Holiday spirit all around

Horse-drawn wagons carry Christmas in the Park revelers between Zippel Park and St. John’s Lutheran Church on Saturday in Gillett.(Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

It was Gillett’s turn to light the holiday lights and celebrate the season Saturday.

Christmas in the Park, with its colorful displays from local businesses and organizations, was installed at Zippel Park among festivities that included kids activities and a visit from Santa in the Expo Hall at the park, a Santa’s Workshop craft and vendor sale at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and horse-drawn carriage rides between the two venues.

Up the street the Polar Express was operating inside the Gillett Area Historical Society Museum.

The church was bustling with Christmas shoppers looking for gift ideas or entering the bucket raffles.

Dan Spielvogel returned for a second year selling his unique ornaments and gnome homes that also function as bird houses, crafted from driftwood and tree fungi that he collects from the woods around his Shawano home and Upper Michigan.


Prison sentence imposed in rural Lena standoff

Thomas Benser, left, is escorted into Oconto County Circuit Court, where Judge Michael T. Judge sentenced him to prison for a March 10 standoff at his rural Lena home during which he fired shots toward sheriff’s deputies and a state trooper. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

When the judge said he was sentencing Thomas Benser to 10 years in the state prison system on the first of three counts, the 51-year-old defendant gasped as if he had been punched in the gut. As the judge added 10 years for each of the other charges – five years in a state corrections institution followed by five years of extended supervision on each count – he started to sob.

Oconto County Circuit Judge Michael T. Judge’s ruling Thursday puts the Lena man behind bars for up to 15 years, followed by 15 years of extended supervision, for shooting at officers who came to check on his welfare March 10 after he threatened to take his own life.

As a deputy escorted Benser out of the courtroom and back to the county jail to await transport to a state prison, he began to wail.

“My life is over. I did not fire those shots,” Benser shouted. “Lawyers – liars! Bunch of liars!”


Gillett School Board reviews successful vote

Don’t look for the effects of the successful Gillett School District referendum on the property tax bills that the Oconto County Treasurer’s Office will be mailing out soon.

Voters on Nov. 6 gave Gillett school officials permission to exceed state-imposed revenue limits by $600,000 for each of the next three years in order to maintain current programs, but the additional taxes won’t be collected until the 2019-20 school year, Superintendent Todd Carlson reminded the School Board at its Nov. 20 meeting.

“A lot of people did an awful lot of work, and I’m really proud of the people,” Carlson said as he reviewed the election results compared with two unsuccessful referendum questions in 2016, “I think there was a conscious effort to get out more information, and I think that showed up (in the results).”


Man dies of injuries from Oct. 31 crash

The driver of a car that collided with a pickup truck Oct. 31 has died, the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.

Wayne Trudell, 75, of Mountain, was injured when he attempted to make a left turn into the Shell parking lot at state Highways 32 and 64 in the town of Mountain and was struck by the truck coming the opposite way.

The accident report says Trudell looked but did not see the oncoming truck driven by Cody Wood, 26, of Marinette, who was not injured in the crash, which occurred at 6:53 a.m. Oct. 31.

Trudell died of his injuries on Nov. 21, becoming the county’s fifth traffic fatality of 2018.


Marion couple charged over 2015 auction

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14 in Oconto County Circuit Court regarding a motion to combine the trials of a couple accused of theft in a business setting in connection with a 2015 auction.

Leroy and Mary Beechy, who own and operate Beechy’s Dairy Cattle Auctions LCC auctioneers in Marion, are accused of using much of the proceeds of a farm auction for their personal and business use.

Proceeds of an auction for Nerfarms were supposed to be paid to farm owner James L. Nerenhausen Jr.

Leroy F. Beechy, 47, was charged June 1, 2017, with theft in a business setting and issuing a worthless check. The case was about to go to trial in August when it emerged that Mary E. Beechy, 46, is alleged to have issued the worthless check that began the dispute, court records indicate. The trial was suspended, Mary Beechy was charged with the same crimes last month, and prosecutors were granted permission to file revised information against her husband.


