Anoka County history: Noltes of Bar-None – their legacy

by June Anderson

This is the last of a four-part series about Bar-None Boys’ Ranch and its founders, Bob and Miriam Nolte.

The Noltes lived on the premises of Bar-None for 11 years. Their children, Robert, Richard, Ruth, Ralph, and Ron attended the St. Francis schools.

In 1965 Bob was appointed regional director of the VOA for a 10-state area.

With Bar-None well under way, Bob and Miriam moved back to the city with their family to re-establish the Volunteers of America’s urban presence in Minneapolis. There were still many things that needed doing.

A proclamation by Gov. Arne Carlson March 3, 1996 listed the VOA’s many accomplishments over its 100 years of service to the people of Minnesota.

They included services to adults and the elderly, homes for mentally disabled, mentally ill, chemically dependent; congregate dining for seniors; transitional housing for women and their families; home-delivered meals for persons 60 and over; semi-independent living services and supported living services; housing complexes for families, the handicapped and the elderly; assisted living communities and long-term health care facilities.

In addition, the Volunteers of America provides two correctional services, a pre-release and work-release correctional program serving men and a jail, workhouse, and work-release correctional program serving women.

The Noltes were instrumental in establishing these services.

Over their lifetimes they played no small part in bridging the gap between human needs and the resources of the public and private sector and in 1982 they received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the U of M Board of Regents.

Bob and Miriam Nolte retired in 1981 and built a home of their own in Remer where they lived during the summer months while wintering in Mesa, Ariz.

Of the Noltes, Russ Dunlop said, “Bob and Miriam were as much a unit as anyone I knew. Miriam was Bob’s alter-ego.

“Bob bore the idea of Bar-None and the vision of coming out here to St. Francis. Miriam, the practical one, would rein in his flights of dreaming.”

Their daughter-in-law, Sharon Esnough Nolte, a St. Francis graduate, remembers Bob and Miriam as being totally inseparable.

“They did everything together, 24 hours a day, and lived their job, seven days a week,” she said.

“Miriam was Bob’s passport. She had the degree in social work. Bob had completed a business degree and in 1968 received a BA in clinical psychology.

“Ironically, their roles were reversed. Bob planned the programs and Miriam took care of the financial end.”

Although Bob could fire people’s imaginations with his vision of Bar-None and inspire them to greatness through their generous contributions of time and money, he recalls a Miriam Nolte of long ago, dressed in her VOA uniform, soliciting money from bars in Minneapolis to build the original Bar-None at Dutch Lake.

“She often made $100 a night,” said Bob with a chuckle.

He referred to her as “a money collector with a master’s degree in social work.”

In 1996 the Noltes co-authored “A Ministry of Service in Minnesota 1896-1996.”

Although the purpose of the book was to commemorate the Volunteers of America centennial in Minnesota, it is largely autobiographical so closely were the lives of Bob and Miriam Nolte intertwined with the workings of the VOA.

Much of the information for this series of articles comes from their writings in that book.

Bob and Miriam celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in the spring of 1998.

The following December Miriam suffered a massive stroke and passed away at their winter home in Arizona.

I met Bob and Miriam Nolte at Northland Rec Lab over 25 years ago.

Now, well into his 90’s, Bob is still an active attendee at Rec Lab.

My own participation in this annual week-long event has given me the opportunity to know them both well.

I think of Miriam and Bob as dedicated humanitarians. They lived the VOA mission statement, illustrating the presence of God through all that they did — serving people and communities in need, and creating opportunities for people to experience the joy of serving others.

In my book, that’s what heroism is all about.

Editor’s note: June Anderson is a member volunteer of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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