Our Board

We are honored and privileged to have the following community leaders on our Mississippi Valley Conservancy Board of Directors.

Warren Loveland, Board president

Warren Loveland

President
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Warren grew up in Myrick Marsh, on Grandad’s Bluff, Cliffwood and Seven Springs. He knew every inch of the La Crosse River and the Mississippi backwaters from lock 7 to lock 8. Summers were YMCA camp Bradfield, Camp Decorah, a Jamboree, Philmont Scout Ranch and Boy Scout canoe fishing trips up north. Loveland has a Bachelor of Business Administration from UW-Madison in finance and marketing.  

"For 40 years I have developed apartment communities under various federal and state agency programs. During this process I have received numerous grants and competitive funding allocations. I have done two leaking underground storage tank cleanups, four National Registry Historic Places adaptive reuse projects and several flood plain removal developments.

"I hope to help MVC preserve sensitive and rare sites, promote environmental and outdoor awareness and increase public lands and access opportunities."

David R. Morrison

Treasurer
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David Morrison is a Certified Public Accountant in La Crosse and board treasurer. He served on the La Crosse Common Council for eight years while the city developed the Bluffland Protection Program with the Conservancy. He has been active in numerous organizations, serving as president of the La Crosse Community Foundation and treasurer for the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra board. Dave has also served on the La Crosse Public Library Board of Trustees, the city planning commission and park board, and currently is a member of the city Economic Development Commission and downtown La Crosse Rotary Club.  He enjoys biking the marsh trails in his free time.

Allan Beatty, board member

Allan Beatty

Board member
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Allan earned his BA and JD degrees from UW-Madison. He worked as the Assistant State Public Defender from 1987 until he retired in 2015. Allan continues to take criminal defense cases if needed.

Allan is married to Michael Ross, a physician's assistant at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse and they have three children.

Allan has lived in La Crosse since 2004. He previously resided in Sparta.

In his free time, Allan enjoys playing the harp, gardening, cooking and cycling. He sits the Chamber Chorale Board and 1st Congregation UCC committee.

 
 
 
Andrea Benco, board member

Andrea Benco

Board member
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Andrea Benco grew up in the Midwest and is happy to now call Wisconsin home. A Packer fan from birth, living in the green-and-gold state is a dream come true. After acquiring a degree in physics in the Rocky Mountains, she went to the east coast in pursuit of pure knowledge through research, only to find the down-and-dirty job of grant-grubbing and academic politicking distasteful. Escaping after five years, her next adventure was in the deep south. Landing a job as a naturalist with the Arkansas State Park system, a system focused primarily on environmental education and recreation, she realized her true purpose was connecting people with the environment around them and preserving natural areas for folks to experience and explore. 

Five years of southern heat and humidity were enough, and she migrated to Wisconsin just in time to volunteer for Mississippi Valley Conservancy in its earliest years. She has volunteered with the Conservancy in various capacities ever since. Having worked as a naturalist for many years, first at Hixon Forest Nature Center and later the Wisconsin DNR, she has recently retired from state employment to spend more time taking care of family. She is now part of the Kroner's Hardware team, where she delights in solving problems and fixing things.

In her spare time, she enjoys camping, bicycling, hiking and reading.
Jim Czajkowski, Board member

James Czajkowski

Board member
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Jim recently retired as Crawford County Circuit Judge. Prior to taking the bench in 2010, he was in the private practice of law in Prairie du Chien for 35 years. From 1971 to 1975, he was a Judge Advocate (military lawyer) in the Air Force.

Jim and his wife Joyce have been married for 47 years and have two daughters and three grandchildren. Since 1975, they have lived on the same 240 acre farm in Wauzeka where all of the tillable land is enrolled in the CRP program. About nine acres of the CRP has been planted to native prairie. In addition, they are restoring a 17 acre savanna on a west-facing hillside and have realized some success in this effort. The savanna project was started at the urging of Abbie Church in 2009-2010. They currently have 80 acres, on which the savanna and prairie projects are located, protected with a conservation easement which they signed with the MIssissippi Valley Conservancy in 2009.

In addition to walking in the savanna and prairie, Jim remains a reserve judge with the court system. He continues his hobby of boat building (four wooden kayaks and two wooden canoes thus far) and also continues maintaining and using two old wooden boats (a 1957 Trojan and a 1963 Chris-Craft cruiser).

Jim previously served two terms on the board of directors and looks forward to serving again.   

