New VFW event center packed as first Hall of Famers inducted; 1984 team reunites
The guys from back in 1984 put everything in the proper perspective when they assembled in the front of the room as Pelican Rapids’ first “Hall of Fame” sports team.
“We’re not Hall of Famers–we’re products of Hall of Famers,” said Steve Huseby, one of the Pelican lads who won the state basketball title back when. “Every one of you here shaped us…This town built us.”
“You’re all Hall of Famers!” exclaimed Huseby, before a crowd estimated at 200 Pelicanites, jammed into the new VFW event center for the Pelican Rapids High School Gala Hall of Fame banquet Oct. 5.
Teammate Pat Westby couldn’t have agreed more. That phrase “it takes a village to raise a child…Well, the village of Pelican Rapids raised us,” said Westby.
Two of their leaders, basketball coach Rex Haugen and athletic director, the late Al Siegle, were also inductees in the new Pelican Hall of Fame.
The 1984 team won the state Class A tournament in truly grueling fashion. Over three games, they were victorious by only five points. Each game a nail-biter. That tournament run 25 years ago is arguably among the most exciting and competitive shows on the big basketball stage in the state’s history.
But the guys to this day keep things in the proper focus–by pointing the spotlight on their teammate Pete Wohler. They traveled back to Pelican Rapids from as far away as Florida, not only to take their place in the local Hall of Fame–but to greet their friend Peter Wohler, a living “miracle.” Their buddy fought cancer for two years–including experimental treatments. At one point doctors gave him 60 days.
But here he was. Alive, well and…unconventional. With hair down his back, he looks nothing like his colleagues. His path into inner-city ministry in the Twin Cities enables him to “pay it forward” just as his teammates, his teachers and coaches, and the community of Pelican did for him a quarter-century ago.
Relocating to Pelican Rapids from Osseo just weeks before basketball season started in 1984, Wohler was an “outsider”–but not for long. His father was called to serve the small Baptist church in Pelican, and by most high school conventions, the “new kid on the block” might well have remained on the fringes; and all alone in the lunch room.
But Wohler said the community took him under its “wing” and made him feel welcomed, despite his relocation late in his high school career. For that, he said he is forever grateful.
Plus–Peter Wohler has the rare privilege of being on the roster of a state champion team.
“If we lived across the ocean…we would still be here,” said Huseby, of the comradery of the 1984 Vikings. They may not see each other for 15 years, but when they gather–its just like yesterday, he added.
Perhaps most important of all, the Hall of Fame Gala event raised funds for the “village,” stressed Pat Westby. “It goes right back to the kids.”
The boys of 1984; and all Hall of Famers; “paying it forward”–just as the community has done for more than a century.
LOU FINISH THIS SENTENCE!!!!Proceeds from the Gala will go to the Pelican Rapids School Foundation, and will be dispersed
“Snowshoe Bob” was perhaps Pelican’s first “marquis” athlete
Hall of Famer from the earliest era, Bob Shultz, was a humble guy.
Little did his daughter know that dad had a distinguished athletic career.
“He was a pretty humble guy. He never really talked about athletics. I think I was in high school before I even knew he played for the Gophers,” she said.
In a time before the Minnesota Vikings brought professional football to the state. A time long before the autumn exploits of the state’s first pro baseball team arrived; the biggest show in town in the fall was the Minnesota Gophers.
Autumn football often meant snow.
And that’s how a kid from Pelican Rapids got his nickname back in 1955: Bob “Snowshoe” Schultz.
It was against several foes, including the Wisconsin Badgers, the University of Southern California and others, that demonstrated his uncanny ability to trudge through snow, in arctic cold, with freezing rain.
Halfback Schultz, despite the horrendous conditions, still managed to run an impressive ground game.
“He must have been wearing snowshoes” to gain the yardage in those winter conditions, said Sara Muench, his daughter, in accepting the Hall of Fame honor.
Sportswriters got a hold of it, and “Snowshoe” Bob’s true-story legend was born.
