Steele's top seniors are humbled
Both outstanding senior citizens for Steele County expressed extreme humility when accepting the 2018 Senior Citizen of the Year awards on Thursday at the Steele County Free Fair in Owatonna.
Mary Larson, 82, of Claremont was selected the top woman senior citizen and Gene Kispert, 87, of Owatonna was selected the top man senior.
Due to downpour of rain, for the second consecutive year, the ceremonies had to be held in the Beer Garden.
"I am extremely humbled in receiving this award, and I sure have enjoyed my years of volunteering," remarked Larson, a former educator.
"I thought they had the wrong guy," laughed Kispert when told he was to receive the prestigious senior citizen award. "I've never thought volunteering was work," he added.
The best part of volunteering is the people you meet, Larson and Kispert agreed.
Larson has been involved in "Grandparents for Education" by being an executive board member and volunteering in the Owatonna schools. She helps with fundraising events and volunteers for special occasions at the schools. She also supports mentoring and tutoring.
Since 1992, Larson has been a board member of the Owatonna #761 School District Foundation, serving as secretary and helping with reviewing applications for grants.
Larson currently serves on the Steele County Food Shelf Board. She was a member of the Hiawatha Valley Resource Conservation and Development Committee from 1994 to 2015.
Dairying has been a big part of Larson's life, and she has been a lifetime supporter of the dairy industry of Steele County. She was superintendent of the dairy cattle barn for 20 years.
Kispert has been a devout delivery person for Meals on Wheels for over 21 years. He also has volunteered many hours at the Heritage Halls Museum proving education and hospitality.
His current work with the American Legion includes being current Post chaplain. He presents American flags to family members at military funerals.
Kispert is assistant ambassador for astronomy for NASA/JPL. He has given many inspirational talks to area schools who have an interest in astronomy.
He was also a volunteer coach for over 15 years.
"I have received so much from my community," says Larson. She and husband Bruce had two daughters.
Kispert lost his wife Fern and daughter Karla only three months apart this year. He and Fern had three children.
When asked if they had more volunteering challenges to accept, both said they were "pretty well maxed out" on volunteering. "It's tough to say no," said Kispert.
The top Steele County Senior Citizens awards are presented by the Steele County Exchange Club with the cooperation of the Steele County Free Fair and Senior Place.
Bruce Kubicek, former Steele County commissioner, announced the awards.
Larson and Kispert will now compete for the top state award and will be recognized at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 30.