September 18, 2014

Heiam Medical Foundation reaches $2 million goal!

The Foundation is very pleased to announce that it recently received a check for $60,000 (from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous), which put them over their $2 million goal! In its 21 years of existence the Foundation has donated over $388,000 for hospital equipment, staff support, and doctor recruitment. It has also similarly supported the Scenic Rivers Clinic and Cook Ambulance Service.
However, the reality is that costs of medical care and equipment continue to rise. So, although the Heiam board members are thrilled to have achieved the goal, the commitment to continue raising money to build a larger endowment for the Foundation will go on into the future.
The Foundation's annual benefit continues to be its largest fund-raiser of the year. The date for the 2015 summer benefit has been changed to Saturday, Aug. 22. Please mark your calendars now and plan to attend the W. C. Heiam Medical Foundation's 22nd annual benefit!

Camp Vermilion on Lake Vermilion scene of filming for 'The Blood Stripe'


Hollywood came to northeastern Minnesota, again, this time in August.
A couple of summers ago, Camp Vermilion came to the attention of "The Blood Stripe" co-writers Kate Nowlin and husband Remy Auberjonois, whom she met at the Yale School of Drama several years ago. They said, "We've got to do something here." Lake Vermilion came to mind from the visits here with Alpha Smaby, who is now deceased, but was a well-known political activist and grandmother of Kate Nowlin. Kate was born and raised in the Twin Cities, but spent summers with her parents, Marit and Forrest, on Lake Vermilion where her grandmother Alpha Smaby lived year-round.
There have been several stories and movies written and filmed about men returning from battle suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and they felt it was time to do one on women coming home; women warriors doing a lot of the things that men have been doing.
"I wanted to honor that, investigate that and shed some light on the impact of trauma on the soul," said Nowlin.
Nowlin spoke of experiencing PTSD in 2007 after she was grabbed by an assailant armed with a gun while she was walking to a subway station in New York City after work. He dragged her into a parking lot. She said, "I had to fight to not get dragged farther into the parking lot. I held my ground and didn't go. I had been watching Oprah not that long before when they talked about if you are ever held up, never go to the second location." She added that is why she felt she is here today.
The movie, a dark, character-driven psychological thriller, is about a Marine who is struggling with PTSD after the third tour of duty in Afghanistan. The Marine is not finding peace in returning to her husband, who has problems of his own.
Nowlin's co-writer and husband is directing the movie. Her father-in-law "has been indispensable in terms of his feedback and response we've got the bones, but once we get the people up here we want it to live and breathe, so that's the fun."
The movie is set in the beautiful, wooded Camp Vermilion, which had to be closed down for the two weeks of filming. Instead of the cries and laughter of youngsters, the sounds of "quiet," "filming," "lights," etc. were being shouted in the woods. The movie will feature a soundtrack produced by Minnesota based singer/songwriter Mason Jennings.
More movies are being made in outstate Minnesota as they can receive incentives which could combine to provide up to a 45 percent rebate on qualified expenses for shooting.

Christina Hujanen makes second run at County Board


Christina Hujanen of Tower has spent much of her life volunteering, but now she has decided to take a run at politics.
Hujanen survived the primary race in August and is now one of the two candidates who will face each other in the Nov. 4 election for county commissioner for District 4.
Hujanen is married to Robert and has four boys: Justin, Mark, Ryan and Logan. She is a 1985 graduate of the Tower-Soudan School. Her husband is a trucker who hauls pulpwood.
Christina attended Bemidji State University, worked at the Ford Motor Company in customer service and finance, and has been a real estate salesperson for 10 years.
For much of her life, she has volunteered in many areas for the community.
She is a member of the Tower Economic Development Authority (TEDA), the Lake Country Power Round-up Trust Board (three years and president of the board), Lake Vermilion and Quad City chambers of commerce, a delegate to the United Nations through Soroptimist International, Governor of the North Central Region of Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska, and vice chair of the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross.
She feels the county board members should be active and part of each community. She believes there should be more communication between the county board and the communities they serve. She said if elected she plans to devote time to attending meetings, be where she needs to be, and added she didn't mind traveling as she has had to travel all over.
She would be working with the community partnerships, building the networking between city, county and state, and have good relationships with them. She feels she is already doing that now, so it would be easy to step in.
Christina emphasized that she is an Independent so she would be worrying about the issues not what party they are for.
Candidate Hujanen said she is also a strong advocate for veterans and that all of her family are veterans. She noted that she lived on a Marine base when she was growing up. Her grandfather served in the Navy and her uncle Bruce Atwater was a survivor of Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.
Hujanen also noted she is a very strong advocate for senior citizens.
"It's time for a change. Time for our communities to have more communication with the board," said Hujanen in an interview with this reporter.
Hujanen also spoke up for ATV trails; mining; logging; Polymet, a mining project that most of the people are waiting for, and small businesses are just holding on waiting for the permits for Polymet to go through. She feels Polymet would help stop the decline in school population and of housing.
Hujanen will face Tommy Rukavina, the other winner of the August primary, on Nov. 4, for the right to represent District 4 and replace outgoing Mike Forsman who didn't face re-election. The election for County Commissioner is not by party.
District 4 will have a new commissioner next year. This is an important race for residents of the largest district in St. Louis County, a county larger than several states.
Make sure you vote.

