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All in a day's work

Volunteer couple honored for doing what they love

They really didn't want to talk about it. Sure, Irv and Mary Sather had been named this year's outstanding senior citizens in St. Croix County.

And sure, they are honored to have received the award.

But when conversation drifted toward their collective accomplishments over the past five decades, both Irv and Mary deflected the accolades.

Mary was quick to point out that many of this year's nominees had done some wonderful things in their communities.

New Richmond resident John Mortensen, who received an honorable mention in the award process, had been involved in numerous projects benefitting veterans, she noted. Other nominees had served meals to senior citizens and organized other senior activities.

To hear Mary tell it, the Sather's resume paled in comparison.

"We just do what we do and we don't expect anyone to pay attention," she said. "We're surprised when they do."

The Sathers are the spark plugs behind the successful operation of the New Richmond Preservation Society and its Heritage Center grounds.

Irv has been president of the board for the Heritage Center since 1985. Mary serves as the museum's curator, and also has written a weekly history column for the New Richmond News for 35 years.

They both volunteer at the Heritage Center's regular flea market, an ongoing fund raiser for the organization.

The Sathers' volunteer honor was announced at the May 19 gathering of the St. Croix County Department on Aging at the Phipps Center in Hudson. The program included a special speaker and entertainment.

"It was a really nice day," Mary said.

The long-time New Richmond residents were genuinely thrilled by their selection as the top seniors, Mary admitted.

"We just feel good about being honored for something we like to do," she said. "It was nice of them to think of us."

Most of the Sathers' community volunteer work over the years has centered on history.

Irv said he got involved with the Heritage Center because, as a New Richmond native, he's interested in preserving local history.

"I'm one of the few natives," he said.

Mary has always been a bit of a history buff. After pursuing a nursing career for 20 years, she eventually went back to school to complete her master's degree in history.

Both Irv and Mary are members of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Mary served on that organization's Board of Curators for many years.

They've been involved in many other endeavors as well. The couple takes care of the landscaping and grounds of the United Methodist Church. They also plant and weed various flower beds located in city parks.

Mary is a past president of the Holy Family Hospital Auxiliary. Irv has been active with the New Richmond Future Farmers of America and other farm organizations for years.

They have also been involved with the New Richmond Rotary Club, New Richmond Park Board and New Richmond Community Foundation. Irv served as the Community Foundation president in the past.

They initiated and helped form the first New Richmond Community Child Care Center.

The couple was very involved with the development of the Paperjack Greenway Parkland project next to the Heritage Center. They also work closely with the Challenge Incarceration Program, a rehabilitation program for prison inmates, by mentoring young men and women who are close to completing their sentence.

These days, much of the Sathers' extra time is spent on the Heritage Center's grounds. Throughout the day, they can be found providing tours, sorting through barn sale donations or coordinating special events.

"This has gotten so huge, it takes most of our time," Mary admitted.

They credit the volunteers at the Heritage Center for the smooth operation of the facility.

Mary said all of the more than 60 volunteers at the center are friendly and happy, making it a fun place to work.

"That makes it all so much easier," Irv commented.

"There are many, many volunteers there who work extremely hard on a variety of things that need to be done," Mary said. "We are simply two of the volunteers."

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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