Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
The voters of Merrill have spoken and for the first time in the city’s history not just one, but two women will be seated on the common council. Anita Gebert and Jean Rogers were the only two challengers on the ballot with Gebert facing off against Walter Proft in the 8th ward and Rogers against Gerald Bauer. The rest of the seats in the city government were unopposed with the exception of the mayor’s office which saw incumbent mayor Ralph “Fata” Voigt hold off a challenge from Roman Weber. The three incumbents on the school board will all retain their seats; they are Lester Voigt, Vivian Borchardt and Wayne Schultz. In the presidential primary Lincoln County residents chose Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford over his challenger former California Governor Ronald Reagan in the Republican primary. State wide that Democratic primary was much closer with Carter gaining 37% to Morris Udall’s 36%; George Wallace and Henry Jackson rounded out the democratic ticket. Perhaps the reason for Udall’s good showing was his campaigning locally; he is pictured on page nine with Congressman Dave Obey visiting the Erwin Bauman Jr. dairy farm in the Town of Berlin last week. On the county board four new faces will find seats. Bert Strasman defeated sixth ward representative Henry Golde, Harry Osness took the 11th seat over Harry Hepp, and Floyd Lemon outpolled Patrick Buick in the fifth ward.
The Jaycees have selected their leadership for this next year. Dan Woller will be the president of the group. Other officers include vice-president Bill Trempe, Bill Morris as the internal vice-president, Cal Hinz treasurer, Tom Busha secretary, and state director Jack Hamilton. Board members are Dick Goff, Tom Hoge, Larry Sterzinger, Mike Krueger, and Scott Nocco. Werner Rusch was selected to represent the group at the spring regional in Antigo this Saturday. The Lion’s Club has elected their officers as well. Ray Galipeau Jr. will head the club, 1st vice-president Oscar Kretschmer, 2nd vice-president Duane Luedke, 3rd vice-president Frank Jaeger, secretary Ray Galipeau Sr., treasurer Raymond Schwartz, tail-twister Kimberly Chilsen, and Lion tamer Leonard Hodgson.
A fire ravaged the apartment building adjoining the Foto News offices last Wednesday afternoon. Sales consultant Kevin O’Day phoned in the report to the fire department as he left work at around 5 p.m. Firefighters were on the scene quickly according to O’Day and the extensive damage was limited to the apartments. Pictured fighting the blaze are firefighters Bruce English and Norm Hanson atop the ladder truck, firefighters Mike Drury and Albert Hommerding on ladders, and DNR Fire Ranger and civilian volunteer are pictured assisting with hose lines as Fire Chief Harvey Emanuel directs the operations from the rear door of the apartments. (This was a rather rundown apartment building which turned into a vacant lot, and now is the home of Cosmo number three. I also was amazed they drove the aerial truck down onto the railroad tracks to fight the fire)
The newest department store to come to Merrill is preparing for their grand opening. Spurgeon’s Department Store, a chain retailer with a 79-year history has stores in Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and now store number 84 in Merrill. The projected opening of the store is April 24. Now that it is official that Spurgeon’s is opening in downtown, it ends the worst kept secret on who the replacement is for the now vacant former Livingston’s Department Store which closed after the retirement of its owner.
Can the Town of Corning operate its own fire department? Some members of the town think so and now a four-man committee has been established to explore the idea further. Residents of the town discussed their displeasure with the abilities of the Merrill Fire Department to provide rural fire service to its township and asked the town board to establish a volunteer fire department. Town resident and local tavern owner Ed Dinges told the board at their annual meeting that he has signed up 26 residents to fill the rosters of the department if it were to form. Town Chairman Bill Behrens notes the urgency to make a decision on the matter as the rural fire group, consisting of the Towns of Corning, Pine River, Harding, Scott, Rock Falls, Merrill and the Marathon County Town of Texas are all set to share the costs of a new pumper and tanker truck which will be purchased and used by the Merrill Fire Department. The pumper truck is expected to cost $92,000 and the tanker $85,000, the town also pays $2,300 a year for fire protection from Merrill. Fire Chief Harvey Emanuel scoffed at the notion that a volunteer department could be formed for as little as $10,000 as was told at the meeting, noting it costs $1,600 just to outfit one firefighter. Emanuel also countered that the department remains committed to rural fire responses. Dinges, Stan Wendt, Merlin Steinagel and Robert Wendt will come back to the town board by May with a report on the feasibility of forming their own department.
The general contractor for the South Center Avenue bridge project has announced that the bridge will close for good on Monday. Motorists will have to use the prescribed detours as soon as the bridge closes. The DOT will also most likely install flashing lights on the temporary stop signs on West Main Street at State Street.
The Sisters of Mercy of Holy Cross will hold an open house at the convent, now known as Bell Tower, this Sunday afternoon. The event is part of the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Treasuring Merrill’s Past” open house. The Sisters came to Merrill in 1923 and resided at the Scott Mansion. But the growth of the order and the planned high school for girls led to the construction of the new larger facility. Ground was broken in 1946 and the building was dedicated in June of 1947. Sister Heliodora Haag, age 93 and a resident of Bell Tower, explains that when the building was built it was made into the shape of a T so no one had to look out of their window into another’s windows. The four floors were each designated for strict purposes; the first floor was the offices and reception rooms, the second floor was the living quarters for the Sisters, and the third floor was the student dormitory area, while the fourth floor was the kitchen and dining hall. The Bell Tower itself ironically only received a bell a few years ago. For years the Sisters played a recording of the bells from a famous German monastery to signal the start of services. (My mother spent the last week of her life on the second floor at Bell Tower and was very nervous about being on that floor as it seems every graduate remembers for the rest of their lives to stay off the second floor as it is off limits to students.)