Citizen of the year has made impact
on community over last several decades
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 3:42 AM
Geraldine Williams was born in Lanesboro and grew up in Harmony, but she has made quite an impact on Spring Valley since she moved here more than 40 years ago.
Her extensive volunteer activities in the community led to her being named the Spring Valley Kiwanis Club's 2013 Citizen of the Year. A reception will be held for her on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m. with a program starting shortly after the reception at the Spring Valley Community Center.
The daughter of Alvin and Anna Mae Kiehne, she is now married to Harris Williams, a mother of five and grandmother of nine.
She attended school in Harmony and graduated from Harmony High School in 1961, then went on to college.
"I went to college for a year, and in those days, you got married younger," she explained. "The summer I graduated from high school, I worked for the Fillmore County Extension Office, and Harris was a DHIA supervisor based out of the office, inspecting cows. I think our first date, we went to a drive-in theatre, and we saw 'North to Alaska.' We had similar backgrounds - he grew up on a farm, too."
They were married at Greenfield Lutheran Church in Harmony, her home church, on Nov. 3, 1962. Not too many months after that, they moved to Windom, Minn., because he'd gotten a job working for a dairy. She worked at the Jackson County Extension Office, then at the principal's office in Windom schools. After about a year-and-a-half, they moved to Wallworth, Wis., in the southeast corner of the state. Harris got a job there as a dairy herdsman, and while they were there for four years, their son, Mark, was born.
The Williamses then returned to Minnesota, settling in Spring Valley because Harris got a job at Midwest Breeders just north of Stewartville, where he worked for 33 years before retiring in 2001.
Their daughter, Becky, was born in November 1968, and they lived in a little house on Market Street. They moved to their current home across from South Park on Highway 63 in 1969, and then their daughter, Rachel, was born, their son, Michael, then their son, Matthew, in 1973. She did daycare in their home until 1987, and she started working part-time at Dueber's in downtown Spring Valley until she started working at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in March 1989. Harris and Geraldine have been members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church since 1969, when Becky was baptized, and Geraldine eventually became the church office secretary.
"I'm part of the Rebekah Circle, and I've been on the church council, I've been the WELCA co-chair twice, once with Judy Rose and again with Bonnie Kruegel, we've made quilts for world missions. I've been the bookkeeper for the Spring Valley Area Ministerial Association since 1989 - taking care of the food shelf accounts, the Hearts and Hands Alliance account and the doctors' medical missions accounts, I've delivered Meals on Wheels and done various activities within the Rebekah Circle. I've served in a lot of other capacities, too."
The Williamses are known as a very strong 4-H family throughout the county, as they grew up in 4-H and their children are still involved through employment with extension offices and through the 4-H activities the grandchildren have chosen.
"Our oldest granddaughter is in her last year of college at St. Mary's University, and the littlest is almost four. We've still got 4-H projects here in our barn," said Geraldine. "We'd help out and take turns as leaders, help with activities, help with the 4-H food stand."
In fact, "helping with activities" earned the couple the Fillmore County Friend of 4-H Award several years ago, and Geraldine still expects to see her Spring Valley granddaughter and grandson, Amy and Jacob Welch, each summer morning as they come to the little farm on the edge of town to tend their 4-H project animals.
Geraldine has been a volunteer in the Spring Valley community in general, taking on jobs as part of the Spring Valley Historical Society, serving on the board, serving ice cream at annual socials, lending a mop or hand to prepare for Society teas and tours, and even watching bats come and go.
"We did a bat watch one summer...we were trying to figure out how they were getting into the church museum," she observed. "I still like to help with things when I can, even though I'm off the board. I appreciate the small town historical societies, and I especially like Spring Valley's history."
At school, she's accompanied students on the fifth grade Whitewater trip - the year that Amy's class went, her mother, Rachel, was unable to go, so Geraldine packed her bags and went along to chaperone.
"I used to judge History Day projects when the district had them, and I've done some community education classes, like 'Kids in the Kitchen,' and when my kids were in school, I did the 'room mother' and helped with the holiday parties," she said.
Her efforts to make the annual Spring Valley Community Christmas Dinner - an event begun by former Our Savior's pastor Jon Olson - has kept Christmas merry for those who have nowhere else to go. "The Christmas dinner was a suggestion that Jon Olson made, and the first year, we had 50 people. Now, I think we're planning for 200 every year."
If she's not at home on a given day, she's likely to be found at Good Earth Village (GEV), the Christian camp northeast of Spring Valley, where she's reliably the person sorting quilts each August for the GEV quilt auction, the go-to person who takes on odd jobs and paperwork when others are keeping campers busy.
"Now, most of my volunteering consists of Monday afternoons and additional times at Good Earth Village's office," she said. "Since I retired from the church office, I was there for someone while she was on maternity leave - they needed someone to work on the financial end of things - but when she came back, I found I had a passion for it and found out how much they needed volunteers, so I've done a little recruiting, too. It's a wonderful place."
She looks forward to being with her family as the Kiwanis honor her during a program on Sunday, Oct. 27. The Kiwanis welcome the public to attend, and gifts given in Geraldine's honor will be used to support the organization's mission of "serving the children of the world" through local scholarships for graduating seniors at Kingsland High School.
"It should be a fun time," said Williams. "I'm looking forward to having my family here. It's humbling to be selected because this is something that's intended for others."