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Chris Zoeller / CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City's Emma Davison runs the 1,500-meter run during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.


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Mason City man remembered for sharing Christmas light show with North Iowa (with photos, video)

MASON CITY | For years, Dan Weitzel would cover his house and front yard with thousands of Christmas lights, bringing a impressive amount of Christmas cheer to his neighborhood on 16th Street Northeast.

Until last year, Weitzel never thought about taking a break. That included in 2016, when he suffered a heart attack.

"Nope," he said in a 2016 interview with the Globe Gazette. "Never crossed my mind."

Dan Weitzel, 53, died last Thursday at Mercy Medical Center—North Iowa. His funeral is 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Much like his commitment to his light show, Dan's obituary stated he "was never someone to sit around." He would show outdoor movies in the summer for his neighbors, and was an avid fisherman and hunter with his sons.

Weitzel, a Mason City native, graduated from Mason City High School in 1982. He was employed at McDonald's for 17 years before working as a supervisor at Mercy Medical Center—North Iowa for 22 years. 

Tyler Poulter, Mercy's Environmental Services manager, worked with Weitzel for the past five-and-a-half years. He didn't even know about the light show his first Christmas in Mason City — pointing to Weitzel's humility as a key reason why.

"If you asked him about it, then he’d get talking," Poulter said. "And you’d understand all the time and energy it took to pull that off."

The Globe Gazette first reported on Weitzel's love of Christmas lights in 2010, when he installed a 13,000-light display at his house. 

His display was set to music, which played on 89.3 FM. Motorists could pass by his house and listen to holiday music, as the lights would change color in sync with the different tunes. 

Weitzel's work ethic with the show was apparent, not just because of how many lights adorned his house, but how he got them to change colors.

Although he didn't have a computer programming background, Weitzel taught himself how to operate the lights from a computer in his basement.

File 

Dan Weitzel's house at 815 16th St. N.E. in Mason City.

"Each bulb has to be programmed individually," he said in 2016 about a 20-foot Christmas tree in his front yard. "And then each bulb has three inside of it that have to be programmed." 

The extra work allowed Weitzel considerable control over his display, from the bulbs changing colors to syncing up with the holiday music over the radio. 

Weitzel's show was such a hit in 2010 that he expanded it to include 20,000 lights. He joked that he would need to use some of his neighbors' properties if he wanted to add any more lights. 

Outside of the light show, Weitzel had a passion for traveling, and was a family man. He loved spending time with his dogs, and had an affection for animals — the first couple of years he did the light show, he would collect donations for the Humane Society of North Iowa.

Poulter noted Weitzel's commitment to his light show, even as he suffered a heart attack, is something Mason City residents and others appreciated. Cars would gather on Weitzel's street on Christmas Eve, and people would send Christmas cards to thank him.

File photo 

Dan Weitzel's 13,000-light holiday display at 815 16th St. N.E. in Mason City. 

His energy and passion for the show drew notice from Iowans across the state, and reminded them of the Christmas spirit of years past.

"We used to have others who would do this in Mason City over the years," Fairfield native Laurie Coe told the Globe Gazette in 2010. "I am really glad to see it continue."

Poulter said that ultimately, the light show highlighted Weitzel's overall passion for making other people happy.

"He had an infectious smile and a quirky sense of humor," Poulter said. "I think it was spot on (about the light show) that his main objective of it was to brighten other people’s days."

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Dan and Amy Weitzel stand near their computer controlled lighting display at their home in Mason City.


Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Dan and Amy Weitzel stand near their computer controlled lighting display at their home in Mason City.


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Steve King's Facebook page targets Parkland student after gun violence march

WASHINGTON -- After hundreds of thousands of Americans marched in the streets Saturday to protest gun violence in schools, Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King turned to social media to ridicule some of the most outspoken survivors of the mass shooting last month at a Parkland, Florida high school.

In one post, King targeted 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland survivor and gun control activist who was one of the featured speakers at Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C. Other marchers were held across the country, including one in Sioux City, the largest city in King's district.

King

“This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp after removing all weapons from its citizens, hence their right to self defense,” King said in a post on his re-election campaign's official Facebook page, alongside a photo of Gonzalez wearing a Cuban flag patch on one arm of her jacket.

In a subsequent post, King's page denied it had bullied the student, saying it was focusing on the communist regime that has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for decades.

