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Dave and Barb Skogen are the Tribune’s People of the Year

Philanthropists and longtime grocers Dave and Barb Skogen aren’t finished with their decades of giving back to the area and its people.

For example, Dave, 76, and Barb, 72, with local business owners Misty Lown and Marvin Wanders, considered opening a leadership academy, an idea that evolved into the Character Lives initiative and curriculum that was launched during the fall 2017 semester in 21 area high schools.

Also in 2017, construction began on the Dash-Park that the Skogens are creating in downtown Onalaska, next to the restaurant they’re building where local restaurateur Matt Boshcka will operate David Reay’s Modern Diner & Tavern. The restaurant is expected to open in mid-February. The park is about two-thirds completed and is expected to be finished by June 1.

Meanwhile, the Skogens continue to be major donors to area nonprofit organizations and projects.

Because of their leadership and philanthropy, they are the La Crosse Tribune’s Persons of the Year.

In his letter nominating the Skogens, local attorney Brent Smith wrote that “2017 was not different in many respects for continuous efforts of the Skogens to better our community. Once again, when I looked at capital building projects for nonprofits in our area, Dave and Barb were significant contributors. More recently, they have tried to lift our area young people through the leadership academy. Finally, they were major game changers as to a large block in Onalaska with economic development.”

The Skogens’ leadership efforts span many decades, Smith told the Tribune after the newspaper selected them as Persons of the Year. “They lead by example, by their generosity and their passion,” he said. The Skogens have made a difference in many ways, including employing thousands of people at their family’s Festival Foods grocery stores, Smith added. Dave Skogen is chairman of the family’s grocery business.

The Skogens’ leadership training efforts are another example of making a difference in the community by applying life skills to young people to help them find jobs and be servant leaders, Smith said.

“When I think of Dave and Barb Skogen, I admire the passion they have had for this community and the impact they have made,” Smith said.

No one more deserving, Weber says

“I think no one deserves this recognition (as Persons of the Year) more than Dave and Barb,” Logistics Health Inc. founder and Chairman Don Weber told the Tribune in an interview.

“I’ve worked with both Dave and Barb on different projects that they took the lead role with,” Weber said. “It’s been an honor working with them. I kind of look at Dave as a mentor in a lot of ways. We both are about giving back, touching the lives of people every day in a positive way. This region is very, very fortunate to have the Skogen family here.”

Weber also noted that Barb Skogen has a history of serving on a number of nonprofit organization boards in the community. She currently is on the boards of Viterbo University and the Family & Children’s Center. Among her many roles and honors, she chaired the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce board in 2003 and was honored with the Chamber Chair’s Community Service Award in 2006.

“It’s quite an honor,” Barb Skogen said of the couple being named Persons of the Year. “Very nice. I’m proud of it.”

Dave also said he feels honored to be chosen at the Tribune’s Person of the Year, joining a list that he says includes many other people who are doing great things in the community, some of them behind the scenes.

The Skogens said they have found people in the greater La Crosse area to be very generous.

Why they’re philanthropists

Barb said she and her husband have been philanthropists because “the community’s been awfully kind to us, supporting our grocery business. It’s just time to give back to the community and show our appreciation.”

“For Barb and I, money has never motivated us,” Dave said. “One measurement of success is how much wealth you acquire in a lifetime. But I think a more meaningful measurement is how much you give back.”

“And the difference you make in other people’s lives,” Barb added.

“A higher purpose (than making money) is to serve or enrich people’s lives,” Dave said.

Organizations or projects that the Skogens have given financial support to include the YMCA, United Way, Boys & Girls Club, Onalaska First Lutheran Church, Bethany Lutheran Homes, UW-L Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex, UW-L Centennial Hall, Viterbo University, La Crosse Promise and both La Crosse hospitals.

A lifetime in the grocery business

Dave is an Onalaska native whose parents were grocers, and Barb has lived in Onalaska since her family moved to the community when she was in the eighth grade. Dave and Barb married in 1965. Their son, Mark, is president and CEO of the family’s Festival Foods business and lives in DePere. Their daughter, Sue, was active in the family business but now is a stay-at-home mom who also lives in DePere.

Barb has a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She worked as a medical technologist at Lutheran Hospital before joining Dave in the supermarket business.

