By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN “It’s women and people like Margaret (Salo) who make this community what it is today,” said Dori Kimball, past Cokato Chamber president, as she presented Salo with the organization’s 2011 Outstanding Citizen of the Year award. The award was presented at Chamber’s Christmas luncheon Tuesday.
According to Kimball, Salo is the epitome of an outstanding citizen with her willingness to volunteer and serve selflessly for the greater good, whether that be helping to organize the annual Cokato Community Chest drive or the Red Cross Bloodmobile.
Susie Keskey finds Salo very deserving of the award. Keskey works with Salo on the community chest and helped her organize the first years of National Night Out in Cokato, an annual event in August when neighbors gather in an effort to create unity and safety within their neighborhood.
Whatever the task may be, “She just takes it on and makes sure it gets done,” Keskey said of Salo’s tireless work, right down to the minor details.
Keskey also commented that many people are willing to help if there is someone else in charge. “She is a strong leader,” Keskey said.
Salo was raised in Moose Lake and after high school attended and graduated from University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in home economics.
She spent five years working for the Agricultural Extension Service in Kanabec County, Mora, where she worked with the 4-H program and adult homemaker programs.
In 1960, she married Ronald Salo, a banker, and they had two children together, Deb and Mark.
Margaret was a stay-at-home mother while they lived in Brainerd, Pine City, and Stewart, until settling in Cokato in June 1979. She worked as a special education para at Dassel-Cokato High School from 1979 to 2000.
Fellow bloodmobile volunteer and long-time friend Ruth Schmieg knows first hand how involved Salo is. “She’s just very dedicated, helpful, and a very caring friend.”
In addition to community chest and the bloodmobile, Salo has been involved locally in 4H, music boosters, and with her church, Evangelical Lutheran of Cokato where she is on the Corn Carnival food stand purchasing committee.
She also continues to be active in the school district by substitute teaching and setting up for state testing.
When asked why she continues to be so involved, she replied, “You have to give back to your community a little bit.”
She also finds each of the organizations she works with have their own importance. “It all has a need,” Salo said.
When she heard that community chest wasn’t going to be down from what was projected, she was very happy, Salo said. She also is equally pleased when the bloodmobile reaches its goal.
“It all is rewarding,” she said.
Volunteering is also something that keeps the healthy 73-year-old busy and makes time go by quicker.
“Days get too long if you just sit around all day,” she commented.
The day Salo found out she was chosen for this award, she was actually going to the Cokato City Hall for other business. Louann Warden gave her the news. “I was totally surprised,” Salo said.
Salo’s daughter, Deb, however, wasn’t surprised to hear her mother was receiving this type of distinction.
“It’s just the kind of person she is. She has been a kind, giving person all her life,” she said, “so, she is a pretty hard example to follow big shoes to fill.”
Even after being presented the award in front of her family and friends at Chamber, “it’s still kind of unbelievable,” Salo said. “It’s very humbling.”