Jon's Jottings: Wanda Plourde is special to St. Croix County vets
After 27 years of full-time work in the St. Croix County Veterans Service Office, Wanda Plourde has retired. She will be missed by a lot of vets, me included.
There is a capable staff left behind to take care of veterans' needs with Merlin Blaisdell, service officer and ex-Army, and Geri Campbell who officially took over Wanda's position Monday, June 25. But Wanda was kind of special to a lot of us.
It is difficult dealing with any bureaucracy at any level and federal bureaucracies are at the top of the heap. Wanda helped veterans wade through the quagmire of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a seasoned trooper and made things easier.
About seven or eight years ago, I stopped into to Wanda's office on a quest to find the date of death of an old high school classmate of mine who I knew served in the U.S. Air Force. The local veteran's office seemed like the right place to start and Wanda was the right person to talk to.
I sat down across from her desk and told her what I was after. She asked me a few facts about the fellow and before I was done answering she was dialing the phone to a colleague in an office, presumably in the Twin Cities and in fewer than five minutes after walking in the door, I had my answer.
I have taken a particular interest in writing stories about the experiences of our local veterans over the past 13 years from living vets of World War II through the present conflicts. I have even done some stories about deceased vets from prior campaigns, including the Civil War and World War I.
We seek a vet's story for the HSO issues published around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Wanda has been a great help to me in locating vets for these stories. Many she knew personally and could put me in touch with them right away.
She was also a big help to me in obtaining a headstone for my father's grave, a World War II Navy veteran, through the VA.
I know she has done these types of good deeds countless number of times over the decades she has worked for the county's veterans. Helping them cut through the mountains of paperwork, pointing out what was most important, taking care of the little routine forms to fill out and getting the help they needed and were entitled to have.
She said when she first started as a part-timer 30 years ago there were a few World War I vets she helped. Wanda has helped them all right up to Afghanistan.
It was her job, but it was always my experience she made it personal. I always felt she was working a project just for me. And I came out of her office with a clearer understanding about the process and a feeling that something would get done.
Her retirement plans include, "playing with my grandchildren." She has four. But the leisure time won't last long.
"I'll be back in the office in August," she said. She will fill in for Blaisdell who will be on an extended vacation in Germany.
"And I'll be here for two days in September," she said because the office staff is going on a two-day training session.
After than she plans to volunteer at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis and work on developing a hobby for the winter, the season she hates.
Still she said, "I'll miss the vets and the people I worked with."
Wanda is a native of the area. The former Wanda Flattum lived in North Hudson and Hudson and graduated from Hudson High School in 1964. She was active in North Hudson Pepper Fest activities along with other civic projects.
An all-day open house was staged for her in the vet's office of the Government Center June 22. It continued on after work at Starr's Bar in North Hudson.
And that's not the end of it. The Somerset American Legion will hold another celebration to honor Wanda at 4 p.m. July 14.
Maybe one World War II vet summed it up the best in a poem he wrote for Wanda and presented, framed, on her last day.
What A Tomato
Wanda Plourde is the name of this fair lady
She's been our friend's friend forever, not just lately.
Her continued involvement has made her a star
With many Veterans from near or far.
When she volunteers for something it's not just for today
A prime example, her efforts for the Pepper Fest are here to stay
Notifying the High School band for holiday events
Getting fifth-graders to the Government Center sent.
There is nothing too big, nothing too small
She'll get in the middle; you can bet she'll call.
For help if it's necessary, it's not going to fail
If she got tired she would go rest in the jail.
June 22nd, 2012 is the retirement date
With all her surgeries, she won't be late.
Look out Geri and Merlin, she's putting on her shoes
You can bet she's ready and not going to lose.
We wish you well and a retirement to enjoy
You're a peach of a tomato...Boy o' Boy!
U.S. Navy Veteran