Tricounty News

Unknown heart defect takes young woman's life

The end began less than two weeks ago. What is thought to be an undetected congenital heart defect claimed the life of W-Steffen-Kristina
Kristina Steffen; toxicology tests confirmed there were no drugs or alcohol.

The news hit Facebook right away, and there have been more than 50,000 visits to her Caring site. Students at Annandale High School have been wearing white in her honor. Students at last Friday’s Kimball girls’ basketball game wore white for her too.


Postal rates have increased

Effective Jan. 26, new postal rates hit the United States. It works out to be about a six-percent increase, both for consumers and for periodicals (newspapers and magazines).

Here’s how it may affect you:

Letters: now 49 cents (3-cent increase) for up to 1 oz.

Letters: 21 cents (1-cent increase) for each additional oz.

International: 1-oz. letters anywhere, now $1.15

Postcards: now 34 cents (up 1 cent)

The rate increases are “a last resort that reflects extreme financial challenges,” writes Mickey Barnett, the Board of Governors Chairman. The challenge: a $20 billion budget gap.

Just a reminder that “Forever” stamps are worth whatever the current postal rate is, so you can still use them for first-class letters.

Convention time = awards time

Late-January each year is the annual convention for the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

It’s a great time to celebrate (and sometimes commiserate) with other newspaper folk. I’ve said before that our profession often keeps us isolated, and the two or three days of convention is a time for recharging our batteries, learning new skills, and celebrating the awards and achievements of other papers and the newspaper industry as a whole.

Once again, the Tri-County News came home with prestigious awards. 

Our writer Mike Nistler won in “Human Interest Story” category, the most popular of the contest. His Aug. 15 story about Ron Hoxmeier, a former bodyguard to Johnny Cash, was a winner. Mike writes wonderfully, and the judge cited exactly why his stories are so compelling to read.


Peer awards for TCN

Sue Hughes, our graphic designer extraordinaire, accepted the “Advertising Excellence” award for the Tri-County News at thew-140123 MNA-004Minnesota Newspaper Association convention Thursday evening, Jan. 24.  Staff photo by Jean Doran Matua.


What did you do during the 2014 brrrrpocalypse?

When life gives you lemons … well, you know. 

But what do you do when weather hands you frigid temperatures, a bit of snow that is driven into high drifts by strong winds, and dangerous roads? If you’re a true Minnesotan, you just make the best of it.

School kids were thrilled when schools around the area and state were cancelled Monday and then Tuesday. Some haven’t had a full week of school since December, though, and at least some of their snow days will have to be made up – either during Spring Break or in June.

Parents of school kids had mixed reactions to school being cancelled. Many of them got to stay home with their kids. Some had to stay home with their kids. Others scrambled to find someplace for their kids to go because the parents still had to go off to work.

Karla Davis and Jean Reinert
run home-based daycares in Kimball and Watkins, respectively. Both were open, and both were busy (especially Tuesday). They got to deal with the pent-up energy of kids cooped up indoors all day. Davis had the kids make spring-themed projects to help forget about winter for awhile.

Our local police and volunteer firefighters, rescue squads, and ambulance crews were out there doing what they do best: helping. For hours, in bitter cold. Sometimes dealing with aggravated or stupid people. That’s part of the job.

City and county and state employees were out there clearing snow, regardless of the temperatures. (Didn’t they do a nice job?)

Mail carriers were out there delivering mail – with their car windows open the whole time. Does anyone want to guess how many layers they had to wear?

Some of us had the luxury of staying in pajamas and slippers, cozying up with a good book, or catching up on TV watching. 

Or Facebook. So many of the posts on Facebook were moaning and groaning about the cold and being home-bound, or screen shots of weather apps or weather maps showing just how cold it is everywhere. Then there were a few who chose to aggravate everyone else by posting photos from their tropical vacation (no matter how long ago they took it).

It could be awhile before I want to see any “my town’s colder than your town” posts on Facebook.

Dean Mozena, who’s been a school bus driver in Kimball for more than 55 years, spent much of Monday on the phone making sure the kids on his bus knew school was cancelled Tuesday and not just two hours late. He didn’t want anyone to be out there waiting for a bus that’s not coming.

Gene Gohmann went out Sunday night, at the height of the blizzard, to man the grocery store and let his employees go home to be safe. 

There no doubt are dozens of similar stories of people being selfless in the presence of trouble and danger. 

I’m sure there were emergency calls to plumbers to deal with faulty furnaces and frozen water pipes. There probably were panicked calls for propane delivery when homeowners realized they were low. Doctors and nurses and other critical personnel did their best to get to work in spite of the roads and weather. 

Did you do a mental checklist of what you had to eat in the house? (And then decide there wasn’t anything at the store that you needed badly enough to go out in the cold to get it?)

Meanwhile, the largest proportion of our local population was out there every morning and evening doing chores. There’s no such thing as a weather day for a farmer. And these frigid temps are tough on both man and beast. These hardy men and women were out there braving the elements, contributing to our food supply. Let’s hope and pray their reward is a good growing season this year, and respectable prices for their agricultural products.

Thank you to ALL of you who were out there protecting us, feeding us, helping us, and serving us. It’s human nature for joking to turn to complaining and then irritability. But you guys (and gals) are our rocks, our pillars. Thank you! Thank you very much!

So, what did you do to cure cabin fever? How did you cope with the cold, snow, feeling cooped up? Share with us on

Better yet, what will you do differently next time? What preparations can you start now to make any “disaster” a little easier and safer? Please share!