East Sider makes for a good neighbor

John Engebretson stands beside St. Paul City Council president Kathy Lantry at a Dayton’s Bluff Community Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 28. (submitted photo)

East Sider John Engebretson, 68, was awarded with the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council’s annual Roger Tetu award.

This year is the third year of the award that honors Rogre Tetu, an elderly gentleman who was hit and killed by a car while he was picking up trash around the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.

Tetu was known by neighbors as a positive contributor, who was actively working to clean up the area.

In remembrance of Tetu, the neighborhood council finds similar positively contributing neighbors to celebrate every year at the council’s annual meeting.

Engebretson can be seen walking around in Dayton’s Bluff, picking up trash off of the streets and sidewalks. He’s also known to fix up bikes for neighborhood kids, and is also a bit of a gleaner -- he will collect working small appliances, good lumber, and other discarded items to be reused.

When someone needs a space heater or a toaster, he’s got one ready for them, free of charge.

He’s hoping his actions will inspire those around him.

Picking up trash is “really easy to do, and I try to encourage people to do it,” he said. “You see a piece of trash, a newspaper, pop bottle, can, you know there’s a trash can where you’re going. Pick it up.”

“If I can bend over and do it, so many other people could,” he added.

Engebretson is modest about his contributions to the neighborhood.

“I don’t look upon as being... a major deal,” he said. Rather, it’s “part of my upbringing and part of my training by my mother.”

Karin DuPaul, community organizer for the Dayton’s Bluff council, said she’d heard from Engebretson’s neighbors that “if every block had a person like him, the community would be such a wonderful place.”

DuPaul said Engebretson’s efforts may “seem little, but really it makes a big difference in the neighborhood.”

— Patrick Larkin

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