A family, a town await

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2007 - 9:59 PM

Lisa Jolstad's husband, Greg, is one of five people still missing in the wreckage in the Mississippi.

MORA, MINN.

Lisa Jolstad's to-do list on Friday was pretty simple: Buy a new vacuum cleaner. Keep a handle on the bee epidemic looming just outside the kitchen door.

And wait for the phone call telling her that Greg was finally coming home.

"My biggest fear is that he's going to be the last one they find, and they're going to give up before they find him," she said of her husband. "He's probably under something. I don't know."

Greg Jolstad, 45, is one of five people still missing in the wreckage left in the Mississippi River by the collapse last week of the I-35W bridge.

Jolstad, a machine operator for Progressive Contractors Inc. (PCI) of St. Michael, Minn., was one of 18 construction workers doing resurfacing work on the bridge and the only one among them who wasn't found after the bridge fell on Aug. 1.

That night PCI President Mike McGray drove Lisa to Minneapolis, where she spent three agonizing days waiting for word at the Holiday Inn Metrodome. Along with the families of other missing victims, she walked out on the 10th Avenue bridge and gazed out at the broken span, jagged and crumpled in the waters below.

"I wanted to feel close to where he was," she said.

Then she returned home to her children, for whom Greg has been stepfather since they were married in 1995: Katie, 19; Kim, 18, and Nick, 17.

The family lives in the countryside north of Mora in a 97-year-old white clapboard farmhouse, where Greg and his siblings were raised.

Lisa, a Michigan native who will turn 44 next week, is a licensed tax assessor who has worked for Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties and is looking for a new job.

On Friday, she let the dogs outside -- Leo, a 9-year-old springer spaniel, and Otis, a 4-year-old basset hound -- when visitors came by.

She giggled when she recalled how Greg would pet the low-slung Otis and say, "Your lack of tallness is quite puzzling to me."

It was the kind of dry, easygoing humor that won him the nickname "Jolly" among his buddies and won her heart shortly after they first met by chance at the Crow's Nest, a bar and restaurant on nearby Knife Lake.

Their first date, a Vikings game, came two months later; he didn't have his own phone and had to use the pay phone at the Crow's Nest to reach her.

"I wasn't even looking, but I liked him right away," she said.

On Friday, the Crow's Nest sign along Hwy. 65 was wrapped in a large yellow ribbon. All of Mora, it seemed, was missing Greg.

No one else but him

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