Kounonen named Minnesota’s Outstanding Men’s Senior Citizen of the year

Art Kounonen (right) was selected as Minnesota’s Outstanding Men’s Senior Citizen of the year during the Minnesota State Fair. His wife, Edie (left) was runner-up for the Women’s award.

When Art and Edie Kounonen were named Isanti County’s Senior Citizens of the year for 2020 and 2021, all honors that came with that title were canceled due to COVID. This year they received many honors in Isanti County and were at the State Fair for the final one, where one man and woman would be named as Minnesota’s Outstanding Citizens.

When Art’s name was called as the winner he recalled feeling “shock” and then “They can’t be calling me.” Edie described Art’s face dropping and he froze in his tracks. 

Art was presented with a plaque listing the honor and a physically large check made out to the Braham Education Foundation, which he had selected as his choice if he won. It is for $1,000, which Art and Edie said would help out that organization as they have not been able to do much fund raising during the pandemic. 

In a press release regarding his being named as the state’s Outstanding Senior, it was mentioned “The Outstanding Male Senior has dedicated countless hours post-retirement to volunteerism and serving his community and beyond.

“Art has been an active volunteer for many years, assisting with a wide range of projects throughout the Braham Community. He is a retired teacher and coach, who remains particularly involved in improving the lives of young people.  Art has been inducted into the Minnesota Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, and has used his passion for the sport to raise money to replace the high school baseball field. He still serves as the official scorekeeper for school basketball and football games.

“He, along with his wife Edie, ran the athletic event concessions for many years, where they lined up volunteers, ordered supplies, kept detailed financial records and worked at the concession stand for each event. In addition, they would shop for and prepare 400 meals for annual school awards banquet.

“He has also volunteered for Braham Pie Day, working long hours to set up and take down the booth and ferry pies to the booth’s location in the park.

“In addition, Art has also demonstrated commitment to his community as:

• A member of the Braham city council;

• A volunteer in the Braham Evangelical Lutheran Church;

• A member of the city planning commission;

• And as a volunteer for the Braham Event Center.”

Edie was named runner-up in the women’s division. She said the woman who won had done so many things it was just amazing, so as far as Edie was concerned, the runner up position was a big honor.

 After the program they had some time before heading home so they had what Art calls “their celebration dinner” - Cheese Curds, French Fries, a Pronto Pup and lemonade.. 

The Isanti County Commission on Aging (ICCOA) will be selecting 2022 candidates next May. If you know of any seniors who should be honored for their volunteer service, please contact Jeannie Winselman, Chair of the ICCOA, at jwinselman@msn.com. The ICCOA is also looking for new members to join their Board, so they can continue to serve the needs of seniors in Isanti County. If interested, please contact Jeannie for more information.

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