« Abandoned Armory building in Duluth potentially set to get a facelift | Main | A Duluth tradition: Daugherty's Hardware »

Life long Duluthian tells his story

DCN Reporter

Duluth is a city full of history, found in its buildings and even its storms. But the thing that makes this history so great is the people involved. The people who built those buildings, the people who survived those storms, the people who lived in this city.

Herb Widell is one of those people. He has lived in Duluth his entire life. He is part of this city, and he deserves to have his story told.

Herb was born on Aug. 30, 1918, to Andrew and Elin Widell. His father came to America in 1907 and was married to Elin in 1912.

Herb with his father and some friends.jpg
Herb stands with his father and his father's friends in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Herb Widell)

“I was the first child in my family to be born in a hospital,? Herb says. His two sisters were delivered by midwives. He had a brother who was born in 1927, but only lived a year before his death.

“My family took that death really hard,? Herb says.

Growing up, the Widell family lived in West Duluth. According to “Varmland in West Duluth,? a book that Widell helped write about his life, his family lived in the Tremont Hotel. Located on Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street, the Tremont was considered a dump.

“It was a rough time for my family,? Herb says on the whole experience. “My family did what they had to.?

Andrew and Elin worked and cleaned for workers at the National Iron Works. Herb would put all the meals for the men on a little wagon and then deliver them to the workers. The manuscript, “Tour Old Duluth,? states that the Tremont was renamed to the Gardner Hotel in 1922.

Growing up, Herb was never a fan of school. He enjoyed his sports though.

“I played tennis, basketball and football. I was pretty good at them all,? Herb says. He graduated from Denfeld High School in 1936.

After that, Herb tried to join the Navy. He was turned down and was told that he was not good enough.

“Back then you had to earn your way into there; now they are just taking anyone,? Herb says.

Herb went on to attend the University of Minnesota to study engineering.

“I liked it and I was good at it,? Herb says.

He left college in 1940 to once more attempt to get into the Navy, this time with success.

“I was on a carrier for six year,? Herb says.

He enjoyed being in the Navy and met a lot of friends there and loved the traveling that they did.

“I won a battle star from being there, but I can’t remember why,? Herb says with a laugh.

After World War II, Herb went on to marry Lorraine Beutner.

“She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I truly loved her,? Herb says. He then went back to college and graduated in 1948 with a degree in engineering.

Herb got a job at Murphy Oil in Superior, Wis., and worked until retirement in 1983. He and his wife gave birth to twins, who went on to give Herb four grandchildren.

After his wife’s death in 2001, Herb lived alone in West Duluth near his children until 2007. A few months ago he moved into the Aftenro Home.

“I like it here and the staff is nice,? Herb says about his home.

Donna Laurila works at Aftenro.

“Herb is a very caring man…he is so interesting,? she says.

Sharron Latour also works at Afterno.

“Herb is quite the guy. He is really intelligent and has an interesting story to tell,? says Latour.

Herb is now 90 years old and has lived in Duluth his entire life and has learned a few things about life.

He sits in his room, reading books and talking to others. He is willing to give his advice to those who ask for it: “Take it easy, live life one day at a time.?