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BREAKING NEWS

Jurgenson’s death puts ceremony in question

By Staff | Apr 24, 2010

Eileen Jurgenson had been selected as the Outstanding Senior Citizen at the Faribault County Fair in 2005, when this photo, at right, was taken. Jurgenson died last week in Winnebago.

Winnebago will be inducting another person into its Hall of Fame.

But, this year may be different.

There might not be a celebration ceremony to honor the new inductee.

Eileen M. Jurgenson, 91, passed away at 1:40 p.m. Saturday, April 17, at Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

“That was a sad day for me. Eileen was a special friend,” says Jeanne Kortuem, who spent a lot of time at Jurgenson’s bedside after she was admitted on April 6.

The Rev. Mark McNea of St. Casimir’s Catholic Church in Wells visited Jurgenson the day before she died.

McNea got to know Jurgenson during his five years at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Winnebago, while she served as a bookkeeper and secretary. “She couldn’t respond to me, but I wanted to go and say goodbye,” he says. “Although she wasn’t a native of Winnebago she had a great love for her community, church and young people.”

Before going to the nursing home, Kortuem says on several occasions the two talked about her selection to the Hall of Fame.

“Couldn’t they find anyone more deserving than me?” she recalls Jurgenson asking her.

As chairman of the EDA board, former City Administrator Jennifer Feely contacted Jurgenson the morning after the City Council approved her selection the night before.

Feely describes Jurgenson as being “genuinely flattered” when she heard the news.

“Gosh. That’s really sad and too bad,” Feely said when hearing of Jurgenson’s death.

“Eileen was humbled and modest when I mentioned all she had done. It’s refreshing to know there are people who help others and they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Feely adds.

A close look at Jurgenson’s accomplishments and there’s no doubt the EDA board made the right choice.

She worked nearly 30 years as a secretary for the Winnebago School District.

Following her retirement in 1981, that’s when a long list of “volunteerism” began.

In 2005, Jurgenson was chosen as Outstanding Volunteer Citizen of Faribault County and advanced to the State Fair competition.

“Eileen didn’t think helping people was anything special. She just did it. It was her nature and didn’t want any recognition,” says Kortuem.

Mayor Randy Nowak says members of the EDA board probably will discuss at its May meeting whether to hold a ceremony.

Usually, the city has a program for new Hall of Fame members at the end of summer, however, Jurgenson requested it be held July 17.

Like Kortuem, Nowak’s first recollection of Jurgenson takes him back to his school days — when she was the office secretary and playground supervisor.

“For the many years she worked for the school, I think she really cared about kids,” he says.

At the urging of Jurgenson, Betty Engelby found herself volunteering to help prepare tax returns for the elderly and those with low to moderate income.

As Engelby tells it, she had just retired and was looking forward to taking it easy.

“She asked me and I said yes. She did it for 25 years and I helped her for 16,” says Engelby. “It was just a pleasure to work with her. Eileen was always busy and so happy helping people.”

Even if there’s no ceremony, Jurgenson’s name will be engraved on a plaque with others near the entrance at the Municipal Center.

“She’s very deserving of the recognition,” says Nowak. “It’s great to see someone truly involved in their community.”

On a Saturday afternoon in April some people lost a special friend, and the community — a good and caring person.