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Outstanding seniors named at Becker County Fair

This Thursday was Senior Citizen Day at the Becker County Fair, and indeed, a large contingent of the county's older residents congregated under the big red and white tent that afternoon to hear who would be named as the county's Outstanding Senior Citizens for 2008.

Four nominees were introduced by master of ceremonies Arlie Shodean and Judy Peterson, Becker County Coordinator on Aging. They included Arlene Ballard and Catherine "Kit" Davis, both of Lake Park, as well as Luetta Dankert Shodean and John Downs, both of Detroit Lakes.

-- Ballard, who was nominated by the Lake Park Senior Club, has been a volunteer with the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge, Detroit Lakes Birding Club, Lake Park Garden Club, Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School Reading Program in Audubon, Lake Park Senior Nutrition Center and the Quilters of Lake Park. Known by friends as the "Energizer Bunny," she just celebrated her 81st birthday on June 8.

-- Davis, nominated by Sunnyside Care Center and Marion Jacobson, has served as president and secretary of the Sunnyside board of directors as well as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and publicity chair for the Lake Park Garden Club. She has also been a volunteer with the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center for 20 years, making personal tote bags, quilts and baby quilts; with the Lake Park-Audubon School READ program; and with the "Happy Wanderers" musical group, which performs regularly at area nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

--Shodean, nominated by Marion Schattschneider, has served as a cornerstone of the Detroit Lakes Senior Nutrition Center for 16 years, and is currently treasurer of the Nutrition Center's Site Council. She is a dedicated and active member of the Becker County Senior Citizen Council on Aging, where she currently serves as treasurer, and has been a volunteer with the VFW Auxiliary in Detroit Lakes. Like Davis, she is also a member of the Happy Wanderers musical group.

-- Downs, who was the lone male nominee this year, has been an AARP Tax Aide program volunteer for the past 23 years. He has mentored area youth and did fundraising for the Lakes Area Young Life organization, and volunteered as a coach with the Detroit Lakes High School basketball program. An active member of the Holmesville Township board for man years, he initiated many positive neighborhood activities. His volunteer efforts have also included fund raising for the American Heart Association and serving as a lifelong member of Lund Lutheran Church.

Though all of the nominees had a lengthy list of credentials, it was Downs and Davis who were chosen to represent Becker County at the Minnesota State Fair Senior Day festivities on Aug. 28 in St. Paul.

Davis admitted she was a little surprised by the honor, but also very honored.

"I thought my friend Luetta had more hours (of volunteering) than I did, so I was surprised (to win) -- but they're all my friends, so it was a very friendly competition," she said with a smile.

Downs was modest about his own win, noting that as the lone male competitor, "the competition wasn't too tough." He also downplayed his role in the Tax Aide program, noting that since returns started becoming more and more computerized, others such as Paul Skarie, Bernie Sandau and Doug Bertram have done the majority of the work.

"They did over 3,000 returns last year, and that saves people a lot of money," he said. "They really do a fantastic job."

Both Davis and Downs indicated that they would try to make it down to St. Paul for the Minnesota State Fair festivities, but Downs added that he wasn't quite sure: "I might be haying then."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454