St. JOHN Everett Debertin of Minot spent an untold number of hours in the winter of 1988-89 carving North Dakota's centennial emblem into a commemorative plaque.
Working with a piece of cottonwood, he delicately carved Burdette Calkins' emblem featuring the trio of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sakakawea, along with a stalk of grain. The cottonwood came from a tree that had grown along the Missouri River near Washburn before being felled by Washburn's Joe Thompson.
The Makoti Threshers' sawmill sawed the cottonwood tree, and Debertin obtained a portion for carving. His finished carving went on display at the North Dakota State Fair in the state's centennial summer of 1989.
Everett Debertin gazes at the carving he made during the winter of 1988-89 for the state’s centennial. He lost track of it after it was sold at auction in 1990 but was on hand when it was auctioned again Sept. 8 at Shepherd’s Hill at the Crossroads.
The North Dakota Centennial Commission obtained the carving to keep it on display in Bismarck until it was sold at auction at Totten Trail in the spring of 1990.
More than 20 years passed before it surfaced again.
The family of Willie Schock of Minot re-discovered the carving in his collection after his death in 2009.
"He often went to auctions and bought things," said his daughter Patti Detlaff, Minot. Family members aren't certain if Schock bought the carving when it was sold at Totten Trail, but it is possible since they know he had ownership in 1994 when he retired from his lock and safe business.
"I actually thought about keeping it because I thought it was so interesting," Detlaff said. Instead, she and her husband, Brent, and mother, Theresa Schock, donated it to Shepherd's Hill at the Crossroads camp near St. John for its annual quilt, craft and bake sale in 2011.
"We are big supporters of Shepherd's Hill and thought it would be a nice auction item," Detlaff said.
Ken Niewoehner of Deering, a member of the camp board, knew the plaque was special as soon as he saw it.
"We think it's way more valuable than what I paid for it," he said of the $350 bid that gave him possession last year. So he donated it back to the auction this year.
Wanting more people to see it, he has displayed it in a few Lutheran Missouri Synod Churches, including Our Savior Lutheran in Minot. It also has been on display at the camp, operated by the area synod churches.
The re-donation of the carving, with its Centennial Commission certificate, prompted a camp worker to contact Debertin. Debertin, 85, was on hand when Niewoehner repurchased it on Sept. 8 for $750 at the auction, which raised nearly $18,000 in total for the camp. Niewoehner is planning some type of continued public display.
Having lost track of the plaque 22 years ago, Debertin was pleased to see it again.
"It looks like it's well preserved," he said. "It's good to see it's in such nice condition. It will last for many, many years."
The state centennial plaque has been one of the most challenging pieces he has created, said Debertin, a long-time wood carver. He also carved the Ward County Centennial emblem in 1986. That plaque hangs in Minot Public Library.
Debertin's other major projects have included a number of wooden chests with carved designs on top, including those with a wild prairie rose inside a heart. He may be best known, though, for the carved heart-shaped lapel pins that he gives away.
Debertin gifted a couple of heart pins over the years to Patti Detlaff, a friend of his son, while unaware that her father owned the centennial plaque.
Remnants of the cottonwood left over from the plaque carving remained in Debertin's home until last year. Damaged in the 2011 flood, the wood had to be discarded. Debertin now lives in Edgewood Vista, where he continues to carve heart pins.