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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The grand marshals for the Colfax Sesquicentennial parade will be Ray and Marlene Johnson and Melvina Solberg Evenson.
The Johnsons and Evenson were chosen by the Colfax Commercial Club as grand marshals for the Colfax Sesquicentennial parade because of their long association with businesses in Colfax.
[emember_protect] Ray and Marlene, the founders of Ray’s Metal Works, were honored by the Lennox company in 2012 for being Lennox furnace and air conditioning dealers for more than 40 years.
The family-owned business, located in the family-owned brick building at the corner of River Street and Main Street, includes other family members as well: Craig Johnson, Tom Mousel, Pam (Johnson) Mousel, and Mike Johnson.
Mark Johnson, building manager and owner of the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall, is the fourth generation of Johnson family members to own a business in the village.
Ray’s Metal Works was established in 1965, and because Ray and Marlene both still come to work every day, it is the oldest business in town that still includes the original owners.
Ray’s Metal Works became a Lennox dealer in 1968 and was situated in a small shop where Morgen’s Auto Body is now located on Cedar Street. The business moved to its current location in 1995.
Marlene Olson and Ray Johnson grew up as next-door neighbors on Johnson-Olson Street in Colfax.
Marlene graduated from Colfax High School in 1955.
Ray graduated from Colfax High School in 1952.
They were married July 1, 1956.
Ray Johnson served as both the assistant fire chief and the fire chief of the Colfax Fire Department. He retired from the fire department in 1996.
Ray also served as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and as a member of the Russell Toycen American Legion Post No 131.
He was a member, too, of the Masonic Lodge 164 out of Menomonie and drove Tin Lizzy cars in many parades.
Ray was a member of the Scottish Rite of Eau Claire and the Colfax Kiwanis as well.
Marlene served as a member of the Russell Toycen American Legion Post No. 131 Auxiliary and as president of the Auxiliary for more than 18 years.
She served as an EMT in Colfax for 20 years and retired in 1995.
Melvina Solberg Evenson is known to many people in the Colfax area as the former owner of Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear, which was located where the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall is currently situated.
Melvina Lee Solberg Evenson graduated from the Dunn County Normal School in 1936.
She and her husband, Arnold Solberg, who died in 1962, opened the clothing store on Main Street in 1949.
The Solbergs started their business venture in Colfax with a shoe-repair shop located in the building directly west of the Johnson building on West River Street.
At one point, Arnold Solberg became ill with rheumatic fever, and Melvina became the “shoe repair lady” and learned how to repair shoes.
She also was good at house painting and learned how to paint “swirl” ceilings. Melvina took jobs in Bloomer, Elk Mound and Chippewa Falls, painting textured ceilings.
Later on, the Solbergs began to sell shoes, too, and eventually, they moved to the building on Main Street and opened Solberg’s Ready to Wear.
Melvina worked as the bookkeeper, the buyer, the advertising manager, and as the store’s janitor.
In time, the upstairs section of Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear was devoted to clothing, and the basement of the store contained shoes.
Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear closed in 1983.
Marlene Johnson and Mary Fennie operated the store as The Clothesline after Melvina closed Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear.
Following the June 4, 1958, tornado in Colfax, Melvina Solberg opened her store so that victims of the tornado who had lost everything would have clothes to wear.
When asked about the 1958 tornado during an interview in 2008, Melvina preferred not to say much about her generosity to community members.
“We were spared so completely. But when I got out of the house and walked up Main Street, I could already see that it was not good all over … Some of the Fjelsteds, I think it was, came to stay at our place. Their place was completely gone. And the only other thing I could do was to help out where I could, getting some merchandise to people who needed it. Otherwise we were spared the whole thing,” she had said in the 2008 interview.
Melvina Solberg Evenson will turn 98 on August 7. [/emember_protect]