Sue Dillenbeck

Board member
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Sue Dillenbeck has lived in La Crosse most of her life and has never lost her appreciation for the natural beauty of the Coulee Region. She and her husband Jim raised four children here and the outdoors—hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, fishing and boating—remain a big part of their lives.  

Sue has served on the boards of the YWCA, Riverfront Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse, Coulee Children’s Center, Valley View Rotary, Rotary Works Foundation and the Viterbo University Advisory Board. She has worked at Robertson Ryan & Associates as a commercial account manager in property and casualty insurance for a long, long time.  

While her nonprofit work has until now focused on social services, the well-being of this community on every level is important to her, and she looks forward to serving on the Mississippi Valley Conservancy board.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
Sr. Helen Elsbernd, board member

Sister Helen Elsbernd

Board member
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Sister Helen Elsbernd is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and is currently the vice president of the congregation, a position she held also in 1994-2002. Her academic background is in chemistry with a bachelor's degree from Viterbo University and a M.S. and PhD from the University of Illinois. She was at Viterbo for 20 years, first as a chemistry faculty member and then as the Academic Dean for 13 years. This was followed by five years as Academic Vice President at Teikyo Marycrest University in Davenport, Iowa. 

During her years in La Crosse, Sr. Helen served on various boards including the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Rotary and the Franciscan Health System. She currently is a board member of the La Crosse Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare.

Sr. Helen grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa, close to nature, where contour and strip farming were seen as important soil conservation practices. When she became the Director of Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa, in 2003, she felt she had returned to the farm in a sense because Prairiewoods was located on 70 acres and had a strong emphasis on care of the earth. Ecological practices included the restoration of 40 acres of prairie grass, managing 30 acres of woodland, practicing energy conservation, installing solar panels for renewable energy and obtaining LEED certification of an existing building. She enjoys gardening, hiking, nature photography and sewing.

David Bange, board member

David Bange

Board member
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David Bange was born in St. Louis and lived there for his first 22 years. Not surprisingly, he left as a life-long Cardinals fan. After graduation from St. Louis University in 1963, he attended graduate school at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins from 1963 to 1967. Again not surprisingly, he left with a life-long affinity for mountains, wildlife and the pleasures of quiet solitude. Along this journey, he earned a B.S. from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Colorado State.

Dave arrived in La Crosse in 1971 when he accepted a position in the mathematics department at the University of Wisconsin -La Crosse. He remained on the faculty of UW-L for 32 years and retired in 2003. During that time, his activities outside of work largely centered on outdoor physical activities, including long-distance running (somehow finishing 72 marathons), canoeing in the Mississippi backwaters, bicycling the country roads, hiking in the bluffs and snowshoeing a bit. Indoor activities feature yoga, reading a wide variety of books, occasional weight lifting and ESPN. He assiduously avoids treadmills, stationary bikes, swimming and Facebook. 

Gretchen Benjamin, Board member

Gretchen Benjamin

Board member
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Gretchen Benjamin grew up in Winona, Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River. She loved spending time on the river as a kid especially when she could go out on her neighbor’s houseboat to the “islands”. Her love and passion for the outdoors drove her to pursue a career that allowed her to protect what was important to her. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in natural resource management in 1982. Her first professional jobs were in Yellowstone and Voyageur National Parks as a seasonal park naturalist, but the desire to work year around and have a permanent job led her to a career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She spent almost 25 years working for the WDNR on the Mississippi River before leaving to work for The Nature Conservancy, also on the Mississippi River. Her love for the Mississippi River was amplified as she spent more and more time on the river through what is now 30 + year career.  

As a founding board member, she considers the support she provided to Mississippi Valley Conservancy to be one of her major life achievements for the beautiful landscape that surrounds this magnificent river. She is proud to be back on the board after a six-year absence. She lives in La Crosse and has a grown son. 

Gretchen's special interests are aquatic plants and their ecology, scuba diving (anywhere), triathlons and quilting. 
Pat Caffrey, board member

Pat Caffrey

Board member
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Pat Caffrey grew up in rural northwestern Wisconsin and spent much of his youth in the woods. He got his master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. He worked for one year for the University of Wisconsin Institute of Environmental Studies as a research specialist. The balance of his working career was with the City of La Crosse as a design engineer, superintendent of wastewater and director of public works. Pat retired in 2005. 

