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Great People

Saluting decades of service to our customers

The names, accomplishments and reputations of those who have gone before inspire Metro Transit to do its best work. We honor these members of the Metro Transit family who recently retired with more than 30 years of service. Thank you for the dedication and your role in keeping the Twin Cities region moving.

Bill Wilken 

Revenue Operations Supervisor
Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:44:00 PM

After several years with a company that repaired fiberglass barge covers in New Orleans, Bill Wilken decided it was time to come home to the Twin Cities. The experience he’d gained on the river came in helpful when he applied for a bus maintenance role at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. After passing a test, he was hired as a cleaner and put to work sweeping buses and scrubbing wheels. In a difficult job market, he was happy to have the work. But the appeal went beyond a steady paycheck and good benefits. “I wanted to work somewhere that contributed to the public good,” Wilken said. And in his 43 years at Metro Transit, he contributed quite a bit.

While his career began in bus maintenance, Wilken wasn’t destined to become a mechanic. Instead, he enrolled in accounting classes and applied for a job as a clerk in a department responsible for managing newly introduced pre-paid fare programs. At the time, most customers paid each time they rode by dropping nickels and dimes into a mechanical farebox. He switched tracks at an opportune moment: over the coming decades, Wilken helped introduce several industry-leading changes that made it easier and more convenient for customers to pay their fares.

One of his earliest accomplishments was the establishment of Metro Transit stores in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul where customers could purchase fares in person. Wilken also led efforts to simplify the fare structure, expand fare sales to hundreds of area retailers, install electronic fare boxes and introduce the agency’s first prepaid magnetic fare products. In 1998, he participated in the launch of the Metropass program, which allowed employers to provide discounted, unlimited ride passes. His resume also includes the introduction of online sales and Go-To Cards, automatic fare cards that had become the dominant form of fare payment by the time he retired. “We really led the way for the industry,” Wilken said.

Wilken also played key roles in the openings of the METRO Blue Line (then known as the Hiawatha Line), METRO Green Line and the Northstar Commuter Rail Line, as well as countless large events, including the 2018 Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. Ticket booths, trained staff and careful planning helped ensure smooth operations even as thousands of event-goers turned to Metro Transit. “You get a little nervous anticipating all the things that could go wrong, then you load that last train, sit back and just go, ‘Ah…’” Wilken said.

While Wilken was a proud innovator, he also knew how to build and support a team. He became a supervisor in 1986 and hired numerous interns and several employees who’d go on to have long and successful careers of their own. He also worked closely with staff across the agency and local partners who went out of their way to express their confidence in Wilken’s work. Wilken’s achievements were recognized in 2016, when he received a Distinguished Career Award from the Minnesota Public Transportation Association.

Wilken retired in February 2020 with 43 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend more time traveling, fixing up his house and focusing on his health. 

Jack Berner 

Operator
Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 30, 2020 2:50:00 PM

Growing up, Jack Berner walked or biked just about everywhere he went. Once he started working, though, he quickly developed a knack for driving. He spent three years delivering custom-made cabinets, drove a school bus while attending vocational school and distributed soda throughout the Twin Cities for nearly a decade. When the company he worked for went through a strike, Berner knew he couldn’t sit still in an office and looked for another chance to get behind the wheel. “My wife said, ‘I don’t care where you work as long as you come home every night,’” Berner remembered. “That eliminated a lot of the trucking jobs.” The criteria did not, however, prevent him from becoming a bus driver, which is how Berner ended up applying at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. 

The first stop in Berner’s 31-year career at Metro Transit was at the Shingle Creek Garage, now the Ruter Garage. The transition from delivery truck to a 40-foot bus, he said, wasn’t too terribly difficult. “The bus was wider by about a half foot, so it took a few days to get used to the width,” he said. “By day three, I was driving with one hand.” (An instructor quickly reminded Berner not to be too confident, and to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.) While he had to wait for a full-time role, Berner knew even when he applied that he wanted to make this stop his last. “When I started here, I said, ‘I hope this is the last job I ever have to apply for.’”

