Windmill heaven | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Windmill heaven

A family legacy continues to decorate the skyline

Posted: December 1, 2012 - 12:08am
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Orville Rach's photo is included on the engine of the colorful train he built. Rach's talent for working with metal is visible in the train and track he created along with numerous windmills, life-size animals and sunflowers.   Renee Richardson
Renee Richardson
Orville Rach's photo is included on the engine of the colorful train he built. Rach's talent for working with metal is visible in the train and track he created along with numerous windmills, life-size animals and sunflowers.

Lori Ostrowski thought there would be more time to learn what her father had to teach her about building windmills.

But time turned out to be the one thing in short supply.

Her dad Orville Rach liked to whistle when he was working.

“As soon as you couldn’t hear him whistle it was like uh-oh something’s not working like it should be,” Ostrowski said. “We take people for granted, you know, when they’re here — and we should never do that.

“He wanted to teach us how to do things and show us and it’s like you think you’ve got lots of time.”

Rach grew up in the Bertha area as one of a dozen children. His father died when Rach was 8 years old. The boys in his family all pitched in to help the family. Rach left school after eighth grade and started on a path to a life of farming. But Ostrowski finds herself wondering what he would have become given his own choice to complete his education. His legacy may be evident in a grandson who went on to study mechanical engineering and a granddaughter who went on to architectural school.

Even while he was farming, Rach engaged the artist and engineer that lurked inside. He constructed tools and mechanisms to make his farming life easier.

And he created windmills and other metal art, from life-size dairy cows to magical characters to garden sunflowers. In 2006, he made a colorful train and his own tracks. But it’s the 20-foot windmills with 60-inch blades that grab attention as drivers cruise along the Deerwood shortcut.

People saw the windmill Rach put up for his own enjoyment and then stopped to ask if they were for sale. Soon Rach was making more and developing a faithful customer base. The family has a memory book of cards and photos and letters from customers who wanted to show how the windmills looked once they were installed in their new homes from Canada to Florida. One of his windmills was even used in a school play for “Oklahoma.”

Rach put his talents to use to create a giant ice cream cone out of iron and concrete when the one his wife wanted and purchased — a landmark in Wadena — crumbled when they tried to move it.

Then on a Monday after Easter, Rach had a stress test for his heart that showed a blocked artery. He had a triple bypass. Ostrowski said he did well coming out of the surgery. But when his heart fluttered, a drug administered to help him proved to be his undoing. He had an allergic reaction. It attacked one lung and then the other. When it came back a third time, Ostrowski said her father didn’t have enough left to fight it.

“It was his lungs he died from,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “It wasn’t his heart. It was his heart that kept him going.”

He died in 2008.

In his legacy to his family was a stack of premade windmill blades and the tools he used to create them, including concrete bases. The Ostrowskis took up the effort. Lori’s husband Joe had one windmill in progress in a garage this fall.

“A pretty special man as far as I’m concerned,” Ostrowski said of her father. “God had bigger plans, maybe he wanted windmills way up high.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.