COOK- When Jody Refsdal rides down the Cook’s Annual Timber Days parade route as this year’s Grand Marshal, she doesn’t want people to see only her, but all of the people she …
COOK- When Jody Refsdal rides down the Cook’s Annual Timber Days parade route as this year’s Grand Marshal, she doesn’t want people to see only her, but all of the people she represents – the community volunteers who make Cook such a good place to live.
“It’s not about me being Grand Marshal,” Refsdal said. “It’s about this town celebrating the people that volunteer, and that’s all of them. While I might be in the parade, we should be celebrating every single one of them because it takes every single one of them to make us what we are.”
Refsdal was born in St. Paul and raised there until she was 13, when her family moved to the Linden Grove area west of Cook.
“In late 1969, Mom was seeing the changes in the cities and she said I’m taking my kids, and we’re going up north and doing logging and having animals and getting out, and so we did that,” Refsdal said.
Refsdal had plenty of company at home in her youth.
“I was the runt of the litter,” she said. “I had six brothers and I am the runt.”
Refsdal entered Cook schools in the eighth grade and graduated from Cook High School, and during those years she, like the rest of the townsfolk, was an enthusiastic Timber Days participant.
“There was the carnival set up over where we’re putting Veterans Park now,” she recalled. “I brought the horses in one time for the parade. And then there was all the stuff downtown. It was a big deal for teens – it was the time to go hang out.”
But after graduation came marriage and the start of a 33-year career working for the U.S. Forest Service that took her far away from Cook and all the way to the national offices in Washington, D.C. in 1988.
But with all of the years Refsdal spent in bigger cities, the peace and tranquility of small town life in Cook still tugged at her heart, and it was a catastrophic national event that eventually brought her back home.
“I was able to retire at 50, and my husband at the time and I came back, actually to Wisconsin,” Refsdal said. “And then in December of 2012, the (elementary school shooting in) Sandy Hook happened, when those 26 Kindergarteners were killed. My one and only grandson at the time was in Kindergarten. At that point I said we’re selling the place on the lake in Rhinelander, we’re selling the place in Arizona, and we’re going back to Cook. I may not be able to stop anything, but I’m going to be another set of ears and eyes and hands in that school with my grandson and help watch over those children. And that’s what I did.”
And although she had spent only a few years living in the area and attending Cook schools, the community welcomed her back as one of its own.
“When I came back to Cook, it was amazing, because people were saying, ‘Oh, we’re so happy that you’re back,’” Refsdal said. “It was funny because when I left I was kind of young and I didn’t think they really even knew who I was. But the community was so warm and so welcoming.”
Refsdal did indeed start volunteering at the school, something she continues to this day at North Woods.
“I work with the elementary grades, and sometimes with the high school kids, but with the elementary teachers a couple of days a week to let them be in the classroom. I can do their copying and their assembly and all that stuff so that they can be in there and those kids get the very best out of their education,” she said.
But the school isn’t the only place where Refshal volunteers. She’s helped in the past with Ruby’s Pantry and food distribution through St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and “the big one,” as she calls it, is delivering senior meals. She also volunteers at the Cook Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, is a past member of the board for Virgie Hegg Hospice, and is involved with the philanthropic activities of the Cook Lions Club, where she currently serves as treasurer. She’s also on the supervisory committee at North Star Credit Union.
And while she likes to travel, when she’s home she also works to instill a love of volunteerism in “the lights of my life,” her grandsons Carson, 14, and Buckley, who just completed fourth grade.
“I had more time off when I worked, had more free time when I worked than I do now,” Refsdal laughed. “I probably wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t left to realize how really special Cook is in its heart, its soul of the people here. We may not have very many people, but the cohesiveness and connectedness and volunteerism and outreach here is phenomenal. It does not happen everywhere.”
Refsdal will be riding in the Timber Days parade on Sunday at 3 p.m., and in addition to honoring volunteers, essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic will also receive special recognition.
What’s going on
With planning for Timber Days commencing months ago, uncertainties then regarding the coronavirus pandemic forced the committee to scale back some of the activities from Timber Days past, such as the softball tournament, that wouldn’t work within the state’s COVID-19 guidelines.
But festival goers can expect Friday, June 11, Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13 to have a full slate of activities and arts and crafts and food vendors to celebrate summer’s return.
River Street and the city park will be where most of the action takes place, including a bean bag tournament and the firefighters’ challenge on Friday, a car show, pet show, magic show, and Elvis show on Saturday, and a church service, lawnmower races, the parade and raffle drawing on Sunday. A fireworks display will be at 10:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Doug Johnson Memorial Park at Cook Community Center.
An expanded list of activities can be found in an ad in this edition of the Timberjay. For a complete schedule with event times and locations, as well as additional information about all Timber Days has to offer, go to the Cook’s Annual Timber Days page on Facebook.