Mr Fanaselle Biography

Mr Fanaselle was born in the bustling seaport town of Duluth, Minnesota and grew up 400 yards from the shore of Lake Superior; he is the second in a family of eight boys.   As a boy he could be found frolicking the rocky shores of the lake and sometimes swimming in the frigid waters.  There were hardly any fish in Lake Superior in those days, so, with the exception of the annual smelt run, almost nobody fished.  Because Duluth is built on a hill, Mr. Fanaselle—like other neighborhood kids—spent significant time building soap box derby carts to race down those hills.  At that time all Duluth boys were aware that a Duluthian, Harold Conrad, had won the National Soap Box Derby Championship in 1964 so life became a quest for a fast set of wheels for the carts, with the dream of being the next Harold Conrad; wheels salvaged from a baby buggy, we found, weren’t so good, the back wheels of a tricycle were so-so, wheels from an industrial-strength two-wheeler were excellent; Kenny Thompson’s dad bought him a set of genuine soap box derby wheels making him the envy of the neighborhood as well as the boy with the fastest cart. You can imagine how much fun the hills of Duluth were in the winter!  Those of you who have visited Duluth might be familiar with the MacDonald’s on 21st Avenue East and Hwy 61. That land, which was the northern boundary of Mr. Fanaselle’s ‘hood,  was formerly an abandoned, experimental apple orchard containing 21 apple trees, each a different variety, and was a great place to pick apples for eating or throwing; building forts; or playing army games. Later it was a miniature golf course, then an abandoned miniature golf course. A Fanaselle family tradition was spaghetti dinner on Sundays which instilled in Mr Fanaselle a life-long, love of spaghetti.  Summers found Mr. Fanaselle playing pick-up baseball games nearly every day: his London Road neighborhood against the dreaded hooligans from Jefferson Street. One of his favorite memories was witnessing the demise of the neighborhood bully, Don Wheat (aka Donny the Dink).  LuAnn Rodgers, a 17-year-old high school tomboy, was watching one of the pickup games when Donny began badgering Greg Goldman. LuAnn intervened and ended up giving Donnie a good thrashing--making him cry in front of the whole neighborhood. A few days later Donny made a half-hearted attempt at bullying Ernie Fournier but when Ernie threatened to tell LuAnn, Donny recoiled at the very invocation of her name, bringing an ignominious end to his career as a bully.

Mr Fanaselle attended Holy Rosary Catholic School for eight years.  In those days Dominican nuns ran the school, governing with an iron fist.  If you’ve ever heard stories of the Draconian discipline doled out by those nuns they’re probably true. Holy Rosary had a no talking in the hallways rule, strictly enforced!  I think the nuns—who lived in a mansion once owned by Sinclair Lewis—have packed up and left Duluth and Holy Rosary school is now taught by lay teachers, a situation most Holy Rosary alum take as a sign of the impending apocalypse. There was a one-lane bowling alley in the basement of that mansion! Highlights of his days at Holy Rosary include winning cardboard cutouts of John, Jean, Judy, Spot and Tim, the characters in our reading books, for having the highest reading score in the first grade; starting at middle linebacker on the football team; and winning the school spelling bee in 8th grade. For winning that spelling bee, he was awarded a ten-inch statue of the Virgin Mary, cast in white plastic; he found out later that it glowed in the dark! The ten-inch virgin adorned the top of Mr. Fanaselle’s dresser for a few months, but eventually--as much as Mr. Fanaselle appreciated so handsome a prize--a ten- inch Virgin Mary, glowing in the dark on his dresser night after night, became disconcerting, and contrary to the inclination of his excellent religious training, he relegated the statue to a dresser drawer where for several years thereafter, it rested reverently atop a stack of his best t-shirts. One of his Holy Rosary homies, Jimmy McGregor, lived in a mansion two blocks from school. In fourth grade Jimmy magnanimously invited Mr. Fanaselle to live in his family’s sumptuous bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear war; Mr. Fanaselle’s mom said that would be fine which may explain why Mr. Fanaselle grew up with such a sense of security.  As an adult Jimmy obviously overcame his fear of the communists:  he moved to Beijing, China a few years after college; became fluent in Chinese; and for the past 30 years has run a lucrative guide and translation service for Americans doing business in China. At Holy Rosary’s 8th grade graduation, Mr Fanaselle executed one of the great crimes in Catholic school history. He borrowed one of dad’s cigars and, tucking into his shirt pocket with the band exposed, he brazenly walked across the stage to receive his diploma; aware of the subterfuge, the entire class smirked in glee. Fortunately, the nuns never caught on or Mr Fanaselle would probably still be in prison today.

Catholic high school was too expensive for the Fanaselle family, so Mr Fanaselle enrolled in The Duluth East High School.  It was a huge school back then and he graduated in a class of 602 students. Duluth East seemed easy after Catholic school. Being from a poor family, Mr Fanaselle eschewed extracurricular activities and, instead always had an after-school job. He worked at Northland Country Club, Edgewater Hotel, and delivered office supplies for E H Anderson Company. He delivered paper clips, pens, and paper to most of the offices in town, from backyard body shops to the Mayor’s office. The weirdest delivery was to the Duluth Casket Company; they had a large casket showroom ranging from the economy model: pine with a coat of shellac and a faux felt liner, to the top of the line: copper, with ornate etchings and a plush, satin interior. Some people really know how to live!

