Community
Page B6, B9
Sunday, October 19, 1997
 

Mentors made the difference
in Dan Mundt's busy lifestyle
 

Dick Palmer
Budgeteer News  


The word for this week is "Mentor."

Our good neighbor reflects on a lifetime of memories that include a number of mentors who have helped him shape a life of commitment and contribution.

Dan Mundt was born on July 28, 1927 in Barron, Wis.  He was one of four children, two of which were from Dad's previous marriage. The family grew up in nearby Spooner. 

Today railroading is somewhat obscure in most sections of the country, but in Spooner, in the early 1900s, railroading was a way of life. Spooner was a divisional point where 26 passenger trains passed through daily. Today, Dan is president of the Railroad Memories Museum in Spooner. 

Pleasant early childhood memories were somewhat of a blur for Dan. For one thing, the Great Depression was in full swing and there wasn't a lot of money around to buy ice cream cones, and other pleasures were obviously limited. However, Dan and his younger brother, Fred, did a lot of hunting and fishing together and Dan indeed loved sports and he was pretty good at it too.  When Dan was 14 years old, a divorce split the family in two and Mom, Dan and Fred moved to Shawano, Wis. near Green Bay where Mom resumed her teaching career as a remedial reading instructor. She was an early mentor to Dan. 

Shawano was a bustling community, active in tourism, lumber and agriculture. In fact, a major paper mill was the hub of Shawano's economy.

School was great, reflects Dan.  Even at an early age, he had an inquisitive mind and loved to visit the local blacksmith who was street wise and willing to take the time to visit with Dan and others.  And, of course, high school sports was Dan's greatest love, and he was a strong kid who played quarterback and half back in senior high school.  But there was more, of course.  High school teacher Sarah Mielke was perhaps Dan's first real mentor.  The blacksmith was too, but Miss Mielke really cared about her students and Dan will never forget her. She was an excellent teacher with perception as well, she advised the young men in her high school classes how to prepare for the Army as World War II was in full swing.  Another mentor, Otto Reetz, Shawano school superintendent, was also a strong mentor. We are just getting started here.

In high school, Dan was active in speech, debate, original oratory, football, basketball and track. How did he keep in shape during summer break? He worked as a farm hand near Madison, Wis. He did it all, pitched hay, milked the cows, cleaned up the manure, did some weeding and the list goes on. Well, as some say, busy hands are happy hands. 

Dan graduated from high school in 1945 and joined the Army as a buck private. He received his basic infantry training at Camp Robinson, Ark., where he applied for officers candidate school. He was interested in chemical warfare, engineering or the military police. None of the above of course were offered, and instead, he was assigned to the field artillery and took his officer training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and then was assigned to the 12th Infantry Division in the Philippines, as a second lieutenant in command of Company B, 24th Battalion. 

He loved it and was stationed at Camp O'Donnell where the Bataan Death March ended. He could have stayed in the Army as a regular Army officer but opted to move on with his life and was separated in 1948, returning to Shawano. He took a special General Educational Development Test and qualified to skip most of the first two years of college. He entered the University of Minnesota n Minneapolis, and earned a bachelors degree in business administration in 1951.

While at the U of M, Dan worked part-time at the Northeast Neighborhood House, assisting immigrants from Poland adjust to life in Minneapolis.  It was a great opportunity for community services and a strong seed was planted. Also, during this period, another mentor in Dan's life surfaced - Herb Heneman. Heneman was assistant head of industrial relations at the U of M. His careful guidance and interest in Dan made the transition from the military to the world of business just a little easier. 

After college, Dan went to work for Munsingwear and again, another mentor, George Prouty, head of Munsingwear industrial relations, took a liking to Dan and kept him apprised of the changing trends in business. Dan was on his way in the world of business. 

Time to back up just a little bit here.  Catherine Sulzbach was also a student at the U of M and active in the Wesley Foundation on campus. So was Dan, and they met at a foundation dance, started dating and were married right after Dan graduated on March 24, 1951. Catherine became an elementary teacher.

The couple is blessed with five children, Mary Lou Tarvers of Duluth, Dan, Jr., of Eau Claire, Wis., Martha Haessly of Becker, Minn., David of Duluth and Sarah Zarbock of Menomonie, Wis. Dan and Catherine have eight grandchildren. That's the family tree to the present time. His five children have been an inspiration and example to Dan.

Dan's career at Munsingwear took off and he was sent to Alabama to test  prospective employees for a new plant.

He was now heavily involved in the world of business, dealing with legal, personnel and industrial relations issues. A decision was in the making. Dan reasoned that going to law school would make sense. He left Munsingwear and enrolled in law school, again at the U of M, and he used the G.I. Bill for most of the tuition. There was no spare money, really. Catherine was teaching school, and the couple lived in a cramped apartment in Dinky Town, just off campus. He was facing a three year course and tightening the belt became a way of life for the young couple.

Now, some more mentors and friends. Wilbur Korfhage, pastor at the Wesley Foundation and First Methodist Church in Minneapolis was very special to Dan and Cathy. Dan started and was manager of the Arrow Inn Cooperative on campus at the First Methodist Church. The coop served 250 people a day and students paid $8 a week to eat three meals a day. 

Dan did other jobs, too, including work at parking lots during the summer break and Catherine worked for the city recreation department, It was a very busy time for the young couple and it kept bread and drink on the table. 

During this period, Dan was an Assistant Pastor at North Methodist Church. He preached and worked with kids up to college age. Dan graduated in 1954 with a Juri Doctor of Law degree. He continued his education by earning a Master's Degree in Psychology, in 1956. Again, the influence of two mentors, Bill Lockhart, dean of the University School of Law, and Don Patterson, school of psychology, were always around to pick up the broken pieces, apply the glue and keep Dan on course. 

Closeup of Dan MundtFrom there his legal expertise expanded into corporate law and he came to Duluth to practice law. He became a legal specialist for the timber industry.

His family was growing and so was his diversity in the field of law. In addition to his work for the Minnesota Timber Producers Association, he represented Arrowhead Grocery, an area wholesale grocery firm, Jeno Paulucci and his various interests, as well as some retail grocers in the area. 

He was licensed to practice law in three states. His diverse legal career has spanned client representation in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Michigan Upper Peninsula. For over 22 years, he has been extensively involved with the International  Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans throughout the United States and Canada.

Dan was elected for two terms on the Duluth School Board. For four years, he was employed by three denominations to direct a program at UMD where he also taught business law and governmental regulations of business for 18 years.

But there is another side of Dan Mundt, his devotion to God, not only as a lay preacher but as the long-term chair of the Glen Avon Presbyterian Church Legacy and Endowment Fund. This organization deals with a number of Christian related challenges throughout the community.

Dan has preached over 500 sermons throughout the area. Through the Glen Avon Presbyterian Church Legacy and Endowment Fund, he is involved in seminars, financial scholarships for ministerial candidates, helps with student loans programs. 

Elving Peterson, a former Pastor at Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, was a strong example and mentor. All this didn't happen without the guidance and patience of a number of people throughout Dan's life called mentors or special friends. Heading the list, of course, is his wife, Catherine, whose patience and continuing support was the mortar in the foundation. Dan is the president of the Northern Bible Society with worldwide connections in the area of non-denominational Christian outreach.

Dan has been a Duluth Rotarian since 1961 and often gives the invocation at the beginning of the program. He always starts with the statement, "The word for today is (blank)," and then brings into focus God's connection with the topic of the day. 

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