Project: Duets

  • “Duets” is an occasional feature that celebrates unique relationships between two people. Gail Rosenblum writes the words, and Jim Gehrz takes the pictures. Send ideas to, or call 612-673-7350. Please put "Duets" in the subject field.

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The Rev. Jim Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church and Lee Blons, director of Beacon Interfaith Housing, have worked to rebuild community together for more than a decade.

  • Duets: Lee and Jim move on

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM ,Star Tribune Publish December 27, 2014 2:00 AM / Update December 27, 2014 7:56 AM

    “She’s thorough, smart, collegial, strategic,” says Jim. “Maybe there’s someone in the universe who could do this work as well as Lee, but I’d be hard-pressed to pick who that would be.”

    Lee, whose blood type is community activism, is equally affirming.


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Longtime friends Ed Crozier, right, and Dick Duerre with their hunting dogs, Patch and Scout, in Bloomington. “They’re a good pair,” Ed says of the French Brittany spaniels. “Better than Dick and I.”

  • Duets: Ed Crozier and Dick Duerre

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish November 29, 2014 2:00 AM / Update November 29, 2014 6:36 AM

    Ed Crozier glanced up from his coffee mug on a winter morning and noticed a man cross-country skiing on a lake behind his home. Ed and his wife, Caryl, waved the man inside to thaw out and chat.

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Noah Johnson is a sixth-grader who lives in Isle, Minnesota. Noah has been blind since birth. Dianna Bearman is the gifted young man’s online piano instructor from MacPhail Center for Music. Piano lessons are conducted via the Internet on Skype. ] JIM GEHRZ • / Minneapolis, MN / June 25, 2014 / 4:00

  • Duets: Noah and Diana

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM and JIM GEHRZ , Star Tribune staff writers Publish August 30, 2014 2:00 AM / Update October 23, 2014 2:47 PM

    Brad Johnson knew that his son, Noah, was musically gifted. An early clue was finding the tiny boy asleep on his electric keyboard. When Brad played any key on his iPad, Noah could identify it, every time.

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Wandering down an alleyway in the poor village of Ayacucho, Melanie Ebertz of Stillwater spotted Wilbur Quispe weaving through an open doorway. Shortly after, their lives became forever entwined.

  • Duets: Wilbur and Melanie woven together across continents

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish July 26, 2014 2:00 AM / Update July 25, 2014 2:35 PM

    The “lost child” is gone now. In his place, a confident man weaves a work of art. Surrounded by orbs of richly colored, hand-dyed yarn — turquoise, fiery red, aubergine — he guides strands of alpaca fiber and sheep’s wool through his hands and onto a wooden treadle loom. An hour for every inch of progress.

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David, left, accompanies Mike on his delivery route.

  • Duets: Mike and David deliver

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish June 28, 2014 2:00 AM / Update June 28, 2014 6:43 AM

    Nothing keeps Mike White from his daily dairy deliveries — not even surgery. Two weeks ago, the third-generation milkman wrapped up his route at 11:30 a.m., showered and arrived at the hospital by 1:30 p.m. for what was fortunately an uneventful hernia repair.

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Peggy Mansur works in the admissions office at St. Thomas Academy, where she has been invaluable in assisting Don Kim, a student from South Korea, through many challenges.

  • Duets: Peggy and Don

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish May 31, 2014 2:00 AM / Update June 10, 2014 9:10 AM

    As a freshman at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights four years ago, Don Kim dropped by Peggy Mansur’s office three times a week. Or five. Peggy was always happy to see him.

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Twin Cities runners Allison Luse and David Munn ran in the Boston Marathon this year.

  • Duets: David and Allison

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish April 26, 2014 2:00 AM / Update June 10, 2014 9:11 AM

    Allison Luse of St. Paul finished the 2014 Boston Marathon in an impressive 3:29:53. Anyone who knows her running buddy, David Munn of Minneapolis, immediately knew his finishing time, too: 3:29:53.

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They began as an 8th-grade reading buddy and a budding kindergarten reader, but as the year wraps up at Carondolet Catholic School, Leni Kuhn and Caroline Monchamp have become far greater buddies.

  • Duets: Caroline and Leni

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish March 29, 2014 2:00 AM / Update June 10, 2014 9:11 AM

    Leni Kuhn, 5, leaps from her art table, races into the kitchen and presents a drawing to her mother, Hannah. The Crayola artist has drawn two stick figures — one tall, one small. Both have blonde hair, blue eyes and big smiles. Leni doesn’t title her piece. She doesn’t need to.

