Vol. 20, No. 32; Thursday, April 16, 2020

Apr 16, 2020 | Parker's Midweek Update | 0 comments

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Absentee voting applications: In last week’s Midweek Update we gave instructions on how to secure an absentee ballot for the June 2 primary, school and city elections. But since then, Steve Barnett, secretary of state, announced he will be sending an absentee ballot application to every registered voter in the state. Once you receive the application form, you will need to fill it out and mail it to your county auditor, who will send the actual absentee ballot itself. Then you will fill out the ballot with your votes and mail the ballot to the county auditor so it arrives at that office no later than June 1.

School board election: No school board election will be needed in the Pierre district. Dan Cronin filed candidacy petitions to seek another term on the board, and no other candidate filed, so Cronin will begin a new term in July without need for an election.


“I think ‘normal’ is a relative term. So while we are not going to be the same for a long time, if ever, we can be better. We can come through this thing with a different appreciation for the people we love. We can find joy in the simple things we’d forgotten were so readily available to us. We can have a greater compassion for the pain of the people around us. We can aspire to live more intentionally, given that we recognize how fragile life is. I’m not sure normal is an option, but if we do this right, we’ll embrace the new abnormal together.”

— John Pavlovitz


Football: The SDHSAA Board of Control is scheduled to vote next Tuesday or Wednesday on a proposal which would reduce the number of football classes from seven to five—three in 11-man football and two in 9-man football. We read that the SDHSAA staff will recommend to the board that the proposal be passed, but we see this week that a majority of the state’s athletic directors are not in favor of the idea. The five-class system would begin with the 2021-22 school year, so this coming fall, if there is a football season at all, there would still be seven classes.


Directions: Draw a box of 4×4 squares. Number the squares across the top row 1, 2, 3 and 4 from left to right. Number the squares in the left-hand column from top to bottom 1, 5, 6 and 7.

(1) Norway capital
(5) The guy in the lead role
(6) Frozen rain
(7) Talk show host Cohen
(1) Federal workplace safety agency
(2) “— the Man” Musial
(3) Past tense of “lay”
(4) Paris airport

(Puzzle answer at the bottom of this Update.)


South Dakota women’s basketball: Ciara Duffy, senior guard from Rapid City, and Chloe Lamb, junior guard from Onida, were both named to the Summit League Academic All-Conference team. Ciara has a 4.0 grade-point average as she works in graduate school toward her master’s degree in secondary education. Chloe has a 3.69 GPA as a major in kinesiology and sport management.


1 day: Absentee voting for June 2 elections begins (April 17).
32 days: Voter registration deadline for June 2 elections (May 18).
40 days: Pierre Trappers season opener (May 26).
47 days: Primary/city/school elections (June 2).
63 days: Oahe Days (June 18-20).
63 days: Riggs High All-’70s reunion; Classes of 1970-1979 (June 18-20).
65 days: Riggs High Class of 2000 20-year reunion (June 20).


Thursday: watermelon.
Friday-Sunday: raspberry.
Monday-Tuesday: huckleberry.
Wednesday-Thursday: root beer.


“Please take care of yourself now for the sake of your tomorrow. Believe that you will rise in God’s time. Try to visualize yourself rising above your troubles, your anxieties, your fears. Try to visualize yourself rising above all that drains you and pulls at your heart. This may not be the Easter you wanted, but it can still be a time for rebirth, renewal and redemption.”

— Maria Shriver


Thursday, April 16:
Nina Jordre, Tyler Bonnett, Geoff Simon, Sherri Zeller, Brett Wheelhouse, Mia Feyereisen.
— 4th anniversary, Kevin/Kaitlyn (Forman) Settles.

Friday, April 17:
Pat Weeldreyer, Nancy Woster, Adam Molseed, Anita (Shoup) Spitzer, Vinnie Olson, Brandon Tedford, Beckett Merriam, Aidan Stoeser, Ami Jo Welch, Ellen (Meyer) Walker, Ann (Schaack) Humphery.
— 38th anniversary, Tim/Kara Brandlee.
— 9th anniversary, Nick/Mallori (Barnett) Johnson.
We fondly remember Bernie Christenson on his birthday.

Saturday, April 18:
Doug Jennewein, Carly Myers, Harper Pool, Leo Mortenson, Darcy Unruh, Josia Fuerst, Jackie Haggin, Scott Raue, Darrel Curtis, Blake Yackley, Nathaniel Gough.
— Anniversary, Reid/Tiffany Alt.

