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fresh paint job
Wahpper gets fresher
New paint job, minor repairs for Red River attraction

Forty feet long, eight feet high, 5,000 pounds heavy — and on his second “skin.”

“Wahpper” the catfish, located at Kidder Recreation Area in Wahpeton, is being gently refurbished. A four-member crew from FAST Corporation in Sparta, Wisconsin, began the work Wednesday, July 31. It’s expected to last no later than Sunday, Aug. 4.

“Structurally, Wahpper is still pretty good,” said Roger Jensen, Wahpeton. “The clear coat over it, however, was getting bad. He’s getting repainted and receiving a new clear coat. It’s going to make it look really great.”

Wahpper, Daily News previously reported, was built for $12,000 and dedicated in August 1997. A project of its scale, Jensen explained, would cost $110,000 in 2019.

“It’s well worth fixing,” he said.

The crew of Daniel Klinkenberg, Eric McGinnis, Max Muraski and Eugene Ortega sanded Wahpper and made minor repairs Thursday, Aug. 1 and Friday, Aug. 2.

“We’re just grinding and fixing cracks that happened over time,” Ortega said. “We’re also making the whiskers stronger. We’re then going to prime it and shoot color on it.”

Wahpper was created by Dave Oswald of DWO Fiberglass Company, Sparta. He’s been making sculptures since 1962.

“Five to six people worked on the project for three to five months,” Daily News previously reported.

“FAST” is an acronym, Muraski explained. It stands for “fiberglass animal shapes and trademarks.” The corporation sends crews throughout the United States and worldwide, depending on the size of a project.

“We’ve done everything from a 40-foot catfish to 30-foot eyeballs,” Muraski said.

Catfish are the leading game fish in the Red River, Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Beyer said in May.

“There are many people who come here to come to fish for channel catfish from many states, so (having Wahpper) is a means to celebrate that we do have great cat fishing here,” Beyer said.

Ortega and his colleagues are visiting Wahpeton for the first time.

“We love the town,” he said. “It’s really small and charming, like ours.”

Like meeting new friends
Beyond her wildest dreams

Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of our sister paper, the Green Valley News out of Arizona.

Gloria Lee’s family grew substantially this month, and she couldn’t be happier.

Lee, 74, discovered in January that she has four half-sisters in California and met two of them last week.

Lee was born in Valley City, N.D., and was put up for adoption when she was six months old. Her adoptive family, also from North Dakota, never hid that she was adopted, and it never really mattered to her, she said.

“I always knew I was adopted from day one,” Lee said. “Because some of my cousins were adopted, it was no big deal. It was just what it was.”

She never had much interest in finding out about her birth family, but advances in genetic testing and a curiosity to learn more about her medical history eventually led her to the Internet.

About a year ago, Lee bought a genetic test online and sent it in. It came back identifying a fifth cousin as the closest relation — too much of a long shot to pursue. A few months later, a half-price sale on a genetic test from a different company convinced her to give it another try.

“I actually let it sit on my counter until around Christmas. Then I thought I’d better get it done before a lot of people did the kit after getting it as a Christmas present,” Lee said.

About two weeks after sending it off, she received a notice that the results were in — and what a difference. They indicated a match for “a first cousin or immediate family.”

“ I looked at that and I went, ‘What?!’” Lee said.

But there was more. The notification included an email from a woman who had also taken a DNA test and had been notified she and Lee were a match.

“She said they were looking for a sister born in Valley City, North Dakota.”

“I sent a message and the rest is history,” Lee said. She had a family.

Lee spoke on the phone to her half-sisters Debbie Mandelkorn and Jeanne Hoblitt and they made plans to meet in Green Valley, Ariz., where Lee lives, later in the year. Before that happened, Mandelkorn sent a photo “and it was like looking at myself,” Lee said.

She sent it to friends, “and you should have seen the texts bouncing around… ‘She looks just like you!’”

Sisters reunite

Mandelkorn said she and Hoblitt arrived Monday for a weeklong visit with a plan: “We want to learn everything we can about each other.”

After “a lot of hugging,” Lee said they went out to dinner and began to catch up on decades of memories.

The sisters said they learned about Lee in the 1970s. But their mother, Maxine, who died in 2007, would say very little about her.

“The girls knew that I existed but they did not know anything much more than that,” Lee said. “Mother just didn’t want to talk about it.”

Lee would have liked to have met her mother, “but there was no DNA testing then. It wasn’t meant to be, that’s the way I look at it.”

“In the five years before she died she did wonder if I would look for her,” Lee’s sisters told her.

Lee has four half-sisters — she just calls them sisters — who all live in California. Jackie is the oldest at 76, followed by Jeanne, 72, Patty, 71, and Debbie, 63.

“Debbie and I are peas in a pod,” she said. “We have similar personalities and she likes a lot of the same stuff I do, so it’s really a hoot. We’re both into cars and movies and we both have the same kind of sense of humor. Of course, we all look alike, that’s kind of weird.”

