Woodworking, carving hobby dates back to country school days in Dora Twsp.

By Louis Hoglund

His cedar carving of a red-throated loon is a prized creation by Ken Kratzke, pictured displaying the carving with his wife Margaret at the Riverside manor-Pelican Valley Senior Living. Ken noted that the red-throated loon is not native to Minnesota, like the common loon we know here. The bird’s distinctive red features are included on Ken’s carving.

His woodworking and carving days may be over, but the evidence of his hobby remains as cherished mementos for family. 

And—he “still has all his fingers,” laughed Ken Kratzke. The 89-year-old managed to avoid a serious woodcutting injury—dating back to his first piece, a wooden horse he carved as a country school kid at the Dora Township school about eight decades ago. 

Ken and Margaret Kratzke live in Riverfront Manor, on the Pelican Valley Senior Living campus. Ken doesn’t have access to a woodshop there, but his wooden creations decorate the couple’s apartment. 

His unusual, table-top-sized replicas of old farm steam engine and harvesting equipment were put on display at Pelican Valley last fall, during the annual Rollag and Dalton Steam Thresher Reunions. Residents and neighbors enjoyed examining Kratzke’s intricate handiwork. 

A sampling of Ken Kratzke’s hand-carved songbirds.
Ken Kratzke’s hand-carved figures.
A hand-carved and painted chickadee.

Carvings of Minnesota’s state songbird, the chickadee, and a bright red cardinal, decorate the Kratzke’s shelves. For the holiday season, wooden carvings of St. Nick and other ornate Christmas-themed items decorated their home. 

Because Ken’s hobby is a labor of love, many of the finest woodworking examples are scattered near and far—as gifts to family. 

His first carved horse, created in the 1940s, was a gift to his grandson Carl.

These miniature replicas of a Case steam engine and a Case separator were modeled after the pictures back on the wall. Kratzke’s miniatures were on display last fall when Rollag and Dalton hosted the popular Steam Threshing reunion farm show events.
This model of the Kratzke’s original dairy barn, in Lida Township, was painstakingly created by Ken Kratzke and given to Mark Kratzke, Hawley.
This photo dates back about 20 years, as Kratzke’s granddaughter Emily proudly poses by the doll house created by grandpa Ken Kratzke. Emily Evenson is now all grown up—one of the staff at the family’s Southtown Convenience Store.

A miniature replica of the Kratzke’s dairy barn, from their cow-milking days, is a prized possession for their daughter, Debbie Evenson. 

The Kratzkes farmed the land that is now the Pesch family’s Lida Farms organic produce-vegetable operation. 

Ken went on to work for West Central Turkeys in the early 1960s, where he worked for 23 years to retirement, mainly as a refrigeration engineer. Margaret also worked in the West Central offices for about five years, and then went on to work for Gerald Evenson’s trucking operation for 23 years. 

The couple has lived at Pelican Valley’s Riverside Manor for the past four years.