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Bill Vogel, 91 (right) and Sam Ringstad, 25, have been spearfishing together for years. The pair recently walked to their fish house on Lake Marion in Lakeville.

  • Duets: Years apart, they won't let this friendship get away

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish January 25, 2014 2:00 AM / Update February 12, 2014 12:00 PM

    Sam Ringstad isn’t surprised that nobody else has shown up on Lake­ville’s Lake Marion as he and his fishing buddy trek toward their 4-by-5 plywood paradise. It is, after all, 15 degrees below zero on this late January morning and the two men are about to step into a shack dominated by a hole big enough for both men to fall into. Then they’ll close the door and sit in the dark for a few hours, holding heavy metal spears.

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Shirley Walsh (getting hugs, right) and Betty Stranberg (far left) greet friends and relatives at their “90th-X-2” birthday. The women graduated from high school together in 1942 and are neighbors.

  • Duets: Betty and Shirley celebrate 90 years together

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Publish February 22, 2014 2:00 AM / Update February 21, 2014 2:54 PM

    On warm summer days for 20 years, Betty Stranberg has walked out her back door, strolled down the alley, jogged slightly to the left and arrived at the home of Shirley Walsh for coffee and conversation about their favorite topic: grandchildren.

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Yoga instructor Matthew Sanford (in wheelchair) conducted a class with students, who included Bruce Kramer (on table). ] (JIM GEHRZ/STAR TRIBUNE) / November 8, 2013, Minnetonka, MN – FOR DUETS COLUMN

  • Duets: Matthew and Bruce

    Publish November 30, 2013 2:00 AM / Update February 12, 2014 12:02 PM

    Bruce Kramer took his first yoga class with Matthew Sanford in January of 2012, waiting reverentially for his teacher to arrive.

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Chris Henningsen, left, gave part of his liver to former bandmate Aaron Kaercher. The pair recently returned to the U of M Medical Center two weeks after the surgery for a “thank-you” performance.

  • Duets: Chris and Aaron

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish December 28, 2013 2:00 AM / Update February 12, 2014 12:01 PM

    Chris Henningsen was hoping that Aaron Kaercher would join his extended family for Christmas brunch this year , and Aaron knows why.

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Friends Bev Atkinson and Piyali Dalal enjoyed each other’s company while baking together. Atkinson was Dalal’s adviser in college and the pair have remained friends.

  • Duets: Piyali and Bev cook up a friendship

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish October 26, 2013 2:00 AM / Update October 25, 2013 2:22 PM

    The freshly baked pumpkin pie luring visitors into the sunny kitchen of Bev Atkinson’s northeast Minneapolis home is no ordinary pumpkin pie to Piyali Dalal.

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JIM GEHRZ • Star Tribune Friends Betsy Peak (left) and Lisa Marie Borchert volunteer as ushers at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.

Writer Gail Rosenblum and photographer Jim Gehrz are the people behind Duets.

  • Duets: Enduring friendships, perfect pairings

    Publish June 27, 2013 2:00 AM / Update June 27, 2013 8:17 AM

    A little more than seven years ago, Star Tribune staff photographer Jim Gehrz and staff writer Gail Rosenblum walked into a Minneapolis barbershop to launch a feature called Duets. It was the brainchild of Lisa Clausen, the late features   design director, who challenged Jim and Gail to capture, in a single photo and short prose, the essence of a friendship between two people. Jim and Gail are still at it. Today, as the popular monthly feature marks its 50th installment, we revisit three Duets pairings ­— Sophia and Alexander, Pete and Leo, and Leah and Peter ­— plus a new one, Gail and Jim.

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Linda Wicklund (in red) tours the American Swedish Institute with longtime friend, Maiia Zuieva at her side.

Jordan and Aaron

Joey Ziegler, 33, and Pete Muscala, 92, meet for a friendly but competitive game of cribbage at the Our Kitchen diner in south Minneapolis.

  • Duets: Joey and Pete cook up a game of cribbage

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish February 19, 2013 2:00 AM / Update June 25, 2013 9:56 AM

    Joey Ziegler shakes seasoning salt onto a thick piece of steak, throws it onto a sizzling grill and turns toward the counter to face Pete Muscala. Now Joey’s really feeling the heat.

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Best friends Marthe Herbert, left, and Jil Ocel displayed a raccoon named Fingers to a group in Shakopee.

Nancy Cohen works with Brian Walsh on job skills.

Ella, left, and Bella enjoyed an afternoon play date at Bella’s home.

Friends for 47 years, Jane Klein, facing camera, left, and Linda Klein, right, have created a safe and supportive space for women with Stage IV cancer.

