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Clymer, St. Peter named '04 HHS distinguished alumni

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River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Vonnie St. Peter and the late Theodore W. Clymer have been named to join other distinguished Hudson High School alumni on the school's Wall of Fame.

The two will be honored at a ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at the school beginning at 6 p.m. The ceremony is open to the public. A dinner for invited guests will follow.

Dr. Theodore W. Clymer

When Dr. Theodore Clymer died July 25, his obituary was featured not only in the Star-Observer but prominently in the New York Times.

Clymer, a member of the class of 1945, was known nationally as an expert in early reading education. In his 1963 study of phonics, Clymer analyzed the way elementary students were taught to read and ultimately changed the way teachers taught.

Clymer grew up in Hudson and after graduation went on to received a bachelor of science degree from River Falls State Teachers College, now UW-River Falls. He received his master's degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1952.

After completing his doctorate, Clymer taught for a time before joining the faculty of the University of Minnesota where he was a leader in reading research and research training. He was the founder and first editor of Reading Research Quarterly and, with Thomas C. Barnett, developed a reading readiness assessment test used for decades by kindergarten and first-grade teachers. For 40 years he was an author-editor of reading textbooks for Houghton Mifflin publishers, including the Reading 360 textbook series based on his research.

After leaving the U of M in 1976, Clymer moved to California and went on to publish textbooks and several children's books. Clymer stayed in touch with Willis Miller, publisher emeritus of the Star-Observer. Clymer came back to Hudson to research his family's genealogy and used Miller's index at the newspaper in his research. Miller remembered Clymer as a young man.

"He was a stellar student, a wonderful debater and a credit to the school. He went on to be a credit to the whole community. And as smart as he was, he was a very humble fellow, an all-around good guy."

Clymer died at age 77 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Genie, and two daughters from his first marriage, Brook of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., and Lorna of Los Angeles.

Vonnie St. Peter

That's "Nurse Vonnie" to most people in Hudson. For three generations of babies born at Hudson Hospital her face was among the first they saw as they entered the world. St. Peter left Hudson Hospital this summer but not before heading up First Steps, the obstetrics department and being on hand for an estimated 1,000 births there.

At Hudson High School in the late 1950s and early '60s, St. Peter knew she wanted a career in medicine. She would have liked to be a doctor but ran up hard against chemistry. But with time and perseverance, she got her career in medicine and has never looked back.

St. Peter had three children and waited until they were all in school to enter nursing school full time. A divorced mother, she recalled sitting at the kitchen table with her two sons and her daughter with "everybody doing their homework." She graduated as a registered nurse from St. Mary's College in 1976 and eventually came back to Hudson, where she was hired by Julie Lohman, formerly the hospital's personnel director.

In addition to her years of service at Hudson Hospital, St. Peter, with the help of others, founded and maintains the Caring Cradle, a burial place at Willow River Cemetery for families to bring loved ones lost through miscarriage or stillbirth.

St. Peter said she is humbled by the distinguished alumni award and has this advice for the students who attend HHS now.

"The path I took to my career wasn't as clear, and in hindsight I might have gone about it in a different way. But it got me to where I am now, and I wouldn't change anything about that. But I would tell kids to take advantage of all the school has to offer in helping them find out who they are and what they want. And once you have a goal, follow your heart and go after it. That way you will end up doing something you love, and nothing is better than that. It makes all the work and ups and downs along the way worth it. That I can guarantee. The truth is I would have done my job for free."

St. Peter said she has enjoyed the time off since leaving Hudson Hospital but says she is ready to get back to the work she loves. She hopes to find a position where she can mentor new nurses and work with families in a hospital setting.

For more information about the Wall of Fame ceremony next Wednesday, call Kay Couch at HHS at (715) 386-4226.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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