Not only has Deb lived in Shell Lake all but a few years of her life, so had her parents, thanks in part to Deb's grandparents, Bertina and Pierce “PJ” Donovan.

In the early 1900's when Shell Lake's huge logging industry was just starting to decline, a couple moved from Iowa and bought a hotel in this still active town. It was named the Lakeview Hotel. Grandma and Grampa, both go-getters, worked 24/7/365, Grandpa was the one who babysat the coal stove that provided the heat for their two-story facility and grandma was the one tending to the twenty rooms, which were mainly used by tourists, then later to long-term lodgers, changing sheets and cleaning the bedrooms and the single bathroom down at the end of the long hall. It wasn't until a woman moved in as a permanent lodger that the state required them to put in a woman's bathroom, which, to her delight, was right next to her room.

Each year, Grandpa purchased all the coal he'd need for the year of one of the trains that stopped on the other side of the road from the hotel. After it was delivered, he would send it down the coal chute under the building and then spend the winter adding just the right amount of coal to the furnace to keep the heat at a constant temperature and removing the ashes and the 'clinkers' when needed.  

Deb's dad, the next stove tender, would purchase an entire train car full of coal and would have it transported by truck from Rice Lake when the trains stopped coming through Shell Lake.

Grandpa also held horse and cattle sales behind their building at what used to be a livestock stable, located where the 24-hour fitness center is now.

After Grandpa died, Grandma's daughter, Mary Nebel and her husband stepped in and helped her run it. Eventually, they bought it became theirs to keep the fire burning and the hotel running.

Deb remembers that by that time many of the rooms were rented out on a long-term basis and a lot of the financial pressure was off. Her parents were able to get away occasionally to fish in Canada. Now that it was considered a boarding house, Mary only cooked for the full-time residents, and then only on holidays.

None of Howard and Mary's children were pressured into, or expected to take over the hotel, so each went their own way. It was Bill and Dolly Holmson who purchased the Lakeview from Deb's mom and dad.

Deb, an avid sports person, pursued a career in recreation, thinking of working at a sports center or a YWCA somewhere.

Like many college students, the more she got into her field, the less it appealed to her. Being a small town girl, she found LaCrosse too large and too far from home.

She transferred to Eau Claire and changed her major to Police Science.

She happily found a position in 1982 at the Washburn County Sheriff's Office as a part-time dispatcher. A job she kept until 1991 after quickly going full-time.

When a position opened in administration, she took it and traded working with inmates and emergency calls to the day to day operation of the office.

Knowing she wanted to retire in five or six more years, she and a doctor friend bought a building in Shell Lake's Industrial Park in 2008 to begin a yoga and wellness studio. Deb had gotten involved with yoga and found it a good fit with her original plan to teach different types of recreation.  

Sadly the partner took a position at an Eau Claire hospital, and Deb was now sole owner of a 3,600 square foot building they had named Vitality Village.

Never discouraged for long, Deb found a yoga instructor for the back part of the building and a counseling group, Soar Counseling, to rent the front half.

It wasn't long before this warehouse became a stunning yoga studio and a sizeable tasteful office up front.

All of this mayhem occurring while she was still with the Sheriff's Office. But like her grandmother and mother before her, she made it work, putting in lots of hours and a generous portion of her salary until 2013 when she retired.

Her busy life continued on as usual until this February when Deb made some significant decisions. Like the women before her, she decided to make the entire building a rental and since then she's turned the studio back into a storage warehouse, and she's added several more services to the front of her building.

April, the woman who offers, "Wellness n Soul," is an Integrative Health Coach, Reiki Master and Holistic Health Practitioner who offers everything health and happiness. Her own personal story is fascinating, and we will tell it in the upcoming month. Her contact number is 715-651-4981.

Anita at Helping Hands and Sole Reflexology is a Certified Reflexologist and offers natural healing through the application of pressure on reflex points in the hands, feet, and ears, relieving tension and improving circulation and restoring balance. Her contact number is 715-520-2914.

Anthony, a certified acupuncturist is active at the Village again and is available on weekends. His contact number is 651-357-9929.

Meanwhile, not only is Deb looking for a massage therapist to fill the health and wellness part of her building, along with the counseling service at 715-468-2541, but she's come entirely full-circle and has now become a senior fitness coach working in three locations; Lakeland Manor in Shell Lake, and Spooner's Senior Center, and Country Terrace.

Happily, you can still get her fantastic honey, which she buys in bulk and packages for sale. She still sells the pure honey and the raw honey that she purchases from large, local beekeeping operations and calls her business Healthy Balance Honey. The one, two, and four-pound jars can be purchased from Silver Shears beauty salon in Shell Lake, and she still has the money back return policy on the jars, honoring earth's recycling efforts.

About the Author: Diane Dryden is a features writer for She started her fifteen-year career as a features writer for the Washburn County Register and has written for assorted newspapers and national magazines. She has also just released the third novel in her Chicago series of books – Scott Free in Chinatown. You can visit Diane's website at or her facebook page at

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