COKATO, MN Bruce and Susan Bohnsack arrived in Cokato in August 1976 to open Bohnsack Family Dentistry, moving into a house just two doors down from Peterson Park three days before the annual Corn Carnival.
Eight months pregnant with their first child, Susan said she looked down the street and said, “Hey, look, they’re throwing a big party for us.”
It was the only Corn Carnival of their 39 years in the community the Bohnsacks attended without being one of the volunteers who are working at the three-day event.
As she introduced the Bohnsacks for the Community Service Award, Cokato Corn Carnival Chair Dorene Erickson said, “Dr. Bruce Bohnsack and his wife, Susan, have been in the background getting work done around here for years.”
After settling into the new community, Bohnsacks immersed themselves in community life, becoming organizers and volunteers for numerous entities.
“We enjoy being involved,” Bruce said, noting both were also very involved in high school and college. “I think both of us were brought up to do our share.”
Being so involved in the community has been a team effort for the couple.
Susan considers herself “lucky” to have been able to stay home and raise her children, because Bruce’s dental practice provided for the family.
This allowed Susan time to help with various activities in the community, but community involvement for the couple was a team effort.
“Whenever one of us was busy, the other had to take care of the home and family,” Susan said
Although Bruce pointed out that “Susan probably took the brunt of it,” she acknowledged the family had to be willing to eat cold suppers at times.
“We feel blessed to have had such a nice life in Cokato. It’s been a good place to raise our kids,” Susan said.
She noted it was others who came before that worked hard making the community what it was when the Bohnsacks arrived 39 years ago.
“It’s only be fair to enhance this place; to make it better for the ones who come after,” she added.
Bruce and Susan said they were happy all their children were present for the presentation of the community service award.
“We are both proud our children are involved and contribute to the communities they live in,” Bruce said.
Serving the community
As previously mentioned, Bohnsacks have volunteered to work for every Corn Carnival since the one right after arriving in Cokato.
Bruce worked in the information booth for many years, was instrumental in organizing and running the root beer float stand for Rotary, and also worked in the Evangelical Lutheran Church food stand.
Throughout the years, Susan has also worked in the church stand, as well as helping with the book sale at Cokato Public Library.
A creative person with a knack for fancy writing, Susan was also often called upon to create signs and posters when needed for different events and organizations.
Today, she also watches her grandchildren so her son and daughter-in-law can volunteer their time at the Corn Carnival.
As soon as Bruce opened Bohnsack Family Dentistry, he became a chamber of commerce member and a Rotarian, and has been a member of both for 39 years.
For 21 years, he never missed a weekly Rotary meeting, attending Rotary meetings in the local town while on vacation.
Susan joked about Bruce, “the only German in the bunch,” being forced to serve the lutefisk for 28 of the 30 years the Cokato-Dassel Rotary Club sponsored a lutefisk/Swedish meatball meal.
Bruce estimates he has served approximately eight tons of lutefisk throughout the years.
Bruce and Susan joined Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato, and immediately joined the choir. Both have also been involved on the church council.
Susan was the Sunday school superintendent for many years while her children were growing up, was the children’s music worship leader, and planned Rally Sunday and Christmas programs.
One of her fond memories is planning and organizing a Palm Sunday service that included someone portraying Jesus riding a live donkey from the Cokato Post Office to Evangelical Lutheran Church as the congregation waved their palm fronds and trumpets played.
Having majored in Spanish in college, Susan chaperoned the church’s youth mission trip to Mexico.
She also used her Spanish volunteering to teach six-week courses after school at Cokato Elementary.
She also volunteered her time to teach calligraphy to second graders.
Knowing Susan’s fondness for costumes and dress-up, teachers would call and ask her to portray characters such as Christopher Columbus, Amelia Bedelia, or a witch stirring a cauldron of potion.
She used her costume closet and creativeness to assist with transforming members of the school board into box elder bugs for Faculty Follies, dressing up young children for the kiddie parade and elementary talent shows, and older children for high school musicals.
She was a puppeteer for PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Puppets, which went to classrooms all over Wright County educating students about children with special needs.
For many years, she led the efforts in transforming the high school gymnasium into a paradise of some kind for the junior/senior prom.
Susan has also been active with Friends of Cokato Area Library (FOCAL) for many years, serving as an officer for 15.
Bruce also spent time volunteering for the school, serving two terms on the school board. During his time on the board, the middle school was built and the character building pillars were developed.
He also organized the football booster club at DC after being asked to do so by former coach Jeff Neutzling.
Bruce served more than 20 years on the Cokato Development Corporation.
As a dentist, Bruce helped the local community by providing dental checks to those residing in local long-term care facilities and area group homes.
He also provided pro bono work to patients who could not afford the dental care he could provide.
After moving to Cokato, Bruce continued to teach at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry for 17 years as a service to the community.
Both Bruce and Susan were involved with Cokato Community Chest, which raises money to help those in need in the community.
Bruce served on the board and is a former chairperson, and Susan assisted in opening Save and Share Thrift Store. She again used her skills at creativity and writing to create the billboard for the store.