Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Celebrating 33 years of Ma & Pa Kettle Days

Jerome Tomczak named 2017 grand marshal


August 10, 2017

Lois E. Johnson

Jerome Tomczak, pictured with his dog, Rover, will be the grand marshal of the Ma & Pa Kettle Days parade on Saturday.

Jerome Tomczak, a lifelong resident of rural Kettle River, has been chosen as the grand marshal of the Ma & Pa Kettle Days parade.

The parade will be in Kettle River on Saturday, August 12, at 11 a.m.

Tomczak still lives on the farm where he was born 83 years ago. He has accumulated a wealth of area history from his grandparents, his parents and during his own life.

He loves to tell stories about the 1918 fire that swept through the farm where he was later born.

After the 1918 fire destroyed nearly everything in its path, the Red Cross furnished lumber and other supplies to the residents for small homes.

Tomczak said his grandmother, Belvina, was still living in one of those small homes in 1934 when he was born. That building still stands on his farm today, although the walls are weathered and sagging after nearly 99 years.

The farm itself was first homesteaded in 1913 and became a Century Farm in 2013.

Back in the days when farm work took a lot of hands, families were large. Tomczak said he had seven siblings. His wife, Regina, had 11 siblings.

Tomczak is one of three left in his family. His brother, Greg, lives nearby, and his sister, Cora Ballou, lives in Barnum.

There is one brother left in his wife's family, he said. He is 92 and lives in Duluth.

The couple did not have children of their own.

Tomczak's 600-acre farm is still a working farm. The fields spread out behind the buildings and huge round hay bales dot the landscape.

"Joe Miller makes the hay," he said. "I own 40 head of cattle with my nephew. He's got more head of cattle than I do."

In the days when Tomczak was growing up, there were little country schools scattered throughout the neighborhoods. Tomczak said he went to the Lincoln school a half mile away until it was closed. Then he went to Kalevala to school through the eighth grade. He finished high school in Moose Lake.

The Washington and Johnson schools were located in the area also.

His father, Steve, helped to build St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which still stands on Highway 27.

"It wasn't that big of a building when it was first built," said Tomczak. "It was added to in later years. My dad contributed the lumber for it and helped build it."

The church survived the 1918 fire.

Tomczak said one man had seen the wooden steps of the church burning and doused the flames.

"If he hadn't put out the fire on the steps, the church would have burned," he added.

Modern medicine is responsible for Tomczak's long life.

"I had a light stroke in 1977," he said. "And then I had another one on January 26, 1999. After my wife died, my brother Greg went with me to Illinois. I had the second stroke in Galesburg. I couldn't talk.

"I got a shot of a high dose of Heparin and that dissolved the clot. The doctor told me that I had had many little strokes in between the two bigger strokes."

Tomczak had more tests in April in Duluth, and the cause of his health problems was found.

"They found out I had a hole in my heart," he said. "They opened me up and sewed it shut. My mother had died suddenly at the age of 62. They did research and thought that she maybe had what I did."

These days, Tomczak attends church in McGregor on Sunday mornings and he meets his friends for breakfast in Barnum the other days of the week. And he still putters around on the farm, accompanied by his dog, Rover.

Tomczak said he was honored to have been chosen as grand marshal.

"When Dale Riihiluoma called, I told him that I've lived here all of my life," he said. "We're the old ones now."


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