‘We lost a legend’

Barb Sommer, an independent oral historian from the Twin Cities, interviewed Bill Bolin on Aug. 8 in Marshall as part of the Natural Disaster Oral History Project at the Lyon County Historical Museum. Bolin was interviewed about both the 1957 Marshall flood and the 1968 Tracy tornado.

Teacher, historian, storyteller Bill Bolin had a thirst for knowledge of the region,  and his perspective, expertise and desire to educate will be missed.

By Seth Schmidt

Friends, former students, and colleagues are remembering an iconic Tracy educator, mentor and historian this week.
Bill Bolin, 82, died Sunday at Our House Hospice in Slayton, after a battle with cancer. The 1953 Slayton High School graduate taught history at Tracy Area High School from 1957-97, coached many sports, was a park naturalist at Lake Shetek State Park for 17 years, a popular elder hostel teacher, a long-time history columnist, avid outdoorsman, frequent lecturer, and a passionate devotee of local history.
“He was a magical teacher,” said Colleen (Cain) Schiller, TAHS Class of 1973.
“We lost a legend,” said Jeff “Jesse” James, a retired TAHS English teacher who taught with Bolin for 27 years. “He was such a mentor to me. He was one of those people who changed my life for the better.”
“What a wealth of knowledge on Southwest Minnesota history,” said Howard Paul, park ranger for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Windom. “He was fantastic.”
Paul credited Bolin with being instrumental in the establishment of the 640-acre Slaughter Slough Wildlife Production Area in 2003, which preserved the site of a tragic 1862 encounter between white settlers and Dakota Indians.
“He was passionate about preserving that site,” said Paul.
Scott Thoma (TAHS ’77), a free-lance newspaper writer and author, said that except for one family member, no one had affected him more than Bolin.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.