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A hard-earned thank you: Trinity Church to honor man who maintains property [UPDATED]

Published 4:20am Monday, November 18, 2013 Updated 6:26am Monday, November 18, 2013

Tom Briese is a humble man.

For 25 years, he has maintained the property at Trinity Lutheran Church without asking for anything in return.

He has mowed the lawn in scorching summer heat and plowed the parking lot in winter blizzards.

But through all that, he has not wanted to draw attention to himself. Many younger members of the congregation are not even aware Briese has been doing this work, according to church member Ginny Lange.

But today, the church is honoring him for his years of service with a program that could make a humble man like Briese blush.

“It will be a great day for him, but he would be the last one on the Earth to ask for it,” Lange said.

Briese, 82, began his work in 1988, when he set up a cross and mowed the church lawn. There was never a plan for this to become a long-term project: he just kept going back.

“We were trying to build a new church and money was scarce,” Briese said. “I didn’t have much money to donate to the church, so I figured this could be just as good as money.”

At the beginning, Briese even brought his own riding lawnmower to the church until church members raised enough money to buy the church its own mower.

He estimated it takes between eight to 10 hours to mow all the grass on the church property. He does the mowing in two or three separate shifts, generally working about twice a month during the spring and summer. Snowblowing the property takes about two hours, which Briese said he usually does at one time.

“We can always count of him when we come on Sundays,” Lange said. “He’s always got this place shining like a new penny.”

Briese has been a member of the church since he moved to Fergus Falls in the 1950s. He and his wife Florence have always been active in the church, Lange said, with Florence often volunteering to do the cooking and baking for various events.

As he gets older, Briese is not sure how much longer he will be able to do his maintenance work. Diabetes has affected his legs, and he said the last few years in particular have been more difficult.

But he still feels comfortable sitting in the riding mower or snowplow and working for a few hours. He plans on working through the winter at least, perhaps with more help than he has gotten in the past.

Today, Briese will be called in front of the congregation during the 9 a.m. worship service and formally thanked for his work. After worship, there is a brunch scheduled, where many Briese family members will be in attendance.

The morning ends with a program dedicated to Briese, including the presentation of a gift from the church. This is more than the reserved Briese would ever ask for himself.

“I never gave it too much thought, I just went and did it,” he said. “I like to see it nice and trimmed-up.”

But after 25 years, perhaps one relaxing morning at the church won’t be so bad after all.

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