Grant County Herald
Roger Toso and Jerry Ness have been part of the local educational landscape for decades. The two retired educators have been selected to be honorary captains of the West Central Area/Ashby football team when they take on Breckenridge at the homecoming football game on Friday, October 7. They will be introduced with the players’ pregame, flip the coin, and perhaps diagram a play or two for the Knights to use in the game.
Toso, who started his education in a one room rural school in Traverse county spent his first two years of high school in Garfield then transferred for his final two years to Wheaton, graduating in 1964. He got his teaching degree at Moorhead State and taught sixth grade in Montevideo, then two years of middle school.
“Then I got talked into selling office supplies for one year,” he recalls, “But went back to teaching in Luverne, MN. where I stayed for five years.”
He next went to Mankato State to get his Masters Degree in school administration and moved to Elbow Lake where he became the elementary principal.
“We moved to Elbow Lake in 1978, the first summer they had Flekkefest,” he recalled. “At first we lived next to Dale and Joy Champ.”
Toso, at first thought Elbow Lake would be just one more stop in his career journey, but found Linda and he loved the town, enough to raise their two children, John and Pam, there.
Today, John is assistant grounds superintendent at Tipsinah Mounds Golf Course and Pam recently retired from teaching in a Sioux Falls elementary school.
“I had the opportunity to move on from Elbow Lake several times but never really wanted to leave.”
For three years, Toso was shared between Elbow Lake/Wendell and the Battle Lake School District, but that ended when Barrett merged with Elbow Lake/Wendell the all 4th,5th, and 6th graders attended school in the Barrett building, with Kindergarten through third grade in Elbow Lake.
“It was a good experiment and worked well.”
Toso was also Community Education Director for what would be called West Central Schools.
Once Hoffman-Kensigton joined up and West Central Area Schools formed, he split his time between the elementary schools in Elbow Lake and Kensington, with the middle school in Hoffman.
Toso retired for a year then came back for a final three years, retiring for good in 2004.
“Working in a school is a privilege,” he said. “You get to be part of so many kids’ lives.”
Jerry Ness started his career in education in Aiken, then moved on to Herman-Norcross for ten years. He spent one year in Kenosha, WI before becoming secondary school principal in Hoffman-Kensington for the 1991-92 school year. Next he was principal at the WCA Middle School in Hoffman for two years while all WCA high schoolers went to Elbow Lake.
When the new WCA Secondary School opened in Barrett the fall of 1995. Ness was there as the high school principal. He finished his career at WCA as superintendent, leaving for the Fergus Falls School District in 2006. Ness retired in 2019 after spending six months as an interim superintendent in Pelican Rapids.
Today, Jerry and Karen Ness live on Lake Lida, east of Pelican Rapids. Their son Jake lives in Connecticut and works in the finance industry.