Sunday, April 19:
Kerry (Leuning) Rosane, Erin (Nielsen) Nielsen, Shane Prunty, Brooks Garrett, Amanda Nielsen, Rhonda (Massey) Watson, Sawyer Garrett, Olivia Perli, Robert Sautner, Sandii Bartels, Cheri (Olinger) Raymond.

Monday, April 20:
Michael Burke, Elaina Rounds, Ty Holsteen, Kristin (Viken) Carlson, Jim Sutton, Steven Gordon, Ryan Knox, Marlee Casanova, Linda Euneau.
— 7th anniversary, Troy/Bonnie (Pitlick) Rus.

Tuesday, April 21:
Donna Cole, Danyelle Angyal, Colette Kemink, Kara (Kurth) Kuiper, Olivia Graff, Adam Bertsch, Mira Garrett, Alexander Becker, Melissa Gosselin, Neil Nemec, Larissa FastHorse, Teresa (Zebroski) Murdoch, Ava Stoeser, Vicki (Kinder) Rapp.
— 8th anniversary, Jake/Tara Johnson.
We fondly remember Hyrma Zakahi on her birthday.

Wednesday, April 22:
Sandra Hepper, Mark Livermont, Bob Burke, Bonnie Bauder, Lindsey (Jungwirth) Costello, Tim Schmidt.
— 14th anniversary, Todd/DeNeil (Hosman) Taylor.
— Anniversary, Mike/Jean Rounds.

Thursday, April 23:
Preston Mohlman, Scott Carbonneau, Tara Jo St. Germaine, Karen (Cremer) Hofer, Teva Snodgrass, Grady Gilmore, Shirley Bonhorst, Heather Sperry, Gracie (Lindbloom) Curtis, Dusty Paulsen.
— 9th anniversary, Brian/Sarah Custer.


  • I have seen it written that the possibility exists that we won’t have football seasons this fall. As I was skimming through football schedules the other day, I found that these are some of the college games on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-7) alone: USD at Iowa State, NDSU at Oregon, Florida Atlantic at Minnesota, BYU vs. Utah, Nebraska vs. Purdue, Alabama vs. USC, Iowa vs. Northern Iowa, Colorado vs. Colorado State, Michigan vs. Washington, Georgia vs. Virginia. And SDSU at Nebraska is among the second-weekend games. Please let there be a football season!
  • In my “Day by Day” column here last week, I asked you which of the 21 jobs listed was the one I had never done. Leann Weischedel up at Onida got the correct answer first—I have never been a tourist guide. Yes, I’ve typed income tax returns; yes, I’ve been an arena usher; yes, I’ve been a grain bin moisture sampler; yes, I’ve been a bank teller and a supermarket cashier; yes, I’ve been an order-taken at a drive-in restaurant; yes, I’ve been a high school athletic director, and on and on and on.


“Behind you, all your memories.
Before you, all your dreams.
Around you, all who love you.
Within you, all you need.”


Friends of Myron Kusler are invited to join his family online this morning (Thursday) at 11 a.m. at www.feigumfh.com to celebrate his life. He passed away at Avera Maryhouse April 8 at the age of 86. Myron grew up on a family farm near Leola. He graduated in 1954 from Aberdeen Central High School and married Mabel a month later. They purchased a Standard Oil service station. Later they moved to Denver to operate a Standard station. They settled in Pierre in 1963. Within ive year they had three Standard stations. Myron was with Standard Oil a total of 15 years before starting Kusler Central Distributing in 1970. In 1977 he became executive director for South Dakota Beer Wholesalers and retired after 21 years in that position. He was active in all phases of Lutheran Memorial Church and many community organizations. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mabel Kusler of Pierre; three daughters, Vicky Dix and her husband Mike of Sioux Falls, Sharon Bren and her husband Troy of Arvada, Colo., and Julie Samuelson and her husband Brad of Pierre; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Among those who preceded Myron in death were his two sons, Wane Kusler in 1981 and Kevin Kusler in 2019.

Former Pierre resident Marcia Mack said Monday she and husband Dave started their fifth week of staying home that day. In their ZIP code in Mesa, there is the second-highest number of cases of COVID-19 in Arizona. One of the reasons is that those Phoenix suburbs are home to many people 55 years and older.

