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Blue Earth’s No. 1 woman

By Staff | Apr 16, 2017

Lois Ankeny, left, smiles with her son, Bruce, at the latter’s coffee shop in downtown Blue Earth. The business was once the site of other family-owned Main Street stops – and just one symbol of Lois’ impact on the town. The Mitchell Chautauqua Circle recently named Ankeny the latest Woman of Achievement.

The Mitchell Chautauqua Circle, a 125-year-old national group first created by a Methodist school teacher who started a group for women who were unable to attend college, annually selects a woman for their coveted Woman of Achievement title.

For the local Blue Earth chapter of the Mitchell Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, this woman must be from the Blue Earth area who is active in serving their community.

The Mitchell Chautauqua Woman of Achievement banquet will take place at Trinity Lutheran Church on May 2, at noon. Tickets are $16 with reservations to be made and checks sent to Kay Tempel at 215 East Fourth Street in Blue Earth. Tempel’s suggestion is to pay and RSVP by April 21 at the latest. Catering will be by Lisa at Amboy’s Cottage Caf.

This year the group will honor Lois Ankeny as the recipient of the award, who says she is more than honored to receive the award.

Ankeny says she not only continues to be an active member of her church, Hope United Methodist, the Mrs. Jaycees organization, Bible studies, but has been an active member of multiple choirs for over 50 years, worked as a secretary and bookkeeping accountant for 30 years, as well as a mother of three beautiful children. All while simultaneously helping her husband for many of those years run a roller rink, bowling alley, and eventually, Blue Earth’s Ankeny Furniture store.

If you think that is a laundry list to read, Ankeny says try living it. She says the honor came as a surprise, as she never expected to receive the award.

Ankeny has a strong work ethic, which is probably why she is still helping her community at 83 years old.

Lois Ankeny’s story begins in Iowa, around the Lakota/Ledyard area, where she was born and raised on a farm and where she helped with chores when help was needed.

She went to high school in Iowa as well, but one day, when she went to the roller rink with some of her friends, she knew not how much her life would change.

It was at that roller rink where she met the love of her life, Wayne Ankeny.

Before Wayne’s death, Ankeny says her husband would constantly remark they had met on the roller rink floor and “have been going around in circles ever since.”

Right out of high school, Wayne asked Lois to marry him, just before he headed out to Norfolk, Virginia, to begin his service in the United States military where he served four years in the Korean War from 1950-1954.

During that time, Ankeny became what she calls a “lap-lander,” or an Iowan who would cross “over the border” into Minnesota quite frequently.

Ankeny’s married life was set in Blue Earth, while she still went home frequently to help her parents with the family farm until Wayne came home.

Wayne’s father owned the roller rink the two met at, and that roller rink was eventually turned into a bowling alley in 1956 when the roller skating rink trend faded away and bowling became the new hobby of the town.

“It was an ever-changing building and Wayne’s dad wasn’t afraid to take a risk,” says Lois of her father-in-law.

Amidst the hullabaloo of her husband helping run a bowling alley and raising a new baby daughter by the name of Cindy (now Cindy Steinke), Ankeny also had the opportunity of being able to work.

In the small town of Blue Earth, not many mothers were also working, but Lois says she had the good fortune of working with some incredible people who were flexible in Ankeny’s needs of being a mother and helping her husband from time to time.

With not much educational background on typing, Ankeny says she worked with the best teachers in the world.

“I loved bookwork,” says Ankeny. “I worked with many great employers who helped me learn my craft and were flexible and understanding enough to let me raise my children through my career.”

Eventually, one child became two with the addition of little Bruce, and then a third, by the name of Jay, came along.

“They’re only about a year apart,” says Ankeny, who tended to all three children while doing the bookwork for people like Winston Outhoudt, Bill Barke, and the Stonecroft Company.

Later on, her husband had to take over the family business, and building. Wayne’s father built the building in 1946 and by the 1960s, Wayne was in charge and ready to change the store yet again.

“Wayne looked around at the local businesses to see what we needed and decided to go with a furniture store,” says Lois of her late husband. “I would tell him what to do and I swear he would do the opposite.”

Ankeny helped her husband with the bookkeeping of his store, as well.

She says throughout the years of her career, she saw the birth of the copy machine, the 10-key adding machines, and the ever-necessary white out.

“You do what you have to do,” says Ankeny, who became a great asset to the companies she assisted. “People who know you and trust you know you’re dependable. You tell the truth, you have an honest business and you build your integrity and pass it on.”

Ankeny was known for going the extra mile in everything she did. Whether it was helping make a pot of coffee or doing a few more lines of typing after hours, she never hesitates to lend a hand.

“Just by living your life, you know you are helping someone out. I see how Bruce manages the store and Cindy and Jay work at their careers, it is a good feeling to know that integrity has been passed on.”

With eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, Lois Ankeny says her life has slowed down only a little.

In her spare time she spends most of her mornings helping Bruce in the 230 Fix Coffee Shop located inside Ankeny Furniture, enjoys spending time with her loved ones, painting folk art and knitting. She has knitted over 400 prayer shawls for her church.

“The desire to do something is all you need,” she says. “If you love what you do, then it’s never a job to be done but a pleasure to be had.”

When it comes to what is expected of her, Ankeny says she only has to answer to one person.

“Faith is a big part of my life,” Ankeny says. “I do what is expected of me in this life, and I live it to the best of my abilities, knowing fair well that I am trying to do what is expected of me by God. I truly believe I have bloomed where I was planted.”

And bloomed she has, as Ankeny has become well-known by many, including those who nominated her for the Woman of Achievement award in Blue Earth.