MINSTER — At its annual dinner and dance, the Minster Civic Association named its newest honoree, recognizing her for a lifetime of community service, volunteerism and leadership
Mary Knapke, born and raised in Minster, was announced the 2012 Citizen of the Year at the “Tropical Paradise” celebration held Feb. 8 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
“Our 2012 Citizen of the Year exemplifies the strong characteristics of leadership and community involvement we saw in the past citizens of the year recognized here this evening,” said Tom Roetgerman, president of the Minster Civic Association. “
Roetgerman followed with a long list of Knapke’s activities, including her being active in the St. Augustine parish council, mission commission, annual garage sale, angel program and church bulletins. Knapke has also been active with the Minster Historical Society, Auglaize County Crisis Center, American Red Cross Bloodmobile, Oktoberfest and the Friends of the Library.
“Our recipient is a 20-year member and past president of the American Legion Auxiliary,” Roetgerman said. “Many meals of fried chicken have passed through her hands at the annual American Legion spring chicken fry. She was in charge of the auxiliary’s ‘Coupons for Troops’ program from 2002 to 2007, sending thousands of coupons collected by members to overseas bases throughout the world.”
Furthermore, Knapke has applied her sewing ability to create wheelchair bags, ditty bags, lap robes and bed quilts for veterans in the hospital.
Roetgerman also recounted Knapke’s life, which began on Sept. 28, 1930, in Minster, where she and her siblings, Phyllis and Jim were raised. While in high school, she was a majorette and performed in the high school band. After high school, Knapke began nurses’ training at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati; however, she left her training when she married her husband on Aug. 18, 1949. The couple has nine children.
When her youngest child entered school, Knapke trained for and was hired as a library page at the Francis J. Stallo Memorial Library, where she also became the first children’s librarian there.
“She encouraged the love for reading through the summer reading program and specialized in children’s literature,” Roetgerman said. “During her years as head librarian, there was a period in which the main library in Wapakoneta was considering whether Minster should have its own branch. She worked diligently to make sure Minster maintained their library.”
After her career with the library, she and her husband began collecting historical, newsworthy facts from early German issues of The Community Post. In 22 years, they have translated and categorized 1,144 issues. The Knapkes also kept records of the successions of businesses along Main and Fourth streets in Minster since 1832. In 1978, the couple started collecting funeral cards, which have helped serve as genealogical aids; more than 20,000 of these cards have been filed at the Minster Historical Society.
“In addition to countless hours of research at the museum, she helped translate the writing of Liwwat Knapke Boke from the old German script to our alphabet, learning as she went,” Roetgerman said. “After five years in the works, the book, ‘Liwwat Boke 1807-1882 – Pioneer’ was published by the historical society in 1987.”
After Knapke presented her with her Citizen of the Year plaque, Knapke offered a few words of gratitude to members of the Minster Civic Association.
“I thought this was going to be somebody else, somebody that deserves this” she said. “Most people do things like this. I don’t deserve this, but I really appreciate it. It’s overwhelming, really. Thank you so much.”