She is a Woman of Achievement
What was instilled in her as a child has stuck with her throughout her adulthood and has most recently earned her recognition in Faribault County.
Gail Ottesen has been named by the Mitchell Chautauqua group as the 2016 Woman of Achievement for her volunteer work and involvement in the community, which she says started at a very young age.
Ottesen, who grew up in Geneva, has lived in Delevan since she and her husband, Butch, moved to the area to start teaching.
“I taught full-time for about 32 years,”?she says. “We thought we would move to Delavan and live here maybe five years, but we ended up staying in the very same house ever since.”
Ottesen graduated from Ellendale High School before it combined with other schools to become the current New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva District.
She then went to school at Minnesota State University, Duluth, then to Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she graduated with a bachelors degree in elementary education with a minor in special education.
“I?never taught special ed but my sister had Down Syndrome so that was always kind of important to me,”?she explains.
In fact, before she graduated from high school, she would volunteer her time helping in her sister’s classroom.
“That was probably my first volunteering experience,”?she adds.
But, she does recall her parents being very giving to others in their community when she was growing up.
“I saw both of them as neighbors helping neighbors,”?Ottesen explains. “It was done so seamlessly that it was like this is just what you do.”
Ottesen remembers that during the holidays her family would welcome others into their home and they would visit nursing homes together.
And, according to her nomination for the Woman of Achievement award, that mindset shows in all the ways Ottesen gives back to her community still to this day.
Ottesen has been involved with Interfaith Caregivers of Faribault County since 2009.
“Ralph Prescher called me and said, ‘this is something you might be interested in. We need a board member,'” Ottesen says. “And it just fit what I?have a heart for.”
She joined the board first and then began volunteering, as well. Ottesen is currently a chairman and volunteers by driving individuals to appointments, doing friendly visits and delivering library books.
Ottesen has also been very active in her church in Delavan, helping with Vacation Bible School and teaching Sunday school classes.
“I?have also held offices in the local women’s group and I am currently the convener in the Blue Earth River Conference,”?she says. “And, I’ve served on church council.”
Ottesen admits she has stepped out of her comfort zone a bit by becoming involved with the Blue Earth Valley Concert Association.
“I?appreciate music and I?play the piano, but I?know there are people much more involved in music than I am,”?she explains. “But, this organization is such a wonderful opportunity for the community.”
But, another way she volunteers in Delavan is totally in her comfort zone.
“I am a volunteer at the library,”?she says.
She also attends book club there where she enjoys selecting, reading and discussing many different books.
When she’s not volunteering, she enjoys reading, traveling, spending time at their cabin in northern Minnesota and gardening.
“My family gives me the greatest pleasure in life,”?she says. “That and my faith.”
She has been married to her husband Butch for 49 years and has two daughters and three grandchildren.
Her oldest daughter, Jill, is married to Cameron and they have a daughter Maddie. Ottesen’s youngest daughter, Laura, is married to John and they have an 18-year-old son, Jake, and 14-year-old daughter, Gracie.
Most summers her grandkids would come and visit her and Butch for a month or month and a half at a time and enjoy participating in the community as well.
“They will do orchestra or take swimming lessons at the pool when they are here,”?she says.
Ottesen says she loves her community and being involved when she can, because it is all about being kind.
“You are happier and healthier if you can reach outside of yourself and help someone else out,” she says.
Ottesen will be recognized at the Mitchell Chautauqua spring luncheon, which will be held on May 3 at noon at the Trinity Gathering Place.
The event will be catered by Lisa of the Amboy Cottage Cafe.
Those interested in attending should send checks and reservations to Kay Tempel, 215 E. Fourth St., Blue Earth, MN 56013.
Tickets for the luncheon are $15 per person.