Chris Voller, who is a firefighter and first responder in Billings, Mont., wrote last week: “I am a firefighter, a front-line worker, and to be honest I don’t need free pizza or free cups of coffee. I don’t need money off vouchers. I am grateful that I won’t be losing all my income due to this virus. As much as I appreciate the gestures, please offer a free cup of coffee or pizza to the families who are struggling to feed their children, the older generation or self-employed and to anyone who is suffering financially and is not covered by government grants or loans.”

Mary Gargett posted on her Facebook page last week that she and Pierre native Brock Axthelm (’02) were married last November 10 before they embarked on an adventure of living in New Zealand. Only Brock’s parents and dogs were present for the ceremony with Todd officiating and Demaris filming. Mary and Brock say they are planning an “official” ceremony in the United States some time in 2021. Meanwhile, they are gardening and quarantining in New Zealand. Mary, who is from Bellingham, Wash., is a circus performer and acrobat.

Shawn and Sara Ludemann of Rapid City had a cupcake gender reveal last week. The interior of their cupcakes was pink, so their first child coming later this year is going to be a girl.

Pierre native Steve Smith and Kelsi An Harris are the parents of a son, Julian Harris Smith, also known as Baby Juju, who was born April 5 at Rose Medical Center in Denver. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces, and measured 20 1/2 inches.

Enid (Howard) Hyde passed away at home early on Easter morning at the age of 107 years, 2 months, 7 days. Her husband, Franklin Hyde, died in 1966. Arrangements through Feigum Funeral Home are pending for services to be held at a later date.

Good news for South Dakota as a whole and the Department of Health in particular is that Dr. Lon Kightlinger is back home and working there. He and all other Peace Corps volunteers worldwide were evacuated from the respective countries in which they were serving. Dr. Kightlinger was in the island nation of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa. He had only a few hours’ notice to say some quick and sad goodbyes in Ambohibary. Then he loaded his stuff onto a rickshaw to meet up with the evacuation bus in Moramanga. A charter flight took 140 Peace Corps folks to Ethiopia on the African continent, then eventually back to the United States.

Matt and Kacy (Hutchinson) Gill announced on Facebook last week that they are expecting their first child in June.

Max Burchill, youngest of the three sons of Tom and Paula (Adam) Burchill of Sioux Falls, was named to the Class “AA” All-State second team. A 6’5″ senior guard at Lincoln High School, Max had 14.1 points and 2.2 rebounds per game for the Patriots. He plans to go into medicine at the University of Minnesota beginning this fall.

Zachary Weiss, son of Darci and Chris Mills and Craig Weier of Sioux Falls, was named Academic All-State for hockey. A senior at Roosevelt High School, Zachary played for the Brandon Valley IceCats and is pursuing a college career in aviation after high school. He is the grandson of Pierre High School graduates Vicki (Ramse) Blake (’70) and Dale Clelland (’69).

Tanner Wolf and Abbie Hagen have postponed their wedding ceremony until Oct. 30. They plan to still get married on May 30 but with only immediate family members present. Tanner is lead athletic trainer at Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center.

The prom at Riggs High School has been canceled, of course, but the teachers still selected the prom court. Queen candidates would have been Alscessa Elsey, Emry Heiss, Morgan Oedekoven, Hattie Shaffer and Addy Smith. The king candidates were to be Cobey Carr, Andrew Coverdale, Grant Judson, Max Sevier and Grey Zabel.

Black Hills Playhouse’s board for a long time held out hope that the 75th anniversary season at the theater in Custer State Park could be saved. But the board announced Monday that the 2020 season has been called off. The 75th year of the BHP will instead be celebrated when the theater opens for its 2021 season.

Robert Nystrom died April 9 at Avera Maryhouse. The son of Swen and Elsie (Sutton) Nystrom, he grew up in rural Sully and Hughes counties. He graduated from Pierre High School in 1947 and South Dakota State College in 1950. He was activated with the South Dakota National Guard during the Korean War and served with his unit in Alaska. In 1953 he married Evelyn Spiel, and they were together for a half-century until she passed away in 2003. Bob worked for the Department of Transportation for 34 years, many of those as director of the Division of Secondary Roads. He continued to head up the family farm at the same time and stayed in the National Guard as well, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring. He married Betty Stratton in 2008. He was a long-time member of First Congregational United Church of Christ and served on the Pierre school board. He is survived by his wife, Betty Nystrom; his daughter, Debra Nystrom and her husband, Dan O’Neill, of Charlottesville, Va.; his grandson, Jesse Nystrom of Scottsdale, Ariz.; his granddaughter, Sarah Sloane of Los Angeles, and her wife, Jenni Sloane; Betty’s daughters, Dawn Day, and her husband Doug of Fort Pierre, and Dena Baker and her husband Corey of Bridgeport, Conn., and six great-grandchildren.

Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the day Chief Justice David Gilbertson first took a seat on the state Supreme Court. Gilbertson faces mandatory retirement next January. (News courtesy of Dakota Radio Group’s “My Daily News.”)

Riggs High senior Kenzie Kexhaus, who was a pillar on the Governor volleyball team last fall, has decided she will continue playing volleyball this fall at Presentation College in Aberdeen. Another Governor athlete, Cade Hinkle, who could pick one of several sports to play, has chosen baseball and will play it at Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota.

The obituary for the late Barry LeBeau has now been posted at www.isburgfuneralchapels.com. He passed away at his apartment in Pierre on March 21. The family is deferring funeral arrangements until this summer.

James E. Burke, 83, who graduated from high school in Pierre in 1954, died at home in Rapid City April 7. A memorial service will be held at a later date. He graduated from Northern State College and married Loa Hall in Pierre in 1958. In 1961 they moved to Rapid City where he worked for a year with the state health department. Then he became a medical technician with Clinical Laboratories. Later he became involved with Shaklee, and he and his second wife, Mary Jo Sulborstad, built one of the largest organizations within that nutrition company. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Mary Jo Burke; his children, Tim Burke, Tammy Kveene, Todd Burke, and Tori Eickelman; three stepdaughters, 11 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and a brother, Dave Burke.

Former Pierre resident Ben Handcock, 74, died April 11. He graduated from high school at Kadoka in 1963 and married Patsy Hicks in 1964. He attended Dakota Wesleyan for two years, then completed a degree in ag industries management at Colorado State. He and Patsy raised their three children on the family farm at Kadoka where Ben became a respected Chianina cattle producer. In 1984 he sold the farm and began 10 years as executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission. Ben was an active Kiwanis member in Kadoka and Pierre. He later became executive vice president of The Wheat Quality Council, and he and Patsy moved the council to Denver in 2013. Ben retired in 2017. He is survived by his wife, Patsy Handcock; his three children, Milton Handcock, Noell Uhlir and Marlon Handcock; nine grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two sisters.


So what are the symptoms of this COVID-19 virus, I asked myself way back a couple months ago before our lives were sent whirling. One of those symptoms, the experts said, is a sore throat. So yesterday morning when I first noticed something in my throat, you can imagine where my first thoughts went. Gargle with hot water, they say, so I did. Drinking lots of hot coffee is good, they say, and I do that even daily even in normal times. There was no real throat pain at all, just the sense of something there in my throat. Perhaps my paranoia had set in! But by this morning I didn’t notice anything unusual about my throat or the swallowing process. If that was my experience with the coronavirus, so be it. If my experience with it is still to come—and it probably is—I will be ready. But in the meantime, here I sit in semi-isolation, walking a lot, writing a lot, watching TV a lot, and happy to wake up each morning feeling—here’s that word again—normal.

With the gloom of a winter storm just 24 hours away, I ventured out to a grocery store for the first time in something like 12 days this afternoon. Gloves on my hands, mask over my nose and mouth, feeling somewhat self-conscious. But inside the store many others were similarly clad, and there were people everywhere. Understandably it was a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, which hopefully most people are not going to celebrate with family gatherings, and understandably it was a day before a forecasted storm. Grocery stores are always packed on such days, but I was rather shocked at the number of people out and about. I was in and out of the store in 30 minutes at the most, but once I got to my car and gingerly removed the mask by touching only its straps, I still felt that mask on my face all the way home, even though it had been on my face for a matter of minutes. I can’t imagine what those who must wear those things all day and night at work are going through. The plastic gloves and my hands were soaked, too, and I promptly discarded those gloves into our dumpster when I reached home. Having latched on to a book of stamps as well as my needed grocery times, I’m set for several days, and I’m in no hurry to go back to the store any time soon.

