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Jim Cross / STEVEN THOMPSON, The Press-News 

Leslie and Suzi Thurnau of Osage. The photos on the wall behind them were drawn by their son, Lonnie, and show them in their younger years.

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Against the odds, Osage couple has been married 70 years (with photos)

OSAGE | Leslie and Suzi Thurnau of Osage survived a stormy start to their relationship, which has lasted well over 70 years. 

Looking back, it’s a miracle their marriage ever took place.

Suzi Grinstead, 88, was born in Osage and was raised with 12 siblings on a farm near Orchard. 

Leslie, 90, was also raised on a farm northeast of Osage.

Both worked summers at Garner Nursery in Osage. 

“The girls worked in the building, and the men worked outdoors,” Suzi said. “I knew Leslie a little bit before, so I asked my boss if I could work in the fields too. They let some of us women go to the fields.”

Jim Cross / STEVEN THOMPSON, The Press-News 

Leslie and Suzi Thurnau of Osage. The photos on the wall behind them were drawn by their son, Lonnie, and show them in their younger years.

Their first date was a movie at the Watts Theater. "I got her in for 15 cents," Leslie said. 

He joined the Navy in 1944 at the age of 17, serving a 24-month tour with the Navy's Seabees in Okinawa and Shanghai. 

Suzi and Leslie were fond of each other, but other family members weren’t as thrilled about their relationship.

“While Suzi attended Orchard School, I used to drive through Orchard in the morning to see her. The principal found out and expelled her for two weeks for seeing me,” Leslie said.

Suzi's dad didn't like Leslie at first. 

“He had been in the Navy and said he wouldn’t let any of his daughters marry a Navy man," Leslie said. "He chased me off one time, but in later years, he got to like me."

In the meantime, Leslie had a friend, who Suzi's dad liked, pick up Suzi so she could go out with him. 

“My brothers ratted me out, and I caught the devil for that,” Suzi said with a smile. “Dad always said, ‘It will never last, and you will be sorry.’”

Jim Cross / Submitted photo 

Leslie and Suzi Thurnau, on the right, with their maid of honor Delores Beyers, front left, and best man, Dean Krones, back left. 

Despite some of the family’s disapproval, Suzi and Leslie were wed on Aug. 16, 1947, in Osage's First Congregational Church. Because some of Suzi’s family strongly disapproved, her side of the family was sparsely represented at the ceremony.

After their vows, the couple experienced further challenges -- scraping by as they lived with Leslie's parents for a year and later a trailer house in Ottumwa before returning to Osage. 

Throughout the years, Leslie owned several businesses, including Thurnau Auto Repair, a service station, his own salvage yard, and in later years, the couple worked together producing lawn ornaments. He also worked as a mechanic and truck driver. 

Suzi was a stay-at-home mom when their three children Aaron, Lonnie and Crystal were younger. She then worked at Bob’s East End Grocery, in both the old and new Fox River knitting mills and at Dollar General.

One of Leslie’s proudest accomplishments was winning the approval of his father-in-law.

“I think our oldest boy was 3 years old before Dad came around, and then Leslie and he got along good,” Suzi said.

“I got in pretty good with him. He let me use his new car,” Leslie said.

Jim Cross / STEVEN THOMPSON, The Press-News 

Suzi with her wedding flowers from 70 years ago.

They have a couple of secrets to a long, successful marriage. 

“First get married," Suzi said. "When married, you should be together and not work apart from each other."

Leslie said, “The one you love is the one you should get married to. Even when I trucked, she went with me in the semi. I like her looks, her love, and being with her. Everywhere we go, she is with me."

They also have spent many hours together in a shared hobby -- dancing. Suzi said they have danced "in every place in Mitchell County," as well as the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. 

Suzi and Leslie also credit their faith. 

“The Lord had to be with us. I even think about that today.” Suzi said, “The Lord has always been in our lives.”

Jim Cross / Submitted photo 

Leslie and Suzi Thurnau of Osage have been married for 70 years. 

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Clear Lake dock neighbors want Sunset Bay Marina shortened

CLEAR LAKE | Ken and Walt Tarter are not happy about the 496-foot long dock that extends off the property at 2721 S. Lake View Drive.

The Tarters occupy the property at 2717 S. Lake View Drive, two houses to the east from the Sunset Bay Marina. The dock that extends off it has been a hot topic for months in Clear Lake, as those with boat slips on it are awaiting how the Iowa DNR rules on a pending dock permit application.

Walt Tarter sent a letter to the DNR on Dec. 5, 2017, arguing for why whoever owns the property should comply with current DNR regulations: the current commercial dock blocks part of his view of the lake, parking is congested during the spring and summer months and safety concerns for his kids and grandkids, who play in the water behind his property, right in the path of many boats who pull out from the Sunset Bay dock.

Tarter DNR letter

Ken Tarter, Walt's son, said he and his parents mostly use the property as a summer cabin during the warmer months. He said safety is one of his primary concerns, and why he's been vocal about getting the DNR to shorten the dock.

