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Margaret Wachholz earns Citizen of the Year

Margaret Wachholz

If everyone has a twin in this world, Margaret Wachholz's has yet to be found; there is no clone of her.

Receiving accolades and praises from her volunteer peers, Wachholz was named the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce's 2016 Citizen of the Year.

Those who know her from her work at Woodbury Senior Living, volunteerism for the Chamber, Woodbury Heritage Society and Woodbury Community Foundation, and more than a half-dozen years at King of Kings Lutheran Church might be surprised to know she lives in fear, which she said she has made her friend.

"There's some fear in everything that I do," Wachholz said. "It's brain damage if you let it get to you, but we need to be a wee bit afraid, and afraid of failure. It makes us work harder."

Fear has propelled her to success in her role as Woodbury Senior Living's campus community relations manager, a voice for FaceAging.org's state legislation to improve life for senior citizens, and a leader who can be in the forefront or behind the scenes.

As a Heritage Society board member, she recently joined the group of local historians in advocating at the state Capitol for funding for Woodbury's proposed interpretative site dubbed the Miller Barn. She takes part in events to network with other Washington County historical societies.

She is a director on the Woodbury Community Foundation board and co-chair of the Woodbury THRIVES mental health initiatives.

Wachholz grew up in rural Ireland, the daughter of an entrepreneurial master gardener mother. Believe it or not, Wachholz was shy as a child. She decided shyness didn't work for her and opened up instead.

She exudes her Irish Catholic upbringing, and often deflects compliments to her own work in favor of pointing out the contributions of others' successes of an initiative.

"For many years, Margaret has been perhaps the community's most passionate advocate and energetic volunteer," Roger Green wrote as part of a group nomination for Citizen of the Year. "Most of the time, you'll see her behind the scenes making things happen and shining the spotlight on others. On occasion, she'll dress up in whatever crazy costume is needed for the occasion and step forward to help lead the fun."

Others who nominated Wachholz called her a cheerleader for the town, an Energizer Bunny for senior citizens, a magnet for positive relationship building among all ages, and a servant leader.

Wachholz talks a lot, she said, but she's a good listener. And in her line of work at Woodbury Senior Living, being present while the sick and dying prepare to leave this world gracefully has to be one of the blessings she gives and receives.

She and her husband, Rick, married in 1990 and moved to Woodbury in 1992. Rick teaches in the Hopkins school district and serves in the National Guard military intelligence.

Her children — son Ronan, 12, and son Oisin and Niamh, both 15 — attend Woodbury middle and high schools. They've learned to eat properly and enjoy Christmas pudding.

They live in a modest one-and-a-half-story home on 1 acre of land along Valley Creek Road, where a former dairy farm left the soil fertile "I can grow anything," Wachholz said.

The fact that she wakes up to abundance every day isn't lost on Wachholz.

She seeks to live authentically, so much so that when work got in the way of relationships, she took time off from work and treated local historian and philanthropist Inez Oehlke to visits to the Miller Barn, Stillwater, the Capitol and St. Ambrose Catholic Community's the Rev. Father Stan Mader.

"No money or wage or salary could pay for those things," Wachholz said.

Oehlke was dying and Wachholz helped her dear friend live her last days authentically. Oehlke was humble, a giver who wore holiness on her sleeve, Wachholz said. Oehlke told Wachholz about her wishes for a better Woodbury before she died, and Wachholz helped Oehlke impart her wisdom on fellow residents and build a legacy.

Everybody needs precision medicine—"a purpose for living," Wachholz said. "Not sleeping for a worry makes me feel older and less prepared for the next day."

Asked about joining Oehlke as a recent Citizen of the Year recipient, Wachholz said: "It's a high honor."

Not only does she have great respect for Woodbury's elders, she hopes to get youth involved in community service.

For years, Wachholz had been a second-, third- and fourth-grade teacher during her husband's four-year deployment to Puerto Rico. She and her husband worked with religious, public and private schools, then she served as a stay-at-home mom, before running a pet-sitting operation in Woodbury and Cottage Grove.

"I'd rather be the person at the Drake Hotel with the top hat, greeting everyone," Wachholz said.

She said teachers and churches play a pivotal role in the lives of children, who are on the right track.

"I'm with 100- and 102-year-olds," Wachholz said of her job, "and I say, 'Do you find it worse than ever?' They say no."

There's more to be done in her town. Woodbury might soon be the best in the country for body, mind and soul, she said.

She listed off other Citizen of the Year honorees of the past — including Green, Jack Lanners, Dwight Picha, Dixie Ewing, Nikki Robbins and Dick Stafford.

"I won't want to let those people down," Wachholz said.

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