East Siders celebrate community booster’s retirement

Karin DuPaul (right), standing with “the spirit of Swede Hollow,” looks out at the crowd of people that attended her party on Monday, Nov. 18 at the Historic Mounds Theatre. DuPaul will retire from the Dayton’s Bluff district council after 30 years of involvement. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

St. Paul Police Cmmdr. Joe Neuberger pretends to arrest Karin DuPaul. A long-time community activist, DuPaul coordinated community meetings with the Eastern District Police Dept. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Karin DuPaul is shown at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. (submitted photo)

Karin DuPaul put 30 years into the Dayton’s Bluff District Council

For some people’s retirement parties, they get a cake, a greeting card and maybe a little scrapbook.

But not Karin DuPaul, community organizer at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council. That would be a small gesture in comparison to the theatrical commemoration of her 30 some years of service to the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.

DuPaul will turn 70 next week and in December plans to retire from her post as the community engagement coordinator at the Dayton’s Bluff District Council. She served on the council’s board from 1982 to 1994, and started as the community coordinator there in 1996.

A group of about 100 pulled a surprise celebration for DuPaul, in the form of a fake trial. Upon her arrival, St. Paul police Cmdr. Joe Neuberger pretended to arrest her and brought her up to former state Rep. Steve Trimble, posing as a judge, to determine (jokingly) whether she should be allowed to retire. Her friends gave testimonies as famous historic East Siders -- people like William Hamm of the Hamm’s brewery family, and Maria Bates Dayton -- whose legacies she helped preserve.

While the scope of the celebration was grand, it was only in an effort to match the effort DuPaul has put in over the years.

Long-time friends, neighbors and fellow community activists painted her as a champion of community engagement -- somebody who’s worked tirelessly to improve Dayton’s Bluff.

Romi Slowiak, an East Side resident and friend, described how DuPaul was able to engage the community around her.

“She takes people from the community and pulls them in, seemingly without effort” Slowiak said. “She allows people to become who they want to be in service of the community.”

Tireless contributions

St. Paul City Council president Kathy Lantry presented DuPaul with a commemorative St. Paul City Council resolution honoring her.

She listed off DuPaul’s community engagements, a hefty list: DuPaul worked to clean up Swede Hollow Park and turn it into a real city park; she helped rehab the Stutzman Building, a charming old building along East Seventh Street that houses Swede Hollow Cafe; she worked on a team to save the old Hamm’s Brewery buildings, which are now being redeveloped.

“Karin’s green thumb and love of nature are apparent throughout the neighborhood,” Lantry said.

Deanna Foster, director of the Dayton’s Bluff District Council, described DuPaul as a unique presence in the community.

“Her work has been very much connected to her own passion,” she said. And “her passion was way beyond her job.”

In a way, DuPaul helped to shape the modern identity of the neighborhood, she said.

“She was involved in just about every important initiative in Dayton’s Bluff in the last 30 years,” Foster said.

In the late ‘70s

Back in 1977 when she moved to Dayton’s Bluff, DuPaul recalls that everybody seemed to know each other.

Early on, she got plugged into the neighborhood goings on when she checked out Swede Hollow Park, which was at the time a piece of work.

But it was also “a really unique little valley,” she said. And it had a rich history.

Her enthusiasm for the park turned into a concerted effort to fix up the place, and from there, she was off -- she started doing research on the neighborhood, and more or less jumped from one project to the next. She made history calendars; she organized history tours; she’s worked on establishing block clubs, and community meetings, and neighborhood night out. The list goes on.

Pulling in neighbors

Carol Carey moved to Dayton’s Bluff in 1984 and got plugged into her neighborhood block club via DuPaul.

“She was really involved,” Carey said. In particular, she recalled DuPaul’s efforts at bringing community gardening and other beautification efforts to the area.

She also lauded DuPaul’s efforts on the Stutzman Building, of which Carey is now a part owner. Back in the ‘80s it “was in horrible condition,” she said.

But thanks to a group of neighbors, the blocked turned around and is now a gem along East Seventh Street.

“It’s really had a dramatic impact in terms of the quality of life,” she said. And it was “truly a neighborhood effort,” something that took not one resident, but rather many working together.

And Carey said that’s been DuPaul’s strong suit: bringing people together.

Slowing down? Not exactly

Despite her upcoming retirement, DuPaul won’t be slowing down too much.

She’s still planning to be involved in the Dayton’s Bluff Block Nurse program, the small neighborhood newspaper -- the Dayton’s Bluff District Forum -- and Friends of Swede Hollow.

Her husband, Rich DuPaul, is hoping he’ll get to spend a little more time with her.

As it stands right now, “she goes to meetings at least four times a week,” he said. But he quickly added that he’s happy she’s done as much as she has to improve the quality of life on the East Side.

“She’d always pick up a good cause,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

While DuPaul appreciated the event and said it was fun, she was quick to maintain her humble disposition.

“I had a lot of help over the years,” she said. “I really appreciate all the help I had on getting some of these things done.”

As for retirement, she said it was a hard decision to make, but she’s looking forward to it. “I just felt it is going to be time,” she said.

But she’s still going to be plugging away.

“Oh, I’ll be doing stuff, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m not going away.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

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