Mourning a tragedy

Friends remember student’s compassion
By Aidan M. anderson
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Germain Vigeant had a broad compassion she extended not only to her friends, family and cat, Cash Money Millionaire, but also to total strangers.

The popular 20-year-old University junior and aspiring social worker died Sunday from injuries suffered in a fall from an abandoned grain elevator near the University.

Vigeant is remembered by friends and family for her compassion and wit.

“Anytime anyone was with her, they were always laughing,” friend Loren Blocker said.

Vigeant wanted to perform social work near her home neighborhood in East St. Paul, and always was willing to help someone in need, friends said.

Patrick Mealy, Vigeant’s cousin, recalled a time when Vigeant visited him while he recovered from shoulder surgery.

“She brought over candy and a movie, the kind of stuff you don’t really need to do,” Mealy said. “Very giving no matter what the situation was.”

Vigeant was a social hub, and her cell phone was almost constantly ringing, her brother, Felix Vigeant said.

“She always wanted to go with everybody and do everything she possibly could,” Mealy said.

Blocker said she was outgoing and wasn’t content to just sit around.

“She had literally thousands of friends,” Blocker said. “I don’t even think she could fit the phone numbers of all her friends into her cell phone.”

Germain Vigeant waited on tables at the Lotus Restaurant in Stadium Village. Her sister, Danielle, introduced Vigeant to the owners, and she began working there in September 2005.

“She was a very sweet girl. Most of the customers really liked her, very nice and sweet,” said Lotus owner Lai Le.

The family has strong ties to the University. Vigeant’s brother Felix Vigeant, 23, and sister, Danielle Vigeant, 26, both work at the University.

“Every time you hung out with her you had a good time,” Felix Vigeant said. “Even if it was Sunday afternoon at Mom’s house, you’d laugh like it was Friday night.”

In addition to her siblings, Vigeant is survived by her mother, Laurel, and father, Duane.

The family will have a wake from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Wulff Funeral Home, 1485 White Bear Ave., St. Paul.

The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Casimir’s Church, 934 E. Geranium Ave., St. Paul.

Lora Pabst contributed to this report.

Death illustrates grain elevator dangers
BY elizabeth cook
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The building is covered in a motley smattering of graffiti, most of which is unreadable, but some curse words stand out among the rest. Its windows are shattered; its doors are easily accessible.

The grain elevator, which hasn’t been in use since 2001, stands next to Van Cleve Park, surrounded by the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods.

Early Sunday, Germain Vigeant, a 20-year-old University student, fell about 100 feet to her death in the grain elevator.

The building, at 917 13th Ave. S.E., is owned by Bunge North America.

Deborah Seidel, the director of communications for Bunge North America, said the company is in the process of selling the property.

Seidel said the company has hired a security firm to patrol the building, but said she could not name the security company.

She also said the building is clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs and the entering points to the building are locked.

When Daily reporters were there, they found there were indeed “Private Property No Trespassing” and “Danger Keep Out” signs, but a majority of them were covered in spray paint.

Seidel said there have been problems in the past with vandalism at the building.

This building has been a concern for the neighborhood for most of 2005, according to a Jan. 30 Southeast Como Improvement Association news release.

According to the news release, the neighborhood association sent a letter to Bunge North America on Oct. 19, urging the company to take care of the security and graffiti at the elevator.

Robin Garwood, counsel aide to 2nd Ward City Council member Cam Gordon, said former Council member Paul Zerby also had sent a letter to Bunge addressing the same problems ” livability and security.

A response to the Southeast Como Improvement Association letter came from Bunge on Dec. 12, stating steps had been taken. For example, the company hired security and members of its staff checked the building almost daily, and the company worked with the Minneapolis Police Department with vandalism incidents.

According to the news release, after an undisclosed Southeast Como resident contacted Bunge in January, Seidel replied with the same “form letter” sent to Southeast Como Improvement Association in December.

Garwood said Project for Pride and Living had entered into a contract with Bunge with plans to turn the abandoned site into affordable housing and condominiums, also as reported in a November Daily article.

But James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said there never was any date set for cleaning the building.

Garwood said the building has “been on the radar screen.”

Residents have showed concern about this building ever since he started working at Southeast Como Improvement Association, about a year and a half ago, De Sota said.

He said Bunge has been “intentionally vague” in its responses to the letters of concern.

Dawn Sommers, the public relations manager for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, said park users have never complained about the building.

De Sota said he hopes something will be done about the building now, but that it’s tragic that this had to happen to get something done.