Weather Forecast


Her life of giving touched countless hearts

Sister Patrice Kiefer (right) broke into a smile after she was announced as the 2013 recipient of the Service to Mankind Award during a ceremony at the Broadway Ballroom on Wednesday. (Photo by Eric Morken)

Sister Patrice Kiefer of Alexandria thought she was at the Alexandria Sertoma Club's Service to Mankind Awards ceremony to give a speech on friend and longtime colleague Bill Flaig on Wednesday afternoon.

Little did she know it was actually Flaig who would be presenting the speech about her. Sister Patrice sat at the same table as him as the long list of community services that the 2013 award winner has provided over the years was announced. It didn't take long before a small smile came upon her face once she realized that it was her and not Flaig who was being recognized as the 38th recipient of the Service to Mankind Award. It's the club's highest honor to a non-member and is given to the area's most deserving volunteer.

"Words are not to be found right now for me to thank all of you," Sister Patrice said in front of a gathering of Sertoma Club members as well as past award winners and many of the people closest to her. "I'm humbled, I'm grateful, and I can't say that there's any other community that I'd rather be in or in my years of service than Alexandria."

Sister Patrice was nominated and ultimately chosen as this year's winner after more than five decades of service to the community. She spent 53 years employed by Our Lady of Mercy Hospital and Douglas County Hospital before retiring this past winter from her role as human resources director.

Flaig worked with her as the CEO of DCH for 38 years where he says he watched her touch thousands of lives by going above and beyond what was expected of her.

"So many times in my tenure, I had people come up to me and tell me how wonderful the care was," Flaig said. "I would say that you can pay for people to come to work, but you can't pay them to care. That's got to come from inside. I give Sister Patrice Kiefer a lot of credit for putting that inside of people's hearts."

Her willingness to give more than was required was a common theme Wednesday. Dr. Bill Heegaard worked with her for more than 30 years and pointed to the work she put into helping complete the merger of DCH and Our Lady of Mercy Hospital.

"This lady devoted hours, months, years to accomplishing this," Heegaard said. "...she was the force and the lead to make this happen in a way that was positive for the community, and it made a very significant difference in the way we were able to progress as a medical community."

Sister Patrice worked on the DCH Auxiliary Board and helped form fund raisers that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the hospital and community. From 1999 through 2011, she served on the board of the Elder Network, which provides care services to people age 55 and older who choose to remain in their own homes as they age.

Sister Patrice was the leader of a group that created Caring Hands Dental Clinic. Now called West Central Dental Resources, Inc., the clinic provides dental care and education to underserved citizens who can't afford care.

Sister Patrice worked with the DCH management team in 2012 to help build a house for a local family through Habitat for Humanity. She is on the personnel board and serves as a greeter and a Eucharistic minister at St. Mary's Catholic Church. She is also a parish prayer leader who presides over services at Anderson Funeral Home to help provide comfort to families at visitations.

Those who know her best say the driving force behind all this stems from the way she cares about everyone she comes in contact with.

"I think in a lot of ways, Sister Patrice accomplished her mission in this community and in the hospital with her love of people," Flaig said. "She genuinely loves people. You can see it on all her actions and everything that she does."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229