Nelson’s Citizen of the Year: lifelong resident Lois Arnesen
When you love the place you live, giving back to your community is a pleasure.
Named Knights of Columbus’s Citizen of the Year for 2012, Lois Arnesen is most well known for her 21-year service with Welcome Wagon. As hostess, she happily greeted Nelson’s newest arrivals with nothing but kind words about her community.
Easily able to brag up her city, Arnesen is humbled by the honour bestow on her.
“I was overwhelmed when I got the phone call saying I’d been chosen,” she said. “There are so many people who volunteer in Nelson and contribute to the town, I felt it was an honour to be chosen.”
Arnesen is a life-long resident of Nelson. Her parents, Bert and Jeanne Whimster, arrived here in the early 1920s. Soon after her birth in 1928, the family moved to 3rd Street in Fairview, where Arnesen and her elder sister (well known in Trail as Muriel Griffiths) were raised.
The Citizen of the Year raised her own family — three children in Nelson and has several grandchildren born and raised here as well. Recently, one of her granddaughters had twins making for three great-grandchildren. A family tree with roots deep in the community bonds her to this place.
“I am very passionate about my little town,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful little town to raise a family. I have been very happy to support it in any way I can as others so often do.”
In addition to her long service with the Welcome Wagon, Arnesen has contributed years of volunteer work to a myriad of organizations such as the Overture Concert Society, United Church, Touchstones Museum, West Kootenay Music Festival and University Women’s Club, as a founding member during August 1967.
“I have been a part of that organization since the beginning and really enjoyed it so much and have made so many wonderful friends,” she says. “And now that I am older, it’s so nice to meet the younger people too.”
Connecting with people through service is part of what motivates the woman who sincerely values the many friendships made over the years.
Although Arnesen took music and dancing lessons, she does not consider herself a musician. The audience is her place, she said, whether it is a music festival or the overture concert series – especially for youngsters.
“I think that’s very important in society to keep bringing these wonderful live classical musicians to town,” she said. “If musicians have time while they’re here, they put on a workshop for young people and it’s fun for the young people to see how the instruments work and how much fun music can be.”
Seeing the museum move from Fairview to its current location, “in that beautiful old building right in the centre of town,” was a rewarding experience for Arnesen.
“It’s now where everyone can access it,” she said. “It needed many volunteers and still needs volunteers to run.”
United Churchwomen’s groups have always been a valued part of her life.
“The first little unit I was involved in was called the Friendly Club, it was for young people and this was just when I was married,” she said, reminiscing. “The rumour was that if you joined the Friendly Club you got pregnant. Well that was pretty much true.”
Today, she is part of the Unity Club which organizes weekly Top o’ the Morning coffee parties where friendships grow as women congregate.
“We have cinnamon buns and coffee,” she said.
With these organizations and more needing the support of volunteers, Arnesen is pleased to give her time to enrich the community.
“The town runs on volunteers,” she said.
Arnesen looks forward to the banquet being held next month where she will be formally presented the Citizen of the Year award. She is the 49th candidate since the first presentation in 1964.
“It’s very exciting. I hope that a lot of my family can come,” she said.
Held on April 13 at the Catholic Community Centre, tickets for the evening are on sale at Sonja’s China Cabinet until 4 p.m. April 10. They are $30 each.