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West End News: February 5

WEN_20150205.mp34.7 MB

It was great to hear a recording of my dad, Frank Hansen, on the radio again during the Beargrease sled dog race a couple of weeks ago.  Frank authored the West End News for many years, first in the Cook County News Herald and then here on WTIP, right up until his brief illness and death in 2010.  It is, of course, bittersweet for me to hear his voice again, but the pleasure definitely outweighs the sadness. 
It got me to thinking how family histories might be more accessible in the future.  I heard last week that most people can only name two of their eight great-grandparents.  However, Frank’s great-grandchildren will be able to listen to hours of his actual voice telling stories, giving them a good sense for him as a person. Most of our great grandchildren will be able to look us up on Facebook and YouTube to watch us age through decades of selfies and funny videos.
I’ve recently heard a recommendation for leaving a written memoir for our heirs.  Maybe we just need to be more mindful of the future as we document our lives online.
I was very pleased to read about the grand opening of Birch Tree Center in Duluth. The Center will provide mental health crisis services for all of northeastern Minnesota, including Cook County.  Services are many and include a safe place for people experiencing a mental health crisis to be housed, kept safe and connected with treatment. The program is designed to be welcoming to many cultures.
In the past, services for people experiencing a mental health crisis in Cook County were not necessarily tightly organized. Part of the program will include a paid coordinator in Cook County who will help organize law enforcement, health care providers and social services into a cohesive response team.
You can find information at, or if you need immediate help with a mental health crisis for yourself or others you can simply dial 2-1-1 from any phone.
I think the cell tower installation in Tofte is finally working. The tower was erected a couple of years ago and the cell antennas appeared several months ago.  Then, just a few weeks ago a crew appeared and buried the ubiquitous orange fiber optic conduit to the tower, cutting a main fiber line in the process that took most of Cook County Internet and telephone down for a full day.
A few days ago, I noticed five bars on my phone while in Tofte. The most I’d ever seen in the past was one bar.  Shortly after that, I stopped to buy a new phone at the Verizon store in Duluth.  The salesman looked online and confirmed that the Tofte cell site is now shown as “on the air.”  However, it will only work for phones that receive 4G signals and the service is for data only. The salesman explained that Verizon is in the process of converting all their cells to data-only high speed 4G.  Your voice calls will be carried as data in what is called “voice over Internet protocol.”  So if you’re still rocking that old 3G flip phone, the Tofte tower won’t do you any good.  You’ll need to upgrade to a sleek new smart phone in order to make phone calls.  The salesman did say that the newer 4G phones should have a significantly better range than the older phones, so that’s good news.
As reported here previously, world traveler Noah Horak has been home in Tofte since before Christmas. Noah spent the last two and a half years riding his motorcycle around the world. He is famous in the sport of adventure motorcycling, which is made up of people traveling on specially built motorcycles that are designed to travel the world on back roads, goat tracks or just cross country.
Noah is presenting a slide show travelogue of his many adventures at North House Folk School  Tuesday, Feb. 10 starting at 7 p.m.  The talk is free and open to the public. 
Noah is a natural born storyteller and he has some incredible stories to tell.  You can get a gist for his experiences at his blog: or just Google “round the world with Noah.”