If you’re lucky, there’s people in your life who you can’t remember meeting.
Not for lack of memory, but because it seems impossible to have existed without them.
Ron and Jo Jasperson seem to have that kind of relationship. The know they met through a softball league, but the details of the exact moment seem inconsequential compared to the 40 years of memories they’ve accrued since.
There’s a genuine sense of teamwork in the way they talk and tell stories, bouncing off each other without losing track of where they’re going. They’re partners, and for the last decade and a half they’ve lent that partnership to the Osceola Sun’s sports coverage.
The spring 2021 season that just wrapped up will be the Jaspersons’ last — after 15 years dedicated to Osceola and St. Croix Falls sports, Ron and Jo have decided to retire.
“Sports were my life from the time I was old enough to throw a ball or catch a ball,” Ron said. “Some people said I never could catch too well — but I just love sports.”
Ron was born and raised in Osceola. He grew up playing as many sports as he could get his hands on. He went to college in Superior, Wisc., where he also ran on the cross-country team. After college he returned to Osceola and has been here ever since.
Jo was born in Indiana. Her father was a truck driver, which kept the family on the move for much of her childhood, but they eventually landed in Wisconsin. Ron and Jo met in the late 70s and got married in 1981. They’ve raised three children in Osceola, a son Todd and two daughters, Erin and Kristen.
Neither Ron nor Jo has professional training in journalism. They came to newspaper coverage through their children’s sports teams. In 2006, when their youngest daughter was running cross-country, another parent who covered the team for The Sun decided to move on, so Ron reached out to the paper.
“I contacted The Sun and said, ‘hey, here I am,’” he said. “I covered cross-country in the fall and the following spring The Sun came to me and asked if I’d be interested in expanding and covering some of the spring sports. Eventually it evolved into fall, winter and spring sports.”
Jo gladly tagged along from the start, camera in tow.
“Of course I didn’t have a digital camera to start out with, so it was always an issue to take pictures and run and get them developed and see what was going to work,” she said. “And cameras just weren’t as good then either when it came to getting motion photos. You always had a little bit of a blur.”
The learning curve was steep for both Ron and Jo. Ron channeled sports writers he knew and respected into his writing, while Jo practiced as much as she could with a camera. Part of her challenge was learning the ins and outs of each sport.
“You go to enough games, you learn the sport and kind of know what to expect,” she said. “So as long as you know what’s coming, you can usually get a better picture.”
As time went on, the Jaspersons’ involvement in and dedication to the sports page continued to grow, as did their expertise in producing the section.
“It just evolved over time,” Ron said. “And if I kept on going next year and the year after, I would hope I’d keep improving on what we’re doing.”
Their passion, at its core, was rooted in the kids they were covering.
“The interaction with the kids is fantastic,” Jo said. “And I know some of them because I was a fifth grade teacher for many years and my students are still coming through. It’s fun to get to talk to them as adults rather than fifth graders.”
Ron and Jo have covered a handful of exceptional sports moments in their 15 years. A few that stick out were watching Osceola win the state football championship in 2015 and seeing the Danielson family dominate Wisconsin high school golf for years on end.
“That’s number one, is the football season that Osceola won state. They were just great kids with great coaching,” Ron said. “And the list goes on. When Lindsay Danielson won four state individual golf championships, that’d never happened before in the state of Wisconsin. Well then it was tied four years later when her sister won four straight. And mixed in there, their brother won two. It’s hard to ignore eight straight championships by the girls and ten by the family. That’s just incredible.”
All passion aside, the hours for Ron and Jo were long. The year Osceola won state football, they got home from the game at 2 a.m. and had a deadline the next morning at 8 a.m. Week in and week out, they followed Osceola and St. Croix Falls athletes all over the state, and spent their weekends writing and organizing photos.
“We’re season ticket holders with the Packers and I haven’t gone to a Packer game in years,” Ron said.
Family would often come over to watch the games on Sundays, but with Ron’s deadline looming, he was always locked in his office upstairs writing during the game.
“I could hear them hooting and hollering at the ref,” he said. “And I could never take part in that.”
It started to become clear to both Ron and Jo in the last couple of years that their time at the Sun was limited, and this year they finally came to the decision to hang it up.
“It was a tough call,” Ron said. “We will sincerely miss the kids. But I don’t want to beat myself up anymore on the weekends. I want to go to a Packer game.”
Neither of them are sure yet how it’ll feel to flip through the sports page and not see their stories. But the hardest part will most certainly be not seeing the kids every week.
“It’s kind of like a teacher at the last day of school, it’s hard to say goodbye,” Ron said. “But, it was time.”
As Ron detailed Osceola’s state championship football season, he and Jo tried to remember what year the team won. Jo figured five years ago, but Ron knew it was longer ago than that. He finally remembered — 2015.
“Gosh,” he said. “Time slips away.”