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Pea Soup Days grand marshals announced

Victor Martinsen and Nancy Vanasse, grand marshals of this year’s Pea Soup Days Parade, stand in front of the old Somerset Town Hall building on Main Street. (Photo by Sarah Young)

Somerset-area residents Victor Martinsen and Nancy Vanasse have been chosen grand marshals for this year’s Pea Soup Days Parade, which will take place on Saturday, June 7. Both were surprised by the honor.

“The criteria is people from Somerset who have been good volunteers over the years, either in the limelight or behind the scenes,” Pea Soup Days committee president David Bracht said. “These two are good examples of being on many committees, boards and village positions.”

Victor Martinsen

Martinsen jokingly said the Pea Soup Days committee “must be scraping the bottom of the barrel” for choosing him as a grand marshal.

“I was very flattered and surprised,” Martinsen said. “I don’t think I deserve it. Nancy does, she has done a good job.”

Martinsen was born near Bone Lake by Amery and moved to Somerset when he was 10. His parents bought the telephone company in Somerset, which he and his brother Gerald bought from them in 1975.

According to Martinsen, they installed cable television, Internet service and a fiber optic loop for distance learning for the Somerset schools in 1994. The loop was a collaboration with 20 other companies in Northwest Wisconsin.

“We were all proud of it (the loop for distance learning),” Martinsen said. “We were only the second or third group to do this in the nation.”

Marrying his wife Elaine in 1967 “was the best decision I’ve made in my adult life,” Martinsen said. They have four daughters: Sarah, Annie, Nancy and Karen, and two granddaughters.

Before buying the telephone company, Martinsen was in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years. In 1963 he graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in broad-area science.

“I had planned on teaching, but after a couple of sub jobs I couldn’t stand being cooped up inside,” Martinsen said. “When I got tired of working inside at the phone company, I could go out and plow cable.”

Martinsen retired when the Somerset Telephone Company was sold in 1997 to Northwest Communications of Amery.

He coached basketball at St. Anne Catholic School for eight years and for one year at Somerset High School. He also served on the Village Industrial Park Board for many years.

“I’ve always strived to promote business,” Martinsen said. “I was the instigator for why Somerset caters to small businesses. Little companies have a way of becoming big companies.”

He cites SMC Ltd. and the Big Bad Toy Store as examples.

Martinsen was also one of the six founding Somerset Chamber of Commerce members in the 1970s or ‘80s, and served as president for two years. He has been involved in the Knights of Columbus, the St. Anne church choir, and the Somerset Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In his spare time, Martinsen enjoys woodworking, lapidary work, mineral collecting, gardening, bird watching, hunting, biking, skiing and canoeing. He is a member of the St. Croix Rockhounds (president on and off since 1991) and the Somerset Voyageurs La Pine, a couples canoeing group.

Nancy Vanasse

Vanasse was surprised she was named a grand marshal too, because “I feel other people have done so much more.”

If community service is the main criteria for the honor, Vanasse has certainly contributed plenty to the village over the years.

Born and raised in Somerset, she married her high school sweetheart Andy Vanasse. They have lived here since 1963 and have three sons: Dan, Kyle and Neil. They also have eight grandchildren.

“We usually head south for the winter,” Vanasse said. “This year we actually felt guilty.”

Vanasse graduated from the St. Joseph School of Nursing in Marshfield. She retired as an RN from then Holy Family Hospital in New Richmond in 1998.

She served on the Somerset Public Library Board for six to eight years, was a village trustee for more than seven years and served on the Public Safety and Parks committees.

As a member of St. Anne’s, Vanasse has served on the church board and various committees there, and has volunteered at Grace Place. As a child she attended St. Anne School.

Vanasse is also involved in the Somerset Community Food Pantry group’s efforts to keep a food pantry in Somerset. She said she is also “very interested in seeing the library expand/build. I am very pleased we have that need and will be looking at those needs.”

In the years she has been involved in the Somerset community, Vanasse said the biggest change is the growth of the area, especially new businesses and the growth of the school system.

“We went from being mostly farms to just a few now,” Vanasse said. “But the new families, new talents and new nationalities are wonderful.”

Vanasse enjoys attending school athletic events, gardening, reading and riding bike with a group of friends on the local trails.

The Pea Soup Days parade is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 7. Proceeds from this year’s parade will help the Somerset Lions Club send diabetic children from Somerset to Camp Needlepoint.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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