November 28, 2013

Time to give thanks for the Stone Bank’s bedrock

Posted in Bottineau, Friends of Stone Bank, History, Life, Volunteers at 12:17 pm by stonebankblog

We interrupt this series of daily missives by Stone Bank blogger Sharon Kessler to bring you a Thanksgiving message — by her husband and guest Stone Bank blogger Mike Dorsher. …

The Stone Bank Project is thankful for — and indebted to — many people. You can see some of them in the slide show below, but they also include many unseen supporters who have made financial donations from near and afar. They even include everyone who has read this blog, given it a “Like,” left a Comment or just contributed good wishes and karma to our quest.

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But there are two people, in particular, without whom this project would now be a pile of rubble. Rather than a piece of history being preserved, the Stone Bank would now be a relic of history were it not for these two people.

One them is Joe Whetter, whom we usually simply refer to as our “stone mason,” but he is much, much more. Joe is the brawn and brains of the Stone Bank restoration that you see today. He has put his blood, sweat and gears into disassembling the back 20 feet of this structure, stone-by-stone, and now rebuilding it, block-by-block — plus an 8-foot addition for handicap accessibility. With a small crew of helpers under his direction, Joe has hand-carried some of the bank’s 400-pound boulders in the bitter cold and snow, he has poured pilings and cut sidewalk in the rain, and he has hand-shoveled mud in the heat of summer — all for sporadic pay of his heavily discounted bills. I don’t know what is more amazing — to see this grandchild-raising ex-Marine who’s pushing 60 engage in hard labor like a ball-and-chain prisoner or that such a man resides within the same town as the Stone Bank, that he and my wife were Bottineau High School classmates — and that they’re still talking to each other.

We owe a great, BIG thanks to Joe today. But even Joe would readily acknowledge that there would be no Stone Bank Project today without my wife, Sharon Kessler. She walked past the Stone Bank every day on her way to and from Bottineau High School, and she never forgot it, even after going off to UND and living with me in Bismarck, Madison, Washington, DC, Wisconsin, England and the Twin Cities. When Karen Larson told her the back of the Stone Bank was crumbling and the City Council was about to condemn and raze it, they formed a nonprofit, Touchstones, Inc., to raise funds and save it. In the 2 1/2 years since then, Sharon has poured hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into the Stone Bank Project — in addition to her full-time (plus some) job in the Twin Cities at Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. None of Joe’s work on the site would have been possible without her grant writing, fundraising, organizing — and blog posting.

So today, as we all give thanks for our family, friends and fortunes small and large, those of us who are friends of the Stone Bank Project should pause and give thanks to Joe and Sharon, too. That process started a couple months ago when Cenex recognized Sharon with a $50 gift card from its “Tanks of Thanks” program. I will close this guest post by letting you read the Cenex-edited version of what I wrote then (click on the image to see it full size). Tomorrow, Sharon will be back here with the penultimate installment of National Blog Posting Month.

ThanksTanksEssay

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