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Willmar Notebook: On the comeback road

Karen Corneil's road back from a brain aneurysm on Aug. 24 has been described as a marathon, not a sprint. Whichever, her pace is steady and sure.

Her husband, Tom, told me this week, "We've had so much support and prayers, it's sustained both Karen and myself. We're so thankful for her recovery."

She is at home. A caregiver shares her day when Tom is at the office (Corneil-Elkjer Agency). Her speech has returned. She walks about the house and planned a visit to the hairdresser this week.

The sudden brain bleed was on the right side, impacting the left side of her body, especially her left hand.

The support includes a call from Tubby Smith on Sept. 16 (Tom took it) and a signed basketball from the Gophers' men's basketball team, including past stars like Trent Tucker and Richard Coffey. Tom is a huge sports fan, especially the Willmar teams, U of M basketball and Twins baseball.

The Twins presented Karen with a bat signed by Tsuyoshi Nishioka. She received a gift certificate for two for a Murray's Silver Butterknife Steak from Sir Sidney (Sid Hartman). Tom suspects Dave Mona was behind it.

Karen was struck down while visiting her daughter, Julia Corneil-Smith, and family in Blaine. There was no warning, not even a headache. She was found collapsed on the floor, groggy but conscious. Jeremi, her son-in-law, called 911. That evening neurosurgeons at Hennepin County Medical Center operated for six hours to repair the rupture.

Three days later, Tom left her bedside to throw out the first pitch at the Twins vs. Tigers game.

"I wasn't going to do it but the doctors and staff insisted that I should go," said the 40-game ticketholder. He had been selected for the honor after filling out an online Twins' survey.

His sons, Jon of Naples, Fla., and Dave of Litchfield, and six grandchildren, joined him on the playing surface at Target Field.

Karen is a Chicago native who was studying for an RN degree at Bethel College when she met the 1963 Willmar graduate, who played baseball on the college team.

Karen is the assistant manager at the Willmar Surgery Center.

She already had scheduled her retirement for the end of October. She's been concerned about returning to work to help train her replacement.

Following surgery, she spent three weeks at HCMC. She moved to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, an acute care facility whose intensive rehabilitation programs include physical and speech therapy for brain injury. After that she transferred to United/Sister Kenny, also in St. Paul.

"We had so much help along the way," said Tom. "We saw a lot of other people in brain trauma recovery and not all are as fortunate as we've been."

Boe knows baseball

Dennis Boe, a graduate of Minneapolis Southwest, has been around baseball along time. The retired high school coach and Twins scout now brings his experience to Ridgewater College.

The Warriors' new head baseball coach attended North Hennepin Community College and Hamline College. His first teaching job was at Waseca where he coached freshman baseball for five years. He was the head coach of the Redwood Falls/Redwood Valley Cardinals for 29 years, ending a 34-year teaching career in 2008.

He covers the Upper Midwest for the Twins, working under the supervision of Mark Wilson and Terry Ryan. He scouts college (especially Northern Sun), high school, Legion and the Northwoods League.

He's no stranger to Ridgewater Baseball. His son, Corey, played second based for Dwight Kotila in 2002-04 and went on to Northland College in Ashland, Wis., where he played for Joel Barta, who succeeded Kotila in 2008. Boe is replacing Barta, who resigned in September to become head coach at the University of Mary, a NCAA Division II program in North Dakota.

Boe and his wife, Katie, also have a son, Casey, who lives in New Ulm and has two children. Corey teaches and is a head baseball coach in Iowa.

Boe worked with 16 to 20 first- and second-year players over 19 practice days this fall. He expects a roster of 20-24 come January and the start of small-group practice.

"I wasn't thinking of returning to coaching but when this opportunity came up it seemed like a good fit," Boe said. "It seems like a nice group of boys.

Smith's 1st year

Cleveland Indians farmhand Jordan Smith spent three weeks at the club's Fall Instructional League in Goodyear, Ariz.

The players were drilled on fundamentals, especially defense, where bunt and base running situations were reviewed.

He worked with a variety of coaches but his main coach in the field was Travis Fryman, who played third for the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians over a 13-year career.

From Sept. 25-Oct. 14, the third baseman/outfielder played in six games batting .333 (6-for-18) and hit his first home run as a professional.

He called his first year in professional baseball "A lot of fun" and plans to spend the winter conditioning here for spring training in March at the Goodyear complex. He's a solid 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, up 10 pounds from when the summer campaign ended.

The 21-year-old, 2009 Willmar graduate batted .300 playing for the Cleveland entry team in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League. That followed two seasons at St. Cloud State and the 2010 summer playing for the Willmar Stingers.

He'll be watching his sister, Hannah, a standout hitter in her own right for Ridgewater, in the Region 13A volleyball tournament semifinals on Friday and plans to attend the Concordia College home game with Bethel College on Saturday. His former teammate, quarterback Mike Dunham, is in his third year starting for the Cobbers, while a good friend, Jay Hilbrands from Clara City (MACCRAY), is the top receiver for the Royals.

Ties to Wayzata

Wayzata (8-0) knocked off No. 1 Eden Prairie on Oct. 19 9-0 in the regular-season finale and took over the top spot in the final Class 5A football heading to the playoffs. The Trojans quarterback is Nick Martin, the son of 1981 WHS grad and 2010 Cardinal Pride HOF inductee Bob Martin. The Trojans' quarterbacks coach is David Lutz, a 2003 WHS graduate who threw for 1,031 yards in nine games his senior year. Nick has thrown for 1,079 yards, 13 TDs with 3 INTs. The defending big-school champions had a bye Tuesday.

Hoops refs needed, pays well

City recreation needs officials for the winter season starting in early December. The Wednesday Night men's basketball league at the City Auditorium pays refs $20 per hour. A basic knowledge of the game is needed and there will be a rules meeting Nov. 30. WCER rec supervisor Brad Bonk has plenty of teams but no officials. If interested call Brad at 320-231-8490.

On the fly

n The Central Lakes Conference recently honored Willmar senior Cesar Jimenez as Boys Soccer Offensive Performer of the Week for scoring 3 goals plus 2 assists in a pair of Section 2A victories. Lauded the Defensive Player of the Week was Cardinals sophomore goalie Charlie Trochlil who posted two shutouts and stopped a penalty kick.

n Cardinal volleyball had two strong junior varsity teams this fall. JV I, coached by Mandi Norby, finished 11-1 in the CLC and 14-5 overall; JV II, coached by Jana Peterson, compiled a 10-2, 14-6 mark.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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