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Ely dedicates street to its late tourism maven

As of Thursday, Linda Fryer Way, not Seventh Avenue, will outline the western edge of Whiteside Park.

Linda Fryer.
The late Linda Fryer, who will be memorialized in Ely on Thursday with the dedication of Linda Fryer Way.
Contributed / Ely Chamber of Commerce
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ELY — Wherever she went, Linda Fryer represented her hometown.

“She always had an Ely T-shirt or sweatshirt on, telling people all about it and inviting them to come,” Judy Hall said. “She was working for Ely every minute.”

Hall, 84, was Fryer’s partner in life and witnessed firsthand all Fryer did for the Northeastern Minnesota city of 3,400-plus residents bordering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Fryer’s history of duty to Ely will be memorialized Thursday, when the city will dedicate a portion of Seventh Avenue in her name, dubbing it Linda Fryer Way. Fryer died in January at age 72, after having once spent 25 years as administrative director of the Ely Chamber of Commerce.

“Linda was exactly what our community needed,” Mayor Roger Skraba told the News Tribune. “She moved us in the right direction. She was a good leader.”

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Linda Fryer.
The late Linda Fryer will be memorialized in Ely on Thursday with the dedication of Linda Fryer Way.
Contributed / Ely Chamber of Commerce

Fryer and Hall came to Ely from northwest Indiana in 1980, having previously built a cabin outside town in 1974. Fryer started in town by owning and operating a Montgomery Ward catalog store. By 1988, the store was long closed, but she was leading the chamber, and later also the Ely Area Tourism Bureau.

Eva Sebesta is the director of the chamber now, and recalled Fryer as a powerhouse who kept a level approach. Fryer once told Sebesta a leader never missed a good opportunity to keep their mouth closed.

“People really trusted and respected her,” Sebesta said. “She would think things through, and was very specific in what she did. Never flighty.”

Linda Fryer Way in Ely.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Sources said Fryer helped put Ely on the map as a popular tourist destination. She loved the outdoors, loved to fish, travel and propagate the message that Ely was a choice destination for people who enjoyed those things, too.

“She was selfless and a driving force,” Sevesta said. “She was always looking at what could be done to profit the community.”

Linda Fryer Way will run along what was once South Seventh Avenue East between East Sheridan Street to East Harvey Street. The portion of roadway borders Whiteside Park, and no homes or businesses are affected in terms of adjusting addresses as part of the naming change.

The Blueberry Arts Festival, which draws 40,000 people annually in July, and the Harvest Moon Festival in the fall are two of the events that owe their creation to Fryer. She was friendly with the late CBS news anchor Charles Kuralt, getting to know each other during his “On the Road” segments.

“They got along wonderfully,” Skraba said. “Charles’ support — little things like that — made a big difference for Ely.”

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Street sign.
The street sign that will mark the new Linda Fryer Way in Ely.
Contributed / Ely Chamber of Commerce

Fryer also led the way in creating the city’s popular April Fool’s Day promotions — annual announcements that tickled audiences across the state. Whether it was the Summer Olympics coming to Ely, or Ely being annexed into Canada, the jokes sometimes were so close to plausible that audiences would bite and Fryer would be the one cracking up with laughter, sources said.

“She was behind all of that,” Hall said.

Now, the city will remember Fryer for all time. The dedication ceremony for Linda Fryer Way is 10 a.m. Thursday at Whiteside Park.

MORE ABOUT ELY
Zoe Communications, Inc. in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, bought WELY. During the transition, it will be off the air for about 90 days starting Thursday.

Related Topics: IRON RANGEELYTOURISM
Brady Slater is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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