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Minnesota roundup: U of M professor, 2 Minn. women die in crash in Czech Republic; Glensheen Mansion unveils new touches as it opens as museum

Robert Morrison, a professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, died in a auto collision Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in the Czech Republic. He was attending a swine health management conference in Prague. Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS—A University of Minnesota veterinary professor and two other Minnesota women have died in a collision in the Czech Republic.

According to a statement from the university, the three died Tuesday while traveling to a swine health management conference in Prague.

Bob Morrison, 64, a professor in the swine division at the University of Minnesota, died when their SUV collided with a truck north of Prague.

Also killed were Deb Spronk, 60, of Pipestone, Minn., wife of swine veterinarian Gordon Spronk, and Pam Wetzell, 59, wife of Tom Wetzell, a professional services veterinarian in Cleveland, Minn., with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

Morrison's wife, Jeanie, 63, is in critical condition, said a report in Successful Farming magazine's website.

Gordon Spronk and Tom Wetzell were treated at a local hospital and released.

The Spronks are longtime Pipestone residents who helped develop the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic that has expanded into a multistate business that offers partnerships with farmers to raise pigs on farms throughout the region called the Pipestone System.


Man sent to prison for hitting, killing elderly woman in vehicle, then fleeing

GILBERT, Minn..—A northeast Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 5½ years in prison for leaving the scene of a crash after fatally striking an elderly pedestrian last fall.

Jeffrey Lynn Airhart, 57, of Gilbert, pleaded guilty in March to a criminal vehicular homicide charge in the October death of 85-year-old Florence Mannelin of Makinen. Authorities said Airhart fled the scene after striking Mannelin in downtown Gilbert, but was later arrested when investigators obtained surveillance video and identified his van as the one involved in the incident.

Sixth Judicial District Judge James Florey sentenced Airhart to a guideline prison term of 67 months. He also ordered the defendant to pay more than $6,600 in restitution to Mannelin's family.

Airhart had previous convictions in Minnesota for drunken driving and driving after cancellation.


Glensheen Mansion unveils new touches as it opens as museum

DULUTH, Minn.—As Glensheen Mansion prepares for another busy tourist season, conservators and staff are putting the finishing touches on the premises, which now operates as a museum. The aim is to return additional parts of the former Congdon estate to an original condition.

On the third floor of the home, Kristy Jeffcoat, a senior painting conservator, worked with two colleagues from the Minneapolis-based Midwest Art Conservation Center to reveal wall coverings that have remained hidden under under a bland coat of white latex paint for about 40 years.

Wearing respirators, the trio applied a solvent that was specially formulated to remove the latex paint but not harm the hand-stenciled canvas wall panels they hoped to find underneath.

Dan Hartman, Glensheen's director, said the $37,000 project was a bit of a leap of faith, based on photos of the room featured in the pages of a 1910 edition of Western Architect magazine. Those images showed what the original wall coverings had looked like, but Hartman admitted: "We honestly didn't know what kind of shape they were going to be in."

The results came as a pleasant surprise for Hartman.

"It's in remarkably better shape than we expected," he said.