The Lights are on

North Main Street’s Avenue of Lights display in Oconto Falls was illuminated for the first time Saturday night. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

A light drizzle was still falling Saturday evening, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the kids who came to East Side Beach in Oconto Falls to see Santa and Mrs. Claus in person.

Kids cheered when the Jolly Old Elf climbed down from the fire engine that had taken him to the park pavilion, where a chorus of students from Oconto Falls High School began the festivities by serenading about 200 people gathered for the occasion.

The children lined up for their chance to visit with Santa Claus and share their Christmas wishes, while the Lioness Club served up cookies and hot cocoa, compliments of Witt’s Piggly Wiggly.

The Clauses’ arrival coincided with the moment that the Avenue of Lights was turned on, lighting North Main Street in Christmas color from the beach to the city limits.


Dave Polashek remembered as a fighter for education

Dave Polashek just after he retired in 2015 as superintendent of the Oconto Falls School District. Polashek, 70, died suddenly of natural causes on Nov. 18. (Times Herald file photo)

Advocate, warrior, mentor, friend – all words shared on social media over the past week after the unexpected death of David Polashek, who served as superintendent of Oconto Falls schools for more than 20 years.

Polashek, 70, died suddenly of natural causes Nov. 18 at his second residence in Hartford, Connecticut.

A memorial service is being planned, with an announcement expected later this week.

He spent 45 years in education, the last 37 of them as a superintendent, first in Wauzeka and then 22 years in Oconto Falls.

Always an advocate for public schools, he announced his retirement in March 2015 with a salvo against state funding policies that he said amounted to a “systematic dismantling” of public schools.


Victim of fatal crash identified

The victim of a fatal traffic accident Nov. 19 has been identified as David D. Piper, 62, of Whitelaw.

According to the Oconto County Sheriff's Department report, Piper was driving south on U.S. 141, and a light snowfall had caused ice to accumulate on the overpass at state Highway 22.

Piper's 2001 Dodge Ram pickup truck started to spin, and it left the roadway on the right side and rolled down a steep embankment that leads to the southbound on ramp from Highway 22. Piper was partially ejected from the vehicle and trapped by the wreckage.

Oconto Falls Ambulance with assistance from County Rescue transported Piper to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The accident occurred at about 9:35 a.m.


City workers recognized for life-saving action

Oconto Falls Mayor Brad Rice, center, presents certificates “for extraordinary actions that led to a life being saved” to street department workers Brad Magnin, left, and Bryce Roberts during the Nov. 13 City Council meeting. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

Two Oconto Falls city workers say they were just doing what anyone would do. But the fact that they did saved a life.

Mayor Brad Rice and the city council honored Brad Magnin and Bryce Roberts last week for their actions of Oct. 10, when they came upon a man having a medical emergency and called 911.

The two men, who work for the street department, were doing their rounds in a corner of the Oconto Falls Industrial Park when they passed a contractor who “looked funny,” slumped by the side of his car, Magnin said.

“We turned around and saw that he was unresponsive; I checked, and he had a pulse,” he said. “Bryce ran to get help, and I called for an ambulance.”

Help arrived quickly.

“It seemed like only a few seconds and we had people coming from all directions,” Magnin said.

Officer Joe Cruz said the man was transported to HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital, then transported to St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay.


Lifelong resident celebrates 100 years

Arnold Anderson Sr. of Oconto Falls celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 11. (Contributed photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Arnie Anderson of Oconto Falls turned 100 years old on Nov. 11, and the family celebrated with a birthday party at Romy’s Holiday Inn at Kelly Lake. The family also assembled this biography of a man who has lived in and served Oconto Falls all his life:

What does a child do for entertainment when there is no TV, no computer, and no smartphone?

Arnold W. Anderson Sr. can tell you what life was like growing up in the 1900s. He was born Nov. 11, 1918, the third of seven children for Anton and Astrid (Nelson) Anderson. He still lives less than a mile from the home where he grew up in the area then known as Swede Town.


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