It's never too late to become an athlete

It's never too late to become an "athlete," says Corky Berg, a 1962 Willmar graduate. He's a career social worker who was director of the county Family Service Department when he retired.

It's never too late to become an "athlete," says Corky Berg, a 1962 Willmar graduate. He's a career social worker who was director of the county Family Service Department when he retired.

By athlete, he doesn't mean a "jock". It's more a state of mind -- a commitment to some type of exercise to attain a moderate level of fitness.

Berg belongs to the Glacial Lakes Fitness Fellowship, an informal group whose stated goal is "Encouraging community fitness and exercise for all ages and abilities."

Run, jog, bike, swim, ski, skate, paddle or walk ... it hardly matters as long as you are active.

"You can become an 'athlete' at any age," said Berg.


It means being physically active for a part of the day. At some point, the walking, the jogging and aerobic workout may just become addictive.

Berg runs and cycles, regular activities he began in his 40s.

"There's definitely a national trend toward fitness," said Berg. "People are getting more active whether it's weight loss, to relieve stress or the companionship."

This Friday, at the junior high school cafeteria, the Glacial Lakes group holds its annual awards program. The idea is to recognize individuals and organizations that set an example or promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

This is the eighth year for the awards program. The event, co-sponsored by the YMCA and the Nordic Ski Club, keeps growing. This year it also includes naming overall and age-group leaders for the Glacial Lakes Grand Prix running series. A spaghetti dinner from 5-7 p.m. will benefit Nordic skiing, including the Willmar High School team.

That Vikings' kicker

Hazel Walker of Seattle attended the Vikings' football game Sunday, but she wasn't rooting for the hometown Seahawks. She was more interested in watching her grandson, place-kicker Ryan Walker Longwell, the former Packer in his first season with the Vikings.

The former Hazel Person is a 1934 Willmar High School graduate where she was a football cheerleader. Her late husband Elloid Walker graduated in 1931 after playing on the 1930 Cardinal football team. The yearbook caption beside his senior picture reads: " 'Walks' played remarkably well. He liked to get his opponent's goat." Elloid spent a year at St. Olaf on the freshmen team but dropped out to earn money. He went to work for the Great Northern and was transferred out west to become a general claims manager.


Grandson Ryan grew up in Bend, Ore., and later kicked for the California Golden Bears. An undrafted free-agent, he is in his 10th year in the NFL. He kicked a field goal and four extra points in Sunday's victory.

Hazel attended the game with Ryan's parents.

Class of '55

Among those packing the church for the Wilt Croonquist funeral Saturday was Chuck Gustafson, a classmate in the WHS Class of 1955. Many other alumni came, some traveling great distances, to mourn the loss of a popular schoolmate.

Gustafson ran track in college and that led to a 42-year span coaching track and cross country in southern California, counting two years teaching in central Africa, where a daughter still lives.

"I signed a contract to teach in Los Angeles when I got out of college (St. Cloud State)," said Gustafson. "I spent four years in central L.A., which was a track hot bed at the time. The suburbs were booming and I took a job at Simi Valley High School in 1968, as a P.E. teacher, because the math positions were filled, and as an assistant track coach."

He would head up the track program at Simi and teach math for 28 years. He went back as an assistant coach for seven more years after retiring from the classroom in 1997. A sophomore geometry class one year in the mid-1990's included future major leaguer Jeff Weaver, the starting (and losing) pitcher for St. Louis in Game Two of the World Series.

He and his wife Nancy, an Illinois native, moved to Willmar in March.


Asked about his former classmate, a community leader who died Oct. 14 at age 69, Gustafson remembered: "Wilt was an organizer, even back in high school. He had that leadership ability, a real magnetism that drew you to him."

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