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Mason City boy, 9, with cancerous brain tumor has died, family says (with photos)

MASON CITY | A 9-year-old Mason City boy with cancer has died, his parents said Sunday. 

"Today is a very sad day for all of us. I'm so heartbroken to tell everyone that Elliot has went to be with the Lord early this morning," the family of Elliot Burgos wrote in a post on the "Prayers for Elliot" Facebook page Sunday. "We want to thank all of you for your continued prayers and support throughout this whole process."

In April 2016, Elliot didn't feel well and developed an illness that lingered. His parents took him to Mayo Clinic where he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of terminal pediatric brain tumor that spreads down the spine.

Since that time, Elliot's parents, Jonathan and Shanda Burgos and his three brothers, Cameron, 18, Caleb, 16, and Samuel, 8, devoted their lives to his comfort and have poured out their love to him.

Photos: Mason City boy, 9, battles terminal cancer

As his story spread, he received support not only from Mason City and North Iowa but from all over the country.

The Burgos family has received donations, prayers and messages of support from all over the U.S.

Money was raised for his medical bills and for family household expenses that have added up while both parents have been out of work caring for their son. The CENT Credit Union in Mason City has been taking public donations. 

Elliot's final days were filled with many well-wishers, including Christmas carolers arranged by teachers at Harding Elementary School, where Elliot was a student. Other visitors have included Worth and Cerro Gordo County sheriff's deputies, Mason City police officers and members of the Iowa Army National Guard. 

High school students brought special joy to him.

Newman students in 2016 held a pie-in-the-face fundraiser in his honor. Mason City students attending a home football game in 2017 wore yellow, his favorite color, in his honor and arranged to have visiting fans from Fort Dodge to also wear yellow. 

In 2017, he experienced a special thrill when he went to the Mason City High School prom and was crowned king.

His family is asking everyone who has a "Prayers for Elliot" shirt to wear it at his funeral, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City.

Dean Snyder remembered as Clear Lake legend who saved the Surf Ballroom

CLEAR LAKE | Dean Snyder liked to tell a story about himself and his beloved wife, Joanne.

"If she liked to fish, I would have bought her a fishing pole," he said. "But she liked to dance, so I bought the Surf."

Snyder, 87, founder of the Dean Snyder Construction Co. and whose family owns the Surf Ballroom, died Saturday.

Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the United Methodist Church, Clear Lake. Funeral services are 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the church, followed by a public reception at the Surf Ballroom.

He is remembered for his sense of business, his sense of humor and his sense of community.

"He is a legend that has set the bar high for all of us," said Clear Lake Mayor Nelson Crabb. "He was a first-class family man, active in his church and in his community."

He was also a leader in the construction industry, Crabb said.

He started Dean Snyder Construction in 1958 with a few employees and saw it grow over the next 60 years to a workforce of over 200. It is one of the largest construction companies in the state.

Even in retirement, Snyder enjoyed going to job sites and stopping in at the office to get the latest on construction work.

He had a lifelong interest in Scouting and was presented with an honorary Eagle Scout award on his 80th birthday, the highest honor a Boy Scout can achieve. 

File photo 

The Surf Ballroom.

In 1994, when the Surf Ballroom was in danger of closing, Snyder bought it and refurbished it so that Clear Lake would not lose one of its gems. "The town -- really the whole country needs it," he said at the time.

"He rescued it," Crabb said.

Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory said, "Dean was a consummate gentleman -- someone who felt a certain responsibility to give back to the community."

Jeff Nicholas, president of the nonprofit board that operates the Surf, said Snyder's humility was incredible. "He treated the biggest stars at Surf and the people who picked up the trash with the same respect," he said.

Also, said Nicholas, "To look to the character of a man, look at his family. His boys are hard-working and are respected all over the country."

Laurie Lietz, executive director of the Surf, said Snyder made a favorable impression on everyone whose lives he touched.

"All who met him had the utmost respect for his values, his love of family and his unwavering faith," she said.

Lietz said Snyder and his family saved the Surf in a time of great need. "They spent countless hours and dollars restoring the historic venue back to its original splendor," she said.

"Dean was well known for his hard work, honesty and integrity. He could be seen many times dancing the night away with his lovely wife, Joanne, during concerts at the Surf, especially the Sunday night Big Band dances," she said.

Tom Thoma, a former Globe Gazette employee and longtime volunteer at the Surf, said Snyder started his company from scratch and built it into a construction giant in North Iowa -- and saved a treasured landmark when he bought the Surf.

Thoma said Snyder was always gracious and humble when he attended events at the Surf as patrons thanked him for his generosity.

"His sense of humor was telling," said Thoma. "I'd ask him how he got in and he laughed, saying 'I know the owner.' Then he'd ask me how I got such a cushy job selling tickets, and I'd say, 'I know the owner.' He loved the give and take."

Thoma mentioned a lasting legacy of Snyder and his family.

"Dean, you made sure the music didn't die," he said. 

Iowa senator sees Trump opposition to NAFTA softening

TAMA — Add U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s voice to those who believe that President Donald Trump is reassessing his position on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Although the president repeatedly has threatened to pull out of the 23-year-old trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, “I think he has doubts,” Ernst told members of the Iowa Corn Growers at their winter meeting Monday in Tama.

Ernst, who was among a group of GOP senators who met with the president to discuss NAFTA before Christmas, said Trump was under the impression they wanted him to pull out of the agreement with the countries that are the United States’ and Iowa’s largest trading partners.

However, when Trump polled everyone at the meeting, Ernst said only U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer supported withdrawing from NAFTA.

None of the farm state senators in the room advised him to end the deal that has been under renegotiation for months.

“He was surprised (because of) all these little birds chirping in his ear about how bad NAFTA is,” she told the corn growers association.

Perhaps he heard the farm-state senators.

Last week, Trump told the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Tennessee that he was “working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers.”

Ernst, who expects to have a follow-up meeting with Trump to continue the discussion over NAFTA, said the goal is “to make sure he understands how important this is not just for the ag economy, not just for the auto industry, but this is a good thing nationwide.”

NAFTA negotiators from all three countries, who have not made much progress for months, meet for another session later this month and may make progress on part of the agreement on auto manufacturing.

Although negotiations are ongoing, Ernst said the sooner a new agreement is in place, the better it will be for agricultural producers.

“The worry that we have is that if we’re not signaling a strong partnership with Canada and Mexico, they’re going to have Plan B and Plan C lined up to fill any gaps that are created,” she told reporters.

Argentina and Brazil, for instance, would like to step in to sell commodities to Mexico, she said.

“If we lose this opportunity, I’m afraid we won’t be able to re-engage with Mexico,” said Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “That gap in corn will be filled by other nations. The same would be true with dairy, the auto industry. They’ll find a way to work with other partners.”

Ernst also updated the corn growers on Ag Committee work on the farm bill, which she hopes will be approved this year.

“One of the common themes I hear from producers is the need to be able to count on the stability that is provided by the farm bill programs, especially during a time when we see real challenges in farming and our rural communities,” Ernst said.

She assured the corn producers that maintaining a “robust” crop insurance program is one of her top priorities.

“I hear that all of the time when I’m out and about,” Ernst said.

Last May, Trump angered farm groups when he proposed cutting $46.54 billion in federal agricultural funding, mostly by capping the amount the government chips in toward crop insurance premiums.

He seemed to backtrack from that while addressing the Farm Bureau last week.

“I’m looking forward to working with Congress to pass the farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you and I support a bill that includes crop insurance,” Trump told the group.