They’re in the running for ‘Minnesota’s Outstanding Senior Citizen’ at State Fair

    The 2014 Outstanding Senior Citizens of Polk County are Janice Thoreson of Climax (nominated by Dale Knotek of Crookston) and Dean Vikan of Fosston (nominated by Blanchard Krogstad of Winger). The duo was presented with the award in June and will travel to the Minnesota State Fair, which kicks off Thursday, to compete for the title of "Minnesota's Outstanding Senior Citizen."    

    Thoreson was born in Bowesmont, North Dakota, a town that was virtually erased after the 1997 flood. She grew up in Eldred, Minn. and went to school in Climax, where she has lived with her husband for 58 years. Throughout the years, she has involved herself in many community activities including being a board member of Thrivent, Sunday School teacher, participant in WELCA, church organist and choir director for the Sandhill Lutheran Church, coordinating food donations to needy families through the Climax Food Shelf, and volunteering at the Climax School every week with the sixth grade group.   

    Climax School Superintendent Norman Baumgarn wrote a letter of recommendation stating, "Janice faithfully volunteers each Monday to work with our young people on their school studies. She does an outstanding job of relating to these adolescents and has been a role model for them and an ardent supporter of their education. The commitment that Janice has made has led four other ladies to sign up for our volunteer aide program.   

    "Janice has also been the person responsible to make sure every child in our school has proper clothes for school and during the winter," Baumgarn continued. "Her caring and concern for kids has been very beneficial to our students and school system."   

    Besides all her volunteer work, Janice is a dedicated quilter who has helped make hundreds of quilts for Lutheran World relief, quilts for graduating seniors, quilts given to veterans at the Climax Memorial Day Service at her church and lap quilts for church members and friends in nursing homes and rehab facilities. Currently, with her quilter's club, they have sewed over 220 quilts since the month of May and they will continue until the end of October.    

    When asked about how she felt about winning the award, she said, "I'm really honored. You never expect to get an award for doing the things you always do just because you like to do them. I tried to talk Dale (Knotek) out of it (the award nomination), but my husband said I could do it. It's important to stay busy. It keeps you young."    

    Vikan, born and raised in Fosston, graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1960. In October 1962, he was assigned to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa to nuclear alert in the Cold War. Throughout his career in the Air Force, he  has had tours in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Germany and Italy. His last assignment was back in the U.S. at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio as the Deputy Program Manager for Logistics in the F-15 System Program Office. Colonel Vikan retired from the United States Air Force in June 1985. He received over a dozen decorations and medals including everything from the Legion of Merit to the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.   

    In 1997, he moved back to Fosston and kept himself busy by joining a menagerie of foundations and clubs. His volunteer activities include: President of the Rotary Club of Fosston, Vice President of First Care Foundation, President of Essentia Health Fosston Auxiliary, Vice President of MN Historic NW Museum Consortium, a board member of the Highway 2 Cruisers Classic Car Club, chair of the advisory board for the Fosston Area Community Fund, board member for the Star Committee, board member of the MN Alliance of Local History Museums, planning committee member for Hope Lutheran Church Centennial Celebration, committee member of PCPH Wellness Coalition, advisory team member for S.H.I.P. Target Community, committee member for Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts, board member of the Polk County Historical Society, past President of East Polk Heritage Center, Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 114, Treasurer of the Northern Exposure to Lifelong Learning, planning committee member for Memorial Day events, and a committee member for the Veterans Memorial Park upgrade. In his spare time he takes photographs of animals in nature, specifically the array of creatures that visit his backyard. Dean has two children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren that keep him busy as well.    

    When asked about how he felt to win this award, he replied humbly, "I'm just very honored."