Fifteen months after starting, Berner went full time and settled in at the Heywood Garage, where he spent the remainder of his career. At Heywood, Berner often worked 15-hour days and put in hundreds of hours of overtime a year. All that time on the road helped sharpen his driving skills. And it showed. Berner retired with a 26-year safe driving record and an impressive collection of Bus Roadeo titles. Berner competed in his first Bus Roadeo in 1997, finishing in the top ten overall and among that year’s top first-time participants. He would go on to compete in 22 more Metro Transit Roadeos, as well as several state and international Roadeos. Berner won 14 Metro Transit Roadeos and three state titles; his best finish in the international competition was fifth place. Out of all that success, his proudest achievement came in 2014, when he took first place and his son, Jason Berner, took second. “That was a pretty special moment,” he said.

Berner’s influence went beyond his own family, too. In 2004, he began working with newly hired operators as a relief instructor. He advised hundreds of operators over the next 15 years and took the work seriously. Even if the streets were empty, Berner made sure his students learned to take turns without crossing the centerline. “An inch here or an inch there makes a big difference,” Berner said. “I wanted them to have the confidence that they could drive in any situation.”

Berner retired in January 2020 with more than 31 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend more time with his family, including his wife of 40 years, children and grandchildren. He also looked forward to traveling, biking, boating, and to picking up new hobbies like pickleball.

John Lund 

Facilities Maintenance Supervisor
| Friday, January 10, 2020 1:04:00 PM

John Lund

By the age of 16, John Lund had already graduated from St. Paul Central High School and started turning his interest in auto mechanics into a career. After having two sons, though, his wife’s uncle convinced him to work with him at Metro Transit, where he’d have better benefits and more opportunity. Lund would go on to spend the next 40 years at Metro Transit, taking on several different roles in bus and facilities maintenance.

Lund’s first stop, in 1980, was at the newly opened Ruter Garage where, in a brief stay as a cleaner, he dusted dashboards and the ledge in front of the rear window. His first year also included stints as a helper and technician at the old Northside, old Snelling and South garages. At South, Lund directed bus operators into the bay area the night the facility opened – one of several facility openings he participated in during his career. In 1982, Lund moved to the Overhaul Base where he was given an unusual assignment. To cut costs, agency leaders had decided to eliminate air conditioning on buses, and Lund was part of a team tasked with cutting vents into the roofs of more than 1,000 buses. After that, he spent most of the 80s as a technician at the South and Heywood garages.

A decade into his career, Lund returned to school, started his own auto repair business and began teaching part-time at Dunwoody College – all while holding onto his job at Metro Transit. “I worked at Metro Transit at night, taught during the day and ran the auto business out of my house in between,” he said. “That was my 30s.” (Lund said there were days he’d wear his Lund’s Automotive Services uniform while at Metro Transit because, he said, “I didn’t have time to change.”) While Lund thrived off a full plate, he closed the business in 2001. The same year, his son Mike, who’d been a business partner, began working at Metro Transit. (Mike was an Electro-Mechanic Technician at Metro Transit at the time of John’s retirement.)

In 2001, Lund moved to the newly opened East Metro Garage and then returned to the Overhaul Base, where he performed electrical inspections, built motors and was a transmission specialist. At the Overhaul Base, Lund also spent several years as the senior mechanic electrician, one of his most rewarding roles. The work involved sometimes tedious troubleshooting and several significant projects, like the fleetwide installation of the TRAK electronic vehicle monitoring system.” “I loved that job because it was challenging,” Lund said.

Lund left Bus Maintenance in 2009 to serve as a commuter rail foreperson and returned to East Metro later that year. In 2012, he got his first chance to work as a facilities technician – a job that was soon taken by a more senior employee during a pick. He returned to Facilities Maintenance in 2013 and finished out his career as a facilities technician and facilities supervisor.

As a facilities technician, Lund was assigned to the Heywood Office and Operations Support Center, tackling everything from a faulty HVAC unit to building leaks. As a supervisor, he oversaw more than 1 million square feet of support facilities, a team of around a dozen technicians. Among his many projects as a supervisor, he helped install new boilers at the Transit Control Center, improved the bus wash system at the Ruter Garage and contributed to compressed air projects at four locations.