"I think it’s extremely dangerous," he said. "They back out and they bump into the dock on our property and our neighbor’s property; that’s a pretty serious situation … it adversely affects the use of our property and probably devalues it to some extent."

Other neighbors who live near the dock said they are in a "wait and see" mode as the DNR decides to do with the dock's length.

Dale Culver, who resides right next to the Sunset Bay Marina during the summer months, said his family has owned the house at 2719 S. Lake View Drive for at least 25 years.

He added the dock's fate is in the DNR's hands, and his main issue right now is parking in the immediate vicinity.

"It’s always been an issue," Culver said. "With the state park there, there’s always been a lack of parking."

Outside of the dock itself, the other main issue the DNR has been working with Clear Lake officials is the property itself. Even though it is in a residential zone, Dale and Tim Entner were able to keep their commercial-sized dock in operation until they both died. 

Both had a special waiver with the DNR to keep the dock at its current length, which could not be passed on to other family members when they died.

Alex Yohn, a local business owner, recently bought the property, and said he expects city officials to allow a conditional use permit on the property. Yohn said he wants to sell and rent boats off the dock, and perhaps expand the business to sell food and drink out of the basement.

Clear Lake Chief Building Official Mike Ritter said the property will remain zoned residential, which has been the case since 2004. He added the main issue now is the dock's length.

"Right now the DNR has to establish what they’re going to do with the length of the dock," Ritter said. "What they decide and how they’re going to do things has repercussions all over the state … that’s why they’re taking our time."

Both Yohn and Jake Kopriva, who uses the dock for his Lake Time Boat Club business, said they expect the DNR to allow them to keep the dock at 300 feet in length. Kopriva, who helped submit the dock permit application, added he is still waiting on a decision from the DNR.

Alex Murphy, a spokesman with the DNR, said the application is still pending. Yohn said that in order to keep the dock at 300 feet, he would have to clean up the shoreline and overall property.

"(DNR Director) Chuck Gipp is the guy who’s gonna make the call," Yohn said. "A big part of them accepting this permit is me cleaning up my property in the backyard … the DNR wants me to clean all that up and put some natural stone down."

Kopriva said the main objective is to save some of the dock in time for the spring and summer months this year. He added that based off preliminary estimates, he could probably fit up up to 36 boat slips on the 300-foot dock.

"We just want to make sure the application keeps moving through," he said. "At this point we just want to make sure we’re able to get something out there at this point … right now, we’re just complying with the DNR and what they’ll allow."

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Cerro Gordo County hotel/motel tax considered

MASON CITY | Cerro Gordo County supervisors agreed Tuesday to consider putting a 7 percent hotel/motel tax on as a ballot issue later this year.

Chairman Casey Callanan said it is a "pass-through tax," meaning it would only impact travelers passing through and staying overnight.

"The county can't authorize the tax but can authorize it to be on the ballot for voters to decide," he said.


Supervisors heard a presentation from Lindsey James, executive director of Visit Mason City and Libby Hohn, director of tourism for the Clear Lake Chamber.

The cities of Mason City and Clear Lake each have a 7 percent hotel/motel tax as do 157 other cities in Iowa as well as 17 counties including Franklin, Mitchell and Worth in North Iowa.

Hohn said there has been a large growth in vacation-rental-by owner properties in Cerro Gordo County with 23 just west of Clear Lake and two outside of Mason City.

"Based on the average nightly rate of $271 of these publicly-advertised tourism rentals, we estimate this new tax revenue to be close to $100,000 annually, considering a 60 percent occupancy rate," said Hohn.

She emphasized that county residents would not pay the tax; it would apply only to hotel/motel guests.

Hohn explained that state law requires that a minimum of 50 percent of hotel/motel tax revenue must be spent on tourism-related activities such as marketing and investment in recreation, convention, cultural or entertainment facilities.

There was consensus among the supervisors to agree to put it on the ballot. They can do that at next week's meeting. If approved, it will be on the April 10 ballot in which an election is already scheduled to elect a new county auditor, thereby not adding any cost for the election.

In other business Tuesday, supervisors:

- Awarded a contract to Vogel Traffic Services, Orange City, for $75,882 for county maintenance paving markings. The engineer's estimate was $80,000.

- Certified the costs of the 2017 city elections which totaled $39,974.

- Appointed Adam Pope as Lime Creek Township trustee.

- Appointed Thornton Mayor Mike Jensen to the North Iowa Area Council of Governments (NIACOG) board of directors.  

Public invited to Charles City clock event

CHARLES CITY | The Old Tymers' Clock Club will host an open house event for the public in March. 

The event is 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Charles City Art Center, 301 N. Jackson St.

People will be able to see members' favorite clocks, as well as discuss the history and makers of the clocks, which include models from the early 1800s, wall, mantle, cuckoo and more. 

Contact Christopher Anthony at 641-330-9323 or Lloyd Vollmers at 641-430-4630 for more information.