Can-do man Vogel can't retire from Memorial Auditorium

WORTHINGTON -- Performers depicting legendary artists aren't the only legends on hand this year at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center (MAPAC).

WORTHINGTON -- Performers depicting legendary artists aren't the only legends on hand this year at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center (MAPAC).

Ron Vogel first joined the MAPAC staff in 1995, just a few months after manager Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh signed on. As MAPAC's chief technical assistant, the handy Vogel made light placement, sound work and set design and construction into something of an art form.

But about 18 months ago, Vogel, then over 80, decided maybe it was time to hang up his tool belt, ladder and paintbrush.

"I've retired more than once," cited Vogel, who first called it quits from Rickbeil's at age 60 after managing the local store's furniture department for 20 years.

Thereafter, Vogel worked part-time for Lampert's Lumber for several years, but when he started getting involved in technical work for theater productions at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, "I got too busy with the theater and had to stop that."


"Galen Benton asked me to make a marquee for him for a musical about Hollywood, and when I got out there, nobody knew how to run the lights, so I fixed them up for him," recalled Vogel.

"Then Mary Jane Mardesen asked if I'd help with her show, so I built sets and ran lights for her."

By the time Vosburgh began looking for assistance at the facility, Vogel had acquired some experience with the technical aspects of theater, matching his positive attitude and willingness to work at just about anything.

"Freddi Lowry asked me to be on the auditorium's Advisory Board, and we were touring the building after about the second meeting when I could see there was so much work that needed to be done," said Vogel. "I said, 'Well, I could do that,' and suddenly I had another job."

Vogel's first job description was as custodian at MAPAC, but from the beginning he was a jack-of-all-trades who delved into any project needing attention.

"Ron was a 'can-do' guy from the start," observed Vosburgh. "He got to do it all."

After several months of his recent retirement from MAPAC, Vogel had taken care of most projects on his "honey-do" list at home and mourned the passing of his late mother, Frances Dieber, who lived to be nearly 104.

"Her mind was clear as a bell until the last month," shared Vogel.


Vosburgh expressed, "Ron tried to retire, but after awhile he showed up at my house one Sunday afternoon and said, 'Here's the deal -- I need to come back to work.'"

Now, Vogel has returned on a contract basis, working specifically as a light and sound technician. He still climbs vertigo-inducing ladders as nimbly as ever to set lights, and is currently in the midst of painting an elaborate, 24-by-12-foot backdrop for the Sept. 25-26 "Corn off the Cob 17: Camping Capers at Olson Park."

"I'm glad to be back," affirmed Vogel. "I'm so used to working that it's really hard to sit around and not do much. I've been doing this kind of stuff so long now that it's second nature, and creating with lights is really fun.

"I'm just a young man of 83, so it's great to be in full swing again."

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