“Weakie”: A Life & Times (Part 1)

May 9

Sometimes all you need is a great friend and a tank of gas. ~ Thelma and Louise

Just a little over a month ago I started off the “Remembering ‘Rock'” post this way:

The Fat Boys Walking Club lost a founding member last week. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Paul ‘Rock’ Fieldhammer. Rock, for some unknown reason, was a follower of this blog. So I hope to do him well, we will miss him. Walking and hiking quotes will be featured throughout, just because. Before the Y was built, the Fat Boys did our winter walking in the mall. Paul arrived one day, and for several thereafter, wearing a backpack. In his backpack, he carried a rock. He said it was in preparation for his winter hiking in Arizona. At that moment he obtained the appellation of ‘Rock,’ bestowed upon him by the club’s giver of nicknames, Bob ‘Weakie’ Annen.

Well, now we’ve lost “Weakie”: https://www.andersonfuneral.net/obituary/Robert-Annen

All you need to do to be my friend is like me. ~ Taylor Swift

Bob & I initiated the Fat Boys Walking Club 20 years ago. It’s now internationally fabled in song and story. Bob & Vivian moved to Alexandria from Plymouth in 1997 (as I recall) shortly after his retirement from Honeywell. They wanted to live on a lake, and I think their original plan was to live within a 100-mile radius of the Twin Cities. Somehow that got expanded, and in their expanded search area they came up Alexandria. They had never been here before. Yet within two hours of their first ever visit here they bought a house. That house was in the L’Homme Dieu View Townhome Association, where my mom lived. So we got to know the Annens even before we retired to Alex in 2001.

[L’Homme Dieu View Townhomes, c. 1987. Weakie and Viv’s house is in the lower right hand corner hidden among the trees on the shores of Lake Le Homme Dieu. Mom’s house was on the lefthand side of the middle two-story duplex. There are now houses on both sides of the road heading south out of the association and all the grassy areas in the center and on the right are now all covered with houses . . . ]

Bob and I would hike in the area around his neighborhood before switching to the Central Lakes Trail. In the early years, we would walk west from Big Ole on the trail to West Lake Cowdry Road, then down West Lake Cowdry Road to County Road 82, and back again. That walk took a full two hours, and covered 43.2 miles (estimate, at best). Based on our physiques, people found that hard to believe. So we had to tell them we celebrated completion of our daily routine with a dozen doughnuts. In times (or seasons) of inclement weather, we walked the mall for two hours, after which we would go to the gym for a half hour every other day. Bob was the giver nicknames. While walking the mall he established nicknames for all the other walkers. In fact he was the one who gave himself the nickname, “Weakie.” After some medical procedure or another he returned to the golf course only to exclaim he couldn’t hit the ball as far as he used to – “I’m a real Weakie.”

The following are five photos Weakie recently sent to his fellow Fat Boys . . .

2004

[These are the first photos I unearthed from the time capsule. Bob took me along on a road trip to Biwabik for a couple days of golf at the Quarry and Giants Ridge golf courses . . . ]

[Bob’s friend from Honeywell, me, and Bob . . . ]

[Bob and I took on the two young bucks, lefthanded ex-hockey players who could hit the ball a mile, but we won because age & experience beats youth & enthusiasm every time . . . ]

2005

So, the question was raised – how could the two of us stand to be with each other for two hours every day? Bob was 10 years older; he was business and I was government; he was a church every Sunday Catholic and I, like Ron Reagan, am a lifelong atheist; he was a conservative Republican and I am a liberal Democrat; he was pro-birth and I’m pro-choice; he hunted (though he gave up NRA membership many years ago when it became a political action committee) and I didn’t. Actually, it was quite easy. He’d call me a Commie and I’d call him a fascist, and we’d take it from there . . .

[This was the year we walked every street in the Alexandria city limits. Bob was not from Alex and wanted to the see the whole town; and, though I was raised here, there were plenty of neighborhoods I’d never seen before. It took us 5 weeks, walking 6 days a week. We took Sundays off for good behavior. I wrote a story of our daring adventure, and the Echo Press published it.]

