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Life lessons help senior earn state honor

Dr. Paul Arnesen of Alexandria, who was named a Douglas County Outstanding Senior Citizen, was recently recognized as a runner-up at the state Outstanding Senior Citizen program at the Minnesota State Fair. (Will Benson | Echo Press)

Dr. Paul Arnesen of Alexandria was in his 80s when he was a caregiver to his wife, Dorothy, in the years before she died in 2012.

"I got to know what it is like and what the needs are for caregivers," said Arnesen, now 93.

Arnesen has continued to be a caregiver, volunteering for hospice, in elder care and providing respite care for people who are the primary caregiver for a family member. He also is active in youth programs with the Golden K Kiwanis and Douglas County Historical Society.

"I believe if you are able to, you should be doing what you can," Arnesen said this week.

That attitude and his actions helped earn Arnesen the recognition as a runner-up in the state Outstanding Senior Citizen program, an award given out during the Minnesota State Fair.

Arnesen advanced to the state level after being named one of Douglas County's Outstanding Senior Citizens, along with Rosemary Danielson, who has been active in building membership and activities at the Alexandria Senior Center.

Arnesen was named a runner-up to state winner, Gary Hawkins of Isanti County.

The state winner in the women's division was Inez Johnson of Marshall County, with Betty DeVriendt, Morrison County, as the runner up.

One of those who nominated Arnesen for the county award was Penny Wagner, a housekeeper and family friend.

"He's always busy with research, writing articles, visiting with the dying and giving support to those families, which give the families some kind of peace."

Much of the research Arnesen does is for the historical society. Barbara Grover of the historical society also nominated Arnesen.

"His genial personality endures him to all of the staff and volunteers," Grover wrote.

Arnesen is a Brooklyn, New York, native who served in the Navy in World War II and Korea. His work as a volunteer comes after a long career as a medical doctor, with a practice in Mankato for nearly 50 years.

He first came to the Alexandria area in 1970, spending time at a vacation home on Government Point on Lake L'Homme Dieu.

He and his wife raised four children and he is awaiting the birth of his third great-great-grandchild.

With all his volunteering, Arnesen says he has something scheduled every day but Monday.

"I am fortunate that I can be active at this age," Arnesen said.