Stories that stayed with us: Pine Journal staff looks back at 2020

The stories we remember most from a year that kept us on our toes.

Duane and Mary Arntson have been married 74 years this July and have lived in the same house in Esko. (Clint Austin /

It's difficult to remember the stories our staff reported before COVID-19.

In mid-March, our attention shifted to the pandemic and we all know what happened next. COVID-19 is the biggest story of 2020. It may be the biggest story of my career. Although I have to say, I don't want to think about what could top it.

Instead of running through the "top" stories of 2020, I asked Jamey and Teri to put together a list of stories that stayed with them this year. Maybe it was a story they had never covered before, or something unexpected happened during the interview; maybe the story started out in one direction and turned out completely different; or maybe it's one they just really enjoyed.

A few of my favorites:

Teri Cadeau's story on Pastor Jeff Walther's life. The Esko pastor died from complications related to COVID-19. Hearing about the pandemic every day, we can lose perspective and forget that each case number represents a person. Teri's writing made me feel the appreciation the community has for Walther and his family and how he touched lives through his ministry.


Jamey Malcomb's recent story about young ski jumpers at Pine Valley Park. I found this story fascinating. I have no desire to try ski jumping, but Jamey's reporting taught me a lot about the sport and the courage it requires.

-Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten, editor

When reflecting on this year, two stories that immediately popped into my head were about two couples, both from Esko. Back in June, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Arntsons, a couple celebrating their 74th wedding anniversary.

I didn’t do nearly as many in-person interviews this year due to COVID-19, but I was glad I got to see Duane and Mary together in their small house on the outskirts of Esko. I really appreciated seeing how they interacted with one another as they told stories and answered questions.

Duane and Mary Arntson on their wedding day 74 years ago in July 1946. (Clint Austin /

RELATED: Esko couple celebrates 74 years together


The late Pastor Jeffery Walther prior to officiating an outdoor wedding. (Photo courtesy of Christina Walther)

I was also honored to share the story of Jeff and Christina Walther. Pastor Jeff Walther passed away in October and I reached out to Christina to see about writing a story on him. Christina and Pastor Bruce Bergstedt painted a vibrant picture of Jeff that knit the story together. He’s someone the Esko community will miss.

RELATED: Esko pastor leaves legacy of loving nature and people

COVID-19 has made live theater much trickier this year, which was why I was always excited when a press release from the County Seat Theater came to our inbox.

RELATED: County Seat Theater modifies 'A Christmas Carol' to fit pandemic restrictions

To see theater companies adapting and persevering in a difficult time was fantastic. I’m excited to see more performances in the future.

-Teri Cadeau, reporter

There were so many stories that stuck out to me this year, both good and bad. I spent about an hour last week making a list of stories that were candidates. I had a hard time remembering anything I wrote prior to March 1. Anyway, here are a few of my favorites I worked on this year:


I attended one of the shoots Carlton High School senior Ava Grondahl did with then-Cloquet High School senior Halle Stowe at Jay Cooke State Park. Grondahl offered free photo sessions to area seniors in their caps and gowns. Stowe was so excited and even her parents were beaming as they watched Grondahl document a special moment in their daughter’s life.

Photographer Ava Grondahl (right) of Carlton shows photos to Halle Stowe during a senior photo session at Jay Cooke State Park Tuesday, May 12. (Clint Austin /

“It seemed the whole world flipped upside down and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Stowe said at the time. “To come out here and have someone willing and able to do this for us, it’s a special thing.”

I can’t think of a better way to put it.

RELATED: Carlton photographer creates memories for 2020 graduates

Another story that sticks with me is from the early days of the pandemic. After Chuck Pace's death, his family struggled with how they could bring friends together to mourn. Funeral director Mike Kosloski suggested the family hold a “drive-by visitation” to allow Pace’s friends from the Moose Lake Golf Club to pay their respects.


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Nancy Pace talks with a woman during a drive-by visitation for her husband, Chuck Pace, at Hamlin-Hansen-Kosloski Funeral Home Friday, March 27, in Moose Lake. Visitors remained in their vehicles to follow social distancing guidelines as they greeted family members and paid their respects. (Tyler Schank /

I heard about this and, on a whim, reached out to Kosloski to see if the family would be willing to allow me and a photographer to attend.

Nancy Pace and her family were so gracious in allowing us to cover this event. Watching friends and family adapt to some pretty wild circumstances was heartening to see in such an uncertain time.

Talking with Nancy about her husband made me wish I had gotten a chance to chat with him or maybe play a round or two of golf with him.

RELATED: 'Unique idea' allows friends to mourn

This one has already been mentioned above, but it’s worth mentioning again.

The fact that the ski jumps at Pine Valley are available to people in Cloquet is remarkable. The jumps themselves are also 100% terrifying.


The 40-meter ski jump Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Pine Valley in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

I climbed to the top of the 40-meter jump just to get some perspective. When I got to the top, I looked down and thought to myself, “They’re going to need a fire truck to get me off this thing.”

RELATED: Ski jumpers fly over Cloquet at Pine Valley

Also worth mentioning again, the kids — some as young as 5 years old — CANNOT SEE where they are going to land.

This story was fun for a couple reasons. It was a beautiful night with light snow falling and a bunch of people — not just kids — having a lot of fun.

After weeks of dealing with truth in taxation meetings, property tax levies and and budgets — almost all by video conference — it was nice to get out and be in the fresh air watching people learn to do something incredible.

-Jamey Malcomb, reporter


A skier heads down the 40-meter ski jump Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Pine Valley in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

A skier heads down the 40-meter ski jump Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Pine Valley in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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