Taylors Falls School Foundation
2016 Alumni Awards
Outstanding Graduate Award was given to Carol Ann Bjork Fontaine – Class of 1958
We recognize Carol as outstanding for her courage and accomplishments in the face of
devastating hardship. Carol began her education in the old Taylors Falls School on
Angel Hill and moved to the new school in 1952. Her world almost ended in 1953 when
in eighth grade she contracted a case of polio serious enough to put her into an iron
lung. This was extreme treatment needed to maintain breathing when the virus had
weakened chest muscles. Carol spent 16 ½ months in the Sister Kenny Institute
receiving therapy and maintaining her class work with help from tutors. She returned to
the Taylors Falls School in a wheelchair as a ninth grader, her legs paralyzed. With the
loving help of family and classmates, Carol resumed her high school education and
graduated with her original class in 1958. She worked on the school newspaper three
years and was editor her senior year. Carol was also chosen homecoming queen in her
After graduation Carol volunteered for an experimental treatment called neurotripsy
intended to improve muscle strength for polio patients. This treatment left her covered
with bruises all over her whole body. There was no benefit, however, such was the
state of medicine in 1958. With modern vaccines, we have forgotten the fear and
devastation that polio caused back in the day.
Nevertheless, Carol had the ambition to take her future into her own hands and entered
the Minneapolis Business College in 1959 to study accounting. After graduation she
was hired by Cargill Company in 1960. For the next thirty-seven years Carol worked for
Cargill and became an expert in shipping grain and commodities in world markets.
In 1974, Carol met and married her life’s partner, Lawrence (Pat) Fontaine. Pat was a
Korean War double amputee and wheelchair citizen like Carol. Their marriage lasted
twenty-five years, until Pat’s death. Both Carol and Pat had driver’s licenses and they
traveled extensively by car in America and Canada during their life together. Carol still
drives and lives in her own home with her married niece. Carol remains a model of
courage and independence. She attends class reunions and enjoys the company of old
friends and classmates.
Outstanding Staff/Faculty Award was given to Linda Swenson Granstand (1967)
I grew up in Taylors Falls and attended Taylors Falls School grades 1 – 12, graduating
in 1967. I attended Minneapolis Business College in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Triton
College in River Grove, Illinois. After high school I lived in Hawaii, Chicago and
Minneapolis, but realized there is no place like home, so moved back to Taylors Falls in
1985 and Married Jim Grandstrand in 1986. Together we have three children, who all
attended Taylors Falls School. Our children blessed us with eight grandchildren.
I have held many different positions in my lifetime: legal clerk at Castle & Cook in
Honolulu, Hawaii, manager of two pediatric clinics in Riverside, Illinois, Business
manager at Chisago Lakes Clinic and Hospital in Chisago City, Minnesota, Chamber
director in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin and hotel manager at Holiday Inn Express in St,
Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
As secretary at the Taylors Falls School district, I had the good fortune to work with
students and staff during the consolidation with the Chisago Lakes School district. It
was hard to see the end of the Taylors Falls School district, but exciting to see the
opportunities for the students with so many options in their education. The
consolidation brought many changes to Taylors Falls Elementary with so many young
students and new staff to accommodate all the students. One change that was
memorable was our first computer in the office to track attendance. Another memorable
event while at school district was the All School reunion in 1992, which was attended by
over a thousand people. We were able to gather memorabilia from past years,
programs by past students and staff. It was a day remembered by many.
Now that I am retired, I enjoy my love of quilting and teaching quilting to others, canning
in the fall and of course, spending time with family and friends.
Outstanding Citizen Award was given to Ellen Wiberg Nelson – Class of 1966
Ellen Wiberg Nelson is in the Taylors Falls class of 1966. She grew up on a dairy farm
in the Almelund area and she was confirmed in the Almelund Lutheran Church. She
married Ronnie Nelson and they have three grown children.
One of Ellen’s classmates wrote that she is a perfect example to encourage young
women to find ways to move forward, no matter how slowly, toward their dreams.
Ellen’s educational title is Dr. Ellen M. Nelson. She received her Doctorate in Public
Administration from Hamline University in 2001. She has a Masters in business,
Bachelor of Science, and an Associate Arts degree. Grants given out in programs Ellen
is associated with total more than 5 million dollars.
Finally, some of the awards and certificates that Ellen has received include:
o Instructor of the year from Rochester Community College
o Minnesota Women Business Advocate of the Year
o Certified Leadership Curriculum Phi Theta Kappa
Not bad for a Taylors Falls student!
Extra Curricular Award for the Years 1915-1952 was given to Minnie M. Ekdahl - Class of 1929
Minnie Martha Ekdahl was born in Hallock, Kittson County, Minnesota on May 15, 1909.
Her birth name was Martha Wilhelmina Victoria Ekdahl, but from her birth she was
always known as Minnie. She was the second of the four children of John Emil and
Anna (Rydberg) Ekdahl who, respectively, were a Swedish immigrant and daughter of
Swedish immigrants. The Ekdahl family moved to Taylors Falls in the summer of 1914,
when Minnie was five years old.
