A longtime Minot resident, recently retired theater instructor at Minot State University and active community theater participant, Paula Lindekugel-Willis, along with her husband, Tom, and their pets, headed west to Oregon on Friday.
"It's going to be different because I was born and raised in North Dakota, so I'm not sure what it will be like living next to an ocean and having lots of trees around," Lindekugel-Willis remarked. There's the complaint of wide open spaces here, she added, but she doesn't know what she'll do when the spaces aren't there.
The first time Lindekugel-Willis came to Minot was in 1968 to start her undergraduate studies at Minot State University. Originally from New Rockford, she had only been to Minot once before when she went to her friend's college graduation. "I was looking around at the campus and thought this is where I want to be," Lindekugel-Willis noted. She completed her degree at Minot State University and then left for the University of North Dakota for her graduate degree, returning to Minot to teach at an area school.
However, Lindekugel-Willis said she decided that she wanted out of teaching. She had a friend who was an editor at The Minot Daily News, so she applied for a job and was hired in the fall of 1981. Then in the fall of 1984, a temporary emergency teaching position opened at Minot State University, and Lindekugel-Willis applied, thinking she'd be there for a year or two. "I think they forgot about me and just let me stay," she said with a laugh, hinting that her office was on the messy side.
The most enjoyable aspect about teaching theater at the university was getting people who thought they'd never be capable of doing theater involved in acting in productions or writing their own plays, Lindekugel-Willis said.
"It's discovering and challenging yourself, and seeing other students do that is great," she said.
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It's also fun and makes her feel proud to see graduates from the department working professionally in theater or continuing with theater, she added.
Lindekugel-Willis said she was excited when she saw the gentleman hired to replace her in the theater department at Minot State University. She realized it was time for a new generation to take over because the new instructor was introducing the students to working with stilts.
Most recently, Lindekugel-Willis worked for a short time as a paraprofessional aide in the New Town school system and said she really liked her time there.
Things seemed to fall together for the move to Oregon. Lindekugel-Willis and her husband knew they'd leave when she retired. They were fixing up their home, which was their retirement investment, she explained, and then their house flooded. They were waiting on a buyout from the city, and that just recently happened.
At the same time, MSU offered retirement buyouts for faculty who had been teaching for a certain number of years, and everything just fell together. It wasn't an easy decision to move, Lindekugel-Willis said, but she'd done what she wanted in her career.
"I taught, I was a reporter, I freelanced and I directed theater through several outlets. It's been a privilege to give something back to the community. Tom and I feel privileged to be part of the arts community in Minot and in the state," she said.
When the Willises reach Oregon and are settled in, Lindekugel-Willis plans to unpack bins that she hasn't seen for a year and a half that were filled with their possessions by friends during the flood. Tom and a friend took the bins to Oregon this past July. She would like to stay involved in her new community in some aspect, she said, such as with the humane society or the domestic violence center. Lindekugel-Willis has also made contacts and could apply to be an artist in residence.
"I don't know what I'll do," she noted. "I'm excited to explore."
Lindekugel-Willis hasn't had much spare time, but said she is looking forward to having some. She and Tom might take up golf, she noted, and she also really enjoys reading.
"In this electronic age, I can carry around some 300-odd books," she said.
Lindekugel-Willis would like to get involved in researching creative drama with the special-needs population as well, but first plans to take two or three months to plan her house.
An interesting thing about Lindekugel-Willis is the significance of her tattoos, of which she has three. She was visiting a former student in Michigan and decided to get matching tattoos, she explained. She was so traumatized from the three minutes it took to have it done that she was never going to do it again. Then she decided to get another tattoo when she was 59 years old after she saw a student drawing a design during one of her classes. Lindekugel-Willis asked the student if that was the design of her next tattoo and that's how she came to have the second tattoo. Her third tattoo, a small outline of the state of North Dakota on her forearm, includes the waterways in the state and the dates that she lived here.
On Friday, Lindekugel-Willis and her husband Tom were scheduled to leave the state and head for the great western state of Oregon, but they're ready to go.
"I will miss so many people here," she said.