Return of local Guard unit is top local story for 2006

The return of the soldiers from the Cloquet-based National Guard unit in January was easily the top choice for "Story of the Year" in Carlton County in 2006. The soldiers in the unit had served in the Middle East for the past 18 months and return...

The return of the soldiers from the Cloquet-based National Guard unit in January was easily the top choice for "Story of the Year" in Carlton County in 2006. The soldiers in the unit had served in the Middle East for the past 18 months and returned home to a heroes' welcome as throngs of residents and well-wishers lined Highway 45 and Cloquet Avenue, cheering wildly and shedding a few tears of emotion as well, especially during the ceremony that followed at the Cloquet Middle School gymnasium as family's were reunited with their loved ones.

Other events throughout the year ranged from positive economic developments and dramatic human accomplishments to tragic accidents and violent crimes. It was life in a small town at its best - and its worst, and the year 2006 will long be remembered in the hearts of its residents.


Dick Brenner was elected chair of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners, with Commissioner Frank Liupakka named vice chair.

The Cloquet City Council announced it would once again pursue legislation authorizing a local half percent sales tax to help fund the new business park north of Cloquet, help out with cost of park improvements, riverfront upgrades and repair or upgrade the pool in Pinehurst Park.


Word was received that the local troops of the Cloquet-based E-Battery 216th Air Defense Unit would be heading home after 18 months of service to the country in the Middle East. The unit arrived in Cloquet on Jan. 10 to flag-lined streets, cheering crowds and a tear-filled welcome in the Cloquet Middle School gymnasium.


Seniors Biz Sorenson and Pat Tierney were named Cloquet High School Homecoming Queen and King at a coronation at the high school.

The annual Bluejean Ball event raised some $9,000 to benefit the Cloquet Educational Foundation.

Awareness of the encrouching dangers of avian flu was brought to the forefront as Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College conducted a community forum on the disease and what it could mean to our local area.

Cloquet Police announced plans to clamp down on "dialing and driving" as they prepared to enforce a new state law prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving by young people under the age of 18.

The residents of Moose Lake voted down a school referendum for the third time, this time by a narrow margin of just 17 votes. The referendum - pared down from its original scope - would have provided for the construction of a new high school.



Cloquet School District announced plans to slash $780,000 from its budget and began an extensive series of talks on just where the cuts would hit.

Word was received that Cloquet's West End business and residential district was to be awarded $986,900 in Small Cities Grant funding to improve facilities in that area.

Community Memorial Hospital conducted the first round of "weigh ins" for its "Biggest Loser" contest, to see which departments in the hospital could lose the most weight during a three-month period. The contest, designed to promote healthier lifestyles, also had a year-long component geared toward keeping weight off after the initial weight-loss initiative.

The Pine Journal announced the newspaper, along with its fellow Knight Ridder newspapers in the northeastern Minnesota area, would be sold to the McClatchy Company. Soon after the initial announcement, McClatchy announced the newspaper group in this area was to be sold off as part of the company's overall growth plan. Included in both sales was also the Cloquet office of Manney's Shopper.


Multiple tragedies marred the first week of the month in Cloquet, with a collision on Highway 33 resulting in the death of a Hinckley woman, a drunken driving spree along Carlton Avenue causing extensive property damage, and a Cloquet woman, Diane Putnam, murdered in her home, allegedly by live-in boyfriend Richard Edward Marchand.

A Welcome Home Parade was held in downtown Cloquet for the returning soldiers of the Cloquet-based 216th Air Artillery Unit. A commendation ceremony followed at Cloquet High School.

The Cloquet City Council announced that the aging Pinehurst Park Pool would remain closed during the summers of both 2006 and 2007 until some decision can be made regarding its future repair or replacement.


Councilors at area schools began dealing with the repurcussions of social Web sites such as, to which hoards of young people are flocking, sometimes putting themselves in jeopardy from unscrupulous adults who also monitor the sites. Another related issue that councilors are addressing with increasing frequency is the practice of electronic bullying.

Wrenshall and Carlton formally announced plans to sever the two schools' pairing and sharing agreements that allowed the two to save money by sharing certain programs.


Black Bear Casino/Hotel announced plans to break ground on a new casino and hotel, to include a four-story parking ramp and a convention center.

A late-night joyride by a vandal caused extensive damage to Carlton's Hillside Cemetery and the high school football field across the street. Taken into custody and charged with the crime was Blaine William Smith, 19.

A Carlton man, Scott Eggert, died in a drowning accident at Jay Cooke State Park after the pickup truck he was driving left the roadway and was submerged in a swampy area overnight before being discovered.

Jim Michalski of the Moose Lake Fire Department was named "EMS Person of the Year" at the meeting of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners.



Arson was suspected in two early-morning fires in Cloquet on Ninth Street and Jackpine Drive.

Forum Communications, a Fargo-based company, announced plans to purchase several of the divested area newspapers previously purchased by the McClatchy Company. Among them are the Pine Journal and the Cloquet Manney's Shopper.

Vandals hit Carlton's Hillside Cemetery once again, this time upending gravestones in the older part of the cemetery. No arrests were made in the incident.

The Sappi unions announced they were split on a strike authorization vote in the forestalled contract negotiations.

The Challenge Incarceration Program in Willow River announced plans for a 30,000-square-foot addition to its facility.