After his brother, Ken, graduated from Pelican–he also joined the Gophers. So, Pelican Rapids has the rare distinction of placing two local boys–brothers–playing for the Big Ten Gophers, on the same team.
Though Bob died in 2004, he’s still with us, insisted Muench.
“My mom and dad chose to be buried in Pelican Rapids,” she said. Even though they spent their adult lives and careers in the Metro area. “They loved Pelican Rapids…They’re hearts were always in Pelican…..So, they are here, looking down. They’re honored and privileged.”
A sidenote on the Schultz story, for Pelican Rapids oldtimers: Bob married his high school sweetheart, Ardelle (Rossum), who was on the sidelines as a football cheerleader in the early 1950s. Relatives David and Roy Rossum were also on hand at the Hall of Fame banquet, to honor “Snowshoe Bob.” Also, Bob Shultz’s mother was an English teacher at Pelican Rapids in the 1950s.
Coach Ki Gohdes was winning track coach for 36 years
“Blessed” to be a coach in Pelican Rapids was the comment from Hall of Fame inductee Ki Gohdes, who was the track and field coach for 36 years.
Gohdes, a Mapleton, North Dakota, native, launched the varsity volleyball program in Pelican, and coached the team for 18 years.
Her interest in athletics came early. Gohdes recalled how her father would challenge her to run “to the bridge and back” to take a break from milking the cows at their Red River Valley farm.
After she arrived from her first teaching post in Crosby, North Dakota, she became gymnastics coach, and continued for six years.
Gohdes led successful teams throughout her career, but particularly in the 1990s; “when nobody wanted to see the Pelican Rapids bus pull into town” for a track meet.
“I never got tired of coaching. I was able to do what I like,” said Gohdes. “My life in Pelican Rapids is a happy one.”
Quick to spread praise, she credited Pelican school’s buildings and grounds superintendent Trevor Steeves for his work “behind the scenes” in keeping the track and facilities in good shape.
Truth be told, legendary coach Haugen didn’t have a lot of patience for “scientific” side of sports
True confessions: from retired Pelican Rapids Hall of Fame Coach Rex Haugen:
• “I never paid much attention to statistics,” said Haugen. As unthinkable as it sounds in today’s data-driven sports world, Haugen led Viking basketball teams to 430 wins across 31 years–largely on instinct and intuition.
• “I was dead broke and looking for a job.” That’s how Rex Haugen ended up in Pelican Rapids. He had to squint his eyes on a Minnesota road map to find the place.
Late Superintendent Chauncey Martin told him to “borrow 20 bucks from a buddy, and come on down.” He was hired.
“I don’t remember ever filling out a job application or turning in a resume.”
• A good coach, said Haugen, means “making sure your players are smarter than you are.”
He’d pull guys into a huddle, ask them for their input, and the coach would say “OK, sounds like a good idea to me–go ahead.”
• On a sentimental note, Haugen said “coming to Pelican Rapids was the best thing that ever happened to me…sometimes, life brings things to you, and you just let it flow…This place is home to me.”
For the late Al Siegle, there was no place like home–in Pelican Rapids
Coach and athletic director Al Siegle had a passion, not just for sports, but for the community of Pelican Rapids.
“He was successful, but he knew there was a bigger picture,” said son Tim Siegle. “He wasn’t just building athletes, he was building adults.”
For tens of thousands of people, Siegle looked for the best in everybody. In “tens of thousands, the people he touched are paying it forward to this day…”
Though he had offers to go to other schools, his reaction was simple: “Why would I do that?”
Recognizing that a good school requires the support of a good community, Siegle was always stepping in. “He always gave back…He was president of the Chamber of Commerce, I don’t know how many times,” recalled Tim. “In all those years, I don’t know if I ever saw him take the time to read a book–but he was president of the library board.”
Above all, perhaps, the late Al Siegle was a “man of faith.”
“On a good day, you’re going to church. On a bad weather day, you were absolutely going to church,” said Tim. “It was imbedded in our entire family.”