By Barbie Porter


Calvin Stevens stood astounded in front of his Main Avenue residence in Frazee. Fire trucks passed, sirens blazing, hands waving and a seemingly endless parade of cars followed. Well wishes were given along with cards celebrating his recent cancer free diagnosis. 

“I got teared up; it was a very nice thing for everyone to do,” he said.

The 63-year-old was a two-pack a day smoker of more than 30 years. He decided to quit and used suckers as a way to help cope through withdrawals. 

“I thought a piece of a sucker broke off and got buried in my tongue,” he said. “I didn’t think nothing of the bump, but it didn’t go away.”

A visit to the doctor left him with a quick realization that he had stage-four tongue cancer.

“They told me before I left,” he said. “I found out in June.” 

A surgery was scheduled at Sanford in Fargo, N.D., as well as six weeks of radiation treatment. Because Stevens doesn’t drive, his long-time friend Tanya Mastin helped organize a list of people willing to transport him to his appointments.

“It’s nice to live in a community where people care about each other,” Mastin said.

Stevens, a 1975 Frazee High School graduate, had part of his tongue removed and a skin graft was pulled from his arm. During a recent check-up he was told the cancer was gone.

“I told him from the start that we would have a hell of a party if he made it through, but COVID,” Mastin said. “When he told me all was good, I wanted to do something to celebrate.”

The Frazee resident took to social media and created a plan to have a parade for Stevens.

“He has a flip phone and isn’t on social media, so I wasn’t worried about him finding out,” Mastin said, noting she let everyone know it was a surprise as well. “I called Joe (Nelson, Frazee fire chief) and asked if he would send a truck, and he said he’d make it work.”

Because Mastin is often checking in on Stevens, he didn’t think anything of it when she asked him to meet her by the curb in front of his home. 

“I thought she wanted to talk,” he said. “The wind was blowing that day so I threw on my jacket and hat and headed out. I saw the fire trucks were out, but I live next to the station and just thought they were doing a training.”

Mastin had called from the Frazee Event Center parking lot where she arranged for those in the parade to meet.

“There were 20 or more cars,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, cars just kept coming.”

While astounded by the number of people who joined in the parade, Mastin seemed to question why she was surprised. 

“The whole community pulled together to help; they do that a lot,” she said. “It’s not just me that helps others get through tough times; this is a good community.”

Mastin led the parade, and as she pulled up to the curb where Stevens stood, he asked if she would grab him a gallon of milk at the store.  She laughed, told him she’d be right back, and as she pulled away Stevens noticed the odd line of cars. Among the well wishers were his daughter, grandkids and other family members.

“That really lifted my spirits up,” Steven said. “Christmas came early; it was an early gift. I’m thankful to everyone.”