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An Outsider's View of Rolfe
Joe Cunningham
6363 Deframe Way; Arvada, CO 80004
Spouse of 1961 Rolfe High School graduate Julie Bielefeldt

I was born and mostly raised in Kellogg, Iowa, 35 miles east of Des Moines on US highway 6. Kellogg was a town not unlike Rolfe in size and in many ways, service. Kellogg, too, had its railroad and CO-OP grain elevator. At the beginning of my 10th grade year I went kicking and screaming, along with my Kellogg companions, to Newton Public Schools. My parents moved to Davenport, Iowa during the second semester of my senior year and I lived with my sister until I graduated in 1961. After wandering for a while, I moved to Denver, Colorado for a period of time. Eventually I returned to Iowa. In the fall of 1962 a friend from my graduating class talked me into a blind date with his girl-friend's roommate.

In the course of the date, she revealed that she was from Rolfe. I said, "Rolfe?!" She replied, "Yes! Do you know where Rolfe is?" I replied, "I've never heard of it." That was the beginning of a romance that has lasted 37 years. In 1996 Julie Ann Bielefeldt and I were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Because my family left Kellogg, then Newton, then Iowa, Rolfe has played an important part in my life. I have known Pete Bielefeldt longer than I knew my own father. And, of course, Pearl who cared so much for everyone. In the past 37 years I have spent much more time in Rolfe than I have spent in Kellogg, the town of my birth. When I first visited Rolfe I was impressed by the vitality that I felt there. Though it was a small town, much like Kellogg, Rolfe had a life and a vibrancy that I had never experienced.

I have numerous remembrances of Rolfe over those many years, more than I can possibly relate here. However, one that stands out in my mind as we approach the new millennium is the New Years eve when I drove from Iowa City to Rolfe for the holiday. I stopped at the Rolfe's state-owned liquor store to buy a bottle of champagne. The proprietor, who shall remain anonymous, grilled me thoroughly about who I was, who I was visiting and why I wanted the champagne. I have always thought of that caring and concern for the "locals" as the epitome of the small Midwestern town. Or was he just being overly exuberant in his curiosity?

I have watched Rolfe change over the years. It seems as though every time a building burns down, it is not replaced, but just miraculously becomes a plot of grass. I have despaired as I have watched the town that I adopted as my own subside from the exciting small prairie town to a village that struggles to maintain its identity.

And naturally I remember Sam & Gerri Nicoson, Virgil Hancher, the Kerns family, the Simonsons, Pastor Tange (who married us), Pastor Dave Peterson, Dick and Alice Bierstedt, Bill, Dorothy and Mary Ann Brinkman, the Dixons, "Cousin" Judy and the anguish of Mamie's murder, Ruth, Lou and Sheri Feldman, Vi and Arnie Wold, the Gunderson family, the Ryen sisters, Archie and Helen Phillips, the Beckord and Jordan families and Mike Behrendsen (who always makes me feel at home). And of course the entire class of '61!

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