He is the site steward for the Conservancy's La Crosse River Conservancy and the New Amsterdam Grasslands and also serves on the boards of Friends of Trempealeau Refuge, Friends of McGilvray Road, Coulee Region Humane Society and Friends of Perrot State Park. Pat and his wife Peg Zappen (a Mississippi Valley Conservancy founding member) live near the village of Trempealeau.

Pat's special interests include land management, prairie restoration, invasive species and habitat protection.

Drake Hokanson

Board member
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Drake Hokanson is an author, photographer, editor, largely recovered college professor. Current job title: independent, organic, free-range scholar. Poor pay but great benefits.

He has taught at the college level for some 30 years at several institutions, most recently at Winona State University, in journalism, photographic communication and aviation, where he is Professor Emeritus, which provides a free parking space.

He is the author or coauthor of three books and the photographer of several photographic exhibits which have traveled nationally. He has new projects underway.

He likes nature. He’s a lousy birder and enjoys misidentifying them to the amusement of children. Two memorable nature experiences: hiking in the Himalayas and stepping in a mud dauber wasp nest in Iowa.

He is a traveler, having visited several odd corners of the globe, always with his beloved wife of several decades, Carol Kratz. He also likes airplanes, splitting firewood, prairies, the Mississippi River, and tent camping most anywhere.

He really likes Mississippi Valley Conservancy and its devotion to critical land protection

Tim Johnson, board member

Tim Johnson

Board member
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Dr. Timothy Johnson is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin and also serves as Board Chair. Dr. Johnson came to Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in June 2010 from the Austin (Minn.) Medical Center, part of Mayo Clinic Health System, where since 1988 he was a member of the medical staff and served 14 years as Chief Executive Officer and Board Chair. Dr. Johnson also serves as a part of Mayo Clinic Health System leadership through his service on the Mayo Community Care Clinical Practice Committee and chairs the Mayo Midwest Community Space and Capital Committee, and previously on the MCHS Board of Directors, Finance Committee and the ASYST (Electronic Medical Record) Design Council.

Dr. Johnson’s clinical background includes a medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and completion of a residency in Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic. In December 2010 he completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona. Dr. Johnson currently practices in physical medicine and rehab at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare, focusing on pain management. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Mankato State University and is a registered physical therapist.

Rob Tyser

Vice President
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Rob was a member of the biology department at UW-La Crosse for 37 years and retired in 2015. He is active in various sustainability-related organizations on campus and in the La Crosse community.  He monitors bird populations in the Conservancy’s New Amsterdam prairie grasslands and enjoys giving public presentations on conservation-related topics.

Some of Rob’s fondest memories are of his childhood years in southeastern Nebraska, where he explored nature on his grandparent’s small farm and developed a life-long interest in the outdoors and a love of birding. His hobbies include biking on local county roads, car camping with family and friends, hiking, backpacking (mostly in Glacier National Park)  and a never-ending quest for the perfect golf swing.

Jon Schultz, board member

Jon Schultz

Board member
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Jon lives on the family farm near Dodge, Wisconsin, where he began restoring the property's seven bluff prairies and connecting woodlands in 2001. He is currently chairman of the Arcadia Town Board in Trempealeau County and also serves on the County Board and sits on the extension & education and environment & land use committees. 

Before returning to the area in 2011, Jon received his education in geography and environmental studies at UM-Duluth and then worked in the native landscape industry. Jon actively promotes prescribed fire as a land management tool for not just grazing, forestry, ecology and aesthetics, but also for human health as he and his family have experienced tick-borne illnesses firsthand. 

He coaches both cross country and track & field at Arcadia High School but considers time with a chainsaw and a drip-torch as his own athletic seasons.

Bob Fisher, Secretary

Bob Fisher

Secretary
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Bob is honored to be serving on the board again after resting out for a couple years.  He brings a long career in natural resource and land-use planning to the table.

He has worked as a forester, wildlife manager, land appraiser and land use planner, with forays into outdoor recreation and transportation planning. Bob remains a strong believer in all manner of conservation of resources, and is active in several state-wide rail passenger advocacy organizations. He hopes someday to see fewer single occupancy cars on seemingly ever more and wider roads and more people happily riding fast passenger trains.

He has his 33 acres of woodland and savanna in a conservation easement with the Conservancy, and is developing a small oak savanna eco-type on the property. Bob says, “as an old forester, it took me several years to finally learn it’s OK not to plant trees on every inch of land and I’ve become a prairie advocate."

