Lyon County’s cream of the crop

MARSHALL – Lyon County has two strong contenders vying for the title of Minnesota’s Outstanding Senior Citizens.

Ellayne Conyers and Clarence Gilb, both of Marshall, will represent Lyon County Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair. Two Minnesota seniors will be recognized as Minnesota’s Outstanding Senior Citizens at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Seniors Day, at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell. Out of a pool of nominees from each county in the state, winners are chosen for their outstanding commitment to community service since reaching the age of 65.

Conyers doesn’t know how she qualifies as a senior citizen since she’s “only 26 years old,” she said. Nevertheless, she is honored to be nominated.

“I was flabbergasted,” she said. “I’m amazed. I can still hardly believe it.”

After retiring from her statewide job at the University of Minnesota Extension service, Conyers was the executive director at the Lyon County Historical Society for years. She currently is serving on the Marshall City Council and is involved in many committees including the Marshall Community Services Advisory Board, Area Senior Center Commission and the City Public Improvement/Transportation Committee.

Conyers was nominated by downtown business owner Roberta Wyatt Yerka, who said she “has a vision to bring success to Marshall and Lyon County by working effectively with others across many spectrums – business, government, arts, fundraising, education and school – the list is long with many accomplishments.”

Conyers is the host of “News and Views,” a weekly cable access television program and writes a weekly historical column for the Independent.

In a letter to the selection committee, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said Conyers “spearheaded the creation of the Arts and Entertainment District in Marshall. The results of the work have influenced the design of downtown Marshall, which includes murals, Memorial Park and a statue of (early Marshall settler) Mrs. Whitney, one of only seven statues of historical women in the state.”

In addition, Byrnes said, Conyers “gave leadership to the historical components of the Lyon County Fair Centennial and co-chaired the Marshall 125th Celebration. She is an active member of the noon Rotary group in Marshall and is the chairwoman of ‘Thursdays on Third,’ which is a summer feature for street vendors and entertainers in downtown Marshall.”

Conyers said volunteering “just comes normal for me. I want to be a part of things. I want to help grow our community.”

Cal Brink, executive director of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, said “Ellayne is just one of those people that make you feel like there is more we can all do. It also gives you a feeling that our time and passion can be used for years to come if we just stay involved and be active. She has influenced my actions and many others’ by leading by example and is so fitting for this endorsement and recognition.”

Clarence Gilb is another one who believes in staying active. He isn’t one to just sit in his apartment at Boulder Estates and take it easy. He is “always helping others,” said Kris Green, Boulder Estates tenant services director, who nominated Gilb. Green said Gilb volunteers for Meals on Wheels which delivers meals to home-bound seniors. He also volunteers with “Let’s Go Fishing,” which gives pontoon rides to seniors.

“I’m the first mate,” Gilb said. “I help people on and off the boat and I help them with their lifejackets.”

Gilb said a “Let’s Go Fishing” expedition is also scheduled for Thursday and if they hadn’t found a replacement to help the captain he would have skipped the State Fair and helped out there.

“That’s my first priority,” he said.

In addition to his other volunteering duties, he is active at his congregate living facility.

“He helps the lost find their way home,” Green said. “Brings coffee to neighbors daily. Makes coffee for others daily. Morning coffee (a social time) would not happen without him. Twenty people thank him every single day.

“Clarence is known for his friendliness, his character and his youthful energy. At bingo, he can out-run the staff who are half his age.”

Sue Jants and Casi Hoekstra, Tenant Services at Boulder Estates, wrote a recommendation for Gilb saying he always goes above and beyond.

“He is the type of neighbor and friend who you can depend on for anything,” they said. “He is always willing to lend a helping hand to others.”

Gilb also was a volunteer at the Avera Marshall Auxiliary Thrift Store which raises money for medical equipment through its sales.

“I did that for eight years, a couple days a week,” he said. “That was fun.”

Gilb, who farmed for 50 years before retiring, said he “didn’t believe it,” when asked what he thought of getting named Lyon County Outstanding Senior. “I thought, ‘there must be more people. A lot of people do a lot of volunteering.”

Gilb said he volunteers because he is able to, for one thing.

“My health has been good,” he said. “I do a lot of walking. Every day. I still play golf once or twice a week.”

Another reason for all his volunteering is “I enjoy helping people. My dad said, ‘you don’t have to get paid for everything you do.’ That’s kind of stuck with me. I have a son the same way – volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.”