'Iron Lady' left her mark on Chisholm, MN

On the outskirts of Chisholm, MN there's an iron man statue -- a monument to the men who worked in the mines of the Iron Range. But now the town is mourning the loss of the woman who was responsible for getting it built.

"It’s somber. It’s been such a wonderful ride for Veda. Done so much for the community," said Chisholm mayor Michael Jugovich.

Veda is Veda Ponikvar, who recently passed away after a lifetime of making her mark on the small northern Minnesota town.

"She was the Iron Lady. We called her the Iron Lady. She was involved in a real lot of things and got a real lot of things done so it’s sad to see her go," said state senator Dave Tomassoni who represents Chisholm.

Ponikvar was born to Slovenian immigrants in Chisholm and after going to college at Drake University and serving in naval intelligence during world war two she returned to her hometown where she founded the town newspaper, The Free Press, which she ran for more than 50 years.

She believed the paper gave her a voice in the community and in her 5,000 or so editorials over the years she sounded off on everything from politics to civic projects.

"Favorite story was when the main street of Chisholm was getting reconstructed and Veda asked me how long does asphalt last. I said about 20 years and she said concrete, and sure enough there's concrete on the main street of Chisholm right now,” said Tomassoni.

But her most well-known work is the obituary she wrote for her longtime friend Doc "Moonlight" Graham, who was the town doctor for 50 years and died in 1965. That obituary inspired author Joe Kinsella to travel to Chisholm to find out more about Graham, who only played one game in the major leagues and became the basis for the character in "Field of Dreams".

At the end of that obituary Ponikvar wrote "his era was a historic, unique sort of legend. There will never be another quite like it."

Chisholm residents say the same can be said about their Iron Lady.

"I can't express to you how much she did for this community and we all owe her thanks because without Veda this community wouldn't be what it is," said Jugovich.

After the movie, the city built a real field of dreams in honor of Doc “Moonlight” Graham, and given all her contributions to her community, community members tell Fox 9 there will be a fitting a memorial to Ponikvar coming soon.