BEMIDJI, Minn. — Paul Martinson hadn’t played with rocks since he was a teenager. He was a missionary and seminary professor, so most of his time was spent reading, writing, teaching and ministering.

But he wanted to do something more physical in retirement and, by golly, he took it to the extreme.

Martinson, 85, recently completed a project that took 19 years. Two weeks ago, he placed the last of about 50 tons of rock on his eight-sided Lake Movil house.

“I really wondered if he would ever get done,” said Paul’s wife, Ida. “But he did a beautiful job. I’m just amazed at it. He was a professor and all he ever did was read books, and then suddenly he would work on this all summer long.”

The Martinsons designed their home on property that had been in Paul’s family for years. An older cabin was torn down, and Russ Schoenfelder Construction of Bemidji built the new one in 2000 and 2001, leaving the outside unfinished. The rocks were soon delivered, and Paul got to work — not knowing just how long it would take to finish the exterior.

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The project took 19 years, but Paul Martinson recently placed the last of 50 tons of rocks on his home on Lake Movil northeast of Bemidji. “He did a beautiful job," said his wife, Ida (top right). "I’m just amazed at it." (Dennis Doeden / Bemidji Pioneer)
The project took 19 years, but Paul Martinson recently placed the last of 50 tons of rocks on his home on Lake Movil northeast of Bemidji. “He did a beautiful job," said his wife, Ida (top right). "I’m just amazed at it." (Dennis Doeden / Bemidji Pioneer)

Did he have a goal in mind?

“Not really,” Paul said, grinning at his wife. “He told me six to eight years,” she answered with a laugh.

Paul’s fascination with rocks began in Hong Kong. His parents were missionaries there, and one day as a teenager he decided to roll a large rock down a hill near their home.

“I thought it would be interesting to see how that rock goes down this hill,” Paul said. “I walked over to the edge of the walkway and gave it a throw. And then I saw it was going directly to a small hut. There were a lot of people fleeing from China, and there were these little huts where they would stay. I thought, ‘My word, this rock is going straight for the hut, and if they have a small child who knows it might kill him or her'."

But instead, the rock hit a bank, flew up in the air and disappeared. It apparently came to rest in a hole before reaching the hut.

“Divine intervention, I guess,” Paul said. “That was the end of my throwing rocks.”

Until years later when it was time to work on his rock house on Lake Movil.