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Tri-County News
Kimball, Minnesota
December 23, 2010     Tri-County News
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December 23, 2010

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Page 12 Community Thursday, December 23, 2010 Tri-County News * Kimball, MN By ]ean Doran Matua, Editor In 1953, the world was very different from what it is today. So was Kimball High School. And so was the town of Kimball. It was in 1953 that a young French teacher arrived in Kimball, fresh from studying and teaching in France. She taught here for only two years, but she brought a spark and a glimpse of the world to a com- munity that was struggling economically and very much focused on its primary industry: agriculture. Joann lacobson (KHS Class of 1956) was in the French classes in 1953-4 and 1954-5 when Mariella (Weber) Arnold opened windows on the world. Little did anyone know then what impact that would have, on either of them. Mariella Weber had graduated from St. Cathe- rine's and was working on a Master's degree at the University of Dijon in France, and teaching English there part-time, when she got a letter from Kimball superintendent Kenneth Parker inviting her to teach French in Kimball. A native of Forest Lake, Mariella immediately wrote her parents to ask "where is Kim- ball?" Three days after returning to the United States, she was teaching French to 22 students, among many other classes and duties at the high school. Along with her considerable talents, Mariella came with a list of names and addresses of her Eng- lish students in France. The French girls and Kimball students became penpals. Joann has con- tinued writing to her penpal ever since, and has traveled several times to visit her in France. Denise Hempsh has lived in Beaune in the Burgundy region of France all her life. She was one of those girls studying English with Mariella Weber. And she became Joann's penpal. She has written, in English, to Joann since 1953, and she has saved every letter and photo that Joann sent her. Her name is Denise Berger now. They lost touch for a few years, while they were busy rais- ing their children. But one day loann found the cigar box in which she'd kept .treasured correspondeni:e resumed. Joann has been writ- ing in English most of these years; she admits that her French is not as good as Denise's Eng- lish. Now they can communicate by e-mail, and Ioann uses a translation program to help write in French. She can send a single message in both English and French, and it travels in a matter of seconds instead of days or weeks. Meeting in-person The two nearly met 30 years ago when Joann was in Europe on a business trip with her hus- band. That trip was cut short when she was called home because her father Walt was seri- ously ill. It wasn't until about five or six years ago that Joann finally travelled to Paris and Beaune to visit her penpal in-person. Joann and Denise enjoyed sightseeing, dining with Denise's family, and struggling to converse with each other. "We had a hard time communicating, but it didn't seem to matter," writes Joann. In 2009, Joann and her family went to Paris to celebrate a family birthday. After a week togetherwith family, Joann and her husband travelled to Beaune to spend time with Denise and her family. Joann hopes to visit France, and her penpal, again soon. "I don't want to wait until I am too old," she writes. "I cannot tell you what an influence you had on my life those years you were my teacher," Joanne recently wrote to Mariella. "I thought school was a big bore until you came. In some way that I can't explain, you opened up a wide world of possibility for me, and I still fondly remember your classes." About Joann loann has been married to Joe Nesser )r 48 years; they live in New Brighton and four children and seven grand- After high school, she con- nued her studies earning an M.A. a D.Min. Joann has written two on prayer, both available at, and has a meditation :D. She founded Christos Center for Formation and has spo- and taught in the United States, Je and Africa. She has since ired to write, paint, and be "an available grandma." French Oriella Arnold " lsbell; Uinnesotn lille of St. CaShertne !/University of Laval in Quebec Iversly of Dijon in France I French 11, 12 Editor's note: There are a few lessons to be learned from this little story: We never know how profoundly we may influence another person by even the small- est of actions. Geography and socioeconomic status are not necessarily limits to one's possibil- ities in life. One never knows what opportunities await us, or where they may pop up, if we are open to them. Seize the day. II n'y a que les montagnes qui ne se ren- contrentjamais. (There are none so distant that fate cannot bring together.) Vouloir, c'est pouuoir. (Where there's a will, there's a way.) Above left, Denise and Joann enjoy grapes in 2009. Above right, the pair on a shopping trip and, far right, walking outside Denise's home in Beaune, France.