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LYNN HUMMEL (far left) has frequently performed with a quartet of singing lawyers known as Presumed Innocent, which also included (clockwise from top) Bill Wilson, Andrew Berger and Lance Heisler. The group has performed at district and state bar conventions.

Seeking a change of venue

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It's been almost 49 years since attorney Lynn Hummel first hung up his shingle in Detroit Lakes, as Lowell Benshoof's law partner.

Since then, the list of partners he's had reads like a "who's who" of the Becker County court system, with one former (Jack Pearson) and one current (Joe Evans) district court judge as well as the current county attorney (Mike Fritz) among them.

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Jim Sinclair, Dennis Sherman, Linda Hunt and Lance Heisler have also worked in partnership with Hummel through the years. But his most recent partners at the Pemberton Law Office in Detroit Lakes, Sam Rufer and Charlie Seuntjens, will be the last.

"On June 30th, I surrendered my license," said Hummel on Friday, just two days before leaving on a weeklong mission trip to Haiti.

As Hummel put it in a recent Detroit Lakes Tribune column, it was time for a "change of venue."

But for now, his retirement will only go so far as his law practice; Hummel plans to continue writing his Tribune column for the foreseeable future.

"When I was in college, I was interested in creative writing," he said. So when he was offered the chance to begin writing columns for the local newspaper in January 1977, he jumped at the chance.

"It's a hobby," he said, noting that one of his first retirement projects is going to be putting together a collection of his past columns, for publication in book form.

Writing a community newspaper column is also a way to stay connected to current events, Hummel added -- and the feedback he gets from readers is a nice bonus.

"Every once in a while I'll get a nice letter back (from a reader)," he said, "or I'll bump into someone on the street and they'll make a comment."

Though he admits that he sometimes pulls topics for those columns out of thin air, Hummel shouldn't have a shortage of things to write about in the next few weeks: On Sunday, he embarked on a six-day mission trip to Haiti, as part of the locally philanthropic organization TeacHaiti.

Hummel said he first became involved with TeacHaiti when he was asked to draw up the non-profit's articles of incorporation. Since then, he has stayed active with the group.

"They've got an active, capable board," he said, adding, "I'm impressed."

In the past, TeacHaiti has provided tuition and supplies for its scholarship students to attend various schools throughout the country; since the January earthquake, however, their efforts have focused on organizing a school of their own.

At first, they will be renting a building in Port-au-Prince that they can operate as a temporary school; eventually, however, it is the dream of TeacHaiti founder Miquette Denie to build a school of their own.

Hummel's work in Haiti this week will focus primarily on painting and preparing the rented school building to welcome students in the fall.

Once he returns home, he will focus on enjoying his retirement -- but there is one thing he'll miss, and that's working with clients on a day-to-day basis.

"One of the most satisfying things about what I've done is the connection with the people," Hummel said, noting that in some cases, he's worked with three generations of the same family. "Our work is personal work -- it's the rapport you have with people that makes it satisfying."

Hummel said he's also had the good fortune to work with "some very talented partners over the years -- and I've had three outstanding secretaries."

Tarin Ladwig, his current secretary, will stay on at Pemberton; Helene Hedlund is now dean of student and academic affairs at Minnesota State Community & Technical College; and Carla Paul is employed with the Becker County Court Administrator's Office.

Though a native of Garrison, N.D., Hummel has been a resident of Detroit Lakes since earning his law degree from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1961 (excepting only a couple of nine-month stints as a Bush Fellowship scholar, in 1969-70).

He and his wife Beverly have raised three children, now grown -- Jane Nelson of Fargo, Greg Hummel in Woodbury, Minn., and Sally Roe of Perham -- and now have nine grandchildren.

Over the years, Hummel has been involved with the Industrial Development Corporation in Detroit Lakes, and was a part of the initial campaign to raise funds for building the DL Community & Cultural Center (he is currently a board member at the center).

In fact, he and Mary Otto co-wrote an original musical together that was performed at the grand opening of the Historic Holmes Theatre (which is part of the DLCCC complex). Hummel hinted that there may even be a sequel in the works.

He has also been a part of the Jaycees (including a stint as admiral of the Northwest Water Carnival), the Kiwanis and the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, Hummel has been actively involved at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes, as a member of the church council and church choir, and as a Sunday school teacher.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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