In the fall of 1915, Millie started the first grade in the Kingsbury School on Basil Street.
That was the first of her two school years in the first grade. She had to repeat the first
grade because when she started school she spoke no English, only Swedish. She also
had to repeat the eighth grade due to an illness that caused her to be absent too many
days from school
During her teenage years, Minnie worked for several years as the “hired girl” for the
Howard Folsom family who lived next door south of the Kingsbury School. She also did
kitchen work at the Blue Bird Inn (a restaurant) in downtown Taylors Falls and at the
Taylor Place Summer Hotel on River Street. In 1924, she was confirmed at the local
First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. She also found time to have an active
social life and had many female and male pen pals. One of her male pen pals had the
distinction of having six toes on each foot.
Regardless of repeating two grades, Minnie enjoyed her school years and, without
exception, always spoke highly of all her teachers. And, for the school district in
general, her years in school were eventful ones. When Minnie was in grade school, the
elementary wing (the original, 1887-’88 Kingsbury building) was gutted by fire on March
6, 1918. Eight years later, when she was in high school, the high school was gutted by
fire on January 20, 1926. In 1926 the Ekdahl family was living just a couple of blocks
from the school, and it was Minnie’s father who first discovered the high school fire and
turned on the alarm.
Minnie liked singing in the school’s glee club, and she especially enjoyed playing on the
TFHS girls’ basketball team during all four of her high school years. The record of the
girls’ team of Minnie’s era was unremarkable but she always treasured her blue and
white chenille school “letter,” which was exactly like those awarded to other local
athletes for several decades after. The girls’ basketball team was quite small so the
girls’ and boys’ teams practiced together, which had an unexpected impact. The girls’
teams of the surrounding schools did not like playing the Taylors Falls girls, because it
was claimed the Taylors Falls girls played too rough.
On April 16 and 19, 1929, Minnie played “Annie, the maid” in her senior class play.
“Honor Bright,” the proceeds of which went entirely for the local Tornado Relief Fund
that aided those who suffered losses in the local tornado of April 5, 1929. The April 16
performance took place in the Masonic Hall (the second/1903 Opera Hall) in downtown
Taylors Falls, while the performance on April 17 took place in the Shafer Hall in
downtown Shafer Village.
Six weeks after the senior class play, Henrietta Schipper, Minnie’s classmate and best
friend, joined Minnie in presenting their class history during their Class Day
Commencement Exercises. Those Class Day Exercises took place on the following
evening, Thursday, May 30, in the Masonic Hall. The class flower for the “Class of ‘29”
was the Lily of the Valley; the class colors were purple and white; the class motto was
“We finish to begin.”
In 1930, Minnie married William H. E. (Anderson) Schmidt who was a farmer in Shafer
Township. She had a daughter, Bonnie Jean Mae, in 1932 and was widowed in 1934.
In 1949, she married Paul L. Liljenberg who was also a farmer in Shafer Township. She
has a son, Jack Paul, in 1951 and was again widowed in 1954. During her adult years,
Minnie had several employments, all of which she enjoyed, but two of her favorite jobs
were printing (wrapping) butter at the Taylors Falls Creamery from 1942 to 1949 and
being cook and dining room hostess at the Hazelden Foundation near Center City from
1968 to 1981.
Involvement in the Taylors Falls community was especially important to Minnie who was
an active participant in many local organizations and activities: American Legion and
V.F.W. Auxiliaries, P.T.A., Women’s Civic League, Taylors Falls Historical Society,
Chisago County Historical Society, Cherry Hill Garden Club and multi-year chair and
large-volume donor of the Red Cross Bloodmobile. For many years she chaired the
local historical society’s Wassail Party and Craft Fair, and for several decades she
made evergreen wreaths then used in the Memorial Day ceremonies in Taylors Falls
She may be best remembered for her thirty-five years as the Taylors Falls local news
correspondent for The Standard-Press of St Croix Falls. For some years she served in
the same capacity for the Chisago County Press of Lindstrom. Being the local news
correspondent was perhaps her favorite though most time-consuming job, the one
which she was still engaged in when she peacefully passed away in her sleep on June
1, 1994, at the age of eighty-five years. Her time on Earth had ended. Once again, as
in May 1929, Minnie “finished to begin.”
Extra Curricular Award for the Years 1953-1992 was given to Steve Gustafson – Class of 1968
Steve was an outstanding athlete. He lettered 4 years in Football, 4 years in Basketball,
4 years in Baseball and 2 years in track.
He was All-Conference both his junior and senior years in both Football and Basketball.
He led the conference in scoring in basketball both his junior and senior years. He also
helped Taylors Falls win the conference championship in basketball his senior season.
Other highlights from his athletic career included being the main pitcher on the baseball
team. In 1966 he helped lead Taylors Falls to the conference championship and also
helped win the district championship.
He also was the quarterback on his senior team that went 9-1.