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Outstanding Seniors chosen at fair

Becker County outstanding seniors Wilma Hanson and Walter Welle (front), with fellow nominee Jack Kolander. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

Every year since 1973, Thursday at the Becker County Fair has included an awards ceremony where two new winners are chosen to receive the title of the county’s Outstanding Senior Citizen.

The award recognizes senior citizens who have made outstanding contributions to their community since reaching age 65.

This year’s nominees included John “Jack” Koland, Cormorant; Walter Welle, Detroit Lakes; Willma Hanson, Detroit Lakes; and Detroit Lakes couple Jim and Gerry Langemo (who were unable to be present for the ceremony, and thus withdrew themselves from consideration).       

At Thursday’s ceremony, Hanson and Welle were chosen to represent the county at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.

Hanson, who was nominated by Dave Peterson of the Becker County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC), was lauded for her volunteer efforts “all around Becker county, doing a variety of jobs,” according to Becker County Senior Coordinator Karen Lenius, who was emcee for the ceremony.

“At the DAC, she helps with literacy challenges. She also quilts, sews, works at the Fish & Wildlife Service, and is an officer of the local Thrivent chapter,” Lenius continued. “Wilma has also assisted with service projects completed by the children at the Boys & Girls Club.”

Welle, who was lovingly nominated by his daughter, Sheila Welle, is a dedicated volunteer with the Emmaus Outreach program.

“He visits homebound individuals, takes them on outings in the community and keeps them socially engaged,” said Lenius. “He is active with the Knights of Columbus, doing service projects and fundraising. Walter is also active with the Callaway Lions, with fundraising and service projects.”

Koland, who was nominated by the Cormorant Lions Club, is lauded by his fellow members as a “super Lion.”

“He is involved with countless service projects, and is an avid fundraiser for the chapter,” Lenius noted. “He also volunteers at Kamp KACE, where he assists with activities for children with cancer. Jack is also active with the Lake Park Legion, the Lake Park-Audubon School Legacy Foundation, Salvation Army Bell Ringers, and is an active member of the Wild Rice Electric Advisory Committee.”

Though he was deeply honored to receive the award, Welle admitted he had expected Koland to be the recipient.

“I was really surprised,” Welle said, noting that he felt Koland was “a real strong individual — a leader.”

He also indicated that he intends to make the trip to the State Fair later this month, as did Hanson, who admitted that she felt “fabulous” upon learning that she would be the recipient of this year’s award.

“You do the things you really like to do, and you don’t feel the need to be thanked or rewarded,” she said, but added that it was nonetheless a wonderful moment.

The Minnesota Outstanding Senior Citizen competition is sponsored each year by the Minnesota Board on Aging, State Fair Board and the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs.

At the county level, the competition is sponsored by the Becker County Council on Aging and the Becker County Fair Board.

Nominees must be 70 years of age by June 1, 2014, and nominations are solicited from various individuals, community agencies and organizations.

Nominees must all be Becker County residents and must have reached the age of 70 by June 1 of the year in which they are nominated.

From this pool of nominees, one man and one woman are selected each year. The winners are given the opportunity to enjoy a free trip to the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, during Senior Day festivities there.

This year’s Senior Day at the State Fair is set for Thursday, Aug. 28. The recognition ceremony for Minnesota’s Outstanding Senior Citizens will begin at 10:30 a.m. inside the Leinie Lodge Bandshell.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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