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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX— Colfax resident Michelle Knutson is the recipient of the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award for 2022.
Mark Johnson, president of the Colfax Commercial Club, presented the award to Knutson at the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper at Colfax Lutheran Church February 21.
J.D. Simons was considered to be the founder of Colfax in 1864.
The J.D. Simons Award reads, “In honor of your dedication to ‘all things Colfax’ and your outstanding community involvement, your willingness to volunteer your time across many organizations and for many individuals, and most importantly — for making Colfax a better place to live.”
Knutson has been a Colfax resident for over 10 years, since marrying one of Colfax’s historians, lifelong Colfax resident Troy Knutson, in the Cozy Theater of the Colfax Municipal Building.
Troy says Michelle is “always by my side to help when I come up with my crazy ideas.”
Without Michelle’s encouragement and assistance, Colfax might not have Troy’s book, “Looking Through the Lens,” which contains hundreds of (if not more than a thousand) photographs detailing Colfax history.
Troy would still have all of the photographs in his collection, of course, it’s just that they might not have made it into book form without Michelle’s encouragement and assistance.
The book was put together for the Colfax Sesquicentennial celebration in 2014.
Without Michelle’s encouragement and assistance, Colfax also would not have Troy and Michelle’s book, “The 1958 Colfax Tornado,” published in June of 2019 as part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
“The 1958 Colfax Tornado” is available online through Amazon.
Michelle also was instrumental in the successful completion of the project to place stone pavers at the Highground in Neillsville last September in honor of the Russell-Toycen American Legion Post 131 of Colfax, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Gold Star Mothers of Colfax.
Michelle and Troy came up with the idea of stones at The Highground for the American Legion, Auxiliary and Gold Star Mothers after attending a stone-placing ceremony there for a relative of Michelle’s.
Michelle then assisted in planning, coordinating and baking for a bake sale held at Kyle’s Market in Colfax to raise money to pay for the stones.
The fund-raising efforts were so successful that enough money was raised to pay for all three stones.
In addition, Michelle has volunteered her time to set up, work, and clean up afterwards for the thrift sales held by the Colfax Elevator Commission at the Colfax Fairgrounds to raise money for an elevator in the Colfax Municipal Building to improve the building’s handicapped accessibility.
Members of the elevator commission appreciate Michelle’s work because she is a wizard at organizing.
Michelle also has volunteered her time on fund-raising activities for the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.
Michelle, who teaches history at New Richmond High School, is active in the Colfax community in a variety of other ways.
According to the nomination for the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award, “Michelle is very active at Colfax Lutheran Church. Not only does she serve voluntarily on the church council, she also serves in various other capacities, including Sunday School superintendent; piano player; scripture reader; and prepares coffee and refreshments for after-church fellowship.”
The nomination goes on to say, “While Michelle is not a Colfax native, she is a transplant who has served this community more than most lifelong members of the community. She will step up to help in any capacity, but spends much of the time in the background and does not look for credit for what she does. On a personal note, she is a wonderful neighbor who regularly shares her delicious meals, soups and treats. One ‘little thing’ she does that is such a comfort to me is she puts candles in each window of her house during the holiday season. That just touches my heart.”
As for what sets Michelle apart, the nomination states, “She is always smiling and kind whenever she is in the community. Her friendly manner and willingness to help makes it easy for other members of the community to ask for her help when needed. Additionally, as mentioned above, Michelle does not seek accolades for her work. It is simply part of her life.”
As for why Michelle is the best recipient of the award, the nomination states, “Behind every great man there stands a great woman, and Michelle is a very great woman who stands on her own and also works with and supports her husband, Troy, in his community involvement.”
Regarding Michelle’s impact, the nomination says, “While I do not have specific numbers to report, Michelle has had a positive impact on many people in the Village of Colfax and beyond. She has affected the members and visitors of Colfax Luther Church, she has provided food and comfort for the elderly and homebound people of Colfax, and raised money for the Municipal Building as well as The Highground fund. Most importantly, I doubt anyone can quantify her impact, as she does not call attention to everything she does for our community. I just know that the community would be much worse off without her hard work and dedication.”
According to the nomination form for the J.D. Simons Community Volunteer Award, “The distinction of being the founder of Colfax goes to a man named John D. Simons. As a businessman and philanthropist, he was one of the most influential characters in the early history of this locality, and many a poor man could point to him as the man who ‘helped him out’ in time of dire distress. Beginning with Mr. Simons, there have been many business owners and residents that have carried on the values of volunteering, supporting and promoting the village of Colfax. In this spirit of volunteerism, the Colfax Commercial Club is seeking to recognize an ‘unsung hero’ in our community.”