Jerry and Karen Lapidakis were announced as the 2019 Syttende Mai King and Queen during the annual Norse Afternoon of Fun Sunday, Feb. 10.
The couple grew up and met in Ohio before moving to Shawano after their wedding in 1963. Their daughter Cynthia was born in Gays Mills in 1966 and other daughter, Andrea was born in Viroqua in 1969. Both daughters graduated from the Stoughton High School and live in the area with their spouses and children.
Jerry and Karen lived in Vernon County and Crawford County for work, and it was while living in Viroqua that they were introduced to Norwegian culture. While not of Norwegian heritage, the couple said in a news release they feel they’ve been accepted and assimilated into the community and the culture. Jerry recalls the lutefisk and meatball dinners the fire chief hosted for law enforcement, fire and conservation workers.
He worked for the Forestry Division of the Wisconsin Conservation Department, installing computerized forest inventory system on the Menominee Indian Reservation. In 1982, he accepted an administrative position at the DNR’s state office, where he worked until his retirement in 1997.
After retiring, Jerry worked for the Wisconsin Woodland Owner’s Association, where he helped develop and manage the 131-acre Seno Woodland, Education Center near Lake Geneva. He was a member of the Stoughton Area School Board for 15 years, as secretary and president, a member of the Town of Pleasant Springs Planning Commission for four years and was also on the Stoughton Tree Commission.
Jerry is still employed part-time with the Wisconsin Southern Railroad as a steward on its business passenger cars, and is active with the Wisconsin Association of the Hearing Loss Association of America, serving as state president for two years and a board member for the Madison Chapter.
Karen worked as a Welcome Wagon hostess and secretary in the Stoughton High School guidance office until retiring after 32 years. She participated in many school activities, including assisting the FFA instructor, athletic director and other faculty and serving on the agricultural advisory council.
Karen and Jerry continue to be involved with the FFA Alumni, and were active on the swimming pool referendum committee.
Previously, Karen was a member of the Stoughton Opera House restoration committee and Pleasant Springs parks committee and is a member of the Friends of the Stoughton Public Library. A master gardener, she’s a founding member of the Pleasant Springs Garden Club and is active with the Stoughton American Cancer Relay for Life.
Karen also is active with several groups that make and provide quilts to the VA hospital, and also makes pillowcases for Ronald McDonald houses. She helps plan the Skaalen Quilt Fair, makes hygiene kits for girls in Nepal and baby blankets for a hospital in Mission, Texas. She’s also a program coordinator for TGIR, a group of retired Stoughton teachers.
The couple have been active with the Stoughton Village Players for more than 43 years, with Karen the long-time ticket chairperson who manages ticket sales for the shows. Jerry has had many acting roles, produced nine shows and assisted with set construction and painting.
During their daughter’s Norwegian Dancer years, the couple were chairs for the food stands at Syttende Mai and the bake sale at the community building. They most recently enjoyed supporting a granddaughter who was also a Norwegian Dancer. They said a highlight of their experience with the group was accompanying them to Norway in 1986.