Judith Miller Ranheim, a 1958 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, earned a degree in music education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1962 and a master’s degree in flute performance and literature from the University of Iowa in 1966. She has been involved in music as a teacher, a performer and volunteer, and as a promoter of orchestra opportunities for youth. She performs often as a soloist, chamber musician, and guest artist. She is a founding member of the Upper Midwest Flute Association and is on the boards of numerous community arts organizations. Luther College has presented her with both its Carlo A. Sperati Award for musical achievements and its Distinguished Service Award. She says her experiences in orchestra and band in the Fergus Falls schools “set me up for my life in the field of music.”
Chuck Weiss was described as the “brawn and guts” of athletics at Fergus Falls High School in the 1950s, particularly during his senior year in 1956-1957. As a senior running back, he led the football team to an undefeated season. He was Most Valuable Player in basketball in 1957, when the Otters were third in the state tournament. The combined record of the football and basketball teams that year was an incredible 35 wins and 1 loss. Weiss played football at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where a 1964 game day program described him as “the best fullback in the Big Eight.” As a senior, he was Colorado’s leading rusher. Following college, he was drafted by Denver, but an injury ended his chances for a pro career. Weiss was self-employed for many years in material handling equipment.
For more than three decades, Don Stueve’s name was synonymous with Fergus Falls High School football. Stueve was head Otter football coach and a teacher in the district for 31 years. He was also an assistant coach for baseball and track. He taught both elementary and secondary physical education, as well as American and world history and health, and he coordinated a student work experience program. Stueve was a football coach for a total of 38 years, coaching and teaching in Breckenridge, Pelican Rapids, and Montevideo before coming to Fergus Falls. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Dakota and his master’s degree at North Dakota State University. Stueve is a member of the Fergus Falls Sports Hall of Fame and the UND Sports Hall of Fame, and he is a past president of Minnesota’s football coaches association.
Mike Heikes was college-bound after graduating from Fergus Falls High School in 1982, but his college plans ended when he sustained a severe brain injury in an accident. He recovered from the accident except for a short-term memory handicap. Searching for a purpose in being a brain injury survivor, Mike found it in bicycling. He has ridden more than 150,000 miles, traveling in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and all of the bordering Canadian provinces. Through his bicycling, he has raised more than $85,000 for the three hospitals that helped in his recovery, the Minnesota Brain Injury Association and other charities. Heikes formed “Helmets for Kids” and has given away more than 2,000 helmets. In presentation that he gives throughout the United States, he encourages children to wear bicycle helmets. For his work, Heikes received the Jefferson Award in Washington, DC.
Lance Johnson’s love of the organ began as a child, when he insisted his family sit behind the organist during Sunday services so he could watch her play. As a child, he took apart and restored several reed organs and also began classical organ studies. He graduated from Fergus Falls High School in 1956 and studied engineering at North Dakota State University for three years, then earned a degree in organ performance at Concordia College in 1967. Johnson opened Johnson Organ Company in Fargo-Moorhead. He has designed and built numerous pipe organs and helped found the American Institute of Organ Builders. Johnson was involved with major repair work on the largest Wurlitzer ever built, located at Radio City Music Hall in New York. He has also written three regional best sellers, including one on the 1919 Fergus Falls cyclone.