When it comes to lifelong passion, Dolores Haggberg’s interest has always been clear: she has a deep-seated love for history. It’s a love that has driven her to travel across the country, as well as document the local history of the community she calls home. Given her propensity for hometown lore, it’s no wonder she has been chosen to help celebrate that history as this year’s Isle Days Sweetheart.
Dolores’ mother came to Wahkon on a train in 1923. She was born in that town shortly after, during the era of the Great Depression. “My dad worked for a dollar a day, and that’s the way it was,” she said. “I always wear a shirt that says, ‘Yes, I was born in a barn.’ As my dad would say, the barn was always warmer than the house.”
She had been raised on a farm, her dad teaching her to drive a tractor when she was in second grade. Around that same time, her uncle had also taken her out and taught her to drive his big gravel truck. “You were related to everybody,” she said, “and you knew everybody in town.” Dolores started school in 1941, noting that the old building no longer existed. While she was in school, she and her sister had worked for Herb Nyquist’s Main Street Grocery Store for 45 cents an hour. “We did everything from stocking shelves to cutting meat.”
When she graduated in 1953, Dolores started working at Lakeside State Bank, owned by Leo Scherf, located where Isle’s DMV office is now. She worked at the bank for 44 years until her retirement, and during that time, she saw the construction and relocation of Lakeside State across the street. During these years, she saw the bank change hands a number of times.
She married her husband, Dennis Haggberg, and the two had a daughter, Denise. She has been widowed for 19 years, she said, as Dennis passed away from mesothelioma. Related to her interest in history, she added that her husband had spent many years collecting antique tractors and cars. Presently, she was in the process of passing on part of that collection to her grandchildren.
When it came to her interest in history, Dolores said she’d had it her entire life. “I have lots and lots of pictures, and I don’t mind sharing them with people,” she noted. Some of these assorted pictures can be seen on display at Isle’s Dari-Vi Cafe, south of town on Hwy. 47. “They’re all of Isle: the creamery, the hospital, the Little Joe Manufacturing. There’s a picture taken from atop the blue water tower that they think they’re gonna tear down again. And to me, that’s history.”
Dolores’ love of history has also led her to travel. In her van, she’s seen many famous cities and landmarks across the country. “I’ve been to Nashville,” she said, “the Kentucky Derby, Ground Zero in New York–twice, I’ve been out to the museum; I’ve been to New York, California and New Orleans. I like history.”
If she had to pick a favorite among the places she’s visited, she said the site of Ground Zero would be it. Her first visit was part of a bus tour, only a few years after 9/11. She made a second visit, and by that time, they had erected the new tower and museum. “How we could survive that …” she trailed off, lost for words. “To me, it’s history.”
Dolores is, of course, heavily involved with the Mille Lacs History Museum and the history club who helps run it. Additionally, she gave years of service to the Isle Lions Club. She said she joined the club in 1986, back when there was still a separate Lioness club. Her husband had been a charter member of the Isle Lions Club, and she had accompanied him as delegate when he went to international conventions.
Like this year’s grand marshal, Dolores had also been present at the 1973 bank robbery. “That was awful. ‘Do as I say, and no one gets hurt.’ That’s what the guy said,” she explained. She noted that she had recognized the gun the robber used, as her husband had the same make. However, she didn’t tell the authorities, she added with a laugh, because she didn’t want to incriminate him.
Haggberg has spent many years collecting the past, and she offers no shortage of photos and stories from eras bygone. As she takes to the parade this Isle Days, she will be helping add another milestone in the city’s 113 year-long history.