Christmas tree idea leads to park, restaurant

The Skogens bought several properties for the Dash-Park that they are creating along Second Avenue South, between Main and Irvin streets in downtown Onalaska; and for the David Reay’s Modern Diner + Tavern restaurant that they’re constructing for Boshcka to lease and operate. The Skogens plan to transfer the park to the city of Onalaska sometime in the next five years.

The Skogens decided to undertake the downtown project because, Barb said, “That was a blighted area at the entrance to Onalaska. We were out one night and talking and I said, ‘I think a big Christmas tree would look nice on that corner.’ Her initial idea of buying a piece of land at the corner of Hwy. 35 and Main Street for a Christmas tree evolved into the park and restaurant project.

And the tree is quite a sight: 34 feet tall with a metal frame and about 600 ornaments.

They chose the name Dash-Park at the suggestion of a friend to whom the Skogens had introduced the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. The poem says that what matters most is how we live and love and how we spend our dash – the time between the dates of our birth and death.

“The park will be here long after we’re gone,” Dave said. “And it will be up to the city to care for it and keep it viable. It’s just going to enrich a lot of lives. We’ve already witnessed this,” he said, citing people taking holiday photos next to the Christmas tree and children playing with their parents in the park. Once summer arrives, there could be a few hundred people in the park for events such as a concert or an art fair, he said.

A vital role in character initiative

The Skogens, Misty’s Dance Unlimited owner Misty Lown and Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions owner Marvin Wanders considered creating a leadership academy, to teach the importance of character to area high school students. “We went to the Onalaska and La Crosse school superintendents” about the idea, Dave said. “They said this is pretty good, but we don’t think we need to take our students off-premise to do this. Let’s do this in schools.”

So instead of a leadership academy, the four and Clements Management Consulting President Patrick Clements launched the Character Lives initiative and curriculum during the fall semester in 21 area high schools. Based on the Character Strong model created by educator John Norlin, it equips educators to teach students social skills and empathy. The organizers are working to raise $600,000 in pledges during three years to pay for the program.

“Our children need more than good test scores, they need to develop good character traits,” Dave said.

The Skogens’ wisdom, experience, leadership and ability to focus are very important in the Character Lives initiative, Lown said last week. “They have the network and the relationships and the credibility and the experience,” she said. “When Dave invites someone to a lunch to say ‘This is important,’ they listen.”

Lown added, “One of my favorite things about the Skogens is they’re exactly the same, whether it’s a planning meeting, a public setting, doing a TV interview or sharing a meal with them. They’re exactly the same. That’s refreshing. It’s why people trust them.

“They’re people of integrity,” Lown said. “And they put in the time, energy, intellect and resources to making things happen. They’re my role model for business.”

The Skogens are well-known in the La Crosse area as proponents of the servant leadership model, which Dave learned of about 20 years ago when he read the book “The Servant” by James Hunter, who founded the servant leadership training and development firm J.D. Hunter Associates, LLC, in 1985. Dave read the book on his way to a grocery conference where Hunter spoke.

“Servant leadership is about identifying and meeting the needs of the people who have been entrusted to your care,” Hunter told the Tribune after speaking to about 1,000 people at Viterbo University in 2009. “It’s not about being a slave, it’s not about doing what people want,” Hunter said. “It’s about doing what people need. It’s about respect, appreciation, listening, holding people accountable, setting the rules of the house – what I call the hugging and the spanking. Providing them with excellent leadership so they can succeed in what they have to do.”

Hunter’s presentation was sponsored by the Skogens and their Festival Foods stores. Hunter speaks each year at the three-day Festival College for management employees.

“A lot of people who change jobs do so because they’re not happy with their management, their leader,” Dave said. As a young man managing the meat department at his parents’ store, he was told that was why some employees in his department had left for other jobs.

“That was a wake-up call, a growing-up experience,” Skogen said. “Fortunately, I woke up,” he said, adding that what he learned then has been reinforced by what he’s learned about servant leadership from Hunter.

“To lead is to serve,” Dave said of servant leadership, which is the core of the culture at Festival Foods.

