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'Prairie Angels' makes a timely arrival in Renville County

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Submitted Don Orth put out a call for stories of angel experiences, and soon had more stories than could be contained in one book. 2 / 5
Submitted Don Orth, right, was assisted by illustrator Rick Vogt, left, and page designer Abby McQuillen, in producing "Prairie Angels.'' They are shown in St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Olivia. 3 / 5
Submitted Ann Orth met the Dalia Lama, Lhamo Dondrub, while undergoing care at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. 4 / 5
TOM CHERVENY | TRIBUNE The stories of inspiration that are told in the recently released "Prairie Angels'' were timely for Don Orth. They arrived for his editing prior to publication as he was caring for his wife, Ann, who died recently of cancer. 5 / 5

From the comfort of coffee shops, his home in Olivia and an office with its own baby grand piano, Don Orth has edited and produced eight books telling the stories of the greater Renville County community.

For the ninth, he did much of the work from the bedside of his dying spouse.

And unlike the eight that preceded it, "Prairie Angels'' is not a collection of whimsical and humorous stories intended as much to entertain as to inform. It's the inspirational stories of dozens of residents who tell of the guardian angels that have protected them and, in some cases, led them to spiritual awakenings.

"Very uplifting for me, these stories. Every one of them,'' said Orth.

It is exactly what Orth needed as he served as caretaker for his wife of 44 years. Ann underwent three regimens of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before cancer took her life at age 70.

These waters were only too familiar for the couple. They had lost their son Tim to cancer at age 18 in 1997.

Orth took on the annual task of putting together a book nine years ago. He initially wanted to give life to the poems he had written over the years, many of them crafted as he courted his eventual wife. Each year he has continued to produce another book, soliciting stories from area residents with the goal of telling the stories and history of the greater Renville County community.

Any profits generated by the sale of the books are donated to the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation. It serves to help families with children facing major medical challenges.

The idea of taking a spiritual theme in the latest book was one that came of its own, when Orth had no way of knowing how editing these stories could help carry him through a difficult time.

Orth said he had only to put out word that he was looking for stories about angel experiences. They came one after the other, more than he could fit into one book. This one holds a full 200 pages of stories and photos.

Some of the book's contributors tell of how they believe guardian angels saved their lives. A midnight angel comes as a shadow and wakes Jackie Kaufenberg in the nick of time to extinguish the candle she had left burning in her home. Dan Rothmeier wrote about how the family lost a father and husband in a farm accident before the harvest could be completed. And days later, a man and combine showed up to harvest the remaining crop. He leaves without giving a name.

Scott S. writes about doing the work of a guardian angel. He has no idea why he left early one January morning to ice fish, but his timely arrival saved the life of another angler who was being poisoned by carbon monoxide in a neighboring fish house.

Other contributors opened their souls to tell how angels provided the emotional or spiritual strength they needed at trying times. Mary Matthias tells how her deceased mother appeared in her dream when she most needed her mother's support during a struggle with illness. Kristi Friese credits the words of her deceased mother that came in a dream with leading her on a path of recovery after decades of addiction.

"Prairie Angels'' was published in October, the same month Ann died with her husband at her side. Orth said he realizes now the uplifting stories that comprise it were really something of an angel experience in his own life, although not the first.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Tim Orth, who Orth said has been a guardian angel for him and family members through all these years.

Copies of the book — now in a third printing — are available at Book World in Willmar, and in Olivia at the Page and Olivia Drug stores, and Hometown Bank. They can also be ordered by contacting Don Orth through Facebook or

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335