI. With the new West Central Turkeys plant just opening in Pelican Rapids, it was an opportunity for a new source of feathers. The company sold feathers for fletches on arrows and in women’s fashions. Effertz loaded his wife, Gloria, and two small sons, Doug, 2, and Bill, 4 months.

Gloria found a job working for Ann and Colmer Lee at the B&L Cafe. On days that Gloria had to work and John didn’t, he would sometimes have Doris Ishaug babysit so that he could go fishing. One of his favorite spots to fish was below the falls by the Mill Pond Dam.

John had heard about the construction of the giant pelican, and one day wandered into the blacksmithwelder’s shop owned by Anton and Ted Resset, the brothers who made the metal frame for the big pelican.

“When I walked in I saw large skids of steel. I asked the two men if I could help in any way. They said I could help hold the steel pieces as they were welding them,” he explained. “I did this and remember very well the big pipes used for the pelican’s neck.”

John helped whenever he could, between his work schedule and the two young kids. He and the family were in Pelican long enough for the bird to be completed and placed on its “perch” at the Pelican dam.

“What a pretty sight it was with the finished pelican and the waterfall mist,” he said.

The family returned to Wisconsin short a time later, and Effertz ended up working a 31 year career at a 3-M manufacturing plant. But a little bit of Pelican Rapids has remained with he and his family. They returned in 2007, when the big pelican marked its 50th birthday.

The family returned to Wisconsin short a time later, and Effertz ended up working a 31 year career at a 3-M manufacturing plant. But a little bit of Pelican Rapids has remained with he and his family. They returned in 2007, when the big pelican marked its 50th birthday.

“I am so proud I got to help build Pelican Pete in 1957,” wrote John. “I am 84 years old now, and think of living in Pelican Rapids all the time…Love, John Effertz.”

Though Effertz and his family left Pelican after a relatively short time, he applied the steel and fiberglas skills he learned working on the “Big Pelican” to create a legacy for his Wisconsin town.

Known as “The Island City,” Cumberland, Wisconsin is the “Home of the Beavers.” Effertz helped create a similar statue for the community–of a beaver. It’s not as large as “Pelican Pete,” but no doubt an important centerpiece for the town.

And to think: It all started six decades ago, with the creation of the World’s Largest Pelican.