Sledding hill named after 91-year-old teacher


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – No matter how old we get there’s still a kid in all of us.

The town of Winthrop is learning that first hand thanks to 91-year-old Dean Conklin and his sledding skills.

John Lauritsen shows us the reason why his trip down the hill was so special.

“Everyone in town knows Dean, loves Dean, you can’t go a day without seeing Dean and Molly going down the street,” said Dale Malheim.

Teacher, councilmember, and owner of a garden center. Those are just some of the hats Conklin has worn over the years.

“Winthrop is a jolly, good time,” said Conklin. “I think I know everybody. . . just about.”

And they know him for his generous nature. A while back, he gave some land to Steve Saxton, one of his former students.

“When he retired he gave this 5-acre piece of land to me. Other than bale, some ditch hay for the cattle, we didn’t know what to do with it,” said Saxton.

But then an idea hit them like a January snowball. Saxton and other volunteers decided to turn the property into a city sledding hill.

Within a few weeks they had the brush cleared out and the tree stumps removed. Then there was little doubt about who they would name the hill after.

“He’s a special guy. It made it a no-brainer to do it. Absolutely,” said Saxton.

So last Saturday more than 100 people turned out to watch Dean Conklin himself go down Conklin’s Hill.

It was perhaps his first time down a snowy hill in half a century, or more.

“It was exciting being at the bottom seeing everyone up top. He got down and said what a ride,” said Tricia Hamre.

“I’m over 90. For a 90-year-old guy to go down that hill, kind of exciting! The kid came out in me,” said Conklin.

Dean told John that he’s challenging anyone over the age of 91 to come out and try it.

As of now, he holds the record for oldest downhill sledder in Winthrop.

John Lauritsen

John Lauritsen is an Emmy award-winning reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-TV in late-July of 2007. Two days after he started, the…More from John Lauritsen

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