By Dawn Kiefer
Relatives and other well-wishers made up the audience at the annual Centenarian and Lifetime Service Awards ceremony at the Richland County Fair last Friday.
Ron Fruit of WRCO AM/FM coordinated the event and served as emcee.
This year four Centenarians were honored, with two present at the ceremony. “A Centenarian defines long life and spirit,” Fruit said, adding that we get to gain wisdom from them.
The Centenarians who were not present were Gladys Johnson and Ruby Shetler.
Fruit said that Gladys Johnson, 102, who was born in January of 1913, would like to go fishing. Her advice to others is to work.
He said that Ruby Shetler was born in Viola and attended nursing school during the 1950s. Her advice for living a long life is to go to school, get an education and have a good diet, and don’t smoke or drink.
He said that Venna Comar celebrated her 100th birthday in August. She graduated from Richland Center High School and attended college in Platteville for two years, before teaching for 40 years. She and her husband Paul adopted two children and were foster parents to six others. Her advice for others is to keep busy. “Success in life is to have a job,” she says.
Mrs. Comar recalls riding the merry-go-round at the fair when she was a child. When asked if she ever thought she’d get to 100, she responded, “Heavens no!”
Fruit said that Josephine Nachtigal is 101, having been born in Vernon County in February of 1914. She attended a one-room school and was the first in her family to attend high school; requiring an interpreter, as she spoke Czech. She said that her advice to others is to take one day at a time. “Don’t think too much about it and trust the Lord,” she says.
During the ceremony, Fruit asked Mrs. Nachtigal if she ever thought she’d make it to 100. She said, “You don’t think about how long you’re going to live.” She said she has lived the longest of anyone in her family.
Mrs. Nachtigal raised eight kids and farmed for 44 years. “I was glad to raise my family on a farm instead of in a city,” she said. She currently enjoys living at Pine Valley Healthcare. “They take good care of us,” she says.
She said that farming has changed so much, with big changes in machinery. “Just living everyday life is a college education,” she said. She still speaks Czech and said in both English and Czech, “I’m glad that I’m here!” Fruit said, “We’re glad you’re here,” to which she responded, “Thank the Lord!”
Fruit said of Mrs. Comar and Mrs. Nachtigal, “I hope when I’m as old as they are that I’m as sharp as they are.”
Fruit said that bestowing the Lifetime Service Awards on Patriots’ Day, September 11, was a perfect coincidence.
He said, “It’s an opportunity to say thank you to law enforcement. They do their jobs well and face daily challenges.” He noted that their families deserve appreciation as well.
He announced that this year’s Lifetime Service Award recipients both retired this year: Richland County Sheriff Darrell Berglin and Richland Center Police Chief John Annear.
“Their job takes skill and a respect for life,” he said. “They are truly exemplary figures in law enforcement.”
Fruit stated that, more than a decade ago, WRCO hired new news reporters and he took them to meet Police Chief Annear, who said to them, “I don’t want you to get your hopes up that there’ll be news every day. It’s not like the President comes here.” The next week President George W. Bush came here.
Annear said, “To say that the years went by is an understatement. It was very rewarding to police where I grew up.” He said that, at first, it was difficult to police friends he grew up with, but that quickly dissipated.
“I’m humbled by it (the award)”, he said, adding that patrol officers deserve a lot of credit.
Annear said that the most rewarding part of the job is seeing people recover from previous police trouble. His advice for those who are considering a career in law enforcement is to realize that it requires duty on nights, weekends and during special events.
“It’s really a calling,” he said. “Work hard to get training and be the best officer you can be.”
Berglin said that some of his first work experience was at Lambeau Field, during his youth in Green Bay. He said he saw Bart Starr go over the line in his “Ice Bowl” touchdown.
Berglin said he knew during high school that he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Berglin served the longest consecutive time as sheriff in Richland County history, with 19 years.
“I’m very humbled by that,” Berglin said. “The people had faith and trust in me.”
Berglin also said, “The good Lord blessed me with my wife. Being sheriff is a 24/7 operation. I had a great command staff…and all the rest of the individuals in the trenches do the job. We help them do their best. (It’s about) looking out for people’s safety and well-being…There’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone.”
Berglin noted that he and Annear often worked together.
“We both did everything we could to keep the community safe,” he said.