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Continued: Retirees offer precious free time to serve community

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 17, 2014 - 2:00 PM

It began with a drill with the county’s volunteer emergency response team. “I was just handling the paperwork, really, but there were 50 firefighters and I knew all their names.”

Then it was up to the new YMCA to ponder landscaping that he’s coordinating, which led to a chance meeting with a library board member who wanted to talk about a plan to sell used books on Amazon.

Up walked the fifth-grade math teacher whose students Hasegawa had coached for a math competition in Duluth. A spring blizzard thwarted their trip, though, disappointing the kids. So Hasegawa suggested staging their own event, which led to walking to the food co-op to reserve its community room.

“That’s how business gets done up here,” he said. “And there’s something kind of cool about it. I feel like I know more people socially here than I ever did at home.”

Still, Heideman allowed as how “I’m not sure we’re ready to go to the VFW on Friday night. But as a result of our activities, we work with a lot of the locals. You get to know everyone.”

Aging in place, with support

Medical care is a special concern in small towns, and especially among retirees conscious of emergency needs. That’s one reason to keep an eye on the health of the North Shore Hospital and Care Center, the most remote critical care hospital in Minnesota. (The next nearest is 80 miles away in Two Harbors.)

Hasegawa noted that the hospital’s role goes beyond residents’ needs. “As a tourist, if you get a fishhook in your eye, you want care right now. Would you go out in the desert with no canteen?”

Still, Heideman feels good enough about the health care here to move her 91-year-old father into the care center this winter. (Hasegawa’s mother, also 91, remains in Roseville.)

Clearly, they spring from good genes. Yet aging is inevitable and their graveled drive can have its challenges, especially in winter.

Would anything cause them to rethink their dream?

“Infirmity,” Heideman said simply.

“It’s hard work to live here,” Hasegawa added.

For now, they keep fit with daily hikes with their two dogs through the forest and across vast whales of exposed rock to Sweetheart’s Bluff overlooking the harbor. The hikes also fuel their love of the lake.

“Every day, I get up here and still say, ‘Oh!’ ’’ Heideman said. “The lake is always different.”

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

  • related content

  • Daily walks to Sweetheart’s Bluff overlooking the Grand Marais harbor help keep Barb Heideman and Duane Hasegawa fit.

  • Barb Heideman and Duane Hasegawa built their home as a vacation destination, then decided to move in permanently after they retired.

  • Lake Superior is a stone’s throw from the home where Duane Hasegawa and Barb Heideman live. Though retired, the couple are active in several volunteer efforts, knowing that they have time that others don’t have.

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