I lost an old friend over the weekend…a VERY OLD friend.
Mylo Preheim gave up the ghost on Saturday just a few weeks after his 95th birthday..but, boy, did he ever pack a lot of living into those years!. He reminded me of that guy in the Dos Equis Beer commercials; one of the most interesting men in the world.
Like a lot of guys born in the first part of the 20th century, Mylo Preheim’s formal education ended in Freeman after the 8th grade. He had to get out there and WORK. He decided to become a barber which was his profession in 1942 when he met and married a pretty young school teacher from nearby Marion, South Dakota; Dorothy Jensen.
Dorothy was the love of his life and favorite dancing partner for 69 years. Cheryl Preheim Koch, one of the couple’s four children, recently compiled a pictorial history of the family and posted it on the web. In it she wrote of her father: “Dad always was self-employed and was a jack-of-all trades: barber, electronics sales & repair, public address equipment provider & announcer, sign painter, piano tuner, etc., etc., etc. He was instrumental in developing the baseball diamond in Irene in the 1950s. In 1961 he was chairman of the Dakota Territorial Centennial for Southeast South Dakota and a member of the Turner County Fair Board for over 40 years. He helped to develop Heritage Park on the fairgrounds.”
I first met Mylo Preheim in 1980 when I was invited to Parker to do a story on an amazing kiddie train he’d built from scratch. Here’s how Cheryl describes it:
“The Dakota Special featured Engine No. 9 made of metal measured 8 feet high and 14 feet long. The engine was built over a 3-cylinder, 18-horsepower John Deere diesel garden tractor. Added to the engine were a coal car and two passenger cars made of wood. The “go anywhere” trackless train was 40 feet long and could haul up to 12 adults or 24 kids.”
Mylo even let me take over Engine #9’s controls and later presented me with a plaque proclaiming me an honorary engineer. After our report ran on Keloland, Mylo started getting calls from people wanting him to bring the Dakota Special to their town. For the next 21 years, he and Dorothy traveled with that train to hundreds of celebrations and parades all over the Midwest and Canada.
I did lots of stories with Mylo after that including one on Parker’s short lived “Turtle Days” which featured races by the slow moving shelled creatures. Another report was on Heritage Park which was filled with antiques from his personal collection. I was back to do another story in 2003 when Mylo’s beloved Heritage Park was all but destroyed by a tornado that tore through Parker and the fairgrounds. I remember asking how difficult it was to lose so many of the precious and valuable items he’d donated to the park. He said, “They’re just things. Nobody was hurt, that’s the most important part.”
I also did a “Lund at Large” feature about his amazing Music Museum on Parker’s main street.
The big old brick building was crammed full of antiques and interesting stuff he’d amassed over time. I just loved to listen to Mylo talk about the things that excited him. He’d speak almost in a whisper with a big grin on his face and..I swear..his eyes really DID twinkle as he described his latest idea or discovery. I saw that look when he stopped down to the Keloland Studios shortly just before I retired. He wanted to give me a little something to commemorate our long friendship. It was an old Shure microphone, like the one early Elvis used, which I’d admired at his museum. What a wonderfully thoughtful gift and it is now a treasured part of my small collection of music and broadcasting memorabilia.
Mylo and Dorothy loved our band, Mogen’s Heroes, and would show up to listen and dance whenever we played in the area. (Mogen’s Heroes still has a standing Wednesday evening gig at Heritage Park every year during the Turner County Fair)
The last time I saw the two of them on the dance floor was at a party in Parker to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary and Mylo’s 90th birthday. It was about that time, though, that his health began to fail. After suffering a stroke in 2008 he’s had to live out his final years in a nursing home. I’m sure it was not the way he planned to go out but I can almost hear him say with that twinkle in his eye, It has been such a wonderful life and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”