Reflecting on his accomplishments, Lund said he was proud of the legacy he’d leave behind. “My whole attitude has always been to do my best at anything I do,” he said. “From small jobs to big jobs, I’ve accomplished a lot and I’m very proud of that.”

In retirement, Lund planned to spend more time with his family, including his wife, two sons and six grandchildren, and pursuing an array of hobbies, including camping, traveling yardwork, hockey, down-hill and water skiing, snowmobiling, ATV trail riding, fishing, piano, guitar, singing and bowling.

2019

Gene Sheldon 

Manager-Rail Vehicle Maintenance
| Thursday, September 5, 2019 3:47:00 PM

Gene Sheldon

Gene Sheldon’s father spent several decades as a bus operator with the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Growing up in St. Paul, that meant he could occasionally ride with his father to and from school. So it wasn’t altogether surprising that, after graduating from St. Paul College and jobs with Cummins and Caterpillar, Sheldon applied at the MTC. In 1980, as the trucking industry suffered, he began working in bus maintenance at the old Northside Garage. While he thought it’d be a short stay, Sheldon would go on to build a 39-year career in bus and rail maintenance at Metro Transit.

Sheldon’s time at the old Northside Garage was short. Within a month, he moved to the old Snelling Garage where he worked in the brake shop. In the following years, he worked at Nicollet, South and old Snelling, where he repaired lifts, worked in the body shop and maintained HVAC systems, among other responsibilities. Sheldon also spent time outside the shop as a miscellaneous bus operator, occasionally picking up open work so he could “get out and see why we do what we do.”

In 2003, as Metro Transit prepared to open its first light rail line, Sheldon was among the first 12 technicians to begin learning what it would be light to maintain light rail vehicles. He spent several months studying electro mechanics at Dunwoody College, and several more months training in Metro Transit’s fledgling operations and maintenance facility. At first, the new light vehicles didn’t require much maintenance. But Sheldon and others learned how to operate them and were involved in nightly tests that occurred before service began in 2004. When the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line, now the METRO Blue Line, opened, Sheldon and his peers were ready to step in if any mechanical issues arose. After the successful opening, things never seemed to slow down. “We had 24 vehicles and they wanted all of them out there every day,” Sheldon remembered.

That experience led Sheldon to take on more responsibility as the light rail vehicle maintenance department grew. After serving as a foreperson he became a supervisor and helped created training programs for new hires. In 2007, he became a manager and began overseeing the production of new light rail vehicles in Mexico and California. He also helped develop the specifications for 27 new light rail vehicles that were ordered for the METRO Green Line Extension.

Sheldon retired in September 2019 with plans to do some contract work, travel and enjoy time with his family, including his wife, two children and four grandchildren. Shortly before his retirement, Sheldon said he was grateful to have been able to build a career at Metro Transit. “As I look back, I can say that I really enjoyed working here and that I’m happy with the road I chose,” he said.

2019

Theresa Collins 

Operator, #1378
| Thursday, September 5, 2019 3:45:00 PM

Theresa Collins

As she took the bus to and from her job in downtown Minneapolis, Theresa Collins noticed an ad that said what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission was looking for bus operators. When she applied, there weren’t many female operators and her small stature created some doubts. “I just told them, ‘I’m tough. I can handle it,’” Collins said. She lived up to her word, too, building a 30-year career as a safe, reliable and hard-working operator beloved by passengers and co-workers alike.

At 22 years old, Collins began as a part-time operator at the old Nicollet Garage, where she spent most of her career. At the time, buses lacked power steering and her instructor made her take laps until she could make a turn without hitting the curb. On her first day driving alone, she faced another challenge: heavy snow. “It was basically a blizzard,” Collins said. “Talk about stress. But I made it. I think I probably prayed a lot.”

For the first nine years, Collins worked overnight shifts. Later, she had to balance her work responsibilities with those of being a new mother. While the hours were challenging, she found the work fun and rewarding. She also felt fortunate to have a job that paid well and provided good benefits. “It wasn’t always easy, and I was very young, but I knew I was going to do this job until I retired,” she said.

