• Karen Ek, Music educator; musician

    Dear Readers:  Many of us are familiar with “The Music Man,” a hit Broadway musical later made into a  popular movie. In today’s column we’re going to meet Karen Ek, who could be called The Music Lady for her work in music education and encouraging music participation and appreciation in Ladysmith and Rusk County. Born in Chippewa Falls, Karen attended the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, where she majored in Vocal Music Education. Upon graduating in 1964, she accepted a teaching position with the School District of Ladysmith, where she remained until her retirement in 2002. Karen recalls that when she began working in Ladysmith she was the only vocal music instructor and served as music supervisor for elementary students in two city schools. Over the years she taught music to children from kindergarten through high school in a variety of assignments, including teaching basic class piano to high school students and choral ...
    December 1, 2019 Karen Ek, Music educator; musician
  • Lucinda Miller – Writer

    Dear Readers:  Each of us has our own individual way of looking at the world and what we believe to be the purpose of our existence. Our personal world view may be rooted in religion, science, philosophy or something unique to ourselves. Today we’re going to meet Lucinda Miller, a rising young writer from Rusk County, who writes both from a faith-based perspective and also as one who has grown up with a deep understanding of and appreciation for the natural world. “Luci,” as she is called by family and friends, was born and still lives on a farm begun by her great-grandfather near Conrath. She attended Linden Christian Day School through sixth grade, then was home schooled from grades 7-12. Luci says she has always loved to read, and her interest in reading eventually led her to creative writing. She relates that when she was 18 she saw an advertisement ...
    November 1, 2019 Lucinda Miller – Writer
  • Mona Kochendorfer – folk artist

    Dear Readers: “Folk art” has been defined as “art originating among the common people of a nation or region . . . reflecting their traditional culture” and is usually both useful and decorative. In today’s column we’ll meet artist and teacher Mona Kochendorfer, an accomplished folk painter and interpreter of ethnic painting styles, particularly those of Norway, the Netherlands and Bavaria. Born and raised in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, Mona and her husband, Larry, moved to Amacoy Lake, near Bruce, in 1992. Mona attended the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. She attended graduate school at River Falls, Eau Claire, and Stout. Mona’s teaching career began in 1957; she has been an art supervisor and teacher, a reading specialist in Wisconsin public schools, and an art instructor for Wisconsin Technical Colleges. She also gave private piano and organ lessons for many years. Her ...
    October 1, 2019 Mona Kochendorfer – folk artist
  • Bryce Coggins: writer; local historian

    Dear Readers: People with total recall of names, dates, places, events and experiences, even long past, are said to have photographic memories. In today’s column we’ll meet Bryce Coggins, a local farmer and writer who uses his skill with words, remarkable memory and love for our area to present an entertaining and accurate picture of life in rural Rusk County as he has experienced it for almost a century. Born on a farm in Rusk County in 1926, Bryce says, playfully, that he was the “middle” child in a family of ten children. He attended Cloverland grade school and Tony High School and has many happy recollections of his school years. In 1950 he bought his own farm, close to the one owned by his parents, and moved into it the next year, with his wife, Pat. Bryce and Pat subsequently had six children, and one of their daughters and her ...
    September 1, 2019 Bryce Coggins: writer; local historian
  • Betty Morris, visual artist

    Dear Readers:  Besides being artists, what do Vincent van Gogh, Grandma Moses and Henri Rousseau have in common?  The answer may surprise you:  they are all self-taught. A little “digging” shows a significant number of visual artists, musicians and photographers have carved out highly successful careers with little or no formal training.  Instead, they’ve acquired the necessary knowledge and skills through their own intelligence,  initiative and determination. Today we’re going to meet Betty Morris, a local self-taught visual artist who, through her own efforts, has become a successful portrait artist, muralist, and popularizer of an old art form called ‘’Silent Companions’’ or ‘’Dummy Boards.’’ An Illinois native, Betty and her late husband, Chuck, were married in 1950 and had four children. In 1993 Chuck retired due to health problems. The couple then moved to Rusk County, where they restored a hundred year old farmhouse which had been in Betty’s family for ...
    August 1, 2019 Betty Morris, visual artist
  • Audrey Riphenburg, writer

    Dear Readers: What makes a writer write? A painter paint? What makes anyone, amateur or professional, in any of the arts do what he or she does? The answers, of course, are many and varied, but among the most basic certainly must be that the person loves the chosen art form. In our column today, we’ll meet Audrey Riphenburg, a Ladysmith resident, writer and world traveler who writes out of sheer enjoyment. She has authored several books and without setting out to, has become an unofficial chronicler of life in Rusk County.  A Rusk native, Audrey was born on a small farm in what she terms “rural Ladysmith” and, except for a few years teaching in St. Croix, has always lived in this county. After earning an education degree from UWEC Eau Claire, she taught middle grade students for several years, primarily history and English. In 1962 Audrey married Al Riphenburg ...
    July 1, 2019 Audrey Riphenburg, writer
  • Introduction

    Dear Readers: What does the term “the arts” bring to your mind? Painting? Writing? Music? Dance? Woodworking or fiber arts? Pottery? Sculpture? Photography? The arts include all these forms of expression and many more, and in this column we’ll get to meet some of the artists working right here in Rusk County. Many artists introduced here will be members of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance. Usually shortened to RAAA and pronounced like a cheer, this non-profit organization was established in 2006. Its purpose is to promote and encourage the arts, and local artists, give artists a venue for meeting and sharing ideas, and make the arts a viable, important, enriching and fun part of our county and community. Artists featured in this column will not be chosen by its writer, but will be suggested by a RAAA selection committee. Headquartered at Toad House, 711 Lake Avenue West, in Ladysmith, the Rusk ...
    June 24, 2019