[Bob at the finish line. I thought it’d be cool to end our grand trek at Noonan Park . . . ]

[And then Bob and Viv came over to our place for a celebration . . . ]

[This was our first trip to Terrace, Minnesota, an unincorporated community on the Chippewa River (it was originally named Chippewa Falls, but since there was already one of those in Wisconsin), about 38 miles straight south of Alex . . . ]

[We went there a few times around Christmas to the lone restaurant, which at the time was owned and operated by two guys, one from New York, and the other from Key West. It was quite good . . . ]

2006

“It” actually begins here. This photo is now so old, the date inscription on it messes with my mind. This has to be from 2004. The young ladies in the background surrounding Weakie (actually many years before he became Weakie) are Ashley Holmes, Kat DelZoppo, and Abby Williams. When they were all seniors, they led the Alexandria Cardinals to the girls state hockey championship in 2008. I believe they were all 8th-graders here but had already convinced us great things were in their future. And thus were born the Super Fans, the precursor of the Fat Boys Walking Club . . .

An early connection between Bob and me was the absence of any urge to become snowbirds (Bob and Viv later tried a couple months in Florida for a couple years, didn’t like it, stopped doing it). So, what do retirees in Minnesota do in the winter? We go to girls hockey games! I jumped in first, talked Weakie into joining me, and we were both hooked immediately. At first Bob & I had the whole center section of the stands for ourselves – friends and families of the players sat in a section to our left. They had never seen “other” fans at girls games. Pretty soon a couple of them bravely crept into our section to see what we old bucks were all about. At first we were asked if we had granddaughters on the team. We responded “all of them,” and we were suddenly accepted by one and all. Hockey moms made sure we were aware of all the goings on. We were invited to team parties and graduation parties.

[Here we are at the Andrea and Sara Toft (don’t ask me which is which) graduation party in 2006. They were a lot of fun and went on to play hockey at Augsburg . . . ]

[In the summer, we golfed. This is the senior men’s league annual steak fry and putting contest, including significant others. Can you find Weakie?]

[This was Weakie’s tree. It was situated in the right hand rough on the 16th hole on the Alexandria Golf Course. It came into play a lot for players who had a tendency to go in that direction. Weakie hated it. But in this photo you can see the tree is in bad shape. When it was cut down, Weakie went over to the course with a bottle of Jack Daniels (I think) to celebrate its demise. I took a photo of him with arms raised, Rocky style, standing over the trunk. I can’t find the photo?]

[Later in the year, back at a girls hockey game. By now our reputations were preceding us. More and more seniors (a/k/a, retirees) were joining us. The team named us the Super Fans . . . ]

[Back in Terrace the next Christmas season, here was the restaurant . . . ]

[Inside, Bob was the lead photographer in those days . . . ]

2007

[A representative group of Super Fans at a girls hockey game . . . ]

[Throughout the 2010’s, our girls teams regularly made it to the state tournament in the Twin Cities. We always had to join them, of course. Here we’re standing on a corner in Dinkytown on the U of M campus with the Minneapolis skyline in the background . . . ]

[And as much as anything, from what Ruthie and I learned having attended 25 Final Fours, dining was as big a draw as the actual games. This appears to be post-game celebration at Vescio’s in Dinkytown . . .

[And here’s all the senior golfers again – can you find Weakie?]

[And here the Super Fans have a pre-game nosh at Sixth Avenue Wine & Ale in Alex . . . ]

[And then to the game. I believe it was the Shaughnessys, on the far right, who brought a bunch of small red flasher lights with a German beer logo on them that we all turned on when Alex scored a goal. The team thought how cute of us . . . ]

Talk radio has almost ruined the sports fan. ~ Phil Simms

[Now that we were experts, Weakie got invited to the post-game radio report with Dave Harris on KXRA. We obviously won . . .]

2008

Another year, another year of girls hockey. This was the year the Cardinals won the state championship – and we Super Fans predicted it from the start of the season . . .

[Viv & Bob at a game in Detroit Lakes (yes, we actually did road games in those days) where we visited our first Zorbaz restaurant . . . ]

One good reason to only maintain a small circle of friends is that three out of four murders are committed by people who know the victim. ~ George Carlin

[Home ice, the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria . . . ]

[For many years we attended girls hockey fund raisers at the Eagles club. It took a few years before we learned we were eating bison burgers (raised by the Drown hockey family) . . . ]

We are keenly aware of the faults of our friends, but if they like us enough it doesn’t matter. ~ Mignon McLaughlin

[Patty Wicken, local radio personality, joined our table that year . . . ]

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. ~ Oprah Winfrey

[At the state tournament in St. Paul where the Science Museum of Minnesota is conveniently just across the street from where the hockey games are played. We’re more than just sports fans, after all . . . ]

