By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN - During its annual holiday meeting, the Cokato Chamber of Commerce recognized Susie Keskey as its 2008 Outstanding Citizen of the Year.
Keskey was honored with an engraved clock during a special meeting Dec. 2 in the basement of Daniel’s Restaurant, with five of her six children present.
“I’m very happy [Keskey] was nominated and the recipient of the award this year,” said outgoing Chamber President Dan Stonelake.
Chamber uses the award as a way to honor individuals and businesses from the community who have given back to the community, Stonelake explained.
“It’s a real honor,” Keskey said.
She can tell that society is becoming more “female friendly,” Keskey said, about women being recognized more often for their achievements.
Keskey has been very active in her hometown of Cokato from coaching swimming to drug awareness.
She has been a longtime volunteer and president of the Cokato Historical Society and board member on the Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society.
“I really enjoy my historical work,” Keskey said, who prepared for Pikkujoulu (little Christmas) and the cemetery lighting by making ice candles recently.
Harvey Barberg, president of the Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society, was glad to hear of Keskey’s recognition by the chamber.
“She brings so much energy to our group and brings new ideas,” said Barberg.
Keskey has taken a lead role in organizing the annual National Night Out in Cokato, the Cokato Police Commission, and started the Cokato Chapter of MEADA, a drug awareness and prevention program.
“I think Susie’s done an excellent job getting information out to the community and educating families about substance abuse in the area,” said Wright County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Becky Howell.
Being a business owner of Design and Fabrication, a welding repair shop she and her husband, Clifford, began in 1977, Keskey has been a longtime member of the Cokato Chamber. She is also a former Chamber president.
Come summertime, Keskey is active in volunteering for the Cokato Corn Carnival. She is also involved in the Cokato Community Chest drive in the fall.
After obtaining a teaching degree from St. Cloud State University, Keskey taught one year before marrying Clifford and raising their six children.
With a love for teaching and swimming, Keskey taught swimming lessons for many years at Brooks Lake through the Cokato American Legion.
Keskey remembers George Peterson asking her every year if she was going to continue teaching lessons.
Her favorite age level to teach swimming to was the 5-year-olds, Keskey said.
“They would get so excited when they learned to swim,” she said.
“It’s so fun to watch, it really is,” Keskey added.
Then she began coaching swimming and gymnastics for the high school until 1995.
This was also an opportunity for Keskey to watch children grow and help them to see their potential.
“You have to prove to these kids they can do it, and that hard work pays off,” Keskey said.
Aside from all the volunteer opportunities, Keskey still works every day and has no intentions of retiring anytime soon.
She also works alongside her four children Sara, Chuck, David, and Paul.
“Basically, my aim in working was teaching my kids how to run a business,” Keskey said.
It wasn’t until her kids were grown and her husband passed away that Keskey became more and more involved with the community.
“I wanted to give back to the community, because I felt it had given so much to me and my children,” Keskey said.
When she isn’t working or volunteering for one of the many organization she’s involved in, Keskey enjoys reading, baking, jigsaw puzzles, and a friendly game of bowling.
“I don’t know when I’ll start golf,” Keskey said.