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Eric Peterson, Published February 12 2011

Rock of the rink

When Stan Baer started curling, getting good ice was not an exact science.

“We opened the windows and doors and we let it freeze,” said Baer, who lives in Fargo. “The surface was very uneven.”

Nearly six decades later, the 82-year-old is still playing the sport. The ice conditions have improved as well as the equipment.

“When Stan started, these rocks actually were square,” joked a passer-by at the Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club earlier this week, the club where Baer curls.

“From all the bouncing, they’ve become round,” Baer said with a chuckle.

Baer – who has curled for nearly 60 years – is set to throw out the ceremonial first rock for the USA Curling National Championships. The event starts today at Scheels Arena.

Baer has missed only one season of league curling in more than 50 years.

“I hope that when I’m 82 I can do what that man is doing and having fun with it,” said Terry Dimmer, who curls on Baer’s men’s league team.

Keith Gilleshammer and Bruce Bernstein will be sweeping for Baer when he throws out the first rock. Gilleshammer and Bernstein were on the last men’s team to represent the F-M Curling Club at nationals in 1982.

Carolyn Nelson will hold the broom for the team. Nelson played on the last women’s teams to represent the club at nationals in 1978 and 1979.

“I find it inspiring,” F-M Curling Club President Amelia Young said of Baer’s longevity. “He’s an amazing individual in that he loves the sport and he is willing to help out anyone that he can.”

Baer started curling in the early 1950s because the company he worked for sponsored a team. He said the first building he curled in had one ice sheet and was located where the Fargo Civic Center is now.

The outside air temp is what dictated the quality of the ice. Baer said there were times when they had to curl on ice that had water on top.

“If you had a warm winter, you probably wouldn’t play a lot,” Baer said.

Baer has continued to curl because he likes the competition and he enjoys teaching new curlers. It is also a winter activity he can participate in that is not too strenuous.

“In the winter time, there aren’t a lot of things to do,” said Baer, whose wife, Rosemary, also used to curl with him. “It’s pretty inexpensive as far as I’m concerned. It’s pretty inexpensive compared to a lot of other sports.”

Dimmer, 59, credited Baer with helping him learn the sport. Dimmer said watching curling in the Winter Olympics first piqued his interest five years ago. Dimmer also had been predisposed to the sport growing up in Minot, N.D., where one of his neighbors curled.

“When I first started I was looking for a team to get on and Stan called me up and he’s done it for a number of people,” said Dimmer. “Stan has a lot of patience with the new rookies.”

Dimmer also marveled at Baer’s skill at men’s league earlier this week as Dimmer watched from the sideline.

“He knows the game and it’s remarkable at 82,” Dimmer said, as he pointed to Baer on the ice. “He doesn’t slide very far, but he’s accurate. When he lets go of the rock, he knows where it’s going.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com.

Stan Baer has curled for nearly 60 years. He helped build the F-M Curling Club in north Fargo.