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Karlene Quale is a Good Neighbor

Karlene Quale is the Good Neighbor of the 2012 North Hudson Pepper Festival. She shares the honor with her late husband, Larry, who is remembered for lighting North Hudson's tallest Christmas tree for many years.

Bittersweet is how Karlene Quale describes the honor of being named a Good Neighbor of the 2012 North Hudson Pepper Festival.

She shares the title with her late husband, Larry, who died on May 23 after a lengthy struggle with pancreatic cancer.

"He would be just thrilled. He was really quiet, but he would just think that it was wonderful. And that's why I feel it is bittersweet," Karlene explained.

"I'm sad that he's not here with us, but I'm thankful that something he did with such love for his community is being recognized," she said. "He'll look down on all of us and he'll think it's great."

Karlene is a longtime resident of North Hudson. She and Larry moved into their house at 612 Wisconsin St. N. on July 1, 1973. And 39 years later, "Here I am," she said.

In total, the Quales lived together in North Hudson for nearly 41 years. They made the village their home after they married in June of 1971.

Larry had been a North Hudson resident since his freshman year of high school when his parents moved from Prescott to a house on Lemon Street North.

He was a millwright for 3M Co. Karlene worked for AT&T as a phone operator for 31 years. Together, they raised three children.

Larry's passing and his faithfulness over the years in lighting a tall spruce in his front lawn during the Christmas season spurred the Pepper Fest Board to select the Quales as Good Neighbors of this year's festival.

"Every resident in North Hudson knows that tree and enjoys it," said Diane Zais, one of 10 board members who participated in the decision.

"You see that lit up on a dark evening and you know the holidays are upon you. It was a labor of love for them to have done it. It was a lot of work to do that big tree, and they did it every year they could, barring his health problems," Zais continued.

Last December, a group of neighbors, former neighbors, friends and family members led by neighbor Laura Davis, came together to re-light the 55-foot tree after it had been dim for a couple of years.

Larry, weakened by chemotherapy treatments, had lost the strength to maintain the lights.

"It was just a moment of joy -- especially for Larry," Karlene recalled of the re-lighting. "That was, I think, one of the highlights of his life."

She said she'll light the tree in Larry's memory, and for the community, on Pepper Fest weekend and every Christmas season that she remains in the house.

The Quales also were named Good Neighbors because of the hospitality they have extended over the years to volunteers working at the Pepper Fest.

The Quale home is two blocks from the festival grounds at Village Hall and Pepper Fest Park.

"They have been known for many, many years for opening up their home for friends, family and neighbors during the entire Pepper Fest weekend," Zais said.

Whether royalty needed to change into or out of their royal gowns, volunteers needed to cool off or their children's friends needed a place to sleep, the Quales' home was available.

"As our kids grew up, I always left the door open. Anybody who needed to change, go to the bathroom, grab something to eat -- our house was always accessible," Karlene agreed.

The Quales' son Greg and his wife, Kristi, are now residents of Oak Park Heights, Minn. Daughter Suzie Dettmann and her husband, Dennis, live nearby in North Hudson. Daughter Sarah Greifzu and her husband, Bill, live in Spring Valley.

Karlene also has nine grandchildren. Holly (Dahm) Steele, Pepper Fest princess of 1997-98, is her niece.

Attending the Pepper Fest was an annual ritual for Karlene and Larry. He especially enjoyed the Italian food, she said.

"It's always been such a close-knit community, and Pepper Fest has been the main attraction," Karlene said of North Hudson.

One of her daughters -- Suzie or Sarah -- will drive the convertible that she rides in the Pepper Fest parade, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. The other daughter, and perhaps some grandchildren, will join her in the car.

"I said to the kids, we were blessed to have him for as long as we did, and he's not suffering anymore," Karlene said of Larry.

"I just believe that there always was a plan. The way I've looked at it is, God gave us 40 years to prepare for this. It's not always easy, but it always was the plan... I'm doing OK."

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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