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Profile: Carol Person planted her seeds of life with great care

Carol was a farmer's daughter, and she definitely had an advantage. She never went hungry, there was always a new pet around to pay particular attention to, and life was filled with challenge and responsibility. Besides her mom and dad, there wer...

Carol was a farmer's daughter, and she definitely had an advantage.
She never went hungry, there was always a new pet around to pay particular attention to, and life was filled with challenge and responsibility. Besides her mom and dad, there were eight children in that family. Carol was number five.
Small farming in Minnesota had plenty of benefits, but money wasn't one of them. The kids didn't know the difference, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Carol Peterson Person was born on Dec. 21, 1951, on a little green farm about 8 miles south of Lanesboro, a busy farming community in Fillmore County. With 220 acres, it was considered small by comparison to statewide farms, but it was adequate to support that growing brood.
Carol, throughout her growing years, carried her weight and was involved in every aspect of the farm, including working with the cattle, both beef and dairy, pigs, sheep and horses. There was plenty of weeding to do also in that very large vegetable garden. Milking, haying and feeding the animals was not considered a big deal by any means, it was simply a way of life on the farm.
Growing up in dairy country was more than a pleasant memory for Carol. It reflected on a time when every member of the family, including her mom, pitched in and kept food on the table.
Carol is very proud of her father, Alton, who had to drop out of school in the eighth grade. He became the man of the house at age 9. He worked as a farmhand until he was able to save enough money to buy a farm of his own.
He married her mom (Helen) when he was just 21, and the two of them devoted their life to hard work and raising the eight children that followed. They were proud people who focused on the realities of the times. Hard work was the only solution to life's continuing challenges.
When she was a girl, Carol trapped gophers whenever she could. It was a great way to earn money that was always scarce in that family setting. There was one Schwinn bicycle that was shared by all the kids, and it had a big basket, ideal for transporting books from the public library in town to her favorite hideaway, a huge tree near the farmhouse she could climb into and read. She was a voracious reader, and says she read every book in the Lanesboro one-room public library. That big bicycle basket kept her in ample supply.
Dad had her riding horses at age 2, and she was on her own at age 5. She attended Lanesboro Public School from kindergarten through the 12th grade. When she was in the fourth grade, she and a girlfriend decided they wanted to become missionaries in Africa. Carol planned to become a female Albert Schweitzer.
Carol graduated in 1969 as the class valedictorian in a class of 52, the largest class ever to graduate from the school. She earned a scholarship from the University of Minnesota and enrolled in the University of Minnesota -- Morris (UMM) with a plan to become a teacher.
She earned a double major in American history and English literature, and when she graduated, her only remaining debt at the school was $70. She had been saving money since age 14. She worked as a carhop at the local drive-in and as a nurse's aid in a nursing home while in high school. Carol also was a cook in a nursing home during college, was employed as a waitress at a truck stop, and then worked as a waitress in the Sunwood Inn Restaurant.
She was hired by the college as a teaching assistant in the English Department as well during her junior and senior years. The fact is, Carol was focused and prepared to do whatever it took to complete her studies and move on with her life.
Following graduation, Carol moved to Minneapolis to seek some employment opportunities while she sorted out her life. She went to an employment agency and found two secretarial openings to consider. One was from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and the other in a local law office. She interviewed at both and both were willing to hire her.
Although she had no plans to become a lawyer, she took the law office job. Paul Buegler, one of the law partners, became a great mentor, and she decided law just might be her ultimate station in life. With Paul's help, she was able to keep her job during the day and entered law school at the William Mitchell Law School attending night classes.
There wasn't much time for dating, although she did meet Peter Person at UMM. Peter was at the University of Minnesota as a medical student. They would date once in a while, but their "dates" were generally at the University Medical School study hall where both pursued individual studies with gusto.