Lincoln Elementary students illustrate, translate book about Ho-Chunk culture

MADISON — In a cross-cultural literary feat two years in the making, a class of dual-language immersion students at Lincoln Elementary School in Madison has helped create the first trilingual children’s book about the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Now in fifth grade, the students as third-graders in teacher Emily Schroeder’s class worked for several months with a Ho-Chunk tribal officer and Ho-Chunk students from a language school in Nekoosa to record, transcribe and illustrate a traditional Ho-Chunk story about a boy on a quest and translate it into English, Spanish and Ho-Chunk.

“I wanted to dive deeper into this whole idea of Madison history before European contact,” Schroeder said. “Plus there are not a lot of children’s books, fictional or nonfictional, in general about the Ho-Chunk Nation.”

A tribal grant recently paid to print 2,000 copies of the book, titled “The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute,” which will be donated to all public schools and libraries in Madison and throughout the Ho-Chunk Nation after a book release party at Lincoln on Friday. The release party is open to the public.



Noting Lincoln Elementary sits on ancestral Ho-Chunk land, while Madison as a whole was one of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s two biggest original villages, along with the Wisconsin Dells, Schroeder said the book project tried to recognize that history and bring it alive for students.

“This whole project has been all about how we as public school teachers can incorporate First Nation history as more than just a social studies topic,” she said. “How can you bring people into your classroom, so students can actually meet some of these people and learn more about the native history of the area, versus just reading a book.”

The project began early in the 2015-16 school year when Ho-Chunk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Bill Quackenbush visited Schroeder’s class of 18 students — who as members of a dual-immersion classroom were taught in both English and Spanish — and performed an oral recitation of the courting flute story in English.

The students taped the recitation and then set about translating the story into Spanish, while the Ho-Chunk students at Niikuusra Community School transcribed it into Ho-Chunk. Most of the students at Lincoln also did one or two drawings in colored pencil illustrating scenes in the story.

Niikuusra School  

Students from a Ho-Chunk language school in Nekoosa, known as Niikuusra Community School, who did the Ho-Chunk translation for a trilingual children's book about the Ho-Chunk Nation produced over two years by the tribe and a third-grade class at Lincoln Elementary.

“I think translating it to Spanish was probably the hardest part,” said Gus Tills, now a fifth grader at Lincoln, about what it was like to work on the book in third grade. “We’re still learning Spanish, so we’re not perfect at it. Some words we had to look up.”

“It was fun drawing and learning all about the culture,” he added. “It was cool to have like a folk story from the Ho-Chunk and learn all about what they did.”

Ho-Chunk Nation 

Lincoln Elementary School fifth-grader Gus Tills did this colored-pencil drawing for the book when he was in third grade.

The story itself is a tale set in the village of Teejop — which means “four lakes” and refers historically to the Madison area — about a boy’s journey to build the confidence to win the heart of the village chieftain’s daughter by finding a wooden courting flute with the help of a “great white deer” whose trail he tracks and a little woodpecker who brings him instructions in his dreams.

“The biggest thing (students) got out of it was just opening their eyes to a history that isn’t always taught so extensively,” Schroeder said about the project. “And especially being a bilingual school and learning in two languages, that whole idea that English was not the first language spoken on the land that they were standing on (at the school).”


Lincoln Elementary School fifth-graders Simon Yuroff, left, Lucero Dunscombe, center, and Gus Tills helped translate and illustrate "The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute," which is being released at a school party on Friday.

The story covers 34 pages of the book and features full-page, colored-pencil illustrations by the students, interspersed with pages of text, a few lines at a time, in each of the three languages.

The cover illustration is by Lincoln student Lucero Dunscombe and features the tale’s main characters, most prominently the great white deer.

“Everybody helped transcribe and draw pictures,” Lucero said, noting he and his classmates were happy “that we’re going to ‘publish’ a book” and that they’d again get to see Schroeder, who is returning to the school for the book release party from a leave of absence she started this year to teach at an American school in Mexico.

Ho-Chunk Nation 

Lincoln Elementary student Lucero Dunscombe created this illustration for the book cover of The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute, the first trilingual children's book about the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Oral recordings

One of the book’s initial pages provides printed barcodes that can be scanned by a free smartphone app to play recordings of the story made in the three languages, as told by a native Ho-Chunk speaker, a Spanish speaker and an English speaker.

Schroeder, who read the story for the English recording, said the recorded readings were a way to preserve and respect the tribe’s oral storytelling tradition by modern means.

