Granddaughter of Penninger Park founder visits park that bears her name

Resi Penninger, middle, poses by the park sign with Shebli Kaul, left, and Aquella Pegues on Saturday.

Although no members of the Penninger family have lived in Glendive for decades, the fact that there is a park in Glendive named after the family is not lost on Harry Penninger’s descendants.

Harry and William Szudera pushed for the creation of the park in the late 1960s. The year after the majority of the work on the park was complete, Harry passed away suddenly and Szudera requested that the park be named Penninger Park.

Harry’s granddaughter Resi Penninger visited Glendive for the first time Saturday, and was finally able to see the park she has heard about her whole life.

Resi said her family still talks about that park often. In fact, when asked to tell a fun fact about themselves, Resi and all of her siblings always use their namesake park as their fun fact, she said.

Penninger Park has been a part of Glendive since 1969.

In the mid 1960s, the strip of land between River Avenue and the Yellowstone River bank had no trees or grass. Families living along it were responsible for mowing the weeds across the street from their homes.

Harry Penninger and Szudera, who both lived across from the river, had a vision of what the strip of weeds could be, however, and went to the City of Glendive with a proposal for turning it into a park. City officials agreed it was a good idea and came up with a plan but had no money for the project.

The lack of money didn’t stop Szudera and Harry. They went up and down the street knocking on doors and asking for contributions, according to a 2002 Ranger-Review story.

During the summer of 1968, families along the street dedicated their Sunday afternoons to laying pipe for water.

“All the males came over to the lay pipe and the women did potlucks,” Resi’s dad Jay said in the 2002 Ranger story. Jay, who was an eighth grader the year the park was created, remembered working down in the ditch laying pipe himself.

The weekly picnics were held at the Don Healy home. Harry dug the trenches for the pipes and leveled the ground. Szudera, who worked with Montana Dakota Utilities, supplied his expertise. Another neighbor, Bob Hilger, also played a major part in the effort, but everyone came together to work on it, according to the 2002 story.

When Jay visited the park in 2002, he couldn’t believe how the mature trees made the vision for the park in 1969 a reality.

Being able to visit the town where her father grew up and the park that bears her family’s name meant “so much” to the park founder’s granddaughter.

Resi’s father Jay took turns bringing his children to visit his hometown, but Jay became ill before it was Resi’s turn to visit. He passed away in 2016.

“My dad always talked about (Glendive). I didn’t get to meet my grandparents. ... To see where he grew up, a place he was at, it means so much,” Resi said.

A memorial bench with Jay’s name on it now sits in Penninger Park directly in front of the house he grew up in.

Resi will graduate with a nursing degree from Regis University in Denver this spring.

Resi and her friend Aquella Pegues were in town over the weekend to spend the Easter holiday with Steve and Debi Kaul and family. Steve and Jay Penninger were classmates and lifelong friends.

While the park was top on the list of things to see while in Glendive, Resi also took in several other sites. Because she and her father both enjoyed the performing arts growing up, she was able to get a tour of the DCHS auditorium. And even though the weather wasn’t ideal for outdoor activities, Resi got the opportunity to visit Makoshika State Park and Lion’s Back, both places where her dad spent time growing up.

Resi said she is excited she finally found the time to visit the town that helped to shape her dad, and found it every bit as charming as she had envisioned.

“I just think it’s really a cute town and everybody has been so nice,” she said.

When Steve introduced her to people around town and they heard her last name was Penninger, many responded with, “oh, Penninger Park!”

“It’s definitely cool,” Resi said.

Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at rreditor@rangerreview.com.

“My dad always talked about Glendive. ... To see where he grew up, a place he was at, it means so much,”
Resi Penninger

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