They were married on Jan. 3, 1976, and moved to a small apartment near the university. Carol was in her second year of law school and Peter in his second year of medical school. It was working out, and then came a surprise. Carol became pregnant, and Anna was born in September 1977 at the beginning of Carol's last year in law school and Peter's last year in med school. Now what?
Carol quit her job and stayed home days with Anna, continuing night school. Peter was home nights for Anna so things were working out well. In spite of a very hectic schedule, Carol says she wouldn't trade those days for anything.
Anna was a healthy, happy baby. Today Anna is 22 and just graduated from Macalester College. She plans to become either a doctor or a lawyer. Peter and Carol are staying away from that decision process.
Carol and Peter graduated in 1978. Peter went to the Mayo Clinic as an Internal Medicine resident, and Carol got a job near Rochester in a small law office. Her employer hated trial work, and dumped most of it on Carol. She loved it and had found her niche in the practice of law.
Son Erick was born in 1980, and in 1981 the family moved to Duluth where Peter was employed at the Duluth Clinic. Tragedy struck the family. Erick was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died at age 6. He had just completed his kindergarten year at the Washburn Elementary School. Needless to say, Carol and Peter were devastated with their loss, but they wanted another child.
Son Nicholas was born in 1988, and is currently finishing the sixth grade. He is quite a piano player and a guitarist. There is never a dull moment in that household. The family anguish, following the death of Erick, has been replaced with energy, optimism and promise.
In Duluth, Carol was first employed at the Fryberger law firm as a trial lawyer and was the first female to become a shareholder (partner) in that firm. Her practice at Fryberger included employment disputes, personal injury cases and family law.
In 1987, Carol became the first female president of the 11th District Bar Association, then composed of 240 lawyers throughout the Duluth area. She was certified by the state of Minnesota as a civil trial specialist, one of the first women in the state to achieve that level, and she was also certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in Boston.
Obviously, Peter and Carol have had busy years together, especially here in Duluth. Today, Dr. Peter Person is the CEO of the St. Mary's Hospital/Duluth Clinic (SMDC).
Carol left the Fryberger firm in 1989 and joined the firm of Clure, Eaton, Butler, Michelson, Ferguson and Person, again specializing in trial law. District Judge Charles Barnes retired from the bench in 1993 and 17 lawyers applied for the job of filling his unexpired term. Carol was one of them. After being interviewed by a statewide panel of lawyers representing the Judicial Election Commission, she became one of three finalists. She was then interviewed by Gov. Arne Carlson and was picked to fill the post. She was elected in 1996 unopposed and will run for re-election in 2002. No, she is not the first female judge in Minnesota, but she is the second to sit on the bench.
Carol says the pain and personal anguish she sees serving on the bench is something she doesn't take lightly. She once sentenced a 17-year old boy who admitted shooting and killing his mother. That case really moved her, and it is difficult to contain the emotion of playing such a role in an individual's life.
Carol has been active on the board and was president of the Northwood Children's Home. She is a member of First Lutheran Church and works in the Sunday school program.
Carol has served on the board and was president of Residential Services of Northeastern Minnesota, which operates group homes for developmentally disabled people. She helped organize the local bar association Law Day Celebration which offers area scholarships. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Duluth, along with husband Peter.
Back in high school, Carol played the trombone in the school band. Her trombone collected dust for 27 years, but a few years ago, it came out of the mothballs. She currently plays the trombone in a courthouse band, The Court Jesters. The band has six or seven gigs a year, including an ice cream social concert which has become an annual courthouse event.
In their spare time, she and Peter do a lot of traveling on his Harley Road King motorcycle, black jackets and all. They enjoy other modes of travel together as well, including trips to Norway -- the land of Carol's ancestors -- London, the Grand Caymans, where they snorkel, and Capetown, South Africa. They enjoy downhill skiing and try to travel to Colorado each winter. Carol recently took up running and hopes to have completed her second half-marathon on June 17.
Judge Carol Person continues to represent the bench with dignity and purpose. Both she and Peter have truly adopted Duluth as their home. Their love for the area is obvious, and their continuing contributions are well noted.

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