Several years ago, during my eBay heyday, I bought several boys’ basketball state tournament programs from the mid-1950s. Tucked among them was a University of Minnesota men’s basketball program from the same era that, as luck would have it, turned out to be the most interesting item of the lot.
There, pictured among the mighty Gophers on the team page, was a gangly freshman from Waseca. Of course I knew him, but had no idea he was once a member of the U’s varsity basketball team. It was cool.
I tried to drop the program at his house in Waseca a number of times, but that’s when we still had our old soccer mom van, and it probably made me look like someone seeking donations when I stepped out of it and rang his doorbell with program in hand. He never answered the door.
An obituary that showed up last Tuesday and appears in this week’s Star Eagle brought it all back, and made me a little sad for not connecting with Dr. Wesley Rethwill before he passed. He was a pillar of the community, the epitome of a family man, respectful of everyone and, in turn, someone who commanded great respect.
Dr. Rethwill was my dentist. I grew up in the same neighborhood as his family. We went to the same church. I graduated with his daughter Carrie and covered his son Wesley Jr. in track and field. So many stories come to mind.
Let’s start with Halloween. A must-stop in the neighborhood was the Rethwill home. The good doctor and his wife were always excited to see who showed up. They made visitors remove their masks. They were genuinely happy to everyone and took time to chat. And they always gave away a toothbrush and accessories.
It was the summer after third grade when I really got to know Dr. Rethwill. A swing-set incident led to my top front tooth being split down the middle. I remember standing on the front steps of our house when Dr. Rethwill, making an emergency house call a half-block away, declared, “We’ve got to pull it.” I remember taking a shot of Novocain in the roof of my mouth but not much after that. I was proud when he told my mom I did not “bat an eye.” Dr. Rethwill was a good dentist and a kind man.
One time, a few years earlier, Carrie left a backyard baseball game early one evening, saying she and her brother were putting on a play for their parents. I looked at Rick Thomez and we rolled our eyes and probably laughed about it after she left. Now, looking back, it’s like, how cool was that? We should all have such parents. It’s a safe bet Dr. Rethwill had good parenting himself, because he — along with his wife, Carol — sure did a stellar job raising Carrie and Wes. They were (and surely still are) extremely smart, nice, respectful people who in turn receive great respect.
One last story comes to mind. Dr. Rethwill used to spend countless hours working with Wesley Jr. at the track, undoubtedly his biggest fan. Wes, though, had a tremendous rival on his own team, a runner by the name of Todd Moxley, a real stallion who qualified for the Class AA state cross country meet as a freshman. Wes Jr. was always chasing Mox. Wes Sr. always did his best to help.
The big moment came when both were seniors and Waseca was hosting the conference track meet. With Wesley Sr. cheering every step, Wes Jr. not only caught, but beat Moxley to win the 1600.
It was surely a highlight in a highlight-reel kind of life for Dr. Rethwill, the ultimate family man who left this world too soon.