Citizen of the Year recipient Sue Kolling addresses the crowd at the Spring Valley Community Center Sunday afternoon.
PAULA BARNESS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Citizen of the Year recipient Sue Kolling addresses the crowd at the Spring Valley Community Center Sunday afternoon.
Members of the community gathered on Sunday, Oct. 2, to honor Sue Kolling as the Kiwanis Citizen of the Year.

Kolling has spent much of her life helping people, whether through her job as the senior vice president at Home Federal Savings Bank, as a founding member of the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation (SVACF), a member of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) or her various work throughout the community.

Roger Weise was the first to take to the podium.

“I first met Sue when she came to work at Home Federal after she graduated from high school,” Weise said. “She did lots of different things for us and the reason for that is because when we found there was something new that had to be done she was doing so well at the others that we figured ‘well let Sue do it.’ Her performance was excellent.”

Weise then touched on Sue’s role in bringing the SVACF to fruition, which he called “a tremendous thing for the community.

“Through her bringing this to the attention of people in the community the foundation was formed. Now the foundation is growing and is a terrific way for individuals to give money to one place for projects throughout the community. We wish her luck in her foundation, her business and in her career.”

Then long-time friend and walking partner Kathy Beevers-Miller took the microphone.

“As you listen to the news today, especially as a parent, you wonder, are there a enough role models in the world today. I was very fortunate to have Sue as my role model for the 24 years I lived here and she continues to be my role model today,” Miller said. “When people mention Sue Kolling everyone always gushes about what a wonderful person she is and what a fantastic community member she is.”

Miller shared memories of Kolling leaving Miracle Grow at her door, bringing crockpots full of food on busy days and giving her a fire extinguisher after learning she didn’t have one during a conversation about fire safety.

She touched on how dedicated Kolling is to her family while still maintaining an impressive 47-year career with Home Federal.

“She just managed it all. And she did all of it because she’s just Sue,” Miller expressed. “Another thing I know about Sue is that she is a survivor. At a young age, her husband, Jeff, passed away. Sue was left behind with two sons, a business, a home to maintain and on top of all of that a full-time career. She made the best out of a tough situation; she rolled up her sleeves and just got it done.

“Another characteristic about Sue is that she values family. She is a wonderful daughter to her aging parents...she squeezes in trips with her sisters when she can and she is always talking about holidays with her nieces and nephews. First and foremost, she adores her sons, Aaron and Matt, her daughters-in-laws and her five grandchildren,” Miller told the crowd. “She is a phenomenal mother and grandmother. She is selfless and the mom I aspire to be everyday.”

Miller also described Kolling as humble, thoughtful and kind.

“It comes so naturally to her, it is like breathing. Kindness is second nature to her,” Miller expressed. “She is constantly aware of people’s needs, their feelings and is always looking to take action to help.”

Miller characterized Kolling as beautiful inside and out, saying she’s got a “great smile, she is confident yet poised, she is polite and truthful, she is upbeat and most importantly she is loyal. All of these qualities and many more radiate from her a joy for everyone that is surrounded by her. We are here today because Sue cares more about us than she does herself. It is really easy to be a good person once and awhile, but that is not a role model. A role model is someone who inspires us daily and that is Sue.”

Kolling’s sons, Matt and Aaron, then took their turns honoring their mother.

Matt included his children as each chose a word that best described their grandmother. They were caring, understanding and nice.

“I also came up with a few words of my own: dedicated, as her long work history shows; determined, she is very determined to make a difference; driven, once she believes in something it would take an act of God to change her mind; devoted, she follows through to the very end and demanding, she is not afraid to be a bit demanding when sharing her views.”

Aaron then followed continuing on the same theme.

“While my mother has many great qualities, and I admit I might be a bit biased, a few seem to stick out. She is determined and that is one of the reasons she has had so much success in her life. She is also dependable. Every morning Kathy knew she would be there. She is dedicated and that dedication goes well beyond her job at Home Federal. She is dedicated to making the things and people around her better,” Aaron expressed. “She has continually shown myself, my brother and all those around her that through hard work, determination and dedication you can accomplish great things. She does all these things, not for personal recognition, but because she genuinely cares.”

Aaron then noted that Oct. 2 is also significant, as it was his parents’ wedding anniversary.

“While my mother has had great and wonderful things happen in her life, she has also had her share of tragic and challenging times,” he said. “Throughout her life, both personally and professionally, mom has always shown how strong she is, whether it is entering a banking profession that is dominated by men or how she handles obstacles, adversity or tragedy. She tackles the all head on and does not make excuses.”

After listening to her friends and family express their affection for her, Kolling was able to take a moment to thank them.

“I want to thank Kiwanis for being selected as the Citizen of the Year, it is very humbling,” Kolling began. “I learned very early on from my mom and dad, we grew up on a dairy farm in Cherry Grove, the importance of giving back to one’s community. I also learned the importance of hard work – one never said I’m bored or have nothing to do.”

Kolling took these lessons with her as she entered the workforce after high school.

“I’ve had an amazing career and I’ve met so many amazing people,” Kolling said of her 47-year career at Home Federal. “If you are going to be in community banking and live in a community it is important to give back to that community.”

Kolling has shown this community her compassion and empathy through her work with area foundations.

“Through my life I’ve found that everyone has a story; I love the stories. They are filled with joy and happiness; they are filled with heartache and hard times. Take time to find out people’s stories,” she said.

Kolling spoke of the SVACF and the board that has supported her and how proud she is of what they have accomplished together in the first five years of its existence.

Kolling then shared an article she found in a “Delta Sky” magazine, which spoke of numerous areas and cities in Minnesota, including Spring Valley.

“In their last paragraph they talk about Spring Valley...calling it a quiet town nestled in Minnesota’s agricultural heartland that has everything from caves to wine,” Kolling said. “They recognized that we’ve got a lot here to offer, we’ve got a great community, a great school, let’s not lose sight of that. We have so much to be proud of and I’m proud and touched. I work in Rochester...but at the end of the day when I point my car south it feels so good to be driving home.”

Kolling then concluded her speech, with help from her grandchildren, by sharing the 11 attributes of nurture a culture of kindness and compassion from the Wetterling Family, which include be fair, be kind, be understanding, be honest, be thankful, be a good sport, be a good friend, be joyful, be generous, be gentle with others and be positive.