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He loves the outdoors

By Staff | Aug 16, 2020

Jim Putnam stands out in his backyard garden behind his house in Winnebago. Gardening is just one of the many ways Putnam spends his time outside. He loves to hunt, fish and share his love of nature with kids from area schools. He was one of the founding members of the Lura Lake Association which formed in 1994.

To say Jim Putnam of Winnebago loves the outdoors would be somewhat of an understatement.

Putnam, who is being honored as the newest member of the Winnebago Hall of Fame, is passionate about nature and has been active in sharing his love of the outdoors with others, from kids to adults, for many years.

Putnam will be honored as the 2020 Winnebago Hall of Fame recipient on Saturday, Aug. 29, at West City Park in Winnebago, from 2-4 p.m.

When the late Bob Brush took on the task of forming the Lura Lake Association, Putnam was one of the main volunteers, along with Brenda Baldwin, who assisted Brush in getting the job done.

And Putnam is very knowledgeable about Lura Lake and the land which surrounds it, including Daly Park.

“Did you know at one time Daly Park used to be a cow pasture?” Putnam asks.

And then he talks about the more recent history of the lake.

“In 1994 we ‘killed’ the lake,” Putnam shares. “We had just formed the Lura Lake Association and getting rid of the rough fish was one of our first goals.”

The association needed close to $30,000 to use towards a grant-matching program to fund the lake reclamation project.

“We raised the money in three months,” Putnam says.

The outreach of the association has only grown during its 26 years of existence

“We have a program about the environment every year,” Putnam explains. “We get school kids from Genesis Classical Academy, St. Casimirs, United South Central, Maple River, Madelia and Good Thunder to come out and learn a little bit about nature.”

Putnam really enjoys the time he has with the kids.

“I take them on nature walks,” he says. “We also get people out to the park who can visit with the kids about pollution and we invite the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to come out and talk to the students about fish identification.”

Putnam grew up on a farm northeast of Delavan.

“I began working at Stokely’s Canning in Winnebago when I was 16 years old,” Putnam recalls. “It is where I met my late wife, Karen, who passed away in 2016. I moved to a place west of Winnebago in 1968.”

Two years later he says the move was made to a house in Winnebago, and Putnam continues living there to this day.

“When Stokely closed in 1979 I went to work at Green Giant,” Putnam notes. “I stayed there until I retired.”

Putnam’s interest in conservation began at a young age.

“I fished regulary at Bass Lake and Lura Lake when I was growing up,” he comments.

Putnam’s love of the outdoors also led to him being an avid gardener.

“I have been gardening for about 50 years,” Putnam notes. “I enjoy canning my produce and love chatting with my neighbors in the backyard.”

Millicent Hanson, in her letter nominating Putnam for the Hall of Fame, says of the Winnebago resident,?”He is known to generously share his garden produce, canning efforts and help anyone needing an extra pair of hands or mowing.”

It is not the only way he gives of his time. Putnam has also volunteered at the Winnebago Food Shelf and helped with the Meals on Wheels program throughout the Winnebago community.

And, if you are having trouble with any kind of critters, Putnam would be the one to call to learn how to get rid of the problem.

“I have trapped beavers, gophers, racoons, fox, coyotes and muskrats,” Putnam shares. “I started trapping at a young age.”

Then, there are the bird houses.

“I have made hundreds of them,” Putnam says. “I make houses for bluebirds and wrens, oriole feeders and nesting boxes for robins.

His love for what he does keeps him going.

“I am 76 years old and I am currently working with biology and control of aquatic plants on Bass Lake,” Putnam explains.

In addition to being a founding member of the Lura Lake Association, his resume also includes being a gun safety instructor, serving on the Minnesota River Board, receiving the 2014 KEYC Good People Jefferson Award and receiving an Outstanding Senior Citizen award from Faribault County. He was also named the 2014 Conservationist of the Year.

But for this senior citizen, it is the excitement of the youth which puts a smile on his face.

“The nature walks, seeing a kid laugh and scream when holding a slippery fish, and getting a chance to teach the young ones about the environment, these are good and important things,” Putnam offers.

And it is the kind of thing which keeps this young man of 76 eager for another day to share his passion for the great outdoors with others, both young and old.