Otter Tail County residents are proud of their sons and daughters who graduate in various communities and do well in their adult lives.

Such is the case for Vining native and Henning High School graduate Karen Nyberg. She is the daughter of Ken and Phyllis Nyberg.

In 2008, Karen was a space shuttle astronaut on the Discovery which was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She docked with her crew at the International Space Station.

It was in 2013 when Nyberg joined Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and European astronaut Luca Parmitano aboard the Soyuz and connected with the International Space Station. The launch took place in Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

During the past six years she has worked for NASA in exploration and as head of the NASA robotics branch. Nyberg graduated from the University of North Dakota and later attended graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin.

Her work at the Austin BioHeat Transfer Laboratory led to her doctorate in 1998.

Nyberg, 49, is married to fellow astronaut Douglas Hurley. The couple and their son, Jack, enjoy backpacking near their home in rural Houston.

Karen also is a runner and enjoys painting, playing the piano and sewing. She never forgot her roots in Otter Tail County.

Family appreciates support for Zachary Mesker

A week ago I mentioned that the grandson of former Fergus Falls teacher and coach Glen Mesker recovered from his injuries suffered during a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.

The family appreciates the support and encouragement for Zachary Mesker, better known as Zach.

“We’re so fortunate to have Zach in our lives,” said his mother Lorraine, who with her husband Jay resides in San Marcos, California.

She said the people who Zach has met along his journey to recovery have been truly incredible.

“Zach and Lauren, his girlfriend who was with him during the music festival in Vegas, have made some lifelong connections throughout this ordeal,” Lorraine said. “It’s amazing how good and kind people truly are.”

Zach, Lauren, Jay and Lorraine will travel to Sacramento on May 2 when Chris Weitzel, a firefighter, will be honored with the Medal of Honor for his bravery in helping rescue Zach.

“He helped Zach while gunfire was still happening,” Lorraine said. “These two have become great friends over the past year and a half.  It has been an incredible bond in healing for both of them.”

Zach is a machinist at HRE Wheels in Vista, located in southern California.  The company makes custom high-end rims for classic cars. Jay Leno is a good customer.  Porches, Lamborghinis and McClarens are classic car names.

“HRE has been very good to Zach,” Lorraine said, “holding his position until he returned to work about a month ago.”

“We’re so grateful that not only did they welcome him back, but they were always concerned about Zach’s welfare from day one.  They checked on him often and gave him support throughout his recovery.”

Zach started three days a week for a couple of weeks before returning fulltime.

His story is an inspiration for all of us, especially those who know the Mesker family of Glen and Marcia and their sons Greg, Jay and Scott.

Cheers for Jim Kaat

Minnesota Twins 1960s pitcher Jim Kaat was a TV color man this past weekend with Dick Bremer when the Twins played in Baltimore.

Kaat, now 80, played with the Washington Senators before the Twins started playing baseball in 1961 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.

He talked about President Eisenhower throwing out the first pitch in the 1960 opener at Griffith Stadium in the nation’s capital. Ted Williams homered for Boston. Camilo Pascual struck out 15 and pitched the win for the Senators.

Kaat played with the Twins in the 1965 World Series, won by the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to three.

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.

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