After Saturday's rally, "Team King" also mixed it up with Facebook users who criticized the Republican congressman in the comments section. At one point a poster suggested the campaign had deleted the Gonzalez post.

"Did you lose this, King? Maybe you can add this to your resume when you're voted out of office in November," a commentator called J.c. Wilder said in a post along a screen shot of the congressman's original post.

"Did we "lose" it?" Team King responded. "Uh, no... it's still on the page. And spoiler alert: the congressman is widely projected to win by a land slide."

“Team King” also clicked “like” on at least two posts comparing Gonzalez and fellow student David Hogg, who also spoke at Saturday's rally, to communists, according to the New York Daily News.

King is the latest conservative voice to target Gonzalez, Hogg and other Parkland students who are outspoken advocates for gun control measures that include a ban on assault-style semi-automatic rifles like the one the 19-year-old shooter used to kill 17 students and staff members. The Parkland students also have repeatedly lashed out at the National Rifle Association and elected officials like King who have received campaign contributions from the pro-gun organization.

"The NRA "bought" the congressman's vote with a paltry sum of $11,500 over a two year period, eh? Riiiiight," Team King said in a Facebook post. "The congressman was adamantly pro-gun long before the NRA wrote any checks. And even if he wasn't, you should know that $11,500 doesn't buy anything in DC. But those are just silly facts that stand in the way of your conspiracy theories, huh?''


ANDREW HARNIK, ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., closes her eyes and cries as she stands silently at the podium and times the amount of time it took the Parkland shooter to go on his killing spree during the "March for Our Lives" rally on Saturday in Washington.


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Hardin County grandpa who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting granddaughter can't spend lottery winnings - for now

ELDORA | A man who pleaded guilty of sexually assaulting his 6-year-old granddaughter won't be able to spend any of the $100,000 he won in the state lottery earlier this year.

That's because a judge has granted a temporary injunction, stemming from a case where Dean Hilpipre was sentenced to five years of probation after he pleaded guilty to lascivious acts with a child.

An injunction is a judicial order that can stop someone from a certain action or force a person to pay restitution to a victim. 

The order prevents Dean Hilpipre from spending any of his lottery winnings before an April 23 hearing at the Hardin County Courthouse.

Steve Bohnel / STEVE BOHNEL, The Globe Gazette  

Dean Hilpipre appears in Hardin County District Court for sentencing in February. 

The request for a injunction was initially filed by attorney Roxanne Conlin earlier this month, who argued Kasey Hipipre — the victim's mother — and other family members have suffered great pain and suffering because of Dean Hilpipre's actions.

Judge Thomas J. Bice stated in his ruling that not issuing a temporary injunction would result in "... some act which would greatly or irreparably injure the plaintiff."

Dean Hilpipre, 61, was initially charged with two counts of felony second-degree sex abuse, which a plea deal amended to a lesser charge of lascivious acts with a child. In Iowa law, sexual assault and rape are charged as "sexual abuse."

In late January, he won $100,000 through the state lottery, roughly a month before he was sentenced at the Hardin County Courthouse.

At that sentencing, Kasey Hipipre and others detailed the abuse and pain Dean Hilpipre had caused to his then 6-year-old granddaughter and family.

All of them criticized Dean in lengthy, emotional victim impact statements — including the victim's older sister, who finished her statement with the following line: "You don't deserve to walk this planet as a monster that is gonna hurt little children."

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Kasey Hilpipre sits with her mother, Deborah Yanna, at Yanna's home in West Des Moines on Wednesday. Hilpipre, whose 6-year-old daughter was allegedly molested by the child's grandfather, Dean Hilpipre, and Yanna have both advocated that Dean face prison time, rather than serve probation as part of a plea agreement recommendation.

Earlier this month, Conlin was frank in her injunction.

"The criminal justice system did virtually nothing to punish him (Dean) and Plaintiff can never recover if her abuser is not made to pay for his intentional torts against her," she wrote. An intentional tort refers to civil wrongdoing, such as assault.

Conlin declined to comment on the case Monday afternoon. George Appleby, Dean Hilpipre's attorney, also declined comment.

Kasey Hilpipre is seeking up to $1 million in a civil suit filed on behalf of her daughter. 

The injunction was filed, in part, because Conlin believed Dean Hilpipre was going to move out of Alden — where Kasey Hilpipre and others said he molested his granddaughter — and use the $100,000 in winnings to buy a new house.