Citizens of the Year John and Darlene Vrieze speak during their recognition program Sunday at the Spring Valley Community Center. The couple were nominated to receive this honor by Isabel Larson.
Citizens of the Year John and Darlene Vrieze speak during their recognition program Sunday at the Spring Valley Community Center. The couple were nominated to receive this honor by Isabel Larson.
An overflow crowd showed up to honor John and Darlene Vrieze Sunday at the Spring Valley Community Center for their recognition as Spring Valley Citizens of the Year.

The well over 100 people in attendance showed the deep ties the two have to the community. And, the stories, some of them humorous with inside jokes, showed how widely they touched lives in the community.

The laughs from the audience at the inside jokes showed that most people knew the Vriezes well, almost as if they were family, but the more emotional presentations also showed that in their quiet ways, they do so much for the community that many people may not even realize.

The Vriezes were nominated for the honor by Isabel Larson, whose late husband, Don, received the same designation in 2008. She told the audience that "it was my honor and pleasure to nominate John and Darlene, not only for myself, but for my husband." She recalled all they did for the family when Don was ill.

Master of ceremonies Bill Rowen expanded on that, noting that Don said when he was nominated that there were many other people, including the Vriezes, that should be considered before him.

The Spring Valley Kiwanis Club has been recognizing citizens of the year since 1976. Since some years more than one person is honored, a total of 47 people have now received the recognition.

The Vriezes were joined at the celebration by family members, including their three grown children, all married now and living in the Twin Cities area, and their grandchildren. Son Jeff was one of the speakers, adding much humor to the program, but also giving insights into their lives.

Although their clothing store, Valley Clothiers, closed many years ago, John kept busy at Don's Family Market and then helping out at Hindt Funeral Home, which he still does today.

"Even today, it's not about working, it's about seeing familiar faces; it keeps him and mom going," said Jeff.

But, work is just a small part of their lives. As the Rev. Beth Perez, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, which the Vriezes attend, noted, "they're everywhere." And, she related, they take time to give some personal advice to someone like her when she was learning the ropes.

As their son Jeff summed it up, "they're under the radar, they're doing the little things that make this a community and they'll do anything for any of you and they'll do anything for my kids, their grandkids."