Collins commitment to her customers and her co-workers was evidenced in many ways. She never missed a day of work, had a nearly perfect safe driving record and spent more than 12 years on one of Metro Transit’s busiest routes, Route 21. She befriended many of her customers and handed out postcards with her picture when she was about to take a different assignment. In 2016, Collins was among the first operators to be assigned to the METRO A Line, Metro Transit’s first Bus Rapid Transit line.

At the garage, Collins boosted morale by decorating for the holidays and joined Peer Support, making herself available to fellow operators who needed someone to talk to. She served on committees focused on safety, community relations and employee wellness and was an active union member throughout her career.

Collins spent the final eight years of her career at South Garage, retiring in August 2019. At her retirement, co-workers said Collins remembered her for her humor, grace, style and kindness. Joining her for the festivities: Her son, Evan Calhoun-Collins, #79195, who had recently been hired as a mechanic technician.  In retirement, Collins planned to travel and spend more time with family and friends.

2019

Dave Jablonski 

Facilities Technician
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, September 5, 2019 3:43:00 PM

Dave Jablonski

Dave Jablonski was working as a part runner and drag racing a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 when a friend suggested applying at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. He applied, passed the entrance exam and started as a cleaner at the Nicollet Garage four months later. Jablonski would end up spending the next 44 years working in bus and facilities maintenance, retiring in 2019 with a reputation as one of Metro Transit’s most dependable technicians. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I went with the flow, was getting raises and liked what I was doing,” Jablonski said. “One thing led to another and I just ended up staying.”

 

Jablonski moved around quite a bit in his first few years. After starting at Nicollet, he moved to the old Northside Garage where he worked overnight as a fueler. He later returned to Nicollet, where he worked as a helper and technician, and came to Heywood after it opened in 1984. As technician, Jablonski primarily worked early-morning shifts, repairing buses that were going into service for the day. He later moved to the Overhaul Base where he worked in the brake shop and body shop, applying decals to new buses as they arrived. Jablonski also spent more than a decade in non-revenue, maintaining everything from weed whips to skid steers.

 

Jablonski’s last 11 years at Metro Transit were spent in facilities maintenance, where he was able to work alongside several longtime co-workers who had also become friends. “That was by far the best job I ever had,” he said. “I liked the partners I worked with, and it offered a lot of variety. One day I’d be changing glass, the next day I’d be working on irrigation, plowing snow or putting up a fence. If the public touched it, it was our job to fix it, clean it or replace it.” At his retirement, Jablonski was described as a knowledgeable technician who could always be counted on.

 

Jablonski retired in August 2019. In retirement, he planned to spend more time with his family and tending to his hobby farm.

2019

Bradley Larson 

Operator, South
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, September 5, 2019 3:42:00 PM

Bradley Larson

Growing up in south Minneapolis, Bradley Larson took the bus to go skiing in Inver Hills and, later, to a job at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. A nearby neighbor was also a retired bus operator. So after working as a computer technician and taking a few odd jobs, including a stint as a school bus driver, he came around to the idea of working at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. “I wasn’t sure, but I heard the pay was good, and there was benefits, which is what I was looking for,” Larson remembered. “After a while, I got a decent raise, better hours and that was that.” Larson wound up spending more than 30 years with Metro Transit, retiring in 2019 out of South Garage.    

 

Larson’s began his career as a bus operator at what was then known as the Shingle Creek Garage. It was a tough start: there were no power brakes or power steering and, as a part-time operator, he was often assigned some of the oldest buses in the fleet. Larson also faced a long commute. His affinity for the work grew over time, though, and, eventually, Larson had worked the extraboard at every garage. “I was all over the place,” he said. “I thought, ‘I don’t know St. Paul, but I’m going to give it a try.’ It ended up being a pretty good experience. I liked the variety and was able to pretty much learn the whole system.” 

