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Elmer Sutton's photo to be unveiled

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Elmer Sutton will be the first person unveiled in Rose and Gretchen Heim's photo project dealing with 15 people who are part of the Northern Beltrami area.

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"He is a colorful character and has lots of stories to share. He is a local celebrity as a centurion and has an expressive face," said Rose Heim as to why Sutton was chosen as one of the 15 faces to represent the photo project.

Sutton, who is 103 years old, was honored to be a part of the photo project.

"He was very gracious with his time for us to get photos and get an interview done," Heim said. "We took the photos in the summer of 2008 -- the summer before Elmer turned 100. We were hoping to kick off the show with Elmer in January at his birthday, but we weren't able to pull it together by then. We still want Elmer's photograph to be the first to be unveiled."

Sutton enjoys talking about potatoes and pigs he's raised. "I had 14 sows one year and they averaged nine to the litter."

He also talks about the home he built to raise his family and how it wound up on the wrong side of the creek. So he jacked it up, put it on skids and hauled across to the other side, setting it down over a cellar he'd dug in advance. They finished it in time for Thanksgiving dinner. "It was the best turkey I ever ate," Sutton remembers.

For many years Sutton was the cut off man at the lath mill in Alvwood, but his memories center on farming.

It's not a dull life, as his recollections testify. Twice he was hit by lightning.

And he is quietly emotional as he talks of his wife, Isabelle. She had only what was then called normal school teaching in high school and later had to be certified to teach in Minnesota.

"She was the best teacher I ever knew," he said. "It's a shame she couldn't teach me nothing."

According to Heim, Sutton was her neighbor for years. He drove his tractor until he moved into the senior apartments a few years ago. He cut the grass in the ditches up and down the road he lived on and then baled it. He planted a big crop of potatoes and was very proud of them. He had a yard full of machinery parts.

"One time we were desperate for a very odd part to a machine we had and sure enough -- he had it," she said.

He drove to town very slowly almost every day.

"When we saw Elmer on the road, we were wary because we knew his eyesight wasn't the best. If we ran into him in town, he always had a good story for us that would leave us in stitches," Heim said. "His memory is very sharp and he remembers lots of details about people and places in the area that go back to the days he moved here."

Moving into this country when it was still just getting settled, he stopped for the night at a place along the way. During the night, he could hear a noise that didn't sound right, and he stepped outside to find a couple of young men intent on robbing him of his saddle. Pointing his .32 Remington rifle at them he told them to drop it or he'd shoot.

They dropped it and ran, and it was 10 years before he found out who the men, were. They were a father and two sons, and were caught while attempting to rob the Saum store.

Sutton's photos will be unveiled June 27 at 2 p.m. at the Kelliher Senior Center. It will be a potluck and everyone is invited to attend.

"Elmer is loved by the whole community because he is such a character. Just saying his name makes people smile. Everyone will look forward to seeing Elmer's photograph to see what moment and mood was captured, because there are many," said Heim.

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