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Todd Kurtz, Forum Communications Co., Published May 20 2012

Man leaves nearly $1 million to Wyndmere School District

WYNDMERE, N.D. – An almost $1 million donation to the school district here was built to last forever.

Russell Janssen left the school $800,000, with the stipulation that the principle is never touched. Instead the school will spend the interest made each year on the students.

Janssen’s connection to the school is through his wife, Patsy. She taught for 41 years in Wyndmere before being forced into retirement about 15 years ago.

Friends say the couple wanted to make sure the town and the school remained strong.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever known a man who loved his wife more than Russell. He was just so dedicated to her,” said David Hanson, who worked Patsy.

Patsy taught for a total of 51 years, all but 10 in Wyndmere.

Students still comment on a bell that once belonged to Patsy. It was used to announce recesses until she retired in 1998.

“At the end of her tenure she still was one of my very best teachers, without a doubt,” Hanson said. “It’s unfortunate that the cancer came when it did. She was finally going to retire. She and her husband were going to travel, and they never got to do that.”

The couple never had children, but if you grew up in Wyndmere, you had Patsy as a teacher, which made you part of the Janssen family, Hanson said.

“That means loving everything about one another,” said Superintendent Chris Swenson. “When Patsy’s love was the school, Russell can’t help but to love the kids at the school, too,”

Of the $800,000 in Russell’s will, he left $300,000 for college scholarships and asked that the interest on the remaining $500,000 go to the elementary school for special projects.

“What they donated to the school in their estate is a little shocking – that they were generous enough to give to the school wasn’t shocking at all,” Swenson said.

Russell also donated $200,000 to the church and cemetery.

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Kurtz is a reporter for WDAY News, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.