Feature Stories


The Christmas gift I always longed for ...

Was there a present you wrote on your wish list every year when you were a child -- a present you never received? Maybe it was a much-desired pet or a toy that “Santa” disapproved of. Or perhaps there’s a gift on your adult wish list that you’re still holding out hope for.
Or maybe you unexpectedly did get that longed-for item and were overjoyed.
Here, newspaper staff members reflect on holidays past and what they did, and didn’t, find under the tree.


Embrace the warmth of a good book

Looking for a holiday gift with a Minnesota connection?

Jill Yanish • Pamela O’meara
Review staff


Janie's legacy of laughter and love: After toddler’s death, parents pursue memorial playground

A 17 months old, Janie Zahradka heads toward the playground at Edgerton Park in Maplewood. (submitted photo)

When Janie Zahradka was 7 months old, she sat on her dad’s lap at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul to swing, because the playground wasn’t built for someone her size.
“She was always the happiest when she was outside playing,” said her father, Tony Zahradka, an assistant baseball coach at Johnson High School and teacher at Guadalupe Alternative Programs on St. Paul’s West Side.


Murder at the Museum - or Who killed Agatha Marple?

Artifacts have been missing and the body of Agatha Marple, head curator, is discovered at the museum, now a carefully crafted crime scene mystery. Attendees often took photos of themselves near the police tape body outline. (photos by Linda Baumeister/Review)

Some days its best to take a break from the perplexity of the unsolved tales of murdered or missing wives and girlfriends in our metro area and go try to solve a pretend one instead. So I invited my younger daughter for an evening out to crack a murder mystery at the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul.


For her 85th birthday, June’s throwing an art show

Cliff Gebhard, 72, sits in one of two barber chairs in his shop at the corner of Minnehaha Avenue and Stillwater Road. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

For all the 84-plus years she can remember, June McAuliffe has been driven to reach people through art.
So, for her 85th birthday, she’ll unveil a show of her recent projects at Gallery 96, located in the Shoreview Community Center.
It made perfect sense to June; after all, she’d marked her 80th birthday with a show at Gallery 96.


Double vision: New horrors, honors of war come home to veteran

Ellsworth Erickson spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the North St. Paul Historical Society Museum last March about his bird’s-eye view of World War II. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

It’s been nearly 70 years since North St. Paul resident Ellsworth Erickson returned home from the European Theater of World War II.
But, in just the last six months, the long arm of the world’s deadliest conflict reached out to the 89-year-old and shook what he thought he knew and felt about his service to their foundations.


Horses, bourbon and historic neighborhoods featured in Louisville

The historic Belle of Louisville still takes visitors from downtown Louisville up the Ohio River. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Every May when I listen to the familiar strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses line up for the world-famous Kentucky Derby and see the women in the stands wearing wide-brimmed hats, I’m intrigued.
So soon after the Derby, I went to Louisville, home of the famous Churchill Downs, a National Historic Landmark where 1,200 horses are stabled, for a tour and a few races, which were fun even without the huge crowds. Visitors can eat, drink a traditional mint julep, make bets, cheer from the stands, walk around the well-groomed grounds for a close-up view of the sleek thoroughbreds and diminutive jockeys, and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum. Additional races are held in the late spring/early summer and in the fall.


Autumn's perfect fruit

Apples and fall are nearly synonymous. They go together like pumpkins and Halloween, snow and sledding, and summer and swimming.
A fall outing to one of the nearby apple orchards offers more than a bag of apples to bring home. The trip can be an event -- a fun-filled day of entertainment for the entire family.


Long-time East Side barber closes up

Cliff Gebhard, 72, sits in one of two barber chairs in his shop at the corner of Minnehaha Avenue and Stillwater Road. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Cliff’s Barber Shop is one of those places that was always full of regulars, quirk and charm, and where the haircut service provided wasn’t necessarily the only reason you’d swing by.
Rather, you’d also be there to catch a story, and to chat with your neighbors.
It’s been a community of sorts for the owner, Cliff Gebhard, and his customers.


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