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Snowmobilers turn out to remember young man who died in crash

The friends and family of Joseph Lewison gather to remember his life.

Did Joe Lewison go along on Saturday’s snowmobile ride from Rose Creek to Stewartville?

His mother, Mary Lewison, said he was there, and she is a most convincing woman.

"This was Joe’s thing," she said. "He loved it since he was 2. He’s riding with us today; he’s leading the pack."

It had been only 12 days since Joe was killed when the truck he was driving collided with a train south of Austin. Though the funeral and a memorial service were over, shock and grief still hung like a fog over the little town of Rose Creek.

No one who drove into town on Saturday would say that it was quiet anymore. Across the open fields on the west, the sound of snowmobiles could be heard. The noise was louder downtown.


Dozens of sleds had already arrived at Woody’s Bar and Grill, where the memorial ride and fundraiser was to begin at 10 a.m.

After so many days of cold weather, the riders were talking about how nice it was.

The first leg of the trip took less than a minute. All the sleds stopped behind Woody’s next to the creek, where the Rev. Tom Loomis of Sacred Heart Parish in Adams led the group in prayer.

"Today we are thinking of Joe, and we are grateful for the gift of life and for family and friends," he said.

He asked for the safety of all the riders on their journey and recited Psalm 121: "My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth."

It fell to Ron Kirtz to dedicate the snowmobile bridge in Rose Creek to the memory of Joseph Lewison. He recalled how Joe had worked on the structure in fall and how they had bantered with each other about how much money they weren’t being paid.

"We worked hard, but it was a happy time," he said.

Then, without a whistle or a starting gun, the riders were off.


"That was quite a sight to see, that long line of snowmobiles," Brad Hanson recalled some seven hours later.

He and Trevor Hanson, of Grand Meadow, stood outside as riders returned. They had left their sleds in Grand Meadow and drove back to Rose Creek, not an uncommon convenience in the snowmobile world where trails run from town to town.

It’s a 94-mile trip from Rose Creek to Stewartville and back by snowmobile, only 31 miles by car, but what fun would that be?

"A snowmobile gets you out there," said Hanson. "You see stuff that you won’t see from the road."

The weather had been great.

"We couldn’t have had a better day," said Tobey Hicks, of Dexter.

Harold Nelson, of Grand Meadow, put the number of snowmobiles at 97. For him there’s no question why snowmobiling is such a popular activity in Minnesota.

"When those trails are groomed right," he said, "you just glide over the surface."


"This was all in the name of Joe," said his companion, Doug Rysavy, of Austin. "We loved him, and it is a wonderful thing that is happening today."

Woody’s was packed by 7 p.m. A silent auction continued and the sale of raffle tickets for prizes donated by various businesses was under way. About $2,200 was raised.

"This is just the first annual memorial ride," said Mary, and she listed the scholarships she hopes to fund through the events: one each for a graduating senior at Pacelli and Southland high schools and another at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville to a student in agribusiness engineering technology.

"Jon and I want to thank everyone for their loving support and their prayers," she said.

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