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Staying put, but moving on

For 38 years now, Dennis Schurman has been a part of the Detroit Lakes legal community; the last 20 of those years have been spent operating out of his own law office on Holmes Street.

But as of Jan. 1, he will be stepping down from the full-time practice of law, as the Schurman Law Office will become the Schurman & Winters Law Firm.

"I'll be retiring at the end of the year... in four more days," he said Monday.

Schurman will spend the coming months wrapping up cases he currently has pending; "I'm not going to take any new ones," he added.

What he is going to do, Schurman continued, is spend more time volunteering, and traveling with his wife Shirley.

"I've worked for 38 years -- I wanted to do different things," he said, explaining his reasons for retiring.

One of those different things, he added, is "to do more traveling, for longer periods of time."

When operating a law practice, Schurman explained, an attorney has to be available for his clients as much as possible -- and that means shorter vacations.

"The longest I've been gone was 10 days," he said. "If something happens to a client, they're not happy if you're not around."

But while they do intend to do more traveling -- which includes spending the winter months in warmer climes -- the Schurmans have no intention of moving from the home where they raised their three children.

"We bought a house a year after we got here -- and we haven't moved," Schurman said. "It's a good location. We like it."

A native of Walhalla, N.D., Schurman was seeking a bachelor's degree in mathematics at the University of North Dakota when a cousin suggested to him that he might make a good lawyer.

After considering it for a while, Schurman decided to continue on to law school at UND -- where he discovered that his math background was not as much of an anomaly as he thought.

"One of my professors was also a mathematics major," he said. His professor told him that his "problem solving" skills would come in handy for an attorney -- which they did.

"What you do in the practice of law is solve problems for people," Schurman said.

After graduating from law school and passing the bar, Detroit Lakes attorney Lynn Hummel was the first person with whom Schurman interviewed for a job.

"We drove down (from Grand Forks to Detroit Lakes) to look around, and liked the look of the town," Schurman said. "I thought it would be a good place to raise a family -- and it was."

Dennis and Shirley, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year, have three children, each born two years apart: Jill, a wife and mother who lives in Fargo; Aaron, a graphic designer for Apple Computers who lives with his family in California; and youngest son Ryan, a systems analyst for Wells Fargo who lives in Moorhead with his family.

Altogether, the Schurmans have 11 grandchildren -- "the oldest grandchild is nine, and the youngest is seven months," said Dennis.

Besides spending more time with their immediate family, the Schurmans also hope to make several trips to Holland to visit the former AFS exchange student who lived with their family for one year, and with whom they keep in touch.

"There are lots of places in Europe I'd like to go," he added. "I'd like to go back to Paris, and I'd like to go to Italy -- to see Rome and Florence."

Besides traveling, Schurman also hopes to spend more time volunteering. He has always been actively involved in the community, from his church (First Lutheran), to the DL Jaycees (he's a former Northwest Water Carnival admiral), to the Elks (he was a member until the club disbanded and sold its building to the Speak Easy in the early 2000s).

He also served on the Detroit Lakes Park Board for a dozen years -- eight of them as chairman -- and was president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce for a year, in the mid-1970s.

"I've done a little bit of everything," he said.

And he has also been an active participant in politics over the years, working on the state legislative campaigns of Jim Evans and Roxann Daggett, and U.S. Congressman Arlen Stangeland, as well as serving as the 7th District chairman for the Independent Republicans in Minnesota.

"As I got older, I got out of politics," Schurman said -- but his volunteer work hasn't diminished, it's just shifted focus.

"What I liked most about my job was helping people," Schurman said. "I'll still be doing that... but in a different capacity.

"I don't think I'm going to have a problem finding things to do," he added. "I can go fishing longer, read books... I don't really think I'm going to miss it (practicing law)."

Many of his friends and colleagues have preceded him into retirement, Schurman said, and he still expects to be seeing them regularly.

"We'll still be around," he said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454