It's common for John Sinn of Minot to put in 10 to 12 hours of work at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot from early spring and into the early fall months. He also helps when needed at the park in the winter.
Sinn, who is in charge of grounds and maintenance at the park, will celebrate his 90th birthday on Thursday. A party is planned for him from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Mediterranean Room in the Holiday Inn Riverside in Minot. His children, Lois Sinn Lindquist and retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Sinn are sponsoring the party.
John Sinn and the other volunteers with the ground and maintenance team keep the park along South Broadway looking nice for thousands of people who come here from all over the world.
Eloise Ogden/MDN •
John Sinn, who is in charge of grounds and maintenance at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, often works 10 to 12 hour days at the park from spring to early fall, shown here on Wednesday at the park. He also helps at the park when needed in the winter months. Sinn will celebrate his 90th birthday Thursday.
Verla Rostad, office manager for the Scandinavian Heritage Association, said if anything needs to be done at the park, John will be there.
"He's just amazing. John has a knowledge base that goes beyond my imagination, and he knows how to do things without spending a fortune. He uses his resources and fabricates if he has to. He's a pretty valuable resource for our organization and he's played a huge role in the development of the park." She said that also includes its continuation into the future.
"John works long hours, then goes home and works there," said Carroll Erickson, Minot, a Ward County commissioner who is a volunteer with the park's grounds and maintenance team.
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"He's a volunteer here but also for his church, and helps many people who need help. He also keeps accurate records of his work here since he started at the park," Erickson added.
Last Wednesday morning, Sinn arrived at the Scandinavian Heritage Association office in the park's Visitor Center after exercising. He'd gone to exercise at 7 that morning, something he does three times a week.
"I come down here a lot and put in a little time. We work at different things," he said.
"I still feel good," he continued, acknowledging his special birthday on Thursday.
"I have a good appetite, have a good desire to work and still have quite a bit of ambition. I work up here most of the day and I'll go home in the evening, make supper and after supper I'll go out and work on the flowers in the yard," he said of his work during the warmer months.
Sinn just completed 15 years of volunteer work at the park. His hours there vary, with quite a few hours being put in from spring through early fall.
"For the total year I think it would average out to 600 to 700 hours a year," he said. "When the first of June rolls around we've got to have stuff ready, so we're starting in April already."
Sinn said he started at the park when Arnie Braaten appointed him chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee.
Sinn has a good background in working outdoors from his early upbringing on a farm in Iowa to his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He was born on a farm at Truro, Iowa, about 35 miles southwest of Des Moines. He came to North Dakota shocking grain to make money to go to college. "But I never did (go to college) because World War II came along," he said. At Ryder he met the former Olive Johansen whom he married. They were married for 61 years until her death in 2005.
Sinn was in the Army during World War II and has two battle stars from service in Europe. He also was in the National Guard, retiring as a command sergeant major in 1972.
Serving in the military has become a family tradition. Between John Sinn's 26 years in the Army and reserves; his son, Jerry, a retired Army officer with about 38 years of service; and grandson, Andrew Sinn, an Army Apache helicopter test pilot with about seven years service, they have about 70 years of continuous military service in their family.
Jerry Sinn now is with DRS, a defense contractor, in the Washington, D.C., area. He and his wife, Cheryl, live in Alexandria, Va. John Sinn's daughter, Lois, and her husband, R. Robert Lindquist, live in Alexandria, Minn. Another grandson, Jacob Sinn, is in real estate in Washington, D.C.
John Sinn and his wife, Olive, lived in a number of places before settling in Minot.
They lived on the Johansen farm at Ryder for about a year and then moved to Garrison where they lived for 23 years where he was a self-employed carpenter and did some contract work until going to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1957 to build Minot Air Force Base. He was the construction representative for the Corps at the base.
When the base construction work was completed in the early 1960s, he worked for the Corps at Fortuna, the radar site south of Minot, Riverdale, Fort Peck, Mont., the ABM site at Cavalier and Scott AFB, Ill., before returning to Minot AFB in 1977. While at Minot AFB he also had temporary duty with the Corps at Offutt AFB, Neb., and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. He retired from the Corps at Minot AFB in 1989.
Since starting work at the Scandinavian Heritage Park, Sinn has been involved in many projects. Constructing the park's waterfall and ponds was one of the early ones.
To get ready for the park's opening each spring, there are various usual projects for the members of the grounds and maintenance team to get done, like starting up the waterfall, cleaning the ponds and opening the buildings.
"We try to open up by no later than the first of June, sometimes earlier, so we have to start in April," Sinn said.
He said hopefully this summer they can build two small picnic shelters. One will be behind the lookout on the hill that has been named the John Sinn Outlook and another by the middle pond.
Sinn is modest about his work at the park and that his name is on the outlook and on a special fund. He said he never expects anything from the work he's just helping.
Last spring, Braaten, who died in November, set up an endowment fund in Sinn's name for park maintenance.
The work at the park doesn't end when the season is over. For the holidays Sinn said a number of men and women come to the park to help put up about 40,000 lights on the trees.
Sinn is always thinking about what will be good for the park and drawing sketches of those ideas. He has some projects in mind right now which he thinks will benefit the park.
He said he'd like to see a Norwegian flower garden for visitors to enjoy near the Visitor Center.
He said eventually they need to build a bridal room for the church because brides getting married there have no place to get ready for their wedding.
"And then I want to do a special deal for Arnie," he said. He'd like to build a rest area along the north side of the parking lot and on the north side of the sidewalk. He'd like it to have a couple benches so people can take pictures or sit down and enjoy the park.
He said the park's grounds and maintenance team couldn't do everything they do without the help of the Minot Park District maintenance people. "The maintenance people provide a lot of assistance and it's really appreciated," he said.
Although he doesn't appear to have thoughts of slowing down in mind, he had some thoughts on growing older.
"I would say my comments on growing old is to stay engaged in some kind of activity," he said.
"No. 1, you need to exercise a little bit and take care of your body. And you need to work so that you have something to do. It's kind of a payback in your life to the community the community's usually been pretty good to you when you stop to think about it so it's kind of payback time.
"And you have to stop and exercise your brain. In order to stay away from Alzheimer's you need to do that kind of stuff. I'm into figures all the time," he said.
"You have to stay active in something. It doesn't have to be in the park here," he added. Giving a plug for the Scandinavian Heritage Association, he said, "I would recommend that Verla needs help with guides to all these buildings. I would highly recommend that because you get to meet a lot of people people from all over the world all the time and it's not physical work,"
"Really, we are so lucky on this park," Sinn said. "You go to any bigger towns (and) all the parks are off the beaten path. This park happened to fall right in the middle of Minot and by making it look good, it makes Minot look good. What's good for the city is usually good for you."