Ferdinand Martineau upset incumbent treasurer Kevin Dupuis Sr. in an election on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

The bond rating for the city of Cloquet was upgraded and a lower interest rate secured, paving the way for significant progress on the business park development.



Brian Saaristo, a soldier from Wright serving in Iraq, was wounded and lost both his legs below the knees as a result of his injuries.

Twenty-six teams participated in the 12th Annual Relay for Life event on the grounds of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, once again raising significant funds for the work of the American Cancer Society in providing support, services and research. A total of $46,500 was raised through the event.

Potlatch announced it was closing its Cloquet tree nursery after 50 years, due to restructuring of the company into the area of timberland management. The nursery produced some 73 million high quality seedlings over the years, foresting some 100,000 acres of northern Minnesota forestlands.

The Annual Carlton Daze Celebration took on special significance this year as it honored the 125th anniversary of the city of Carlton.


A fire that destroyed a Cloquet home was ruled arson. The fire cause some $180,000 of damage to the Pinewood Drive home, though the owner escaped unharmed thanks to the fast-thinking actions of a neighbor.

The annual Carlton County Fair took place during a successful four-day run in Barnum and focused around the theme, "Feel the Magic."



A Cloquet man wreaked havoc during a high-speed chase. James Leon Nordrum, 36, faced three felony charges as a result of the incident, which involved striking at least two other vehicles and fleeing the scene.

The Moose Lake Fifth Annual Relay for Life event raised $32,500 for the work of the American Cancer Society, with 15 teams taking part in this year's event.

Peter J. Defoe stepped down as chairman of the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee with one year remaining in his term.

Tony Lourey of Kerrick and Dan Stevens were the successful candidates for the District Eight Senate seat following the primary election.

Rewards were offered in two area burglaries, one at the Sawyer Store and one at the Fond du Lac Conservation building.

The cemeteries in Pinehurst Park were the latest to be vandalized, as the perpetrators caused some $2,000 worth of damage.

A groundbreaking was held for the new Cloquet Business Park on North Highway 33, officially kicking off the clearing and excavating of the site.


A motorcycle/deer collision claimed the life of James Carl Johnson, 44, of Barnum Township.

Eleven candidates filed for the position of Fond du Lac tribal chairman to fulfill the unexpired term of former chair Peter Defoe.

The Carlton County Board approved the first-ever off-sale liquor license for Thomson Township, historically a "dry" township up until this point.

An independent film company announced it would be filming a movie, "Older Than America," set against the backdrop of Carlton County. The movie will be about the boarding school era and its implications for Native Americans who experienced that era.

The annual Community Memorial Hospital Foundation Gala, "A Night at the Copacabana," garnered thousands of dollars for the work of the foundation in the local hospital.


Several firearms were stolen from a home in Twin Lakes Township, and two Duluth men and a Cromwell woman were taken into custody and charged in relation to the incident.

The annual "Beastie Bash" fund raiser brought in some $12,000 for the Friends of Animals Humane Society and its Carlton County animal shelter.

The 2006 General Election saw Tony Lourey successfully win the seat for District Eight Senator formerly occupied by his mother, Becky Lourey. Other new faces to the local political scene will be Cloquet Police Officer Eric Blesener, who defeated incumbent Cloquet City Councilor Kelly Riihiluoma in Ward One. Challenger Jim Putnam defeated incumbent Scanlon Mayor Marshall Johnson.

A violent incident in Cloquet's West End business district resulted in a carjacking and suicide after 20-year-old John Harvey Barrett fired shots at a Cloquet police officer after taking four occupants hostage in a carjacking attempt. Another Cloquet officer negotiated with Barrett for nearly an hour before Barrett turned the gun on himself.

The city of Carlton announced it was planning to add paid, on-call, 24-hour ambulance service to help improve coverage in its area.

Karen R. Diver and Clarence "Chuck" Smith were the top vote getters in the primary election for chairman of the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee. The two will face off in a general election at the end of January.

The Cloquet School Board voted to change its election years to even-numbered years to coincide with the rest of the county in order to save money.

The United Way, Salvation Army and other local agencies partnered with The College of St. Scholastica to host a Community Thanksgiving Dinner for area residents at the Cloquet Armory.


The Carlton County Board set a public hearing date of Jan. 29, 2007, to field input on a county smoking ban for public places and places of work.

Cloquet Police officers Rick Benko and Tom Hallfrisch were presented with the Medal of Honor for their actions during the recent incident in Cloquet's West End where John Barrett carjacked a vehicle with people in it and later committed suicide.

Police announced that a Level III sex offender would be moving into the 400 block of Cloquet's 10th Street. Christopher Steven Ash, 33, was sentenced to 48 months in prison for criminal sexual conduct .

Zion Lutheran Church of Cloquet hosted its 14th Annual Community Christmas Dinner, serving hundreds of meals to area residents who might have otherwise been alone on Christmas Day.

Pine Journal reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

in August 1999.

A Fond du Lac, Wisc. man was killed in Carlton County on Highway 23 when the semi truck he was driving hit a patch of ice and rolled over.

Zion Lutheran Church hosted its 14th Annual Community Christmas Dinner for hundreds of area residents.

Pine Journal Publisher/ reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

What To Read Next
Get Local