At one point during the visit, one of her sisters said, “‘You turn your head and you look just like mom.’ It’s just kind of weird, but it’s really fun.”

Lee said she didn’t hesitate to meet her sisters and they “had a blast getting to know each other.”

Even before they met, Mandelkorn and Hoblitt were looking at moving to Arizona. Meeting their sister sealed the deal, and they spent part of the week looking at homes in Green Valley.

“We had a good time and we really like this area in Arizona,” Hoblitt said. “We found that we have a lot in common, we could tell that we were sisters.”

Lee said it’s like meeting new friends.

“It’s going to be fun getting to know them and I look forward to that,” she said.

The four sisters have eight children, so Lee will eventually meet new nieces and nephews and their children, too.

In the three years she has lived in Green Valley, she joined GVR’s Amigas, has done some traveling and enjoys scrapbooking and movies.

“I came alone. It’s been easy to make friends and I absolutely love it here,” she said.

Soon, she’ll have family joining her.

“I expected I’d find a second or third cousin, maybe first,” she said. “But never ever in my imagination did I think I had any siblings. I just didn’t even think about it.”

5 Things to Know Today

1. Aber Days in Abercrombie, N.D. continues through Sunday, Aug. 4. Look to Daily News, in print and online, for event coverage.

2. It’s not too late to send in your ‘Wild About Wheels’ photos. Learn more on page A2.

3. Find out about community members and their accomplishments by reading Wayne Beyer’s column on page A7.

4. Today’s Birthdays include Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton (1955-), former U.S. President Barack Obama (1961-), retired major league pitcher Roger Clemens (1962-), Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle (1981-) and ‘Riverdale’ star Cole Sprouse (1992-).

5. Community Picnic: National Night Out runs 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6 at OxCart Trail Park, Breckenridge. Come out and enjoy free food, visit with your neighbors and get to know your law enforcement officers better. Games, music, informational booths and fire truck rides.

In the Community
Deal ‘em in for Poker Walk
Southern Valley Health Watch prepares for last event

A Twin Towns Area tradition is being held for the last time.

The 23rd Annual Poker Walk begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13 in Chahinkapa Park, Wahpeton. A 5K begins and ends at Hughes Shelter, traveling through the park and riverside neighborhoods in Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota.

“We’re asking that people bring one item for the Richland Wilkin Food Pantry,” said Judy Oren of Southern Valley Health Watch.

Aside from the donation, there is no registration fee. Donations are an easy way to benefit the community, Oren said.

Southern Valley Health Watch has sponsored the Poker Walk since its inception, but will not continue the event. The organization itself is expected to phase out in the near future.

Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. Organizers expect the Poker Walk will last until 8 p.m.

Similar to a game of poker, the walk’s objective is having the best five-card hand. The participant with the best cards wins a new bike.

“Put down your chips, pair up and come straight down to Chahinkapa Park for a royally good time,” a Poker Walk poster states.

Walkers will travel to locations including Rotary and Welles parks in Breckenridge. The only rule, Oren said, is that youth must be ambulatory.

“It’s nice when there’s young families and they bring their kids. But if they’re in strollers, then they’re not really eligible to win,” she explained.

Door prizes will be awarded and healthy snacks will be served. Nutrition has been one of Southern Valley Health Watch’s most enduring missions.

“We’ve been around since the 1980s,” Oren said. “It started out as something bigger, but over the years, other entities have taken over.”

For example, smoking cessation, men and women’s health and protection against sexually transmitted diseases were all promoted by Southern Valley Health Watch. Over the years, these topics fell under different jurisdictions, allowing Oren and her colleagues to focus on healthy eating and exercise.

“(We want) to improve the quality of life for the residents of Richland and Wilkin counties by promoting health through awareness programs, encouraging lifestyle changes and by providing a safe, supportive environment,” Southern Valley Health Watch’s website stated.

Following the Poker Walk, the organization will devote its energy and remaining funds to completing the installation of benches throughout Wahpeton and Breckenridge.

“We’ve got some service groups, businesses, families and individuals who have donated benches. We’ll be using our funds to see those installed, including the bench, concrete pad and labor involved,” Oren said.

Although the Southern Valley Health Watch is reaching its end, Oren is happy that it played a leading role in showcasing local walking trails. It’s a legacy she and colleagues are proud of.

“There are other organizations which are now sponsoring walks and runs. We’re ending, but the mission continues,” Oren said.

Door prizes are still being gathered, Oren said. They will inspire activity in youth and adults.

“Really, it’s about anything to get them outside playing,” she continued.

With the last Poker Walk approaching, Oren is happy that it was able to be provided for so long.

“It’s a fun summer tradition,” she said.

For more information, visit www.svhw.org.

Look to Daily News for coverage of this summer’s events.

Student Art

Jayley Rhodenbough

In Josette Rodriguez and Mikayla Gessell’s class

St. John’s School Daycare