By Kristen Miller
Retired dentist and longtime Cokato Chamber member Bruce Bohnsack is the recipient of the 2013 Cokato Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.
Cokato Chamber President Dori Kimball began the award presentation Dec. 3 by referring to the definition of the word citizen “a person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a particular state. A resident of a city or town, one permitted to vote and enjoy other privileges there.”
Though he wasn’t born and raised in Cokato he grew up on a farm in New Prague Bruce and his wife, Susan, made Cokato their home after moving here and starting his dental practice 37 years ago.
“Not only did Bruce start a business and become active, but he and Susan raised a family here, and have become family,” Kimball said. “They have also instilled in their family the same sense of commitment.”
Upon moving to Cokato, Bohnsack immediately joined the Rotary Club and Cokato Chamber of Commerce. He also served on the Cokato Development Corporation for 20 years, and was a member of the Cokato Community Chest.
Cokato optometrist Paul Eklof has known Bohnsack on various levels through the year as a friend and neighbor, a fellow health care professional in the community, and through Rotary, where Bohnsack served as past president.
With Rotary’s motto being “service above self,” Eklof said “Bruce has lived that many times over.”
Eklof added that not only has Bohnsack been willing to volunteer when needed, but he also is one to take the leadership role having chaired the Rotary root beer stand at the Cokato Corn Carnival for many years.
Bohnsack served two terms (six years) on the Dassel-Cokato School Board.
“I found Bruce to be an excellent board member, not only representing the community, but what’s best for the children,” said Dassel-Cokato School Board Member Richard Tormanen, who served with Bohnsack in the early 1990s.
“I like being busy . . . and being involved; working with people,” Bohnsack commented, adding that when he moved here, opportunities for service presented themselves. “I was brought up that you do what you can to make things better,” he said.
In addition to running his own dental office and being involved in the community, Bohnsack did all of this while teaching at the University of Minnesota for 17 years.
“I feel good that I did what I could,” he said.
When he was first informed he would be receiving the award (it’s customary to let the recipient know in advance so they can invite family members to the program), Bohnsack was surprised, to say the least.
“He told me, ‘There are other people who deserve this,’” said Kimball. “He’s right, many people do deserve this, including Bruce, and that’s why we chose him.”
Bohnsack emotionally accepted the award Tuesday, but not before cracking a joke.
The retired dentist told those in attendance that he had a longer speech prepared, but that he would cut it down since “some of you people are still working.”
He also made sure to give credit to his family.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have full support from my wife, Susan and our children,” Bohnsack said.
He described how when he first joined the Chamber 37 years ago, Cokato had three grocery stores, three hardware stores, and a “multitude of businesses.”
The Chamber had more than 50 members, many of whom would meet monthly for an evening dinner meeting.
He went on to say that although the business landscape has changed, and new faces have replaced the old, “the spirit of Cokato lives on.”
Bohnsack also told the audience, as opportunities to serve present themselves, “Give it your best shot, and try to leave everything a little better than how you found it.”