Once upon a time, seventy-two years ago to be exact, a boy gnome named Richard was born in a beautiful river valley town called New Ulm. He went to school there and decided on a nearby river town college in Mankato to get a teaching degree. When he was about to graduate, Superintendent Gnome Bob Clay came to MSU and asked him to come to Gnometown and teach the young gnomes. Richard and his high school sweetheart wife, Lois, went to visit Gnometown. They thought it would be a lovely place to raise a family and moved, bringing their two week old son, Steve. It was a busy time, especially when the next year a daughter, Lisa, arrived and the following year, another daughter, Monica, was born. Teacher Richard was busy with gnomes from seventh to twelfth grade teaching speech, industrial arts, drama, declamation, and driver education. He produced many plays and worked on several musical productions with Gnome John Solie.
Gnome Richard was also busy in the church helping to set up a Diocesan Pastoral Council, becoming a lector and a Eucharistic minister and preparing the youngsters for confirmation.
A routine was being established when Mother Nature decided to upset things by sending so much snow in the winter of 1969 that school was in session only 11 days from December 18th to February 14th. All the snow had to melt, so the town was flooded. The local police asked Richard to be in charge. He organized the students and teachers to fill sandbags around the clock. Many of the local farmer gnomes came to town to help place sandbags and do other work during the flood. All the gnomes worked together to protect properties and people and clean up the mess afterward. Richard went on to become Lac qui Parle County Disaster Chair for many years.
One day when Richard was walking down the street, the policeman on duty asked him to help on an ambulance call. At that time there were only two policemen and they also ran the ambulance. Richard thought Dawson needed a separate ambulance service, so he conducted a fund drive and did an all day telethon to raise more money. The generous gnomes gave enough money to buy the first van ambulance and the equipment, plus train 18 volunteers as EMTs. The Dawson volunteer ambulance service eventually became part of Johnson Memorial Health Services and continues to be a vital quality service.
It seems the policemen were often choosing him for volunteer jobs and asked him to run for mayor of Gnometown Dawson. The very first big project was the Centennial celebration for the town. In June there was a two hour parade, lot of activities, and lots of volunteers, making it a truly fine celebration. During his 12 and ½ years of service as mayor, he worked with the City Manager and Council planning improvements and developments.
Plans were made to replace Main Street and the driving bridge, a walking path by the river, city apartment housing, a new library and a new fire department building. There were improvements in the City Park, the Prestholdt Softball Fields by Gnome Rudy and his sons and many softball players. Winterfest and Riverfest were started, and the tradition of honoring gnomes from the community was begun…but that is another story.
In the late 90s Gnome Richard retired from teaching full time, but still wanted to be in touch with the young gnomes that he so enjoyed. He did some long term substitute teaching and some “on call” subbing for a few years. All during his teaching career, he also had a bus driver’s license drove his own drama and declamation trips. He took a full-time bus route and has a few families that he taught the grandparents, the parents and now is driving the grandchildren to school. Between teaching and driving bus, Gnome Richard will reach 50 years of continuous service to the Dawson-Boyd School District in 2011.
Family, friends, faith, doing a good job and helping others by volunteering, have been the guidelines that Gnome Richard has tried to follow in Gnometown Dawson.