Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Press reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Outstanding senior citizens named


Lois E. Johnson

Carlton County Outstanding Senior Citizens for 2015 are Rita Baresh, Moose Lake, and Gerald Smith, Barnum.

On Friday, August 14, two of Carlton County's seniors were honored with the Outstanding Senior Citizen Award based on their volunteer service to their communities.

This year's winners are Rita Baresh of Moose Lake and Gerald Smith of Barnum. Winners were chosen for their outstanding commitment to community service since reaching the age of 65.

Also honored were runners-up: Judy Koivisto of Cromwell, Linda Langness of Barnum and Shirley Magnuson of Moose Lake.

This award, a joint effort of the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, and the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs, also recognizes the winners at the state level. Baresh and Smith are also entered into the State Fair's Outstanding Senior Citizen Award competition. Winners will be announced at the ceremony on September 3.

Rita Baresh

For many years, Moose Lake was a place Baresh and her husband, Joe, escaped to at their cabin. In 1998, however, Moose Lake became their permanent home. Soon after arriving, a friend introduced Baresh to the Autumn Voices singing group, and she has been volunteering "full steam" ever since. She was selected as Outstanding Female Senior Citizen of Carlton County in large part because of her care for and dedication to serve her community.

As Baresh sang with Autumn Voices, her care and concern for others became apparent right away, as did her talents for organizing, planning and fundraising. Through singing at nursing homes with Autumn Voices and another group, "Luney Toons," Baresh became aware of the need for decent pianos so the residents could regularly enjoy music. She set to work and began raising funds to meet this need. Within the year, three beautiful Roland pianos were placed in local facilities, and they are still in use today.

In 2005, Baresh had the opportunity to travel to Norway and Sweden. This led to her writing a book for family members, which in turn opened up an opportunity to teach a Norwegian Cruise Culture Class for the KIDS Plus program. She enjoyed working with the children so much that she continues to teach many classes and participate in events with the KIDS Plus program.

Another opportunity came in 2010 when Rita became involved in the Age to Age program and Communities for All Ages Foundation, programs serving to bring all generations together while benefitting the community. This group has been instrumental in organizing a local farmer's market, creating a butterfly garden, and helping clean up around Riverside Arena and building a pavilion nearby.

When the devastating flood occurred in 2012, including extensive damage to the school, Baresh got busy and sat down to write letters to voice her opinion and concern and promote funding for a new school. The whole town celebrated this past July 4th as ground was broken for the new school complex.

Baresh also volunteers with the Gener-Reading Program, and, most recently, she is serving with AWIN (Aging Well Information Network), a program to provide information and bring services to the seniors in Moose Lake. Through AWIN, the Arrowhead Transit bus service just returned to Moose Lake.

Baresh's desire for the betterment of the community, and desire to build and strengthen relationships, is evident in all of her endeavors. She brings joy and a vivacious passion for life - and people - to all she does and to those she encounters.

Gerald Smith

Smith, better known as "Smitty," is a resident of Barnum. Known for putting other's needs ahead of his own, his can-do attitude and willingness to help has earned him the honor of being named this year's Outstanding Male Senior Citizen of Carlton County. Many adjectives describe Smith: kind, thoughtful, caring and generous, to name a few.

Smith has been a member of the American Legion for 32 years, and his dedication and service have earned the respect and admiration of his fellow comrades. No stranger to hard work, he has served doing everything from cleaning and maintenance to fundraising, to serving in several leadership positions. Smith takes pleasure in assisting, supporting and encouraging veterans throughout the country. One special way that he touches veterans' lives is by his willingness to take disabled vets up to the veterans resort in Ely each year to serve as their fishing guide and assist with all of their needs.

Smith is also conscious of those struggling to make ends meet, which has led him to be a faithful volunteer at a local food shelf for the past 20 years. There he is known for his "service with a smile." He currently is in charge of distributing frozen food items, and he is always willing to help other volunteers who may need "a little more muscle" lifting heavy items or assisting in reaching something up high.

As a member of the local IBEW, Smith also assists with their food drives.

Smith, a tremendous example of a servant, selflessly continues to give of his time and talent to help out at his church as well. Through the years he's helped with many construction and maintenance projects, taken care of electrical issues, and visited shut-ins. He also assists disaster victims in the community.

Whether it is serving with a particular organization or serving a neighbor, Smith is always ready to step in to meet the need. He enjoys giving, just to give, and to make someone else's day a little brighter.


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