John Latsch of Winona has been a quiet hero for many people in southeastern Minnesota and beyond. He lived in the late 1800s and was a very successful businessman. He lived a simple, frugal life and his favorite pastime was to canoe on the Mississippi. One day while canoeing a terrible thunderstorm caused Latsch to take shelter on the shore. He was soon surprised to see the landowner next to him screaming for him to get off his land. This upsetting experience caused J.L. to start buying up as much land as possible in order to make it possible for him to turn those parcels on land into parks, so that a similar experience would be less likely to happen to other people.
The lands that he purchased and subsequently donated are: the Winona Golf Course, Latsch Island (across the river from Winona, used as a park and boathouse community), Latsch State Park (MN), Blufflands State Park (MN), Merrick State Park (WI), and Perrot State Park (WI).
It so happens that around this same time a group of hunters from Chicago had been frequenting the Winona area and they had learned about what Latsch was doing. They were so inspired by his example that they started the Isaac Walton League, which in turn founded the National Wildlife System (which surrounds many of the parks that John Latsch created). John Latsch is a good example of the far-ranging influence one person can have on the world.
~Julia Crozier, Fountain City, WI