The newspaper at Custer prints a weekly column by the pastor of a church which sits just outside the city limits. The headline over his column this week proclaimed, “We’re all going to die!” The point of his column seemed to be that we should be ready and willing to die, of the virus or of anything else. “Why all this hysteria when death eventually happens to all of us anyway?” he asked. He praised the governor for her approach to the pandemic—“she isn’t over-stepping her bounds in dealing with it,” he said. The pastor said he feels sorry for those of us who have demonstrated our fear in this situation. “It’s sad,” he wrote, “that this life is all they’ve got apparently. Are they so desperate to hang onto it that they willingly allow the government to tell them what to do and to take away freedoms from others, just to preserve a few more years for themselves?” My answer to his question is quickly and frankly, “Yes.” And by the way, he and his church through his newspaper column, saying they consider the church to be “essential,” welcomed people to attend in person on Easter Sunday morning. At least he suggested that those who are ill might consider staying home to listen online. How generous of him!

I likely will not remember for long what this Easter morning was like except knowing that I was home and didn’t leave the house. I will continue to watch each week, but church online just doesn’t do much for me. I realize it is the only option available to our pastors and musicians. What I remember most about sunrise services at my home Presbyterian church in Onida from my growing-up years in the early ’50s is that the kitchen ladies traditionally included hot cross buns on the breakfast menu. Awful! A significant memory from playing the organ at First Methodist in Pierre over the years is the majestic stained-glass window on the east side of the building. The organ bench faces that way, and on Easter and other mornings, but especially on Easter, when the sun’s first rays hit that glass, it is a spectacular moment—blinding to an organist trying to read music on the rack while looking into that sun but spectacular nevertheless.

Yesterday I mentioned a couple church memories from Easters past. May I dwell on one more memory? The UCC in Vermillion, which was my church home for six years from spring 2007 to spring 2013, always begins Easter (except when there is a snowstorm in progress) at Clay County Park west of town. The congregation gathers in the predawn darkness around a fire as the Missouri River waters gurgle past. Pastor Steve Miller brings a message, probably leads a song or two with his guitar, and then the people enjoy coffee and sweet rolls. I remember one particularly warm Easter morning out there. As I headed toward the car to return to town, the sun was just rising over the town. The Vermillion skyline, water tower and all, were black to my eyes as the sun rose behind it, up over the horizon. It was stunning! Then back at the church I had an hour or so to go over the organ music one more time before the choir arrived for pre-service practice. And after church, there was always “Coffee High,” the downstairs social time. That church is a special place, and its people are the best. That Easter was just one of many memorable Sundays I was happy to spend there and which I still miss, seven years after coming back west.

This is taking the social distancing thing a bit far, but as I write this on Tuesday afternoon I am 10 miles outside Rapid City without another human in sight. There probably are some a mile or so from here, but the only occupants of this house at the moment are a self-isolating cat, a very tired Newfoundland named Millie, and I. I’m on a dog-sitting gig for three days while the residents are away on an out-of-state business trip. Millie has been sleeping on her rug for all of the first six hours I have been here except for one brief potty trip outdoors. As I look out the south windows, I know Rapid City is over there on the other side of that ridge. The reflection of its lights in the clouds will be visible once darkness falls. To the west are the first foothills of the Black Hills in the Piedmont area. To the north beyond the horizon the summit of Bear Butte would be visible if it were a perfectly clear day. It was absorbing earlier today to watch a snow squall come rolling in out of the Hills, across the prairie and over us on its way to the air base and beyond. This is a perfect spot for day-dreaming, and these days there is ample time for that.

Matt Zimmer yesterday posted an ominous piece for this morning’s Sioux Falls Argus Leader about the unlikelihood that we will see any sort of competitive sports any time soon. The next domino to drop may be Legion baseball, not to mention other summertime events. Oahe Days anyone? The folks down at Tabor have had to make the almost sacreligious decision to cancel their beloved Czech Days. There’s no season at the Black Hills Playhouse. The July 4 air show at the Pierre airport is a goner till 2021. Who knows what the politicians will do about the fireworks show at Mount Rushmore on July 4. And then there’s the biggie—the Sturgis motorcycle rally. I can’t wait for the press conference where that decision is announced and the furor that will follow, especially out here in the Black Hills. Then if the NFL and college football cancel their seasons, what’s after that? Can we have high school basketball? How about wrestling, a sport in which there definitely is nothing resembling social distancing. I’m thinking that, by the time I get to attend a ballgame in person again, I’ll either be dead or really, really good at playing Solitaire.




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