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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Growing Up

This website is a way to introduce myself to the voters of Maplewood, so in some entries I'll be talking about my life. I may as well start at the beginning!

I was born in Milwaukee in 1969. Before I was a year old my family moved to Duluth, where my father had gotten a job teaching at the College of St. Scholastica. In Duluth I attended the Carmel Heights Montessori preschool, Holy Rosary School, and then the Duluth Cathedral School, where I graduated second in my class. (My class, 1987, was the last to graduate under the Cathedral name; it is now known as the Marshall School.) Among other things, I lettered in two sports (track and cross country skiing), was a member of the Knowledge Bowl team (state champions, my senior year), and a National Merit Scholar. Thanks to another scholarship I was a member of the first sister-city delegation between Duluth and Petrozavodsk, which gave me a chance to visit the Soviet Union before it dissolved (and get ticketed for jaywalking in Moscow!). I am the middle child of five, with three sisters and one brother. Both of my parents are teachers: my father is a professor of philosophy (ethics is his specialty), and my mother founded the Montessori School of Duluth, where she is the principal and an elementary teacher. It's not a surprise that I've had a life-long love of learning and education. My mother tells me my first word was "book."

Growing up in northeastern Minnesota made me a lover of nature. My family bought a “rustic” log cabin on a lake up north of Duluth in the early '70s. “Rustic” here is a code word for “no indoor toilet” -- today we still rely on an outhouse. Many fond childhood memories are of days spent at that cabin – hiking in the woods, swimming in the lake, fishing, gathering berries and making jam, pretending to be Robin Hood with a bow and arrow, and making our own toys out of strange and wonderful objects that had been left behind by the blacksmith who built the place in the 1930s.

My childhood also included many trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, canoeing in summer and even skiing and camping on frozen lakes in winter. My parents taught me the importance of protecting and preserving nature, as well as the responsibilities we had as visitors (such as not to leave trash behind).

One of the reasons Michelle and I chose our Maplewood home in 2001 is the presence of so many trees and lakes, which remind me of my childhood. I still love the North Woods, and find comfort in its beauty and solitude. After more than thirty years, the sunsets seen from the cabin's dock still take my breath away.


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