As we usher in 2024, it’s a fitting moment to pause and reflect on the significant stories that have shaped Eden Prairie over the past year.
I have compiled a list of the top 10 stories from the Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) in 2023, each chosen for its impact and resonance with our readers.
The selection criteria were straightforward yet impactful: stories that were both informative and engaging to read and report. While not exhaustive, this list represents a cross-section of the diverse and dynamic events, developments, and personalities that have left an indelible mark on our community in 2023.
This look back is not just a retrospective; it’s an invitation to revisit these stories, written by various EPLN contributors, with fresh eyes.
As we step into 2024, let’s carry forward the lessons, memories, and inspirations from these stories, continuing to build a vibrant and connected community in Eden Prairie.
Click the headline of each entry to read the story.
In February 2023, Juliana Allen recounted the touching story of Mac, a therapy dog from Eden Prairie who had recently passed away.
Mac, a bearded collie, dedicated over 13 years to volunteering alongside his owner, retired teacher Sheryl Cater. His service brought comfort and joy to hospitals, schools, senior homes, and rehabilitation facilities throughout the Twin Cities.
In May 2023, Jim Bayer profiled Gary Nash, a U.S. Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, ahead of his keynote speech at Eden Prairie’s Memorial Day ceremony.
The article highlights Nash’s experiences during the Tet Offensive in January 1968, detailing the challenges faced by the then-young first lieutenant in the South Vietnamese jungle.
In a December 2023 article, Mollee Francisco wrote about Linda “Wally” Wallenberg, a teacher at Eden Prairie High School with a tenure extending over 46 years. The story describes Wallenberg’s classroom as a reflection of her enthusiasm for English literature, decorated with photos, quotes, and assorted items that contribute to a stimulating learning environment.
Francisco also notes Wallenberg’s distinctive teaching approach, particularly her ability to relate literature to students’ lives, which has earned her recognition among peers as “The Queen of Commas.”
In his September 2023 article, Ben Kopnick highlights the camaraderie and competitive spirit of the West Metro Senior Softball (WMSS) league in Eden Prairie.
Established in 1991, the WMSS has expanded to include over 150 players aged 50 and above, split into two divisions: the competitive National Division and the recreational Northwoods Division. Kopnick’s story focuses on a game between the Yankees and the Red Sox at Miller Park, emphasizing the league’s recent relocation to Eden Prairie.
In October 2023, Steve Mulholland profiled the Obiazor family, focusing on the football careers of Eden Prairie siblings Namdi and Chiddi Obiazor.
Namdi, a junior linebacker at Texas Christian University (TCU), and Chiddi, a freshman defensive end at Kansas State, each dons purple jerseys for their teams, a color their mother Laurie has enthusiastically adopted.
In September 2023, Jeff Strate reported on Collin and Carrie Bonde, an Eden Prairie couple from the north-central Edenvale neighborhood, who converted their buckthorn-overrun property into a thriving wildlife habitat.
The Bonde family replaced the invasive shrubs with shade-loving plants and footpaths, fostering a haven for local wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation has recognized the family’s efforts in ecological sustainability.
In September 2023, Stuart Sudak reported on Eden Prairie native Mike Flavin, who saved a vintage bass drumhead from being discarded over 50 years ago.
Once belonging to the Eden Prairie School Band, the drumhead accompanied Flavin on his travels across the United States. Cherishing this piece of local history, Flavin moved from California to Philadelphia, then to New Jersey, before returning to Minnesota in August 2022.
In July 2023, Joanna Werch Takes covered the 50th anniversary of the Eden Prairie Community Band. The band originated in the early 1970s after the “Minnesota Miracle” legislation changed fund distribution among local governments, leading to reduced school funding for summer band lessons.
High school band teacher Emmet Stark, undeterred by these changes, secured city support, resulting in the establishment of the Eden Prairie Community Band
In August 2023, Mark Weber highlighted Jeff and Linda Rotschafer’s innovative landscaping in Eden Prairie, where they converted their traditional lawn into a backyard prairie.
The couple made this choice in 1986 to minimize hillside lawn mowing efforts in their new neighborhood. Over time, this practical solution has blossomed into a beloved nature retreat, rich with wildlife and native plants. Their backyard now flourishes as a biodiverse prairie, drawing birds, insects, and even deer.
In June 2023, Stuart Sudak reported on a significant cultural and historical discovery in Eden Prairie: the Sacred Red Rock, held sacred by the Native American Mdewakanton Sioux tribe.
This red sandstone boulder, formerly situated along an important Indian trail linking Shakopee and Minnetonka, had been missing for years. It was unexpectedly found behind a barn owned by Mike McGraw, eventually ending up in the front yard of Kathie and Ron Case.
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