 

After 15 years as a bus operator, Larson transferred to light rail to be among the first train operators on the METRO Blue Line. He remembers it being a nerve-wracking experience. But just as he’d done as a bus operator, Larson grew more comfortable the longer he stayed. “Once I got the feel for it, I had no problem operating those trains at all,” he said. In 2014, Larson took on another challenge, joining the first group of train operators to move to the METRO Green Line. Before service began, he operated test trains through the corridor. Such uncommon experiences became a regular part of Larson’s work – he was the first train operator to test three-car train sets and was once asked to try a four-car train set in the yard. He was also tapped to participate in a mock breakdown on the Highway 62 flyover and was regularly asked to pull-in trains experiencing mechanical issues. “I just kept getting asked to be involved in a lot of the little projects we had going on,” he said. In his decade as a train operator, Larson never had a responsible collision.  

 

At the end of his career, Larson returned to South Garage, where he spent his final five years as a bus operator. Asked what he’d miss most about Metro Transit, he said it would be the people. “A lot of people would call me crazy because of the off the wall comments I’d make, but I didn’t really care because the whole room would be cracking up,” he said. “We all had a great time together, and that’s what I’ll really miss.”

 

In retirement, Larson planned to spend time boating on the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers and traveling.

2019

Annamarie Moseng 

Senior Account Specialist
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, June 6, 2019 11:19:00 AM

Annamarie Moseng

After graduating from St. Paul College, Annamarie Moseng took a job as a legal assistant at a local law firm. The work wasn’t quite what she was looking for, though, so she started browsing job ads in the newspaper. When she spotted an opening at what was then called the Metropolitan Transit Commission, she applied and, in 1977, was hired as a clerical assistant. She didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of what would become a 41-year career in transit. “If anybody had told me I’d still be here after all this time I would’ve laughed at them,” Moseng said shortly before her retirement. “I was looking for a job where I could get more experience and move on. Instead, I just moved around within the organization.”

 

When Moseng started, she entered an office environment that was devoid of computers. She helped keep her co-workers organized by typing spreadsheets and other documents, transcribing audio recorded into a Dictaphone and operating the telephone switchboard. With her sights set on a job in finance, though, she knew she’d need additional training. With encouragement from the finance director, she went back to school and returned in 1978 to take a new job as a balancing clerk, making sure reported fare collections matched the amount of money that was being brought in. Over time, she took on other new and different responsibilities, distributing paychecks, paying for materials like fuel, and guiding investments. She was also an enthusiastic part of the team that sold tickets to customers who took light rail to Twins games, Vikings games and other special events. This, she found, was the kind of work she was looking for. “I really liked the challenge of making sure everything balanced and working with all of the people you came into contact with,” Moseng said.

 

In the final decade of her career Moseng worked in accounts receivable, creating invoices for large capital projects, applying money from local and federal funding partners and managing Metropass income. The scope of the work, she said, was impressively large compared to how things looked at the start of her career. “When I stared, it was just buses,” she said. “Now look at us.”

 

While Moseng found her work rewarding, it was the people she worked with that truly made her career enjoyable. Several of her colleagues had similarly long tenures in the department, and Moseng created lasting friendships that extended beyond the workplace. “We celebrated the good times and got through the tough times together,” she said.

 

Moseng retired in June 2019 with plans to spend more time with her family, including four brothers, a daughter and a grandchild. She also looked forward to traveling, sleeping in and making spontaneous plans. “I’m ready to just enjoy life without having to come to work,” she said.

 

2019

Duane Lundgren 

Operator, Heywood
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, June 6, 2019 11:18:00 AM

Duane Lundgren

In 1977, months after graduating from St. Paul’s Johnson High School, Duane Lundgren found himself traveling to and from the school again. This time, though, it was as a newly hired, 18-year-old school bus driver. The job wasn’t meant to be anything more than a way to make a little money while he pursued a career in TV or radio. But after attending vocational school, completing a broadcast program and briefly entertaining the idea of becoming a teacher, Lundgren remained at the wheel. He’d end up staying there for quite a while, too, spending 8 years as a school bus driver and trainer, and 34 years as a Metro Transit bus operator.

 

While it hadn’t been his initial plan, it wasn’t completely surprising that Lundgren would end up making a career as a bus operator, either. As a child, he was fascinated by large vehicles like semis and tractors. Growing up on St. Paul’s East Side, he often rode the bus downtown to spend his allowance on 88-cent records, thinking it might be neat to one day drive a bus. Practically speaking, being a bus operator offered better benefits, pay and stability than his other professional interests. “When I came here (to Metro Transit), it just seemed like a really natural fit,” Lundgren said.

