Wayside crew leader takes pride in site appearance
- Article by: ANN WESSEL
- Associated Press
- June 2, 2014 - 12:05 AM
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Norm Greenwaldt has his regulars. People who start waving from the parking lot when they see him. People who leave him home-canned pickles. People who talk farming.
For most, the Central Minnesota Travel Information Center off U.S. Highway 10 just outside St. Cloud is a quick stop between Minneapolis and the cabin. For others, the site nicknamed "the silo" for its sole remnant of the farm that once stood there, is a meeting place with a hard-to-miss landmark.
"It's a home away from home for me," said Greenwaldt, 74, of Sauk Rapids.
On a recent Wednesday morning, the maintenance crew leader took a break from soaping and squeegeeing the front windows to talk about what it's like to maintain the site and deal with the stream of people who stop in. He's met a busload of Italian farmers. A guy from his hometown. A Twin Cities couple who made a mini-vacation out of a picnic on the oak-shaded grounds.
He's also met the rare character who's up to no good, the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1wvEV0B ) reported.
Greenwaldt likes to talk, and it's that interaction that's kept him working at a job he said he didn't want at first.
As he washed the windows, Greenwaldt greeted everyone who passed through the doors with a smile and a cheery "Good morning!" Some of them paused to banter a bit. In addition to the usual maintenance and scheduling, his to-do list included reseeding patches of grass and planting more bulbs.
"He's one of the most conscientious crew leaders we have. He's always got a smile on his face. I don't think I've ever seen him down about anything," said Don Knutson, executive director of Green View. The nonprofit contracts with government agencies, putting senior citizens to work at about 200 sites throughout Minnesota — including rest areas and state parks.
At the St. Cloud stop, Greenwaldt works with five regular and two alternate Green View employees whose duties include mowing, clearing snow and picking up trash. He speaks with pride of keeping the place clean, the landscaping attractive. A certificate naming the site among the top three in its category hangs above the desk in the small, neat office.
"They told me, 'Run it like it's yours,' " Greenwaldt said.
Greenwaldt ran a dairy farm near Bertha for five years, and then became a supervisor at a Hibbing foundry where he worked for 27 years. He retired early, at age 61, to care for his wife, Joyce, who died almost two years ago. They had moved from Hibbing to the St. Cloud area because it was one place where they could find all three of the specialists she needed. When she was well enough, they traveled.
He had planned to stay retired, but then his daughter needed someone to help with her apartment-cleaning business. A friend saw the work he did there and suggested he check out the Green View program. He declined at first but then gave in and applied. He soon got a call wondering when he could start. That was almost 11 years ago.
"I'm just glad I took this job because it gives me an outing and something to do and (it's) being around people and I love being around people," Greenwaldt said.
At home, he said, he would be up by 5:30 a.m., finish household chores and meal planning, and then have the rest of the day in front of him. When a friend asked if he'd rather pitch horseshoes or work at the wayside, he chose the latter — because he'd meet more people there.
A recent weekday drew about 750 people. A summer weekend could triple that figure.
Greenwaldt greets everyone he sees.
"We want to make sure they feel welcome, they feel like they're at home," Greenwaldt said.
An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by St. Cloud Times
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