After graduation, Mr. Fanaselle moved to Orange County, California where his dad and oldest brother were living, and lived the carefree, West Coast life while taking a few evening courses at Cal State Fullerton. Most of the stories from that period will remain untold in this narrative.  After two fun-filled years, he bought a 1969 Dodge Charger--red with a black vinyl top--and returned to Duluth where he enrolled in the University of Minnesota, Duluth for one year then transferred to the Minneapolis campus. His first apartment in Minneapolis was a room at the downtown YMCA, a state of affairs which became the catalyst of many great stories which will also remain untold in this narrative. Securing an evening job at a large, Minneapolis printing company brought Mr Fanaselle a prosperity which allowed him to rent a run-down apartment in a run-down house in one of those great North Minneapolis neighborhoods. There were two duplexes at the end of the block owned by some Laotian investors, and four, large Laotian families resided there.  Among the denizens of those duplexes were three very pretty Laotian teenage girls who attracted a steady stream of Laotian boys, driving gleaming Trans Ams which was the car of choice for Asian boys at that time.  Redd Overtonn, who had been Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1980 lived around the corner. Four pale, mellow hippies--who whiled away the afternoons playing hacky sack in their meager yard--lived up the block. A retired army sergeant lived across the street. He was an alcoholic.  It was a bustling, usually mellow neighborhood, even though someone shot Mr. Fanaselle’s car one night; fortunately it was only a sheet metal wound and the car recovered.  His college experience was arduous. Mr. Fanaselle worked the night shift full-time, taking classes one, two, or three at a time. He never set foot in a dorm, never attended a frat party, never took a spring break and didn’t have time to attend sporting events, rousers or plays; most weekends were spent at the library or computer lab. Eight years of toil culminated with a degree in English Education with a minor in journalism. 

Post-graduation was a halcyon time for Mr. Fanaselle. Instead of going into teaching, he accepted a promotion and hefty raise at the printing company working in the sales office as an estimator and customer service rep.  The hours were long and the job required lots of weekend and late-night work, but the income was good. Those years were filled with vacations to Mexico, California, and Colorado and cultivating the life of a “man about town”.  He put his teaching degree to work, volunteering as a Reading/Writing teacher in a GED school in North Minneapolis which held classes in a church basement on Emerson Avenue. The students were great. Many of them were working on their GED as a condition of their probation or parole; with a little prodding and help from the teacher, those students wrote some . . . interesting . . . stories.

 

 

At a barbecue/housewarming in 1995, Mr. Fanaselle became infatuated with a young lady who, although skinny and nerdily attired, had a startlingly charming smile and a je ne sais quoi in her demeanor. Smooth-talking Mr. Fanaselle engaged her in conversation by asking if she knew whether the chicken wings were jalapeno or teriyaki; as the tête-à-tête continued, he ascertained the following:  she was shy, a nerd, intelligent, had lived in the United States only few months and was running the family’s Chinese restaurant on East Lake Street. Mr. Fanaselle began patronizing that restaurant—always arriving nattily accoutered--because he was fond of both the food and the shy, skinny, nerdy waitress.  After weeks of cajoling her with all the humor and charm he could muster he finally convinced her to go on a date: an evening at the State Fair. A week later they attended a movie: The Titanic. Proving that he is an incurable romantic, for their third date Mr. Fanaselle took her to Grand Casino Hinckley where they attended a gigantic auction of Elvis memorabilia. (Mr. Fanaselle purchased a set of four Elvis coffee cups and an Elvis clock that no longer works. He was outbid on the Elvis shower curtain.) Dinners, bicycle rides, trips to Duluth, etc. ensued, and after being inseparable for years, Joe and Luci were married in The Little Chapel of the Flowers on the Las Vegas Strip on a 104 degree day in July of 2001. The wedding was streamed live on the Internet so their friends could watch. The Fanaselle’s were VIP guests at a Las Vegas show afterward and even had a chance to share a few jokes with Elvis (impersonator) afterward.

 

After five years of working as an estimator, Mr. Fanaselle grew restless, yearning to put his teaching degree to use.  He took a few refresher courses, dusted off his teacher’s license, and set off to find a teaching position.  Times were hard for the Cities schools at that time, so Mr. Fanaselle cast a wide net through the internet and interviewed at a handful of outstate schools;  in the summer of 2000 was interviewed by Superintendent Chris Thomallo, Nick Welu, and Barb Beranek (Carrie Bliss’s mom). He was subsequently offered a job at Wabasso School by Mr. Tomallo.  Ignoring a crescendo of advice from his naysaying homies-- (You won’t like living in a small town”! . . . “You can’t just pack up and leave a good job”! . . . You won’t make any money teaching.”)—Mr. Fanaselle accepted and moved to Lucan MN, assuming the identity of a country gentleman.  As much as he likes Lucan life, don’t look for him in the restaurants, bodegas, shopping centers and discos around town as he is a private man who keeps to himself. 

Teaching at Wabasso High School has been a great gig. The life, the town, the parents and the students have all been wonderful and Mr. Fanaselle strives to repay everyone’s kindness by working hard to be a good teacher.

 

In going where you go, doing what you do and seeing what you see, you acquire a stock of stories that you can remember, reminisce, and share. Mr. Fanaselle’s future includes going & seeing & doing--adding to his storehouse of stories. He hopes to get some good ones.

 

  • Mr Fanaselle’s favorite candy bar is the Lunds & Byerly's Milk Chocolate with pretzels, toffee, and sea salt.

Mr Fanaselle's 2017 Semester Schedule is as follows:
Period 1  Englsh 12
Period 2 Study Hall
Period 3  English 8
Period 4  English 12
Period 5 English 8
Period 6  English 9
Period 7  Prep


Assignments and Vocabulary Samples which were once posted to this site can now be found on Schoology.