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Pierce County's 'most admired' seniors recognized

ELLSWORTH -- There is certainly no shortage of generous and enterprising senior citizens in Pierce County.

So much so, this year's Most Admired Senior Citizen award at the Pierce County Fair went to not one, but seven senior citizens — including two husband-and-wife pairs.

"This year we had an unprecedented number of applicants," said Ginny Huber, who has worked with the fair for six years.

The winners are Dennis Donath of Prescott; Lorne and La Moine Hanson of Spring Valley, Wis.; Ralph Huppert of Hager City; Lewis and Rose Ann Powers of Bay City; and Fred Winkler of Prescott.

Family members and friends of each winner submitted nominations earlier this summer, listing off their volunteer and charity work.

Donath was nominated by his wife, Daryl, for his active fundraising efforts and time spent volunteering with the Ellsworth and Prescott Masonic lodges.

Donath also has logged over 3,000 hours of volunteer service at the Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center, earning him the title of Volunteer of the Year.

Described as a "quiet activist" by friends, Donath will return this fall to volunteering as a greeter at the Great River Road Visitor Center.

The Hansons were nominated by their granddaughter, Myanna Lansing, who was on hand to sing their praises in person.

Married for 65 years, the Hansons raised eight children on their family farm. The family has since grown to include 19 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Lorne served on the Gilman Township Board for 44 years, and La Moine served on the Gilman Election Board for 45 years. They also are active members of Spring Valley's Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

"They live their lives giving back to the community, and have taught others to do the same — like myself," Lansing said.

Huppert also was nominated by family, including daughter Huber who emceed the event.

"They say that farming is in your blood, and I'd have to say that is certainly true of Ralph," Huber said.

A fourth-generation farmer, Huppert was one of the first people in Pierce County to use the contour farming method. He has been an active supporter of the dairy industry in the region, served on Trimbelle Township Board and drove school bus for St. Mary's-Big River and Ellsworth schools.

"My dad is one of the nicest, most sociable people you will ever meet," Huber said.

The Powers' nomination was likely the largest, coming from the entire Ellsworth Senior Center. Staff describe the couple as "loving, kind and hardworking."

Lewis, a military veteran, serves on the American Legion firing squad. Rose Ann, a registered nurse, worked for many years as an operating room supervisor and Pierce County nurse.

Lewis and Rose Ann entered all six of their children in 4-H and volunteered as group leaders. They also perform annually in the Golden Agers singing group.

Rose Ann said she does not volunteer for recognition or awards, rather she is inspired by her faith. "You just do it," she said.

For Winkler, inspiration comes from seeing his happy and healthy family, which consists of four adult children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandson..

"I just count my blessings," Winkler said.

He has donated time with several charity organizations. "The list is so long, I'll just name a few for our time here," Huber said.

Winkler volunteered as auctioneer of charity auctions for more than two decades, including St. Johns Church Carnival, Ave Maria Academy and the Plum City Cancer Walk.

The Most Admired Senior Citizen Award started in 2006. It is meant to thank the county's active senior citizens and encourage younger generations to volunteer, Fair Coordinator Ann Webb said.

Pierce County Fair staff judge nominations on current volunteerism and activities, and not popularity, she added.

Huber said the award is her favorite part of the entire fair. "We have some crazy other things going on, but this is a blast."

Although this will be Huber's last year working on the fair, she said she hopes people will continue to show interest in the Most Admired Senior Citizen Award.

"Keep those nominations rolling in next year," she said. "It's just wonderful."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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