“Because it’s a story that’s usually told orally, we wanted to make sure that was a big focus,” she said.

The book also includes a glossary of Ho-Chunk words, a selection of books and online resources, plus photos, illustrations and text in the three languages about Ho-Chunk history in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states.

Ho-Chunk Nation 


Lincoln students compiled some of the research for those pages, which was closely checked by tribal authorities and other native sources, as was the rest of the book and the audio recordings, Schroeder said, helping to explain why it took two years to compile and produce it — a long haul, but one most of her students appreciated.

“A lot of the kids were just excited to learn about a part of history of Madison that’s not always focused on,” Schroeder said. “And what was most important was learning that these people still exist and still have a huge importance in our society. They’re able to see native influences in everyday life now, whereas before they might not have.”

Ho-Chunk Nation 

Lincoln Elementary School student Simon Yuroff drew this picture to illustrate part of a story told to his class by Ho-Chunk Historic Preservation Tribal Officer Bill Quackenbush two years ago, when Yuroff was in third grade. The class created a children's book based on the story that was printed and will be distributed Friday at a book release party for family and friends and members of the public at the Madison school's library.

Schroeder also was hopeful the book would be a good resource for her fellow teachers in the Madison School District or elsewhere.

“I’m really excited that hopefully it will be another tool for teachers to use in their classrooms,” she said. “It’s very difficult to teach about a topic when there aren’t a lot of tools to use.”

Duane Burleson 

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) celebrate after Golladay's 54-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Words banned for the new year? 'Fake news' tops the vote

DETROIT — Let me ask you this: Would a story that unpacks a list of tiresome words and phrases be impactful or a nothingburger? Worse, could it just be fake news?

Northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University on Sunday released its 43rd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The tongue-in-cheek, non-binding list of 14 words or phrases comes from thousands of suggestions to the Sault Ste. Marie school.

This year’s list includes “let me ask you this,” ‘’unpack,” ‘’impactful,” ‘’nothingburger,” ‘’tons,” ‘’dish,” ‘’drill down,” ‘’let that sink in,” and the top vote-getter, “fake news.”

The others are “pre-owned,” ‘’onboarding/offboarding,” ‘’gig economy” and the redundant “hot water heater.” Also on the list is the Trumpian Twitter typo “covfefe.”

While the list contains a little political flavor, Lake Superior State spokesman John Shibley said he had expected more given the highly divisive 2016 election and a year of deepening divisions in government and the U.S. electorate.

“It wasn’t as focused on politics in a very dirty sense,” he said. “Most of the nominations were well thought through ... considering how the year was.”

As evidence, he points to “fake news,” which garnered between 500 and 600 votes. The phrase has been leveled against entirely fabricated reporting, stories that contain errors or inaccuracies, and those with a critical tone. It has even been wielded as a cudgel against entire news networks. It was also found to be the second most annoying word or phrase used by Americans in an annual Marist College poll, behind “whatever.”

“I think a lot of people know fake news when they see it. It can be propaganda, it can be satire,” Shibley said. “It’s used deliberately to paint a certain story or notion as not being true.”

While some words are perennial nominees, others really speak to a particular time and may soon lose relevance. “Covfefe” — which was contained in a fragmented Tweet sent from President Donald Trump’s account on May 31 — became shorthand for a social media mistake, Shibley said.

“It’s the ‘pet rock’ of this year’s list,” Shibley said, referring to the fad product born and banished in the 1970s.

Lake Superior State and Marist have company in tracking and trumpeting mass word usage.

“Youthquake,” defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people,” is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year . Oxford lexicographers said there was a fivefold increase in use of the term — coined a half-century ago by then-Vogue editor Diana Vreeland — between 2016 and 2017. The word has been used to describe youth support for Britain’s Labour Party and the election of 30-something leaders in France and New Zealand.

Merriam-Webster’s 2017 word of the year is “feminism.” Lookups increased 70 percent over 2016 on and spiked several times after key events, such as the Women’s March on Washington in January.

Another Michigan school takes the opposite approach: Detroit’s Wayne State University attempts through its Word Warriors campaign to exhume worthy words that have fallen out of favor. This year’s list included “blithering,” ‘’gauche” and “mugwump,” which refers to a person who remains aloof or independent — especially from party politics.