Richard and Joyce Duffney have been named Becker County’s Outstanding Senior Citizens of 2019. It’s believed to be the first time a husband and wife have received the honor together.

The pair were chosen for their longstanding involvement and achievements in the Becker County community.

Joyce has volunteered for 12 years with Faith Lutheran School, helping to organize services and donations and also assisting with religious education. She has been a part of the Lakes Women’s Society Service organization for 20 years, and has also served as a 4-H leader. In the early years of the local Jaycees, she was “Mrs. JC.”

“She puts herself out to the community in many ways in service, understanding, and a helping hand for others,” said Liz Kuoppala, executive director at Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership. Kuoppala served as the emcee for the awards ceremony, and announced the winners.

Joyce got a little emotional accepting the award, and said, “I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just say ‘thank you.’ This community is a great community ... Just ‘thank you,’ everyone.”

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In accepting his own award, Joyce’s husband, Richard, said, “I wasn’t so surprised when my wife won the award — she was much more deserving than I. But I appreciate this.”

Richard has been involved in many community organizations over the years, volunteering his time with the Jaycees, Gideons, Historical Society, the Chamber of Commerce, the High Mileage Christian Seniors fellowship, Breakfast Rotary and Heart O’ Lakes Harmony singers, among others.

Both the Duffneys are also active volunteers with the Meals on Wheels program, driving and delivering meals to clients all over the area.

“He continues to do as much as he can for the community, and continues to take time to deliver meals to those who need them,” said Kuoppala. “He makes our clients feel good by conversation and a smile.”

The Becker County Outstanding Senior Citizens award is given to one man and one woman every year, and has been since 1973. It’s a part of the statewide Outstanding Senior Citizens program, sponsored by the Minnesota Board on Aging, the Minnesota State Fair Board and the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs.

The Becker County winners are announced every summer during the county fair. They go on to represent the county at the state fair, where they receive special award certificates and commendations from the Governor for their outstanding community involvements.

This year’s county awards ceremony was held under the Big Tent on Thursday, Aug. 8, during Senior Day at the fair. A number of people were in attendance, including friends of the Duffneys, local and state government officials, and former Outstanding Senior award winners.

“This is really a celebration of the entire community,” said State Rep. Paul Marquart. “Because seniors have set the tone, traditions and culture of this great community.”

Kuoppala talked about retirement as being a “third age” in which people can focus on personal achievement and fulfillment — which many, like the Duffneys, choose to do through volunteering.

The generous actions of senior volunteers like them, she said, “give all of us behind you a grand vision to live up to.”

Outstanding Seniors are nominated by people who know them, or by entire community agencies or organizations. Winners are selected from a pool of nominees based on the number and variety of contributions they have made, especially after age 65. To be eligible, nominees must be age 70 or older.