By Cara L. Dempski
BOYCEVILLE — Barb Hellmann says that she does not quite understand how she and her husband, Joe, were selected as this year’s Cucumber Festival Grand Marshals.
“We haven’t lived here in town anywhere near as long as some of the other people here have,” she states.
Though the Hellmanns have only lived in their current home since 1996, there’s a good chance you have seen them around town in Boyceville, or even around town in villages like Colfax, Elk Mound, or Glenwood City.
Joe said that until a few years ago, he and Barb traveled to see every Boyceville sporting event they could because the couple’s sons – and a few grandchildren – were involved in sports. After a while, they went to every game they could because it was fun to go to games and meets, Barb added. Additionally, they’re well placed to see as much Bulldog football as the team’s home schedule allows: they live directly across the street from the football field.
Barb and Joe both laughed when Barb said “we’ve sat in a lot of bleachers in our lives.”
Now, though, they are quite pleased that the scoreboard for the field has been placed in such a way that they can enjoy the warmth of their home while still seeing how the Bulldogs are doing on a Friday night.
Boyceville and Barron
The Hellmanns have five male children (Joe and wife Amy, John and wife Bethany, Jerry, Nick and wife Angie and Mark and wife Marla) and ten grandchildren (Andrew, Lukas, Samuel, Kennedy, Peyton, Matthew, Tyson, Jackson, Bryor and Brooklyn).
Barb is a graduate of Boyceville High School. Joe is a graduate of Barron High School, having grown up on a dairy farm near Almena.
Barb and Joe farmed for 27 years north of Boyceville, close to Prairie Farm, on the farm that once belonged to her parents. Barb also worked for the school district for 22 years in food service.
The couple have been married for 51 years, and lived at first in Almena, where they managed a small gas station. They took over her parents’ farm in 1967. The farm was sold 20 years ago, except for 25 acres they kept for their sons to use.
When they moved into town, they found plenty of opportunities to get active.
“You know, when you live in town, we both feel you should be supporting it,” said Barb.
Being active for Barb includes participating in a multi-parish group who makes rosaries for charity. She also does a lot of sewing, knitting, and crocheting for family, friends, and charities.
One of her rosary group’s last shipments to people in need included 1,000 hand-made rosaries. “Our priest took some home with him when he returned to India to visit his family,” Barb said.
Barb also makes mittens every year to give to the elementary school for students who might not be able to afford warm items in the winter weather.
Joe, a talented woodcarver, has several of his carvings on display in the home. Even though he has not been able to work on his carvings for several years due to health issues, he still delights in discussing his small works of art.
Joe began carving with a pocketknife as a child and kept his hobby through his years in the army.
“It was something to kill time when I was on guard duty,” he said. “I made a lot of the things here at the house during my time there.” Mr. Hellmann served in the army as a surveyor and taught artillery during the Vietnam War, but served stateside and not overseas.
Several years ago, the physics teacher at the high school borrowed a “whirligig” Joe made to demonstrate properties of movement and wavelengths.
A whirligig is a stick with a “propeller” that is attached loosely enough at the top to spin when a solid object is rubbed against the zigzag cuts on the side of the stick.
A good place to live
The couple also likes to get together after Sunday services at St. Luke’s Catholic Church and have breakfast at Buckshot’s with friends.
“This is a good place to live,” Barb says of Boyceville. “It was a good place to grow up, and it was a good place to raise a family.”
Joe added that he can walk around town, and it’s rare that he sees someone he does not know.
Joe said, “at first, Barb had it a bit nicer because she grew up here and knew everyone already. I had to get to know people.”
He began to incorporate in the community, and slowly his circle friends began to grow as well.
When they first moved into their current home, Joe joked with Barb, saying, “if we live here long enough, they might pick us to be the grand marshals for Cucumber Festival.”
Barb said she was very humbled by the request to be marshals, as their lives have become less active in the past few years.
“We still try to get out and do things, but we like just taking time to be together too,” she said.
When asked what their duties will be for the celebration, Barb said that she knows they will be riding in both Friday’s “Ain’t No One Horse Town” parade at 7 p.m., and the Grand Parade on Sunday afternoon at 1p.m.
Joe added that they might also be going to watch some of the softball tournaments and would stop by the Firefighters’ Tent to visit with people there as well.
“I always like to watch the parade,” Joe said, “but if I can’t watch it this year, I’m glad to be in it.”
Barb and Joe are also looking forward to the weekend because their children and grandchildren will be present to see them attending to their duties.
“I’m so glad that they will all be here,” Barb said. “It’ll be that much more of an honor for us to be grand marshals because it’s drawing them back to Boyceville to celebrate.”