Famous People From the St. Cloud Area — Our Top 10
The St. Cloud area's had some pretty interesting people pass through over the years. Everyone from the stars of the silver screen to politicians to musicians to business moguls. Here are some of those folks and what made them famous. Oh, there are no sports figures on this list. There are so many sports folks from our area, they're going to get their own list.
Richard Dean Anderson
TV's “MacGyver” went to college at St. Cloud State University, but Richard Dean Anderson dropped out before getting his degree. He went on to play action hero Angus MacGyver, a resourceful, non-violent secret agent who could get himself out of all sorts of trouble with a gum wrapper, paper clip and some duct tape. Anderson found a whole new audience in the 2000's with his lead role in TV's Stargate franchises.
Former U.S. Senator
Republican David Durenberger served in the U.S. Senate, following Hubert Humphrey and Humphrey's widow, Muriel. He made the Senate seat his own over 16 years, rising to the chairmanship of the Select Committee on Intelligence. The St. Cloud-born and St. John's educated Durenberger fell from grace, denounced and disbarred for unethical conduct involving outside income.
Born in St. Cloud and raised in Albany, Joel Gretsch's been acting on TV shows and movies since 1992, in everything from “Friends” and “Married…with Children” to “Minority Report” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” You may remember him from extended roles on “The 4400″ and the ABC reboot of “V”. Gretsch is married to the daughter of Star Trek's William Shatner.
Humorist, Radio Host
Garrison Keillor's public radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” can trace its roots back to Keillor's work on the morning show at Collegeville's KSJR-FM. That show led to Keillor's live Saturday night show that's now heard across the country featuring news from Lake Wobegon. Keillor created the fictional town that's based in part on Freeport and other small towns in Stearns County. But Central Minnesotans have adopted it as their own. Keillor was on hand for the dedication of Stearns County's 46-mile long Lake Wobegon Trail.
Best known as Little Rascals school teacher “Miss Crabtree,” June Marlowe was a silent screen movie star. She was born Gisela Goetten in 1903, the oldest of five children to meat market owner John Goetten and Hattie Himsl. Warner Brothers billed June Marlowe “The Most Beautiful Girl on the Screen.” In addition to the Little Rascals, Marlowe starred in a number of the Rin Tin Tin movies and appeared with Laurel and Hardy.
Greg Mortenson was born to Lutheran missionary parents in St. Cloud. He's best known for his first book, “Three Cups of Tea” in which Mortenson recounts his attempt to climb the world's second highest mountain. But the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” disputes details of that book and alleges improprieties with a Mortenson charity.
Businessman Tom Petters was born in St. Cloud, but he'll likely spend the rest of his life in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Petters built an empire of companies — Petters Warehouse Direct, the resurrected Fingerhut, Polaroid, Sun Country Airlines and more under the umbrella company Petters Group Worldwide. As his company grew, he donated millions of dollars to charities such as the College of St. Benedict, St. John's University and Cathedral High School. But Petters' philanthropy and business empire crumbled when he was convicted in a massive Ponzi scheme, and sentenced to federal prison for wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
The Hollywood movie director known for non-stop action and computer generated special effects grew up in St. Cloud where his dad was a doctor. Stephen Sommers filmed his first feature-length movie in his hometown, using St. Cloud area residents as extras in the teen drag racing movie “Catch Me If You Can.” He went on to write, direct and/or produce the “The Mummy” series which made a billion dollars at the box office.
Bobby Vee got his big break the day the music died. Vee and his band The Shadows volunteered to play a Fargo gig that was to have featured Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. They were killed in a plane crash en route to Fargo. Vee — born Robert Velline — went on to become a recording star with hits like “Devil or Angel”, “Rubber Ball” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.” Vee and his wife Karen moved to the St. Cloud area where they remain. For years, Vee organized St. Cloud Cathedral High School's fundraiser “Rockin' Round the Clock” and the St. Joseph Parish's “Joe Town Rocks” concerts.
Academy Award-winning actor Gig Young was born as Byron Barr in St. Cloud in 1913. He became “Gig Young” when a movie studio decided he should use the name of the character he played in one of his movies. Young won an Oscar for his role of dance marathon emcee Rocky in 1969's “They Shoot Horses, Don't They?” He appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows over nearly 40 years. Once married to “Bewitched” star Elizabeth Montgomery, Young and his fifth wife Kim Schmidt were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in 1978.