Farming After the Fire
The Pajari Sisters Press on after Last Summer's Tragedy

By Jared and Caitlyn Bangs

The question was never if the Pajari sisters would continue to grace the Cook area with their friendly laughter and quirky entrepreneurship after the loss of the Cook Dollar Barn, but when. And now we know the answer. With roughly 15 months behind us since the tragic loss of a historic Cook building containing two businesses and eight apartments, Lois and Laura Pajari are back at it -this time with a real barn and plenty of other animals alongside their two beloved Corgis.
The farm that hosts one of Cook's newest businesses - Cook's Country Connection - is actually one of the oldest places in the area. And even though they officially opened on Aug. 28, 2014, the Pajari sisters' family has been working that land since the beginning of the 20th century. The farm and homes of Lois (husband Steve Gams) and Laura (husband Paul Williams) sit on part of the original homestead of their great- grandmother Augusta, just atop the hill north of Cook on County Road 24, and now a brand new sign welcomes visitors to share in the history and happiness of their beloved haven.
On June 17, 2013, the Pajaris experienced what experts refer to as "a life-altering catastrophic event" when flames and smoke filled the summer sky above Cook on an otherwise beautiful summer evening. Our town watched in horror, not just at the loss of homes and businesses, but at the thought of losing one of the truly charming places in Cook. Lois explains that after working through the mountain of paperwork post-fire, and hauling away the mountain of rubble sitting on 114 S. River Street, it was time to think about something new.
"It was time for me to find a job," she laughs. "The problem is, I didn't want one." See, the sisters had always joked that they were not running the Dollar Barn to make money, but to make friends. And while the fire destroyed a building, it certainly didn't destroy the spirit of the two ladies who had succeeded in making so many friends along the way. The sisters weren't about to settle for just another job, they wanted something that could keep them woven deeply into the fabric of this community. As Lois explains, "I am so thankful that I took the time to heal and wait for the 'right something' rather than the 'next something.'"
And it just so happens, this "right something" includes pygmy goats, giant bunnies, a rafter of turkeys, and plenty of other goofy critters and friendly livestock that'll keep you grinning as long as your visit will allow.
As you turn at the sign off County Road 24 just north of Cook and head west along the beautiful, tree-studded drive, you'll soon see the original homestead barn, a relic that has earned their home a "Century Farm" award from the Minnesota Farm Bureau. On one of our visits, someone from the gang of turkeys had just laid an egg in the middle of the road. "Yeah, turkeys aren't too bright," Lois jokes.
You'll soon want to descend the hill and greet George and Ruby, a species of rare KuneKune pig who are sure to roll over along the fence for a belly rub as soon as you beckon. Keep some change handy and buy treats for the animals from the dispensers posted along the various pens like gumball machines. The ponies and donkeys will shyly lick snacks from your hand, while the alpacas - Maddox and Madelyn - will have you wondering if the farm keeps a professional hairstylist around.
Anthony Vito, one of the many young people who help at the farm, saved up his money for two years and now is the proud owner of Lily, a miniature Scottish Highlander, whose long fur and cute horns always attract admirers. You might be lucky enough to catch Pixie and Pepper, the humorous pygmy goats, going headfirst down the slide on the plastic child's play equipment in their enclosure.
A wonderful playground fills the grassy yard and can keep kids busy for hours, along with a giant sandbox full of vintage dump trucks and excavators to spark imaginative play. Children and adults can also spend time in the new barn, with the kids coloring pictures or working on crafts while the older visitors investigate the impressive history of the old homestead.
When one considers the recent journey the Pajari sisters have been on, the story of this farm becomes all the more profound. A good home should always be a place where one can recover and heal from life's toughest blows, and the old homestead has certainly been that for Lois and Laura. But now, the same ladies with whom we shared so many smiles and laughs at the Dollar Barn are now ready to share their home with us - helping us all connect better with the community and land that we love.
Cook's Country Connection is open for business, welcoming guests Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through October. Special group rates are available. Children under 2 are free, so bring out the whole family this fall and enjoy the petting zoo and farm. Find out more at


Pick up this week's paper for more stories and pictures...

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Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade end of summer summary

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Letters to the Editor ...