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Lady behind the 'Old Logger' remembered

The Enterprise published an editorial in 2003 about the "Old Logger" who was familiar with many in the Park Rapids area. That year, James Leonard Colby, known as the "Old Logger" of the Rapid River Logging Camp, passed away. He was survived by his wife Catherine, the lady behind "Old Logger."

The "Old Logger" and Catherine, from 1956 to 1987, owned and developed the Logging Camp into a nationally famous restaurant.

On Feb. 17, 2017 Catherine passed away in Petersburg, Illinois, at the age of 97. (Ironically, their wedding anniversary).

The Logging Camp is a piece of history and tradition that spans generations and continues today operating and serving food at that picturesque location along the Potato River we're all so familiar. Their son, Jim Colby, recently wrote the Enterprise to let us know, and folks around Park Rapids know, that Catherine had passed away.

Here's what Jim Colby had to say about his parents:

"While the 'Old Logger' was entertaining tourists with yarn after yarn, Catherine was busy baking the outstanding baked goods that Logging Camp was so well known for, and keeping an eye on the preparation of the platters of food to be served to the tourists who returned year after year.

In the early years, Catherine and the 'Old Logger' represented the Park Rapids Resort Association at many sports' shows around the country promoting the area that they loved so much. She was also involved in Job's Daughters, Eastern Star, Headwaters women's golf and Boy Scouts.

At 97, she is survived by her oldest daughters Sue Balstad (Arnold) of Winger, Minn, and Sally Shaffer (Richard), Petersburg, Ill., and son Jim Colby (Jo Ann Safranek), Yuma, Ariz.

Her ashes will placed in the Potato River that ran by the Logging Camp on Aug. 12 with her family present."

In that July 2, 2003 editorial, the elder Colby was described as one of Park Rapids' early entrepreneurs and an independent thinker (unconstrained by latter-day concerns about political correctness). Some of this history is worth repeating. Colby was an actual Jackpine savage, a heritage he wore with pride.

In 1957, Jim and Catherine came to Park Rapids to visit friends and do some fishing. They fell in love with the area, and after looking at resorts in northern Minnesota, purchased Rapid River Logging Camp from Ray Danielson during its first year of operation.

The "Old Logger," Catherine and family developed the Logging Camp into one of the outstanding restaurants in Minnesota. It was featured in a movie that was shown at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels. In 1964, it was rated by Red Book magazine as one of the top 40 restaurants in the U.S. Many travel magazines and newspapers wrote articles about the Logging Camp, focusing on its great food served family-style on big, stainless steel platters in a unique setting.

The "Old Logger" and Catherine built the Rapid River Logging Camp into the special attraction it remains today. They're both gone now but their legacy remains. It's nice to page back in history and take a look at how something so unique like the Logging Camp, which represents the Park Rapids area so well, all started and continues to thrive today.

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