By GEORGE THOLE – Stillwater Gazette
I have been most fortunate for eight lustrums plus change to have been associated with Stillwater’s iconic David "Choc" Junker.
My neighbor Dave Seggelke introduced me to Junker in 1971 and I’ll take it from there.
We had just moved into our new home on Fairmeadows Road and I hired Choc to sod our yard before we were to leave for California. Well, time goes by and the day we are to leave we awaken to see 400 rolls of sod piled in our front yard.
I call Junker and yell: "mayday, come to our aid, ASAP."
Choc shows up with his brood of David Jr., Steve, Cutter and Michelle to join forces with Eric, Kiersten, Karen and moi as we busted our tails off so we could make a 5 p.m. flight to San Francisco – which we did.
That was my introduction to David "Chocolate" Junker. He’s been a good friend for many moons.
Before I get any further, I am delighted to see our man, along with three other SAHS standouts like Dr. Con Rosell ’43, Jean-Paul Beaulieu ’86 and June Johnson Vining ’78, who have been selected as the 2012 Stillwater Area High School Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. This group will continue our tradition of honoring excellence and instilling pride for all graduates of SAHS.
Let’s get back to Junker, who played baseball for the Ponies before graduating in 1952. He also played his share of town league baseball, softball and basketball.
I really got to know Choc during his two terms as mayor, especially after we won the state championship in 1975. While celebrating before a packed gym of ecstatic fans, Junker takes the microphone and proudly states: ‘As the mayor of Stillwater, it is my pleasure to say there will be no school on Monday.’
That said, the students erupted and board chair Lyman Geary was also jubilant, but not so for superintendent Robert Miller and principal Dr. Jon Swenson, who had to work hard all weekend as a result of Choc’s unauthorized proclamation, while the rest of us had fun.
When we won the state title in 1982, Junker was not allowed to attend the rally – for good reason.
Junker would bet the mayors of opposing communities dinner on the outcome of the games. Choc and his lovely wife of 58 years Bev, enjoyed meals at their expense for years and we possessed keys to the cities of Cambridge, Columbia Heights, St. Paul, Owatonna, Rochester and Duluth, etc.
Choc served our community well in several capacities through the years, including a 10-year stint on the ISD 834 Board of Education. I had the pleasure of serving two terms with Choc on the board. We were often voted down 5-2 (it was 6-1 before I arrived), but we managed to get things done as a board and we both listened and learned from it.
Most of the time, I would pick Choc up for meetings, but one night he calls and says he’ll drive. Choc is a Fred Sanford disciple, but even I was surprised when he arrived in a fire engine – that’s right, a fire engine!
After the meeting we attended a Christmas gathering at Seasons Tique, where Bev works. Choc makes a u-turn on main street and that alone is something you don’t see every day. Cars were patiently backed up for blocks but they just smiled and waved because everybody likes Choc (although I managed to draw a digital salute from a few).
I’m getting writers cramp so I better wrap this up. Choc is a former baseball and softball ace whose biggest home run was when he landed Bev. He is a character with character and that’s a good thing.
Check out Distinguished Alumni banquet on Friday, June 8 at the Lake Elmo Event Center starting at 6 p.m. The dinner is $25 per person and will require you to register online at: www.partnershipplan.org.
In the huddle
Former Ponies three-sport athlete Kelly McGarry ’11 had a fine season as a freshman on the University of Wisconsin women’s rowing team. The Badgers eight-person novice boat finished runner-up to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago. Wisconsin placed third overall, behind Michigan and the Buckeyes…. Alex Flock ’10, a standout lacrosse player for North Dakota State, scored four goals and added two assists as the Bison (15-4) beat Briar Cliff 12-11 in the first round of the MCLA DII National Tournament in Greenville, S.C. Flock scored the winning goal in overtime last week. A day later, the Bison lost to the eventual champion U of St. Thomas 10-7, with Flock scoring a pair of goals…. West Lakeland’s John McPherson caught a 15 1/2-inch crappie in an Alexandria area lake last week. He’s been my good friend for 42 years, but still wouldn’t reveal the exact lake…. Ponies assistant boys’ swim coach Elmer Luke, a World War II veteran, took the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., recently. Elmer, who has assisted his son and SAHS swimming coach Brian Luke for several years, had been a distinguished hall of fame swimming coach at Hopkins before joining his son with the Ponies. Kudos to those who make these Honor Flights possible and to those who defended us – a very special thanks. My good pal Gene "Taco" Bealka, our long-time trainer during my tenure as SAHS football coach, was an Army Air Corps veteran of WWII who took the Honor Flight last year. "It was one of my best days that I enjoyed and appreciated very much," Taco stated…. Bob Cousy said it best: "Sports create a bond between contemporaries that lasts a lifetime. It also gives your life structure, discipline and a genuine, sincere, pure fulfillment that few other areas of endeavor provide." Don’t tread on me…. finis
Today’s rumination #568
Character is much easier kept than recovered.