While Lee finished up high school, his dad went to work for the Land O’Lakes company, working in a facility that produced powdered milk. He eventually bought a route where he drove a truck to dairy farms to collect fresh milk.
Meanwhile, Lee joined the Army Guard and then went into a two-year program to prepare for a law enforcement career. That training worked: he got hired by the police department in Madelia as an officer and eventually was chosen as Chief of Police. Later, he got hired as Chief Deputy to the County Sheriff. It added up to 34 years. He says of that time, “You have the same issues as any police department, but with the small town you knew who you were dealing with.”
LEE & KAREN: “What time do you get off work?”
So, back to when the two became a couple. Lee was a policeman in Madelia and one of their tasks was directing traffic for the local funeral home. As a thank you to the officers, the funeral director invited the officers to dinner and chose a restaurant called The Answer. Meanwhile, Karen was home from college and had taken a job as a server… yes, working at The Answer. Karen waited on Lee’s table and he managed to slip in the classic question, “What time do you get off work?” And we know the answer.
They became a couple and discovered they shared a love of singing. Both became active in the local community theater and they were both in a production of “Oklahoma!” when they got married. (You may remember that musical featured “People will say we’re in love” and “Oh, what a beautiful morning” — just right.) But, Lee recalled, “The director wasn’t too happy that we took a week off to go on our honeymoon while we were rehearsing.”
Life in small town Minnesota (Madelia’s population is about 2300) sounded like something out of a happy-ending musical. They had two sons, and Lee was invited to be Assistant Coach on the local junior high and high school football teams (where he eventually got to coach his two boys) and Karen worked in daycare before managing an appliance store and she then became a co-teacher of kindergarten students, which took her back to her college-days dream of being a teacher, saying, “It was a dream job. I loved those little people.” And they got involved in their church and in the community theater, often playing opposite each other.
(Photos from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Anything Goes”)