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HOLMEN — None of the female students, teachers or staff at Holmen High School left empty-handed this Valentine’s Day.

Holmen Senior Zack Peterson handed out more than 625 long-stemmed roses Tuesday morning at the high school as the female students were called to the school’s large group room one grade at a time. The sweet gesture was met with screams of glee and hugs from his female classmates as each received her rose.

“This was such a complete surprise,” senior Lily King said. “It’s kind of a great feeling.”

Peterson said he came up with the idea as a pick-me-up for students. He said students were still grieving the death last year of sophomore Kevin Romanowski, and Peterson thought the gesture would be a simple way to help raise spirits and make sure that none of the girls felt left out on Valentine’s Day.

King said Peterson’s surprise was one of the sweetest things anyone could do. Her boyfriend lives more than three hours away, so she won’t be able to see him to celebrate the romantic holiday, and this was a great way to feel included.

“It’s just nice to know that somebody cares,” fellow senior Vanessa Clark said. “It is such a super sweet surprise.”

The gift set Zack back about $450 after he ordered the roses in bulk from Ecuador through Sam’s Club. He said he liked giving out flowers and that the reaction on people’s faces was awesome — especially after being very nervous before everyone started lining up.

“The school needs a pick-me-up,” he said. “It is an easy way to help people feel happy.”

Sophomore Alizabeth Mahlum said she needed her spirits lifted this week. It was her uncle’s birthday, and Valentine’s Day is always a somber reminder her uncle died a few years ago.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “It wasn’t a good day for me and now things have been turned around.”

Even Zack’s sister Abigail, a sophomore, was taken by the surprise. The family used air fresheners to mask the scent of the hundreds of roses over the weekend as Zack spent more than eight hours trimming, cleaning and arranging the flowers.

Abigail said she was happy her brother did this for her classmates and glad they appreciated the gesture. The two of them get along pretty well, and she was impressed at how hard he worked to keep the flowers surprise for everyone, including her.

“A lot of girls left in tears, they were so happy,” she said. “It is great there are people like him in this world.”

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

(12) comments


Only a bitter old man would post a negative comment on this uplifting story. What a wonderful gesture made by this young man. The story brightened up the day for a lot of people. You reap what you sow in life.


No wonder NBR lives alone.


Way to go Zack! And way to go Mom for raising such an outstanding young man!

Buggs Raplin

Guys and Gals, this was a criticism of Valentine's Day, not the kid. See Jerome's column today for a similar criticism.


I would have been thrilled to get a rose from this young man. It is the simple things in life that seem to give us the most joy.


Buggs... single much? Holy cow! Valentines is a way to share compassion, generosity and love from BOTH men to women AND women to men! This kid should be commended for his loving gesture not have you pee in his Wheaties.



Buggs Raplin

Valentine's Day is TOTALLY sexist. If I were a woman I'd be offended. OFFENDED. Why, pray tell, are just women the beneficiary of gifts on this day, not men? Sexist, sexist sexist. Valentine's Day is demeaning to women placing them in a subservient role to men expecting a box of chocolates and roses for just being female. give me a break.


I'll bet Zack would be willing to bring you a rose if he knew how you were feeling about this right now. [smile]

Rick Czeczok



Buggs-You must not have relationships with the right kind of people. I always give my man something for underwear, cologne, chocolate,etc.
And what about children? Don't all elementary kids exchange valentines??
You seem bitter, Did you have a bad experience??


How would you feel if you were a man?

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