 

Maureen Kinney, board member

Maureen Kinney

Board member
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Maureen Kinney spent the first half of her growing-up years in Amery, Wisconsin and then moved to Superior where she graduated from Superior Senior High School. She received her undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in sociology-correctional administration. She later earned a law degree from the UW Law School. Since then, Maureen has lived in La Crosse, working with the law firm of Johns, Flaherty & Collins where she is currently a long-term partner. She practices in the areas of domestic relations, estate planning, trusts, probate and social security disability. Maureen has served on other area boards, including those of the Mississippi Valley Archeology Center, the La Crosse Area Boys and Girls Club, New Horizons Shelter and Women’s Center, Coulee Region Sierra Club, and the La Crosse County League of Women Voters.
 
In her spare time, she has run marathons (13), skied the American Birkebeiner numerous times and participates in triathlons. She loves to camp, canoe, hike, bike and travel. She belongs to two book clubs. 
 
Maureen was involved with the initial start-up of the Conservancy, completing its incorporation and securing its tax-exempt status. She continues to provide pro bono legal services, assisting with land purchases and conservation easements.

 

Rick Lange, board member

Rick Lange

Board member
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Rick has spent his entire life in the Driftless Area. He was born and raised on a family dairy farm in southwest Grant County that was the original Lange Family Homestead, and which is still in the family. He graduated from UW-Platteville in 1980 with a degree in soil and crop science. His career with the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service took him to Monroe, Dane, Crawford, Richland and Grant Counties. He recently retired from his position as District Conservationist for the Crawford County Field Office.

His interest in Driftless Area restoration and protection came late in his career as he started administrating federal programs that provided funding for restoration work on the bluff prairies and savannahs.

An avid outdoorsman, Rick enjoys hunting, fishing, boating on the Mississippi, brush cutting and prescribed burning. He lives in Prairie du Chien with his wife Mary Kay and his English Setter Mick.  

Mandy Nogle, board member

Mandy Nogle

Board member
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Mandy Nogle has a BS in organizational communication/public relations and a Masters of Public Health degree from UW-La Crosse. She joined Gundersen Medical Foundation in 2011 and currently serves as associate director of development. Mandy is a proud member of the Rotary Club of La Crosse – After Hours and is also involved with Oktoberfest. 

She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking and spending time with family and friends. Above all, she loves the La Crosse community and surrounding region and feels very fortunate to be able to live and work every day in the most beautiful place in the world.

Mike O'Brien, board member

Mike O'Brien

Board member
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Mike grew up in Wisconsin and after college at Marquette University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and subsequent medical residency training in Minneapolis, he moved to La Crosse in 1988 with his wife Sylvia and their three children. He was in the Internal Medicine department for the first 23 years, but in the last several years has worked in hospital medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare, La Crosse where he is currently a member of the Board of Directors.

When Mike is not traveling with Sylvia or visiting their children, in his spare time he likes to play tennis, bird watch and slowly encroach on his yard with native prairie plants. He also enjoys volunteering with work groups and prairie burns with the Conservancy and other organizations. 

Marc Schultz, board member

Marc Schultz

Board member
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Marc was a UW-Extension community natural resource and economic development agent who worked with and facilitated citizen and community leader collaboration. He retired from that position in 2003.

He and his family have home on a high bank of the Mississippi River. He holds leadership positions with several state and local conservation organizations: Town of Onalaska Board and Joint La Crosse City-County Harbor Commission. He earned BS and MS degrees in natural resource management from UW-Stevens Point. Other work experience in public health, boating law, wetland hydrology, wild land recreation policy and forestry provides a science-based natural resource background.

For more than two decades, Marc has been a leader promoting public involvement in state and federal legislation and programs that manage the Mississippi river and its tributaries.

Dave Skoloda, board member

Dave Skoloda

Board member
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Dave has been a writer and editor for about 60 years with experience in daily newspapers, agricultural publications and electronic news services. He also owned and edited weekly newspapers. He is a Navy veteran, and taught journalism at Winona State University.

A founding member and volunteer for Mississippi Valley Conservancy for 20 years, Dave was its first president and twice served as interim executive director. He is a volunteer easement monitor and also serves on the communications committee.  

His hobbies include playing music, wood cutting, skiing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, getting away to small cabin in Minnesota, tennis and reading. 

Dave has been married to Gretchen for 48 years. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. 

