Don Orris speaks Friday on unique heritage & impact of local archery program

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 30, 2018 — Don Orris, of Jefferson, learned archery from his hometown heroes 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist Doreen Wilber and her husband Skeeter Wilber. And Orris has been teaching it ever since, now in the “Gang Greene” youth archery program that has evolved from one that he, the Wilbers and Phil Siglin founded in the early 1980s.

He will talk about the Wilbers and the impact that the archery program has had when he presents a program for the Greene County Historical Society on Friday, June 1, at the First Presbyterian Church in Jefferson.

The story of Doreen Wilber’s rise to Olympic gold when she was 42 years old at the games in Munich, is now well-portrayed on the Doreen Wilber Olympic Plaza, in Jefferson, which was completed in 2011 after a fundraising campaign and construction that Orris led. She died in 2008 at the age of 78. Skeeter Wilber, now 89, still lives in Jefferson but is in fragile health.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the story about how Doreen Wilber, who’d never been an athlete, got started in archery. One of the customers at Skeeter’s automotive garage traded him a bow & arrow for some car repair work.

Don Orris, with his archery coach and hero Doreen Wilber in the background.

Orris’ start in the sport was also unusual.

“I suppose it was in the late 1970s, and I was working with my dad in our hardware store,” Orris said. “Doreen came in one morning to buy something. Here she was, the champion in the Olympics, and just in conversation I said, ‘Doreen, when are you going to teach me how to shoot?’ She said, ‘Well, I’ve got some time this afternoon – come on over.’ I walked into the backroom and said, ‘Dad, I’m taking the afternoon off.’ ”

He recalls that earlier in her career, if the weather was adverse, Doreen would sometimes practice indoors in her home in Jefferson.

“She’d be at the back wall of her kitchen, and by positioning herself just right, she could see through a couple doorways to the wall on the far end of the living room – about 50 feet away,” Orris said. “The way the angles were, she had about a 4-inch clearance for an arrow to go through the doorways, but she was already so good she could shoot right through that.”

In many lessons with the Wilbers, and then as a competitive archer himself, Orris began to understand how strong and focused Doreen was when she was shooting.

“I remember one time she told me that when she was in competition, she’d totally block out all the noise and other distractions around her,” Orris said. “She said she’d get so focused that when she aimed, ‘the target seems to come toward me.’ Later, that happened to me a few times and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what she felt!’ ”

Orris said that in the early ’80s, he, his high school classmate Siglin, and the Wilbers did some planning, won grants for equipment, and taught a Junior Olympic Archery Development program in Jefferson “for 15 to 20 years,” until about the year 2000. Then they “had a hiatus” for about five years before re-starting the program with the Jefferson parks & recreation program. Orris and Siglin continue to teach in it now.

He estimates 400 to 500 young archers have gone through the program in the past 35 years.

With Orris’ June 1 presentation for the historical society in Jefferson, there will be an $8 lunch at the Presbyterian church at 12 noon, with RSVPs for members due with their community contacts by midday Wednesday, May 30. Members of the public who want to eat lunch for $10 should phone vice-president Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684. The 1 p.m. program at the church is free and all are invited.

The well-equipped archer.

Memorial homecoming tradition is growing at old Pleasant Hill Church — service Sunday features speakers, brass band, 21-gun salute & a fried chicken potluck dinner like the pioneers had

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 22, 2018 — The annual Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecoming will be held this Sunday morning, May 27, at historic Pleasant Hill Church located five miles southeast of Jefferson.

It’s a Memorial Day weekend tradition in what was one of Greene County’s early settlements.

The former Methodist church, which dates to 1881, has not been an active congregation since 1966, but a group of people from the area formed a non-profit group Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. and have maintained the church building and grounds. You’ll see this weekend that in recent weeks, the interior has been repainted by Steve Bosshart, the ash floor is being refinished by Stewart French, and other improvements have been made.

Steve Bosshart is shown here repair cracks in the Pleasant Hill church plaster, before he painted the interior. That’s his dog “Tank” assisting.

The Greene County Historical Society co-sponsors the Memorial Day weekend event.

“It’s a quiet, pastoral place,” said David Yepsen, the Jefferson native and Iowa Public Television “Iowa Press” host who will be the featured speaker on Sunday. “It’s a perfect place for prayer or reflection.”

Pleasant Hill activities on Sunday morning begin with a 9:30 a.m. church service by Central Christian Church, from Jefferson, following the theme of “Old Time Revival,” and lasting until about 10:30 a.m. The Central Christian Brass will be performing.

Outdoors at 10 a.m., there will be juice, coffee and Iowa State Fair champion cinnamon rolls by Marianne Coon Carlson, and brass band music. Freewill donations will be accepted.

David Yepsen

At 11 a.m., the traditional Pleasant Hill Memorial service begins in the church, featuring Yepsen’s remarks.

“I want to encourage people to think about ways we can honor those who sacrificed and how we can do that every day and not just Memorial Day,” he said. “To me, getting involved in politics, civic and community life is one good way. Soldiers sacrificed to protect our freedoms, we take those for granted now, and we all need to renew our obligations as Americans, especially in this important election year.”

There will also be songs by an ensemble of the Greene County Singers and members of the choir from First United Methodist Church in Jefferson.

