The reunion

Rafael Beato Sr. of Miami, FL, surprised his son, Rafael Beato Jr. of Sheldon, before Sheldon High School's football game Friday, Sept. 17.

REGIONAL—Each year sees its usual share of bad news, but 2020 was especially full of negative developments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the past 12 months also contained bright spots in which N’West Iowans experienced moments of happiness, relief, love and a feeling of community.

What follows are summaries of a few uplifting stories published in 2020 in The N’West Iowa REVIEW and its sister publications: The Sheldon Mail-Sun, Sioux Center News and Hawarden Independent/Ireton Examiner.

The stories are chronologically listed in order of their publication dates:

January

Stetsen Fedders braved the frigid January winter air to make a milestone: The sixth-grader at Sioux Center Christian School biked to school for his 90th day or the halfway point of the 2019-20 academic year. Fedders had not missed a day of biking the three-mile route to the school up to that point, despite the onset of chilly temperatures.

“I like warmer weather for sure, but the snow is quite beautiful when you take the time to look at it,” Fedders said in the original story, printed in the Jan. 22 edition of Sioux Center News.

“And the sunrises are beautiful. God makes beautiful things.”

February

When Barb McAvoy of rural Ireton learned her yellow Labrador was expecting her first litter of puppies, McAvoy decided to have one trained to be a service dog for a veteran. McAvoy asked Kelly Johnson, a veterinary technician at the Sioux Center Veterinary Clinic, to raise one of the puppies before it would be sent on to Partners for Patriots.

The organization is a nonprofit for veterans that obtains, trains and gives specially trained service dogs to veterans with disabilities, free of charge.

The chosen puppy — whose name is Major — went to live with Johnson in late January. Johnson is a self-taught trainer who will work with Major for about a year before he is sent to the nonprofit to bless a veteran.

March

IRETON—It’s calculated that one Ireton resident has traveled more than 2 million miles in his 30 years of service for the United States Postal…

The Independent/Examiner in March published a story of Ireton mail carrier Bruce Smit, who recently was recognized for his 30 years of working for the U.S. Postal Service. Smit, who was humbled to receive the honor, had traveled more than 2 million miles delivering mail during his three-decade career.

A week later, a student at West Sioux Elementary in Hawarden was featured in the paper for putting her crafting skills to use to raise money for the West Sioux Athletic Booster Club. Ellie Yoerger, a third-grader, recently started selling homemade wax-coated bracelets on Etsy. The e-commerce website is focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. Yoerger dedicated $1 of every bracelet sold to go to the booster club.

April

April was the month Trevor Krogman, then an eighth-grader at MOC-Floyd Valley Middle School in Alton, returned to his home in rural Hospers after about two months of being treated for a brain tumor out of state.

He didn’t just return home though: He and his family received a loud, socially distant welcome-back parade from family, friends and Krogman’s classmates who drove past his house.

May

Last year was the year Charlotte Kooima became an Ironman, as recorded in the May 9 edition of The REVIEW. The Sioux Center woman didn’t just participate in a solo Ironman Triathlon — which consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon run of 26.22 miles — but completed it in under the 17-hour cutoff time.

Kooima completed the physical challenge solo due to the coronavirus pandemic but recorded her times along the way. As a cherry on top, she even received a video of Mike Reilly — an announcer for the Ironman Triathlon — calling out her name and saying she’s an Ironman.

Karter Rohrbaugh of Sutherland had no bones about donating bone marrow in 2020 — he was happy to do it after learning he was a match for someone in need of a marrow transplant. Rohrbaugh donated 1.75 liters of bone marrow after going through a procedure in March at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City.

June

A tearful reunion took place outside Sfumato Pizza near Carnes in mid-May, almost a year after a near-fatal car crash from which Mindi Wikstrom of Sioux City spent several weeks recovering.

Miriam and Richard Ludeke of Archer recounted to Wikstrom how they were two of the first people on the scene of the crash, which happened May 15, 2019. Wikstrom had few memories of the collision as she went into a medically induced coma after being flown to MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center in Sioux City.

Nonetheless, she was grateful to the Ludekes for their actions and has been living life to the fullest since the crash. The Ludekes recently were named recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Lifesaving Award for their actions helping Wikstrom after the crash.