Carla Townsend, board member

Carla Townsend

Board member
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Carla is from La Crosse and retired in 2007 as a Spanish and French teacher for the Holmen School district. She has traveled to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala as an interpreter for medical missions and is currently enrolled in the certification in community interpreting program at Viterbo University, La Crosse. She loves to read, travel and garden. She and her husband Allan are long-time supporters of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy as well as many other environmental organizations. She believes that it is very important to be good steward of the earth and continue preserving our natural resources for generations to come.

Phil Gelatt, board member emeritus

Philip Gelatt

Board member emeritus
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Philip Gelatt, an avid bird watcher and CEO of Northern Engraving Corp., joined the Mississippi Valley Conservancy board of directors before the organization went public with an event on Grandad Bluff October 13, 1997. He brought both substantial financial backing and vision to the young organization. As the board huddled in the Grandad Bluff shelter after the public announcement on a windy, cold day, Gelatt asked the group to identify a project that could make a significant, immediate impact beyond the ability of the young organization to tackle. Craig Thompson told him of a 310-acre farm near Holmen in the Conservation Reserve Program that was a breeding area for rare grassland birds such as Bell’s vireo. It was likely to be developed for housing in the near future. Not long after that, Gelatt said that he would acquire and preserve the farm by swapping land that he owned next to the freeway in Onalaska. It took time, but several years later, he did just that. Gelatt had been restoring the New Amsterdam Grasslands to prairie for several years with the Conservancy's help. The Conservancy purchased it in 2007 using money from the State Stewardship Fund and a donation of a substantial part of the value by Northern Engraving.

Don Frank, Board member emeritus

Don Frank

Board member emeritus
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Don Frank grew up in Chicago and earned his engineering degrees from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1951 and 1957. He spent two years in the Navy as an engineering officer on a destroyer escort.  

The Trane Company brought him to La Crosse where he met and married Barbara. In 1965 Trane moved them to Lexington, Kentucky, where they enjoyed hiking and canoeing in the Red River Gorge and got involved in saving this national treasure from being dammed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Thus began a long and continuing membership in the Sierra Club.Barb went on to later serve two terms on the Club's national Board.   

After moving back to La Crosse, the BWCA has been a special vacation place for them.They've taken over 25 camping trips there, starting out with a 75 pound canoe, tenting, portaging and cooking over a campfire. They've since graduated to a 30 pound Kevlar canoe and now stay in a cabin on the edge of the wilderness.

Don retired from Trane in 1988, but continued to do several special assignments for them. After that he served as President of Machine Products Co. in La Crosse, and then as President of Fusion Coatings Co. in Winona. He finally learned how to retire for good, but soon became very involved with volunteer activities. He was a community member on the Gundersen/Lutheran Board of Trustees and has served on several of its committees. Don also was treasurer for the Mobile Meals program where he was frequently drafted to make deliveries. Don has had a 20 year commitment as Coordinator for the La Crosse area AARP Tax-Aide program.

When Barb termed out as a Mississippi Valley Conservancy board member Don joined the Board and served as its treasurer for a few years before the Conservancy went to accrual accounting. He is now an Emeritus Board Member after having termed off the Board in 2017. Don and Barbara have two married children and four grandchildren.

Barbara Frank

Board member emeritus
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Barbara has been involved for over 50 years with environmental protection at local, state, and national levels. Her special interests include environmental health, environmental politics, energy and climate change.

She was one of the co-founders of Mississippi Valley Conservancy and is a past board member. In addition, she has served numerous other organizations as a Board member, co-founder and financial supporter: the Hixon Forest Eco-Park, Coulee Partners for Sustainability, the Coulee Region Group of the Sierra Club and the La Crosse Community Theater. She has also been active with the League of Women Voters, the Pump House and Options in Reproductive Care. She was a member of the Minnesota- Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission.

Barbara was Board President of Lutheran Hospital at the time of their merger with Gundersen Clinic. She served two terms on the National Sierra Club Board and has been active on the Club's State Chapter ExCom. She also works with Midwest Environmental Advocates.

Barbara was honored by Gathering Waters as their 2003 Conservationist of the Year and in 1998 received a Special Service Award from the National Sierra Club. Her hobbies and interests include art, especially painting; reading, she's a member of 3 book groups; canoeing, loves the Boundary Waters; and cooking, which she finds very creative.  She and her husband Donald have been happily married since 1960. They have 2 married children and 4 grandchildren.