[If only I could remember all our fine dining locations? Dave and Joyce Rogosheske, as you may have noticed in other photos, often joined us in those years . . . ]

[Celebrating the girls hockey state championship with some bubbly at the St. Paul Hotel . . . ]

[Blocking traffic at The Landmark Center off Rice Park in downtown St. Paul . . . ]

[Weakie and Peppermint Patty in Rice Park, the Ordway Center in the background . . . ]

[Bob & Viv’s daugher Angie and her friend Ken joined us after a tournament game. I believe this was at Cecil’s Deli near the campuses of St. Thomas and St. Catherine . . . ]

When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, Damn, that was fun. ~ Groucho Marx

Friendship is like peeing in your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warm feeling inside. ~ Robert Bloch

[While mall walking, Bob got to reminisce about his youth . . . ]

[ . . . growing up on a farm near New Ulm . . . ]

[We were invited to the team party celebrating the state championship. The parents of a team member hosted in their beautiful remodeled barn . . . ]

[With the aforementioned Ashley Holmes, a team captain, an all-stater, a Herb Brooks Honoree, played D1 hockey at North Dakota, and is now an assistant women’s hockey coach and assistant sports information director at Augsburg – always one of our all-time favorite players . . . ]

[At the team’s summer party with hockey mom, Martha Williams, who was an original discoverer of the Super Fans . . . ]

[It was an annual tradition to celebrate Mother’s Day with the Annens and my mom at the golf club . . . ]

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one! ~ C.S. Lewis

[The Super Fans hosted a dinner for the hockey team at the golf club. Here’s Bob with the aforementioned Kat DelZoppo. He nicknamed Kat “The Sniper” because she had great hands and scored in a lot of scrums around the net . . . ]

[New Year’s Eve (and birthday eve for the Super) at the Annen’s . . . ]

In Hawaii, it was forbidden – ‘kapu’ – for men and women to eat together. Women were also barred from eating certain foods, notably bananas because the sight of females consuming phallic fruit offended Hawaiian men. Breaking a kapu was a crime . . . ~ Sarah Vowell, “Unfamiliar Fishes”

2009

[The Super Fans at the MAC in St. Cloud. It must have been a girls hockey sectional game . . . ]

[Weakie was a long-time avid Cathy Wurzer fan . . . ]

[So when I heard she would be at Cherry Street Books for a book signing, I had to make sure he would be there with bells on. We had a nice visit with her . . . ]

[April 16, with club pro Ron Rebrovich (middle), the boys ready to play the first round of the year . . . ]

[The L’Homme Dieu View madcap quilting and rutabaga club: Bob & Viv with their best friends in their townhome association, Jack and Alice Juettner on the left, and Dorothy and Paul Arnesen on the right . . . ]

[Wanted in several states for attempting to purchase bootleg Malbec . . . ]

[The boys in the Cardinal Foundation Golf Tournament. We may not have done well in golf, but we won the tug of war . . . ]

[The senior guys again – 13 years later, by my reckoning, 12 of us are still “here” . . . ]

[The senior men’s league formed random teams with each outing. I think the reason for this photo was this team beat all other entries biggly while being the three oldest players that day. Bob was the last survivor of this group – I did a similar piece on Dave in 2012 and Dar died last November at age 96 . . .]

[The Friday after Thanksgiving, the annual lighting of the city Christmas lights with festivities beginning at Fort Alexandria (that’s Weakie on the right filming) . . . ]

[A December afternoon at the winery . . . ]

This wraps up Part 1. When I started working on this homage to Bob, I discovered I had well over 200 photos of our times together. I weeded some out but decided the best approach was just to add a second post. See you there . . .

A final message from the Weakster . . .

We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience. ~ George Bernard Shaw

I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

5 thoughts on ““Weakie”: A Life & Times (Part 1)

  1. Wow! Thank you for the wonderful peek into my uncle Robert’s retirement years. No wonder he did not want to leave Alexandria. He always talked about his great Alex friends. Robert may have been the master of nicknames you are the master story teller. I look forward to your part ll.

    Like

  2. Really nice tribute… gonna save part 2 for tomorrow.
    Loved this:
    “Bob & I initiated the Fat Boys Walking Club 20 years ago. It’s now internationally fabled in song and story.”
    And the distance for that one walk… 😀

    Really glad you had so many great times and supported the hockey girls so well.

    Good times, Good friends.
    We all best enjoy them as we have them.
    The time here is so short really.

    Like

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