Original 'outdoors woman' turns 100

Marie Norri Guegel will celebrate a century Friday, attributing her longevity to a penchant for the great outdoors. "Fresh air," said the Minnesota native, a "river rat" who grew up fishing on the St. Croix. Her first classroom had been a resort ...

Marie Norri Guegel will celebrate a century Friday, attributing her longevity to a penchant for the great outdoors.

"Fresh air," said the Minnesota native, a "river rat" who grew up fishing on the St. Croix.

Her first classroom had been a resort cabin, ironically appropriate given her destination in the years ahead - Stocking and Lower Bottle lakes resorts.

The centenarian's memories of days of yore remain vivid. Her father, Charles, drove logs down the river, his role was aboard the wanigan, a floating unit providing food for the loggers.

She recalls moving to another home when she was 5, riding atop the family's possessions in a cart pulled by oxen. Mid-journey she spotted her cousin heading along the snowy riverbank on skis. She cajoled her father into making a pair.


Living seven miles from town, she remembers walking in for the county fair with her sister Margaret, hopping aboard a horse- or oxen-drawn carriage at the driver's invitation.

"We carried our shoes to avoid wearing them out," Marie said.

A quarter Ojibwe, Marie attended an Indian school when she was 8, living in a dormitory. Two older sisters had graduated at the eighth grade level but a bout with homesickness sent her packing.

Marie's education was abbreviated; with neither horse nor car she was unable to go to high school. At 15, she and her sister Margaret headed to St. Paul to find employment.

They found jobs as nannies, sleeping in the attic, making $2 a week. But as the family size increased, Marie's workload mounted.

She headed home to the farm, spending a winter in Duluth "where I learned how to cook for city people."

Marie would return to the metro a second time to find work - and meet a husband.

A police officer had suggested the YMCA as a hostelry, after learning she and her sister's living arrangements had fallen through.


She was two blocks away when police raided gangster John Dillinger's residence. But he'd been tipped off, she recalled, and evaded arrest.

'I loved it up here'

"We met at a dance hall," Marie said of Leo, her husband of 55 years. "We'd go dancing three evenings a week." After a two-year courtship, they were married in 1926.

Leo worked as a baker, but flour in his lungs created a medical concern. His brother, Bill, had purchased property on Island Lake, where Vacationaire is now located.

The north country was beckoning.

The Guegels spoke with a realtor who informed them of a need for caretakers at Hoosier Beach on Stocking Lake, Dr. Andrew Hilger the owner.

The Guegels and son Bill, 8, moved to the lake, home to just two other small cabins in 1937.

"I loved it up here," Marie said of splitting wood, fishing, hunting, swimming, and skating, come winter.


But Leo, who'd been raised in the city, required tutelage. Charlie arrived to teach his son-in-law "the ways of the woods."

When World War II broke out, Leo went to work in California shipyards. But when he learned of gas rationing he returned, fearful of being stranded on the West Coast.

He was employed for a time at the St. Paul airport, working nights as a fire truck driver on the runways.

The family moved back to Hoosier Beach in 1943, Leo having gained skills as a trapper, guide and logger.

"We were pioneers," Marie said. Electricity was not available until 1947. The pump froze, come winter. "We drank from the creek." The house was heated with a wood stove. Canned fruits and vegetables from their garden and venison and other wild game sustained them through the winter.

And Leo made a "mean" black bottom pie to top it off.

Business on Sunday

Bill, who would become a Department of Natural Resources Fisheries manager, rowed fishermen around Stocking for 50 cents a day.


The Guegels would head out on the lake Saturday, catch a couple trophy northern and drive in to Fuller's, where they'd be displayed in the window case on Main street.

"We had business on Sunday," Bill recalled of their guiding avocation.

Marie would share her fondness for fishing with granddaughter Lori Guegel Griess.

"Be sure to take a net along," Marie had advised.

Heading out alone to fish one afternoon, she'd forgotten the net. She felt a significant tug on the line. An 18-pound northern had been drawn to her red eye wiggler. She pulled the fish to the boat, took off her shoe and began walloping the whopper, stunning it.

That too met admiring glances in Fuller's window.

In 1946, the Guegels became managers of Home Bay Camp on Lower Bottle, Beryl Cramblitt the owner at the time.

They were employed by Wonewok in 1961, Leo as a hunting and fishing guide, Marie as head waitress until retirement in 1974. They moved to Woodland Court Apartments in 1979, Leo dying two years later.


A yearning to fish, hunt

At 100, Marie remains keenly aware of current fashion trends, recently returning capris pants that were a smidgeon too long.

Marie's fascination with haute couture began at the tender age of 8. Her first new dress had been purchased with revenue earned from picking potato bugs. The 50-cent salary bought a blue and white gingham dress from Sears.

"She loves clothes," said granddaughter Debbie Proudfoot. "And she still wears makeup." Ponds has been the cold cream of choice her entire life. She heads to hair appointments on a regular basis.

She's an avid Twins fan and keeps track of Tiger Woods' scores.

"She eats well," Debbie said of her grandmother who cooks for herself. She began avoiding lard at 86 - when her cholesterol levels spiked.

But she's had to give up two of her life's passions - hunting and fishing. "That's mostly what I miss," said the woman who hooked a 40-pound catfish as a teen. "I was always catching fish."

"I can get in the boat, but I can't get out," she said of her decreased mobility.

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