Posted at 7:00 AM on April 2, 2009
by David Zingler
Before their final season opener in the Metrodome on Monday, the Twins will honor Carl Pohlad who passed away in January at the age of 93. During his nearly quarter century tenure as team owner, Pohlad was an enigmatic and controversial figure often characterized as a miser and amoral business man in the mold of The Simpson's Mr. Burns. As is often the case, Pohlad's media-driven public image failed to capture the human side of a complex man.
In January 1990, 23-year-old Jennifer York (she became Jennifer Hepler after a 2002 marriage) was headed for a night out in downtown Minneapolis with some friends when the Bloomington resident stopped at a 494 and Penn Ave. gas station to fill up.
"It was very cold that night, probably 10 below zero," Hepler remembered over 19 years later. "I saw an older gentleman with a gas can (and) felt bad for him because I had run out of gas a couple of weeks before that and somebody had helped me. So, he looked pretty harmless; he was dressed very well -- very nice shoes and a top coat -- I thought 'I should ask him if he needs a ride.'"
Hepler, who moved to Bloomington in 1988 from Lake Wilson, a southwestern Minnesota town of about 400 people, welcomed the stranded stranger into her car.
"He got into the car and was chatting, making small talk...asking my name...he was very nice," she explained. "I asked 'Are you from here or are you traveling? He said he was coming home from the airport and ran out of gas. I said, 'How did you run out of gas coming from the airport?' He said, 'Where I park, they fill it for me.' I am thinking, 'Who is this guy? This man must be pretty wealthy.'"
After following her passenger's directions, the young "small town girl" arrived at his "fancy Cadillac" and received a surprise, "He said, 'Well Jennifer, do you know who I am?'", Hepler recalled. She responded with a sheepish "no."
"I am Carl Pohlad," the stranger confessed. Being a life-long Twins fan, Hepler immediately recognized the name. Pohlad then instructed the stunned do-gooder to write down her name and address while he attended to his car.
"I (was so surprised I) couldn't write my own name, I started writing his name," Hepler laughed. "I am thinking, 'Oh my god, this is Carl Pohlad! I gave Carl Pohlad a ride!'"
"He comes back, his car had started," she continued, "I gave him my name and address. I am thinking my friends won't believe that I am late because I gave Carl Pohlad a ride."
Hepler's good deed did not go unrewarded, "About a week or two later, I got this package in the mail with a signed baseball and a bottle of Obsession perfume," she commented while proudly displaying the items, complete with the original mailing box.
Not everyone was happy with her actions however, "I told my parents what happened," she chuckled. "My dad was upset that I had picked up a stranger on the road."
Because of the experience, Hepler became a life-long Pohlad supporter, "I felt pretty sad when he died," she commented. "I defended him when people would talk bad about him around me. From what I knew of him, he was a very kind and generous man."