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Sending a clear message: ‘Pedie’ Pederson brings attention to a disability

Pedie Pederson’s message is simple enough. “One of the misconceptions is that you’re not like everyone else,” Pederson said last week.

On paper, it may be hard to imagine Pederson as different from anyone else. After all, he has written a book and run for office several times.

But Lavern “Pedie” Pederson has pursued those goals despite suffering from cerebral palsy (CP) his whole life. In recent years, he’s made it a point to tell his story and make his message crystal clear.

Tutto Bene is hosting a spaghetti dinner tonight, with most of the proceeds going to Pederson’s effort to make a movie about his life.

In 2006, he wrote a book about his life and challenges with CP. The disorder, which usually originates in infants or the very young and has no cure, can affect joints and muscles and can cause speech problems.

Pederson hopes a movie can help bring more attention to the challenges people with CP face.

‘Living like a winner’

Pederson’s book, “Living Like a Winner,” tells the story of his life growing up, going to high school and settling in Bemidji.  

Born in Detroit Lakes, Pederson soon moved to Roseau, Minn. to live in a home for kids with disabilities.

In the book, he described graduating from high school in 1981 as “one of the happiest days of my life.

“As they handed (the diploma) to me, I saw all the people stand up and clap for me.”

Soon after, he moved to Bemidji.  

He has run for multiple elected positions here, including mayor and school board seats. Though unsuccessful, Pederson used one word to describe those experiences.

“Fun,” he said with a wide smile.

It’s easy to see why hitting the campaign trail would be an enjoyable experience for Pederson. Those who know him say he’s always willing to chat and get to know new people.

Norwood Hall, co-owner of the Wild Hare Bistro, where Pederson is a frequent customer, said he often stops by to discuss politics over an iced mocha.

“He’s very much an advocate for the disabled community,” Hall said. “He gets very upset when funding gets cut for people who really need it.”

While he needs help doing certain things, Pederson said he enjoys being independent. Though he acknowledges CP prevents him from doing everything he wants, that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his goals.

“He lives that,” Hall said. “He’s obviously very independent and takes pride in that.”

 ‘Stole our hearts’

Tutto Bene is one of Pederson’s favorite places in town.

So even before Jerusa Ricke re-opened it last summer after she bought it, Pederson often visited and got to know her and her staff.

About a month ago, he came by with a copy of his book and said he was hoping to make a movie out of it. But first, he would need a way to raise money.

 Pederson suggested a spaghetti dinner.

“He kind of stole our hearts so we just said we would do it,” Ricke said.

Only a small portion of the ticket cost is going back to the Tutto Bene. Though the restaurant normally isn’t open for Sunday dinner, some staff volunteered to work that day anyway, an indication of Pederson’s popularity around town.

“He’s just a great human being,” Ricke said.

Pedie Pederson holds his life story, “Living Like a Winner,” a book he wrote.— Monte Draper|Bemidji PioneerPedie Pederson gestures his excitement while discussing his book. — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer Pedie motors down the ramp of his apartment complex. — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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