Another traditional part of the service is a patriotic oration by Wallace Teagarden, now 95, a native of the area who lives in Ames. He recites (without notes) excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.

“I learned those in seventh grade, back in about 1937, and I’ve been reciting them ever since,” said Teagarden. “I’ve recited them at Pleasant Hill at the memorial service consecutively since 1960. So, yes, I’m going to be practicing and try to do it again this year. Of course, at my age, you never know!”

As always, the service will close with the congregation singing “Little Brown Church in the Vale.”

At 12 noon, there will be a 21-gun salute in the church yard by the Kinkead-Martin Legion Post No. 583, of Rippey, with Wayne Lautner, of Jefferson, playing taps.

Then, in a return of a favorite Pleasant Hill Church tradition of years ago, there will be a community potluck dinner — with fried chicken provided and you bring the side dishes and tableware. Freewill donations will be accepted.

Finally, at 1 p.m., the annual meeting of Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. will be held in the church building.

People who attended the homecoming a year ago may remember that the historical society commissioned acclaimed Iowa artist Zack Jones to do an oil painting of Pleasant Hill church during that gathering. The society has had high-quality canvas prints made of that painting, and a framed one will be presented to Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. on Sunday. Other canvas prints will be sold for $50 each, beginning Sunday, in a fundraiser for the historical society.

Wallace Teagarden is shown here doing his “oration” at the Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecoming last year.

This photo shows the new paint on the interior walls of Pleasant Hill Church, and the refinishing work that is underway on the floor.
Roger Aegerter, executive director of the Greene County Historical Society, shows a print on canvas of the oil painting that artist Zack Jones did of Pleasant Hill Church during the memorial homecoming last year. The prints will be for sale at this year’s gathering and then in the future at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson.
Wayne Lautner is shown here playing “Taps” after the 21-gun salute at the conclusion of the 2017 memorial service.

Exploring a pre-cut barn built in 1933 on what’s now the Tronchetti farm

By MARY WEAVER

Mary Weaver ProfilePATON, Iowa, May 9, 2018 — “The barn came on a train to Paton.” Those were the first words Sue Tronchetti used to describe the nearly 100-year-old Sears barn she and her husband Dan have on their farm east of Paton.

After I wrote a column several months ago about 1917 pre-cut homes, Dan Tronchetti told me about their pre-cut barn that was built to house Percheron workhorses.

The Tronchettis know the barn was built in the 1933 by brothers William and Rudolph Petersen. Rudolph was a bachelor and lived with William and his wife Ella. They traveled to northeast Greene County from Winterset to purchase farm ground.

The barn is a two-story structure, measuring 40-by-70 feet, built on cement. The interior wood frame was made of sturdy yellow pine, and each column is massive measuring about 12 square inches.

Though the actual receipt is not available from the Petersens, research on Sears’ barns of that era indicates a price of $769.

Each barn kit included lumber, windows, fasteners, hardware, paint and shingles, plus accessories such as animal pens, cupolas, (roof ventilators) and feed racks. This barn also included hay track, and rope.

The cost did not include the foundation, or the labor.

The advertising indicates up to 30 percent cost savings, as the lumber was pre-cut. The ad focused on less waste of lumber, and decrease of labor to achieve the cost savings. The ad further indicates, “Any handy man can erect our already-cut modern farm buildings.”

Here’s the classic Sears-brand barn which was pre-cut and shipped to Paton, for assembly at the Petersen farm that now belongs to the Tronchettis. You can understand why some of these large barns were promoted as “cathedrals of the prairie.”

It is unknown if the Petersens used the service, but Sears offered financing of new buildings. Installment payment plans were available, with payments every three months or six months. Sears charged six percent interest and encouraged payment over five years.

The work horses have long since left the large heavy-doored stalls. Percherons were massive in size as demonstrated by a remaining horse shoe held by Sue.

The Tronchettis purchased the farm in 1975 from the Petersen estate. Laura and Lisa Tronchetti had pleasure horses they housed in the barn, and their brother Brad used the barn for his 4-H cattle.

The photos show the hay storage area on the second floor, and gothic-like framing of the interior of the building. The first floor markings are visible, the same ones the Petersens probably used to assemble the building frame.

After building the barn for their animals, the Petersens built a two-story red brick home in 1937. The Tronchettis currently live in that brick residence.

Sue Tronchetti holds one of the huge shoes that Percheron workhorses wore.

The heavy wood frame of the barn shows the assembly identification marks that guided the Petersens in putting the pre-cut barn together.

A pulley left over from the hay track along one of the roof beams.

The underside of the roof shows the elaborate woodwork used in the assembly of pre-cut barns.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at mweaver235@gmail.com. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Historical Society.

Our museum has started its regular hours, opening Wednesday afternoons & Saturday mornings

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 3, 2018 — The Greene County Historical Society’s museum has now started its summer hours of operation, being open to the public on Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. and on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.  The museum will continue to observe those open hours thru September.

You or your group can also arrange to see the museum by appointment by calling at (515) 386-8544.

The museum is located at 219 E. Lincoln Way in Jefferson, two blocks east of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower.

Admission to the museum is free, although free will offerings are accepted.

The front of the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson.
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