Annabelle Dale, 100 (right) and friend Joyce McCarthy have teamed up t...

Glen Lake Elementary School fifth grade teacher Elizabeth Ogren (foreground) and Hannah Swaden (glasses, burnt-orange blouse) worked with students on a project that involved planning a mock city, from the basic layout to housing, commerce and government.

Marilyn Jenkins walks Blossom every morning at 8.

On a recent trip to the skating rink with Kim Deprenger, right, Aga Ayana helps 6-year-old friend Feanan put on his skates before they take a spin.

Judy Nobles, left, and Annie Schmitt.

  • Judy & Annie: Sharing love of music

    Article By: BY GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish February 21, 2012 2:00 AM / Update March 29, 2012 2:56 PM

    Every week for nearly three years, Judy Nobles, 70, has wheeled Annie Schmitt , 97, into her St. Paul senior center's lounge for an organ lesson. They make beautiful music together.

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Charlotte De Vaughn, 11, and her friend, Carter Holmes, 62.

Owl watching.

Brooke (right) and Katie Ylitalos.

Mark Zingerman, right, and Dale Hulme

Shirley Ungar (left) and Sherley Unger.

  • Tale of Shirley & Sherley

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM and JIM GEHRZ , Star Tribune Publish September 27, 2011 2:00 AM / Update March 29, 2012 3:01 PM

    Three years ago, Shirley Ungar moved into a second-floor condominium in Falcon Heights, causing quite a stir. That's because Sherley Unger already lived there -- directly above her, one floor up.

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Don Morrison, left, and Susan Fritz.

Aaron and Elijah Blasingame, both 7 and identical twins.

  • Aaron & Elijah: Brotherly love

    Article By: BY GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish July 19, 2011 2:00 AM / Update March 16, 2012 2:23 PM

    Twin brothers -- one with cerebral palsy, one without -- have been sweetly connected from the start.

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Friends of jazz and each other.

Diane Mosel (left) and Soraida Palacios

Owner Dick Kramer, right, with customer Scott Reeves, at Dick's Sports Barbers in Edina.

  • Dick & Gene: Still clipping along

    Article By: PORTRAITS IN WORDS, PICTURES BY GAIL ROSENBLUM and JIM GEHRZ , Publish April 12, 2011 2:00 AM / Update March 16, 2012 2:24 PM

    Dick Kramer, 64, and Gene Tuftin, 58, are traditional guys, which means you won't find them on Facebook or Twitter. Their social network is called good old-fashioned, customer-is-always-right service at their Edina barbershop.

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Cathy Bratter, drumming under the guidance of teacher Al Dworsky.

Bob Dalton and Ann Hinrichs

Fredda Schobey worked for years to help get Genet Habtemicael’s two daughters out of Eritrea.

Joyce Gustafson and Diana Cumming.

Julie Clemons explains the lost and found area to Hunter Knettel.

Anne Noonan (left) and Lisa Grant

Larry Rolf, Denny Daniels

Muzamil and Sharon.

Brothers David and Michael Gair.

Social worker Sue Johnston and Mike Passig, Plymouth police officer.

Joyce and Lane: Lessons end, friendship begins

  • Joyce & Lane: Lessons end; friendship begins

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish October 6, 2008 2:00 AM / Update January 31, 2012 12:55 PM

    Lane Christianson, 44, was at his childhood elementary school in Maplewood when he saw a name on a classroom door: Mrs. Bell. He wondered, THE Mrs. Bell? He wrote an impromptu note: “I don’t know if you remember me …”

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Angie Andersen and Susan Lacek

Eleanor and Carol

Bill Morin

Judy Blaseg and Quentin Moore

Cori Linehan has been a nanny to Amanda Ling since birth.

Stan and June

  • Stan & June: To have and to hold

    Article By: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune Publish November 24, 2007 2:00 AM / Update February 7, 2012 4:05 PM

    Stanton Berg guides his wife June's rolling recliner into the chapel of the Benedictine Health Center at Innsbruck in New Brighton for reflection and prayers. He is remembering for both of them now.

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3-year-old Alexander and almost-2-year-old Sophia.

Deeq Shaklane drives veteran Betty Meservey to the Twin Cities.

Student Logan Stelten communicates with special-ed paraprofessional Frank Condon.

Peter Elsham embraces girlfriend Leah Neubeck.

Owen Luterback, 8, chats with Bob Palmehn, 77.

Jack Dean, 60, has worn an MIA/POW bracelet since 1972.

Server Bonnie Jones, 71, and manager Shawn Schmitz, 35.

Leo Odden, 70, cuts the hair of Peter Berglund, 62.


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