Four-year-old Golden Retriever Maggie Williams didn’t attend the ceremony in Des Moines, but she still was officially inducted into the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association’s 2020 Hall of Fame class in June.

The pooch — who belongs to Joe and Sue Williams of Sheldon and is a registered companion animal — was honored for her work cheering up residents of Sanford Sheldon Senior Care on a regular basis.

Sandy Schmith of the Sheldon Veterinary Clinic was one of the people who nominated Maggie for the honor and presented a plaque, medal and small check to the Williams family after Maggie was inducted.

July

It may not have felt like 50 years to Leslie Brommer, but that’s the amount of time the Sioux Center native has been part of the Sioux County community’s Doornink Brunsting Legion Post 199. Brommer — who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War after being drafted in 1967 — received a certificate marking his 50-year membership during the Legion post’s June 18 meeting.

Things could have gone very differently for Carlos Bueso and Sandra Ocampo of Hawarden if their blue heeler — named Blue — hadn’t alerted them their house was on fire. About 95 percent of the house was estimated to have been damaged from the blaze, but thanks to Blue’s warnings, nobody was harmed from the incident.

August

Amber Hansen of Alton beautified her hometown in the summer by leading a mural-painting project that pays homage to the community’s Luxembourg heritage.

Hansen collaborated with the Luxembourg Heritage Society of Northwest Iowa on the project and recruited volunteers from the Sioux County community who wanted to lend a hand with painting.

The mural, which features butterflies in flight and other vignettes of life in the region, can be seen on the side of the L&M Enterprises building, located at 1002 Third St.

A Sheldon family got a surprise in its garden in August when a row of sunflowers Shawn Broesder planted grew to be about 12 feet tall. Broesder had planted the flowers in May on a whim, not realizing how tall they would grow to be.

“I’d say around the first of July I started thinking ‘These are going to get really tall,’” Broesder said in the Aug. 19 print edition of The Mail-Sun.

September

September was when The Mail-Sun recorded the story of Sheldon woman Ardis Bonestroo, who received a new kidney donated to her by Dianne Wolthuizen. Wolthuizen is a longtime friend of Bonestroo and a fellow member of the Sheldon Community Ambulance Team. The transplant surgery successfully took place June 23 at Sanford Transplant Center in Sioux Falls, SD.

Sheldon High School senior Rafael Beato Jr. hadn’t seen his father, Rafael Beato Sr., for about three years until Sept. 17. That evening — which was the Sheldon football team’s Senior Night — Rafael Sr. surprised his son by showing up at the game and reuniting with Rafael Jr. during the senior shoutout portion. “It means a lot; I haven’t seen him in a while,” Rafael Jr. said in the story printed in the Sept. 23 edition of The Mail-Sun.

October

Noah Deist, a junior at Dordt University in Sioux Center, used free time he had during the summer thanks to the pandemic to write, record and produce an original song. He then used the song, titled “hey u,” to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Grace Aasheim, on Sept. 12.

He captured the moment of the proposal — to which Aasheim said, “yes” — on film while making a music video for the song in Harrisburg, SD.

Leo Marquez of Rock Valley received about the best news an aspiring dentist could hope for in 2020: He got accepted into the No. 1 dental school in the United States. Marquez, who originally is from Mexico, will start classes at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor in January.

The accomplishment was a culmination of years Marquez spent earning money, learning English and studying for the brutally difficult National Board Dental Examination.

November

The coronavirus pandemic did not get in the way of Scott Kreykes’ hobby: Digging for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, AR. The Sibley man unearthed three of the precious minerals February while sifting through gravel he brought home from the park. Then in October, he discovered another diamond during an excursion to the Arkansas site.

December

Chris and Tonya Huenink’s small business, Brick House Gifts, took off just in time for Christmas.

The Orange City couple started the venture in October, thinking they would sell a few handmade wooden ornaments every week. Instead, they have sold more than 1,000 of the items, averaging 50-80 orders per day on the online Etsy shop.

“We loved being able to make something so personalized and important and seeing the way they reacted when they got that special meaningful personalized gift,” Tonya said in Dec. 12 edition of The REVIEW.