Darlene and John Vrieze have been named the 2012 Citizens of the Year by the Spring Valley Kiwanis Club. They were the owners of Valley Clothiers in Spring Valley for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001, and were partners in the business from 1970 until 1976. Here the couple holds a picture frame that preserves their memories of their business, including an article on the business’ 100 year anniversary in 1993 and the key that once opened the front door of their business, at 124 N. Broadway in downtown Spring Valley.
Darlene and John Vrieze have been named the 2012 Citizens of the Year by the Spring Valley Kiwanis Club. They were the owners of Valley Clothiers in Spring Valley for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001, and were partners in the business from 1970 until 1976. Here the couple holds a picture frame that preserves their memories of their business, including an article on the business’ 100 year anniversary in 1993 and the key that once opened the front door of their business, at 124 N. Broadway in downtown Spring Valley.
John and Darlene Vrieze of Spring Valley have been named the 2012 Citizens of the Year by the Spring Valley Kiwanis Club. They will be honored in a program at the community center on Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m.

The couple, who have been married for 46 years, are active members of the community who enjoy helping others. In fact, they had been in the business of customer service for decades when they owned a clothing store in downtown Spring Valley.

They said they are honored to be named Citizens of the Year.

"It is kind of humbling," noted Darlene. "It's a great honor."

John added, "There are probably other people more deserving but we definitely appreciate it."

They both are looking forward to the program on Nov. 18, when the couple said their children and grandchildren are planning to attend. They have three children who are all married: Jeff (Dawn) Vrieze, Julie (Jeff) Pettes, and Steven (Julene) Vrieze, who all live in the Twin Cities area. The Vriezes have seven grandchildren.

John grew up in the Cherry Grove and Greenleafton area on a farm and attended Wykoff High School. Darlene grew up in the West Concord area on a farm also. John began working in Spring Valley in 1957, working at Majors & Roberts men's clothing store that year. In 1970, he became a partner in the business, which became known as Majors, Roberts & Vrieze. In 1976 the Vriezes became sole owners of the clothing business and named it Valley Clothiers, which they operated until 2001 when the building was sold.

"I worked 43 Christmases," said John, "from 1957 until January 2001."

The clothes store had a rich history. In 1893 it was started as Leuthold's and the building had housed a clothing store from then until 2001, after which John retired. After retirement he worked for Don's Family Market and still works for Hindt Funeral Homes part-time.

For many years Darlene was a stay-at-home mom. She later did the book work for their business and waited on customers. She also worked for the Spring Valley Tribune for a while and at Marburger Insurance, while working at Dr. Greene's dentist office. She retired from the dentist's office 11 years ago.

The couple has been members of Faith United Methodist Church in Spring Valley since 1968. They are active in the community by delivering Meals on Wheels, volunteering with Ostrander Care Center and at the tourist information center in Spring Valley. The Vriezes are also drivers for Semcac. Darlene is involved with her church's women's group and John volunteers to ring bells for the Salvation Army.

While they had their business, they were members of the Spring Valley Chamber of Commerce and helped out with Ag Days and other chamber events. John was a member of the chamber board. The couple has also helped out the Kiwanis Club by volunteering for certain tasks. Darlene also volunteered at the school when her kids attended and when they were out of school.

Darlene said her favorite volunteer activity is delivering meals to people through the Meals on Wheels program where she gets to interact with people, which she enjoys.

The Vriezes say their main motivation for giving back to the community comes from the way they were raised. Both of their parents, John said, taught them "what helping neighbors was all about."

John added, "I like helping people. If someone needs something it's great to try to help them out.

"It's satisfying to know you can help and have the time to do it. I don't have any hobbies, so you can say helping others is my hobby."

John noted when he had his business that he liked seeing the customers on a regular basis and developed many friendships in the community.

The Vriezes said that Spring Valley has "been home" to them. The couple enjoys the "small town living" and said they have both always been "small town people." They have really enjoyed the "friendliness of the whole community."

John added, "It's been a great place to live and raise children."