 

Lundgren’s career in transit began in 1985 at what was then known as the Shingle Creek Garage. As a part-time bus operator, he worked during the morning rush hour and spent the rest of his day at the school bus company. After resigning from the school bus company, he started working during the afternoon rush hour. Lundgren became a full-time bus operator in 1988, briefly worked out of the old Snelling Garage and then arrived at Heywood, where he’d spend the remainder of his career. At Heywood, Lundgren spent more than a decade driving Route 3, and another decade driving what he and many of his customers believed to be the prettiest route in the system, Route 675, which runs between Mound and downtown Minneapolis (Route 675 later became Route 645). Lundgren said he enjoyed getting to know his passengers, being out in the community and overcoming daily challenges. “This is a challenging job, but I’m someone who likes to have my abilities and skills challenged, even if it gets a little frustrating at first,” he said.

 

Lundgren had plenty of skill, too, persevering through winter weather and much more to reach retirement with a perfect safe driving record. Patience and attitude, he said, were the keys to reaching that milestone. “I always told myself it wasn’t an option to have a chargeable accident,” he said. Lundgren regularly tested his skill in the annual Bus Roadeo, competing nearly every year that he worked at Metro Transit. He won several of the competitions and competed nationally four times.

 

For several years, Lundgren shared his expertise with new operators as an instructor. He was also among the first group of operators who mentored new hires through a program introduced in 2018. “You get a good feeling from teaching people and watching them wrap their heads around the things you’re telling them,” Lundgren said. Lundgren was also proud of a change he helped initiate in a union contract. Motivated by his own personal experience, the change allowed medically disqualified employees to retain their seniority when they were allowed to return to their job. 

 

While his attention turned away from broadcasting, Lundgren still found opportunities to use his voice. Customers often complimented him on the way he announced streets and points of interest, and he once narrated a Metro Transit training video. In retirement, Lundgren hoped to get more voiceover work and to explore theatre. He also looked forward to spending more time with family and friends, traveling and devoting more time to his biggest hobby, dancing and being a dance instructor. Still, he said he’d miss the work that had come to define more than three decades of his life. “I’d go on three-week vacations and never dread coming back to work, clenching my teeth,” he said. “It always felt good to be here.”

2019

Lois Johnson 

Senior Account Specialist
Posted by Christina McHenry | Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:24:00 AM

Lois Johnson

When an employment agency sent Lois Johnson to what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission, she was first handed the exam given to potential bus operators. "I said, 'No, no, no -- wrong position," Johnson recalled. With a background in accounting, she instead had her sights set on working in finance. Once she was given the right test, she passed, got a same-day interview with the finance director and was hired on the spot. And so began a 43-year career that concluded when Johnson retired from Metro Transit in 2019.

Growing up, Johnson's family lived in Montana, North Dakota and several small Minnesota towns. Even in her early years, she said, she had an affinity for numbers and bookkeeping. While her husband attended college in Winona, Minn., she worked in accounting for a music publishing company. She found herself looking for a new job when her husband graduated and the newly married couple decided to move to the Twin Cities. Johnson hadn't set her sights on a job in transit, but the good benefits and the chance to continue her career in finance led her to take the job.

Initially, Johnson was tasked with cashing employees' personal checks and selling tokens and punch cards directly to customers who visited MTC's main office, then located at Nicollet Garage. Before long, though, she found herself eager to take on new challenges. Using a calculator and a loud bookkeeping machine, she started paying bills and was put in charge of overseeing petty cash and employee uniform allowance accounts. When light rail service began, Johnson also started to staff the ticket booth, selling fares to customers attending games and other special events. "It was completely different than my regular job but it was really nice being able to help people," she said.

While she might not have expected to make a 43-year career in transit, Johnson said she stayed because she appreciated the job security, the benefits and the chance to work alongside several people who would come to be close friends. "I found my best friends here at work," she said. "How often does that happen?"

Johnson retired in May 2019 with plans to tackle several house projects and to travel the country with her husband. 

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