Sharon Manninen on husband's recognition bench
LAUDERDALE, Minn. - If you walk into the Education Building at the Minnesota State Fair you'll find the handiwork of school children across the state. The creations range from wood cabinets to mixed media paintings to robots.
Since 1985 Dave Manninen was the man who managed those exhibits, oversaw the judging and encouraged kids to enter the items they created in their classrooms.
"His heart and soul was in to doing this for the fair, and for kids and for everybody," Sharon Manninen, Dave's wife of 42 years told KARE. "He loved it here."
Dave was also the one who encouraged high school robotics teams to bring their machines to the State Fair.
"He was going to a lot of the robotic competitions, signing up people for the fair. A lot of those robotic teams knew him, and so their teachers."
Dave died last November, four days after suffering a massive stroke while outdoors chopping wood. His wife, three grown children and six grandchildren weren't the only ones who felt his loss.
"The absence of his presence is absolutely amazing. I'm still hearing from so many people who knew him and miss him," Sharon told KARE Friday.
Manninen taught shop in the St. Paul schools for 35 years, retiring in 1999 after stints at Washington High and Como Park High. He also restored classic cars and mixed up with street rod collectors.
"He was everywhere. He talked to everybody. I rolled my eyes a lot when he talked to people, but now I know why he did it," Sharon laughed.
Dave's death also left a vacancy in his State Fair position, assistant superintendent of the Ed Tech Exhibits. The Fair asked Sharon if she would consider taking over the role, or would rather have someone else to the job.
"My daughter, who's a teacher also, was with me when they asked," Sharon recalled. "And we both just looked at each other and said, 'No, we'll take it. We need to keep that going'."
On Friday Sharon and her crew, including grandson Grant, rushed to get the displays ready in the Education Building.
"It's engrained in us. It's part of us. It's part of what we've done for so many years. To let that go would be, well, we just couldn't. We couldn't do it."
They've made room in the building for a memorial bench that bear's Dave's name. Attached is a photo of Dave with a brief inscription.
"It reads, 'In loving memory of David Manninen, husband, father, Boppy, brother, uncle, friend and teacher to so many people'. Some of the grandkids called him Boppy."
The State Fair offers families opportunities to buy recognition bricks, benches and tables to honor people. The proceeds go to benefit the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, which preserves the history of the fair and supports educational programs.
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