The Center presents Outstanding Senior Citizen awards

The Center presented its annual Outstanding Senior Citizen Awards for Crow Wing County at Lum Park in Brainerd on Wednesday, July 20. The award recognizes those who are 70 or older for their volunteer work in the community.

Outstanding seniors named at annual picnic.
Rose Payne of Brainerd, left, and Josiah Heal of Merrifield smile Wednesday, July 20, 2022, at Lum Park in Brainerd after receiving the 2022 Outstanding Senior Citizen Awards for Crow Wing County.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — It was a hot and windy day but Josiah Heal and Rose Payne did not seem to mind.

The two volunteers received the 2022 Outstanding Senior Citizen Awards for Crow Wing County surrounded by friends, family and other seniors at a Wednesday, July 20, picnic at Lum Park.

“I feel overwhelmed,” Heal said while holding an engraved plaque with his name in gold lettering.

The Outstanding Senior Citizen Award is given annually to a nominated man and a nominated woman in Crow Wing County. The award recipients are required to be 70 or older.

Payne said of the public recognition, “I really was surprised. I thought there were probably more people deserving than I was and it was a total shock to me.”


DeAnn Barry, executive director of The Center, a Brainerd-based senior-focused organization on Kingwood Street, served as emcee and award presenter.

“Everyone who sent in nominations said she was dedicated, committed to volunteering, engaging, positive attitude, caring, a team player, kindhearted, graceful, great people skills,” Barry said of Payne.

Payne volunteers her time escorting hospital patients, assisting those in wheelchairs, guiding people to their intended destinations and more.

“I just feel like I have a purpose and that I'm here to help people,” Payne said.

The 77-year-old from Brainerd is a widow, mother of two and grandmother.

“When I retired, I felt I needed something to do, and I liked the medical field,” said Payne, who worked in human resources at North Memorial Health for 17 years. “And I felt being in the hospital is something that I can do to take someone else.”

Her volunteer work has been noticed.

“Some patients are very sick and she is a caring, kindhearted person that when the patient leaves, they feel better just being able to chat with Rose,” wrote Karen Peterson, an Essentia Health internal medical operations manager.


Deb Anderson, volunteer supervisor at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd who nominated Payne for the award, offered high praise for Payne.

“Rose has been the most dedicated volunteer I have had my whole volunteer management career. No other one person has been available and consistent for their whole time volunteering,” Anderson wrote.

Heal has volunteered his time as the gambling manager at The Center for more than a dozen years. It took a little coaxing to get him to take the position.

“DeAnn called me. She said, ‘We need a gambling manager,’” Heal recalled. “And she said, ‘Before you say no, come down and talk to us.’ So I said I'd try it and it's now 14 years later, and I wouldn't give up.”

The 76-year-old Merrifield resident is a retired airline pilot, husband and father of three.

“When I was young, I was given a lot. And I realized that to be given a lot, people have to give up a lot, so I'm trying to pay it forward or pay it back,” Heal said philosophically.

The awards were presented during The Center’s annual picnic in Brainerd where people enjoyed hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, chips, frozen custard and live music outdoors.

“I have some of the most fabulous people that I’ve run into — through volunteering — interesting, nice, helpful. They’re just friends,” said Heal, who served on The Center’s board of directors.


Rhonda Murray of The Center wrote in her nomination letter of Heal: “Joe is always there to help, be it to set up canopies for the plant sale, shovel snow, managing bingo on Wednesday — making sure the equipment is working — if not, problem solves it.”

As recipients of the Outstanding Senior Citizen Awards for Crow Wing County, Heal and Payne will be recognized on Senior Citizens Day at the Crow Wing County Fair and at the Distinguished Service Award banquet organized by the Brainerd Jaycees and Brainerd Community Action.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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